The most difficult decisions tend to affect someone’s life and often have to do with life or death. I wish no one would have to make these types of difficult decisions, but if you have loved ones you care about or pets who are dear to you, you may have to make difficult decisions concerning them.
Sadly, I have had to make many difficult decisions that affected me to my core, sometimes even making life and death decisions day after day – as when my father was hospitalized after a stroke.
Having to make a difficult decision can leave you feeling lonely as well as feel that the whole world is on your shoulders. Today I am sharing what I have learned based on my own experience of how I am able to make difficult decisions and in many cases most of the decisions in my life.
Can I Live with My Decision?
My father always said that the way he acted during the day was based on knowing that he needed to go to sleep feeling good about himself. I often wonder how crooks, like those who swindle life savings from retirees can sleep at night.
When I need to make a difficult decision, I have learned to ask myself how I will feel as a result of a decision. Will I regret making a certain decision or will I be able to live with it.
I do this by sitting down, closing my eyes, and imagining how I will feel if I make a certain decision. Will I be able to live with that decision or will it haunt me?
I have even used this method for minor decisions, and it has helped me tremendously. For instance, a race date was postponed by a week, and I was supposed to be abroad. I had to decide if the price of changing my flight to return home 2 days earlier was worth it. I had prepared for this race for 8 months and was ready. I convinced myself that my training to get to this point where I could run the race, was more important than the race itself and I could therefore miss it.
Then to make sure, I sat down, closed my eyes, and imagined how I would feel seeing photos of my friends who participated in the race. I realized how terrible I would feel and would regret not participating. I changed my ticket, luckily I was charged very little, and took part in the race. After the race I could not imagine that I contemplated not returning in time.
This week our 18-year-old cat Puzzle fell ill and needed to be hospitalized. We needed to decide whether to treat her, especially because of her age. I made the decision to treat her, not because I’m against ageism in health matters, as I wrote previously, but because I made my decision based on how I must live with myself.
Puzzle was in great shape despite her age, but recently the brand of cat food she loved, changed the way it was prepared, and Puzzle would not eat it. I spent the next few days trying different types of food for her, hoping we could find one she would eat, but she barely touched any of them. I was getting concerned that maybe I should take her to the vet, but I saw she was drinking water, so I continued with the cat food Smorgasbord rather than cause her more trauma by driving to the vet.
When Puzzle began looking a bit dehydrated, I was worried, but saw that she had peed on the bathroom floor. I was relieved that she was still drinking enough. We discovered a few days later, that the water on the floor was from a sewage leak and not Puzzle’s pee. By the time I brought her to the vet she was dehydrated and beginning to have kidney failure.
So, we could just put down an 18-year-old cat, but I felt I totally dropped the ball on her care by focusing on the food and not realizing that the cat was ill.
Had I brought Puzzle in earlier, before she was dehydrated and we saw she had serious health issues, we may have made the decision to allow her to die in peace. Because she was now in poor condition due to my mistakes, I knew I had to try to hydrate her and then make the decision as to how she is – otherwise it would haunt me that I failed her.
Puzzle is now hospitalized with infusions and antibiotics. She is feeling a bit better and is calm and purring. We hope she will pull though, but I know my decision to treat her was something I needed to do for my own peace of mind.
Deciding to Move a Loved One to a Facility One of the most difficult decisions family caregivers need to make is if or when to move their loved one to a nursing home or to a memory care unit. There are so many emotions and factors involved in this type of decision, but it mainly comes down to deciding where their loved one can get better care. How can you know how or when to make this difficult decision? If the decision is difficult, it means you care deeply and you are making the decision based on what is best for your loved one.
Can you live with this decision? You must compare the possibilities and see how they make you feel. Here are examples of some questions you can ask yourself:
If your loved one remains at home, but you can no longer ensure their safety or your own safety and health. how would you feel if there is an accident and your loved one is hurt? How would you feel if you become ill from your work as a caregiver and will no longer be available to help your loved one?
If your loved one goes to a facility, but their condition deteriorates, how would you feel? Would you blame it on the facility and your choice, or would you be able to accept that this would also have happened at home?
If moving your loved one to a facility is the decision that you feel is the best, find a facility that you trust and feel your loved one will be safe there.
Making the Move to a Facility Easier
The adjustment period during the first 2 weeks is the most difficult for all new residents, not just for people who have memory loss. I have spoken to residents at independent living facilities who did not have cognitive decline, yet told me that they didn’t stop crying for 2 weeks. Later they shared that moving to the facility was the best decision they ever made. One resident even discovered her talent for art in her mid-80’s, yet the first two weeks of adjustment were very difficult. During those first two weeks try to visit as much as possible. Your job is no longer caregiver – but to return to be the loving family member. Enjoy your time together without the stress of caregiving. Leave that to the professionals at the facility.
We have also found that using hand reflexology greatly helps a new resident adjust to the facility easier and faster. If you have not learned Hands-on Dementia for Caregivers, just hold your loved one’s hands as you speak to them. The extra bond of touch helps your loved one feel safe and loved.
In one caregiver support group a member shared his thoughts about moving a wife to a facility. With his permission, this was his advice. I found his words beautiful and a more positive way of looking at the change of moving a loved one to a facility:
Be a part of the transition. You’re not dropping out of each other’s lives, and the more of a routine you can create around this, the easier it will be for both of you. It will help if the room itself is as beautiful and comfortable as you can make it.
My two cents? You’re just re-creating your intimacy and vulnerability with each other in a new place, surrounded by folks who will help.
Difficult decisions are never easy, but try to allow yourself the time to feel how the decision will affect you – not just your loved one. Once you make your decision, you will be able to accept it and move forward. Sending hugs to all of you. --
Oran Aviv has been a reflexologist for 25 years and is also a Certified Validation teacher. She combines both the principles of hand reflexology and Validation to teach ©Hands-on Dementia to help people connect and understand at a deeper level those who have memory loss.
You can follow Oran on:
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Oran is also the author of Hands-on Dementia for Caregivers, a Step-by-Step Guide to Learn 3 Reflex Points to Help your Loved One and Yourself