April 1, 2017

Making medical decisions in a crisis

If you are named as the health care decision maker for your loved one, you may be asked to make very important decisions on short notice.

When a crisis occurs, it’s easy, and human, to get caught up in fear. Fear does not make for the best decisions. If you are able to, call a friend to join you. Or call an Aging Life CareTM Manager. As an expert in aging well, they can help to guide you through the crisis. You don’t have to do it alone!

Vicki Kind, ethicist and author of The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making, has suggested these steps to promote your clearest thinking:

  • Prepare a 911 list. Before a crisis occurs—create a reminder list to have ready before rushing out the door. Do you need to arrange care for a child or pet? An employer to notify? Do you have your medications, food, and water? Maybe extra clothes and a book, and paper for note taking? Phone charger? Your wallet?
  • Steady your mind. Give yourself a few minutes to use get calm, try: praying, calling someone, going for a walk. Focus on the positive, “I can stay clear-headed and do what’s needed.”
  • Clarify the timeline. You might be told that a decision is needed “now.” Find out what “now” really means. In the next hour? Or by tomorrow?
  • Gather information. Find out all the options, the benefits of each, and ask about risks and possible negative outcomes. Learn the long-term consequences.
  • Review and decide. Reread your notes. Consider all of the options while considering your loved one’s values and priorities. Talk through things with a friend or trusted professional. Maybe even create a spreadsheet of pros and cons for each option. Confirm for yourself the logic of your thinking, and go forward with your decision.

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