Decisions, decisions… How to make caregiver decisions

Making caregiver decisions is a team effort – not least because often you’re making decisions that affect a loved one who may not be able to make his or her own decisions anymore. Moreover, even though you may be the primary caregiver, you should involve as many relatives in the decision-making progress as you can instead of going it alone. Family members who do not spend every day with the care receiver might be able to offer a fresh perspective – an outside looking in sort of thing. Not to mention that a brainstorming group sessions maximizes the chances of making the right decision.  

We said that the care receiver may no longer be mentally sound enough to make decisions on their own. But if they can still make a meaningful contribution, they should be included as well in the decision-making process. After all, your loved one has to go along with whatever decision is made, and his or her involvement increases the odds of counting with his or her approval.

Step by step is not just the name of a beloved sitcom, but also the best way to go about making caregiving decisions.

Making decisions step by step

1.      Finding the biggest problem within the problem

A big problem can be split up into a series of smaller problems to better deal with them. That’s one of the reasons to involve as many people as possible; perhaps you see one issue and say, your cousin, sees another issue. You’re not seeing two separate problems but two sides – maybe of many – of the same problem. But if you fail to identify a single major problem, prioritize the following:

·         The caregiver’s health or safety.

·         Someone else’s health or safety.

·         The problem that will cause net the biggest and most widespread positive result when solved.

2.      Figuring out your goals

Establishing realistic, short term goals can help you determine whether you made the right decision. Every family member should have the same goals in mind, but the person who will be most affected by the decision should have top priority when it comes to achieving goals. If that person is the car receiver, and he or she can’t communicate properly, another relative should speak on his or her behalf.

3.      Doing your homework

If the problem is self-contained, you may already have all the data you need to make an informed decision. Otherwise, you may have to do some research from neighbors, friends, lawyers, doctors, etc., depending on whether the problem affects your loved one financially, socially, psychologically, or physically.

4.      Looking for alternatives

Part of doing research is compiling as many ideas, information, and facts as possible. The more alternatives you have, the more likely the right one will be in the bunch. The best alternative will surely be the one that meets this criteria:

·         Has the fewest unwanted consequences.

·         Most strongly appeals to person most affected – who tends to be either the caregiver or the care receiver.

·         Most family members support it.

Keep in mind that the best alternative does not necessarily have to be perfect. In fact, you won’t be able to tell whether it is indeed the best until you test it out. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll still have a cache of other options to try out.

5.      Devising a plan of action

The plan of action is how you put the alternative you chose to practice to establish whether it is working or not. This plan includes a list of steps to take, when to take them, and who should take them.

6.      Giving the solution time to work

Things seldom change overnight. Set a trial period for the solution. This period should be:

·         Long enough to give everybody involved time to start adjusting to the plan.

·         Long enough to allow possible setbacks to come to the surface.

·         Short enough to correct mistakes in the early stages.

Everybody should aware of their individual objectives as well as of the family’s overall goal. And if anybody has questions, doubts, or suggestions, they should set them aside for the next and last step.

7.      Assessing results

Following the trial period, ask each other these questions:

·         Has the plan changed things?

·         Who is better off than before and how?

·         Who is worse off and how?

·         How much has the plan improved things?

·         How much progress, if any, has been observed toward meeting the pre-determined goals?

·         Have unexpected setbacks or benefits surfaced?

·         Should we give the plan more time, or should we change or replace it?

At the very least, you’ll have come up with new data to add to the previous information, which in turn can result in more and better alternatives. Evaluation time is when the family members can share what they learned during the trial period.


Related: The Must-Have Caregiver’s Product Checklist