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Making Medical Decisions

Making medical decisions with the elder is an important part of caregiving. DC caregivers share thoughts on asking for the elder's input and when it's better to make the decision for him or her.
  • My mother is very happy with my decisions because I discuss everything with her. If I think something will upset her, then I make the decision. You have to use discretion about what to discuss and not to discuss.
  • When I try to discuss his medical condition, my husband says, "You're not the doctor." He doesn't listen to me.
  • My wife lets me make all the decisions. We definitely talk about how she feels. I don't keep anything from her.
  • The greatest problem I have is getting my aunts to tell me about their prior medical problems. One morning one of my aunts had a seizure and later I said to her, "Is this something new?" It turned out that she has had a history of seizures and should have been taking medication.
  • My mother allows me to make the major decisions about a lot of things because she has faith in my judgment.

Practical Tips: Here are some practical tips from DC caregivers about making medical decisions.
  • Ask questions of the doctor so that you have a clear understanding of what the elder's medical needs are.
  • Ask the doctor to explain the elder's medical needs and instructions in terms you and the elder can understand.
  • Use discretion in deciding what things to discuss with the elder if you think it may upset him or her.
  • Talk to the elder ahead of time to get as much of his or her medical history or past illnesses as possible so you can inform the doctor.
  • Explain as much as you can to the elder but recognize he or she may not be able to absorb the details.
  • Rely on your best judgment at the time. Don't second guess yourself.
  • Get as much information as you need from the doctors, medical guides, and consumer education materials to make an informed decision.
  • When in doubt about a decision, get another doctor's opinion, especially when it involves surgery or other irreversible procedures.
  • Call a family meeting to get other views if time permits or you feel comfortable involving others in the decision-making.
Part of the Senior Service Network Supported by the D.C. Office on Aging