Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Care Partner Wednesday--Three Practical Reasons Which Inspire Me To Deny Choice

Offering choice to elders presents many problems. Is it worth it? You decide.

Choice is expensive

In our dining room at lunch there are two choices of soup, several options of main course, including one bland and one vegetarian and a whole cart full of desserts. Don't like the soup options? We can make you some of the clear chicken broth we always have on hand. None of the main entrees appeal to you? How about one of many varieties of sandwiches? Or perhaps we could make you an omelet? Cheese or plain? Nothing on the dessert cart looks good? How about a scoop of one of the several kinds of ice cream in the freezer?

I realize we are unusual and there wouldn't be all those options for those caring for someone at home, but the bottom line remains--choice is expensive. Even to offer a few choices in the comfort of your home, you need to have cans of soup available, a variety of sandwich fixings and perhaps some frozen entrees. It costs to offer choice and I don't mean just money. It takes creativity, thought and planning, too. What care partner has that kind of time?

Choice takes time

Have you ever set out a few sets of clothes and waited for your loved one to choose? Or asked them if they would like this or that activity? Sometimes the effort can be painstaking and a little impatient man is jumping up and down in your head. Or they say they don't care until you make the choice and it becomes evident a few minutes later they did care and you made the wrong choice. Or have you allowed them to choose independence over your help and watched as they tried to button their shirt or put on a sweater?
Choice can take gobs and heaps of time.

Choice sometimes isn't safe

Myrtle is confined to a wheelchair which she propels herself. Because gardens nourish her soul, she wheels herself out the door and tries to make her way to a community garden down the road. All she wants to do is sit there and take in the beauty, but the pavement is uneven and a few times she's gotten stuck. She hasn't tumbled over yet, but it's just a matter of time. Always independent and a loner, Myrtle doesn't want company on her garden tours. But all kinds of hazards await her.

John has dementia, and sometimes goes out the door looking for his childhood home. He's even gotten in a cab and given the driver the street address. Of course, his care partner feels terror at the hazards of this, so puts locks and alarms on the door. John began banging on the door when it won't open for him or sometimes sitting in his easy chair, staring blankly at it. When his care partner takes him out, he's uncooperative, so it doesn't happen often.

It seems obvious, doesn't it? Offering choice is a slippery slope which makes a care partner's life full of anxiety. Why would anyone do it?

Choice is a basic human right

That's why.

I'm on vacation right now and when I go home on Saturday I know my fridge contains a container of Greek yogurt and some pickles. No part of me will want to hop in the car and get groceries but having choice for breakfast the next morning will force me to get moving. Or maybe I'll be so exhausted I'll have Greek yogurt for breakfast and pick up groceries after church.

I have a choice.

Everything I do in my day allows me choice. Sometimes I make bad choices and need to live with the results, but they are my choices. I have the freedom to make them.

Unless I'm elderly enough to need help. Or have dementia.


I hope this tongue-in-cheek look at choice helps you realize how important it remains for everyone at every stage in life. Choice should never be optional. The only option remains the creative ways we offer it.

Our cupboards and fridges can be full of options. Don't buy ten cans of a favourite soup because favourites change and you may be left with something no one will eat. Buy a healthy variety and offer it daily. Activites like dressing and care will take as much time as they take because the gift of independence takes time. Look for creative ways to get Myrtle to the garden and John for outings that satisfy his needs. Get help if needed, but make it happen.

Choice isn't voluntary. It must be an option for all.


Care Partner Wednesday--Three Practical Reasons Which Inspire Me To Deny Choice

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