Objective: to analyze the structure, development and operation of families of elderly patients with liver disease. Method: this is a qualitative-field study, which used the Calgary Family Assessment Model. The study had as its backdrop of research a philanthropic hospital. The study population consisted of five families of elderly hospitalized patients with liver disease. Results: from the five females families evaluated, two were characterized as extensive, one rebuilt, one was composed of brothers without ties of consanguinity and only one as the nuclear family. It was also possible to verify that the relatives presented themselves as the main caregiver, and that all families presented the monthly average of two minimum wages. Conclusion: taking into consideration that the family participation in the process of illness presents itself as a determinant factor for the satisfactory prognosis of patients, the role of nursing before the evaluation and intervention in the family context will contribute significantly to improved health status and wellbeing of patients and their families.