Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--"I have no choice"

It wasn't the best of mornings.

I had ten minutes to blow dry my hair, change my shoes and get out the door. At that precise moment, my puppy discovered the enticing, dangling toilet paper, and ran with it in his mouth through the house. The other end was still attached to the roll. I scolded him, salvaged what I could and threw the rest away. Watching the clock, I returned to my blow drying.

He did it again. He responds well to loud noises, and normally I would clap my hands, but I had a blow dryer in one hand and a brush in another. So I banged my brush on the side of the sink.

Wrong move. The entire porcelain corner broke off and fell to the floor, shattering into a million pieces. Stunned, I looked at my ugly sink. Bathroom vanity replacement wasn't in the budget, so I determined to live with it until the day it made it to the top of my "urgent needs" list.

A few months later, that happened. I was cleaning the ugly sink when I noticed copious amounts of water on the floor. Further examination showed that the pipe was no longer connected to the sink because the piece that connected the two had broken off. Any running of water brought floods on the floor. Suddenly my bathroom vanity was at the top of the "urgent needs" list. I could live with an ugly sink, but I couldn't live with no sink. I had no choice.

Then there's my basement. In January, I had a sewer backup. Conversations back and forth with the insurance company, the condominium and the contracted construction company took months, but eventually, they gutted my basement in preparation for renovations. Then, everything stopped. They found mould. Four small spots that aren't related to the sewer backup or each other. Now I am told I have to have an environmental company do an assessment before anything more happens in my basement. The cost of the assessment is astronomical, and I have to pay it. I have no choice.

No choice feels like restrictive clothing. It feels bleak and hopeless and empty. Someone else is in charge of my life.

I make hundreds of choices in a day. But these two instances where I have no choice rankle me. How much worse must our elders feel as their world and their choices shrink as their disabilities increase?

Why does this happen?

Many reasons. Particularly with dementia, it's easy to assume that the elder is no longer able to make choices. The truth is, there are certain choices that are beyond their scope, and many others which aren't. An elder may no longer be able to make or even comprehend financial decisions but can decide what they would prefer to eat, wear, and events they would like to attend. Often, we take choices from elders without thinking about it. We feel we know what is best. We forget to offer choices. We get used to being in charge.

Try wearing a piece of clothing that is too tight for a day. Part-way through, you feel like you can't breathe. You just want to get out of it, to feel comfortable.  Lack of choice feels like that. If an elder can't express how they feel, it can manifest in angry behaviour or resignation. Either way, it's a desolate way to live.

Honouring elder's choices is the essence of person-directed care.

Care Partner Wednesday--"I have no choice" Partner Wednesday--"I have no choice"


  1. Ann, I want you to know how much I have been appreciating your blog lately.

    1. Thank you so much! Would you consider sharing my blog on your timeline each time I post? I'm really trying to "spread the word."

  2. Your comment about taking choices away from our elders or people we care for is entirely accurate. Forgetting to offer choices because we feel in charge is the worst possible option. Working with senior downs with Alzheimer's is challenging but if weoffer them choices it makes our lives and theirs amuch better world for all.

    1. I'm so glad to hear from someone else who "gets it." Thank you for the work you do, and God bless you as you serve those wonderful people.