Saturday, May 23, 2009

Caregiving Decisions: What is the right thing to do?

Right for whom? Right for now? What about later?

Caregiving often requires hard choices about priorities---how to allocate scarce resources like time and money. How do we make these decisions in a way that works for us as individuals? How do we make these decisions in tandem with others who are also part of the equation?

Suzy Welch, in her book 10-10-10, 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years, A Life-Transforming Idea, offers a deceptively simple technique for evaluating priorities and making choices. Basically one asks oneself what will be the consequences of a particular choice in 10 minutes, in the next 10 months, and in the next 10 years. Of course no one has a crystal ball with which to accurately predict the future, but we can use our intellects to gather facts and our imaginations to describe probable outcomes.

Then comes the real challenge: making a choice. Even if the decision is not to make a choice at this time---one has examined the probable consequences of not making a choice.

Sound too existential? Think about this. The commitment to care for a parent or spouse or whomever is a commitment to dedicate resources. This often means transferring resources from one use or one person to another. Paying for nursing home care for a parent might mean less college tuition for a grandchild. Staying home to take care of someone might mean one less paycheck.

Thousands of families are already facing these hard choices; making these decisions. Many wonder if they are doing the right thing. Many feel torn between responsibilities to their parents and to their children. Using techniques like 10-10-10 can help us articulate the decision-making process and identify the values that underpin our choices. This can provide a place of peace when worry and doubt threaten to overwhelm us.

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