The family of the patient is always involved in the relations between the patient with cancer and the health care staff. In the case of elderly patients, physicians often consult relatives (most commonly their sons and/or daughters) and make decisions with them. It is not uncommon for the patient him/herself not even to be present at the conversations as they prefer not to explain anything to their father or mother, which usually happens in the case of very old patients. The information on his/her medical status is well-intentionally withheld from the patient, but we should tend to increase the communication with the affected person without prejudging if his/her age implies certain attitudes. All this obviously depends also on the status of the patient, and the presence or absence of a pathology or condition that prevents him/her from making decisions. Some patients may prefer not to make decisions or seem not to understand what they are told, which has to be respected but only after having confirmed that this is what the patient really wants.
FEFOC (www.fefoc.org) has launched a specific web page for the relatives of the patients with cancer (www.familiaycancer.org) and also offers a program of support groups to help them share their stress and suffering when facing the cancer of their loved one.