When you are caregiving someone who is very ill you feel as if even the slightest decision might carry the direst consequences. And there are so many decisions to make!
Chris had been lying in bed awake for most of the night. I finally got up with him about three. Made him a coffee at four. Watched true crime TV with him til five. Helped him change his T-shirt wet from sweat, sponged him off, refilled his water jug by six in the a.m.
He would sleep, but he is coughing. Coughing up phlegm. Coughing himself awake if he happens to doze off. He wants to try to sleep. I am wide awake. I step out of the room.
On this particular night, I find myself flustered. Unable to make even the simplest decision. Like whether or not to go in and close the bedroom window.
Experts at the Ethics Resource Centre online give six steps in decision making.
- Define the problem.
- Okay. Chris is coughing and he needs sleep.
- Determine a number of solutions.
- Hmmm. Cough syrup, let him be, change his position.
- Evaluate these solutions to find the best.
- Well, let’s see: Cough syrup may interfere with his meds. Changing his position could wake him up.
- Make the decision:
- Got it–leave him be. This solution is neither intrusive nor likely to affect his meds.
- Act on it.
- Okay, that means go do something else besides standing in the hallway listening to him breathe.
- Evaluate the results.
- He seems to be sleeping just fine.
I spent a lot of time on a seemingly insignificant decision. Stress can do that to you.
When you live with someone who is terminally ill, when you feel personally responsible for their well-being, each decision seems to carry a sort of life and death weight.
I have a lot of trouble with this sometimes, because I always need time to think things through.
What I learned on this night is this: Based on the information above, it seems like needing time is a good thing. I guess it’s just a question of using that time to properly address the issue.
If like me, you’d like to read more about the decision making process at the Ethics Resource Centre, please go to: