Dear Mary
Struggling with my decisions.

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Dear Mary,

I am working as hard as I can to be a good caregiver to my Dad.  He broke his hip a couple of months ago.  I am mostly overwhelmed with not only all the physical work that caregiving involves, but it is all the decisions that I have to make that that leaves me worried if I am making the right decisions (both for my Dad and myself).  Do you have any thoughts about how to help me with my decision making responsibilities?  How do I know if I am doing the right thing?

Chris

Mary Bart

Hello Chris:

Making good decisions as a caregiver should be all about RESPECT.

Let me explain.

Respect should be the common theme threaded through all caregiving decisions.  Respect includes doing everything possible to maintain the dignity of the care recipient while also knowing and following their wishes, values, and beliefs.

Caregivers should always ask themselves these questions:

  • Will my decisions support my loved one’s dignity?
  • What would my loved one think of my decisions? Are these the same decision that they would make for themselves, if they could?
  • Am I imposing my own wishes, values and beliefs onto my loved one?
  • Are my decisions in their best interest?
  • Are my decisions self-serving?
  • Are my decisions kind and loving?
  • Am I a good advocate for my care recipient?
  • Am I a good problem solver? How well do I identify the problem and how quickly do I make a decision to solve the issue?
  • What are the risks and benefits of my decisions to my care recipient, myself and others?
  • If the tables were turned, how would I like to be respected?
  • How can I change or adapt a caregiving situation to ensure their dignity while also respecting their wishes, values and beliefs?
  • How are my decisions affecting their quality of life and their physical and emotional well-being?

 

How do you know what their wishes, values and beliefs are?

Set aside time to have serious conversations to better understand what your loved one would like today and what they would want in case at some point in the future they are not able to make their own decisions.  Whether in the future you are named as their Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) or not, having the knowledge today of truly knowing their wishes, values, and beliefs will help you either make good decisions on their behalf or become a valuable resource for the SDM to draw upon. Your conversations could include two types of questions:

 

Easy Questions:

  • What is their daily routine? Perhaps it is having a hot lunch and a sleep in the afternoon.
  • What is their weekly/monthly routine? Perhaps it is going to their local religious or community centre
  • Are there foods that they are allergic to? Are there certain foods that they do not like or just love?
  • Do they like to dress is a certain way or wear wool sweaters in the winter?
  • What kind of music and movies do they like?
  • What hobbies are important?
  • Do they like baths or prefer showers? What’s their favorite tooth paste or face cream?
  • Do they have regular visits to get their hair done?
  • Are there special requirements to care for their eyes, teeth or feet?
  • Are they afraid of heights or big dogs?

 

Not so easy Questions:

  • What are their values and what is important to them?
  • How do they define quality of life?
  • What do they want for their future?
  • What is important to them?
  • Who is important to them?
  • Do they have certain religious, spiritual or faith beliefs that they follow that you should know about?
  • Are there financial issues that may impact care decisions?
  • Have they met with a lawyer to document who they would appoint to make their care and financial decisions if they are no longer able to make them for themselves? Are their treatment preferences known and included in their legal documents?
  • Where would they like to live and die?
  • What type of funeral arrangements should be planned?
  • Would they like to be buried or cremated?
  • Are there specific religious traditions to follow?

 

Although many of these questions and conversations can be uncomfortable, awkward and difficult to participate in, they are the foundational elements from which you will be in a stronger position to make decisions that are in the best interest for the person you are caring for.  Respecting their dignity, wishes, values and beliefs should always be top of mind, it should always be your goal.

 

Respectfully of course, I hope that my ideas will help guide you as you make your caregiving decisions for your Dad.

Mary

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Caregiving Matters

Mary is a daughter. She also Chairs our charity. Mary has also held Director roles on three other boards, most recently with The Palcare Network of York Region.

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