Use Best Judgement


October 2, 2009 by David Gillaspie



When you make the right call, you expect results.  What happens if you make the right decision and it’s still wrong?

A friend drank too much at a champagne brunch and wanted to wrestle in a restaurant lobby.  He accidentally ripped my shirt.  His girlfriend jumped on my back.  All good fun, but I wasn’t feeling so good myself.  I moved toward a couch with the idea of hip throwing the guy and dumping the girl at the same time.  It was a big couch.

I hipped the guy over the couch and headfirst into the wall; the girl landed gently but the guy conked out.

Once he came around he wanted to drive home.  I said No Way.  I expected his girlfriend to say the same.  But she didn’t.  I tried for the keys and missed.  He drove home against my medical judgment.  We’re no longer friends.

It doesn’t work the same with loved ones.  If a loved one disagrees with an opinion, you can’t just cut them off.  They are loved ones for a reason.

My mom took an Alzheimer’s test and did well enough, or poorly enough, that her doctor gave her the exelon patch to slow the disease down.  She isn’t using it.  I asked dad why she didn’t put it on.  He said he was leaving that decision up to her. 

As a caregiver it’s important to preserve as much of a loved one’s autonomy as you can.  Help, but don’t over-help.  If the loved is not an invalid, don’t make them one.  If they’re not bed-bound, don’t leave them in bed.  If they can walk, then walk with them.  If they need a walker, walk with them.  If they don’t feel like walking, walk with them anyway.

If you know you’re loved one’s memory is fading, do what you can to help.  Don’t expect them to listen and do what you ask, but keep helping.  If you don’t, you can expect things to play out in a predictable way.  If the past is prologue be sure to check the family history.

My Grandma decided to starve to death after her stomach cancer returned.  She’d had surgery and that was that.  It was her time and she was ready.  She didn’t intend to starve from a technical point of view since she would eat lemon meringue pie and nothing else.

Enough time and pie passed and she changed her mind.  She’d have another go at surgery, but it was too late.  Her body had already slipped beyond any recovery.  She took the news well and had another slice of pie.  Would another surgery have helped?  I think she made the right call the first time. 

My uncle came out in the mid-sixties and his parents shunned him.  He moved to San Francisco and told them he couldn’t see them again unless they accepted him the way he was.  They accepted him and then some, starting a regional group of PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays) and opening their home as a shelter for battered women.  They turned from shunners to welcomers and still kept their friends.

Keep the helping hand out; just don’t feel hurt if it’s pushed away.  Sometimes you are the last to know what others call ‘the obvious’, sometimes it’s a loved one.  Either way try and not be alarmed. 

If your loved one says they would rather go into a nursing home after you invite them to live with you when the time comes, regroup without regret.  Don’t lash out.  Don’t blame your spouse for forcing your mom into a hell hole.

The right call it inviting a loved one into your home.  You make that call and you’ve done it all.  Let the other folks come to their own decisions.  Keep making the invitation and you’ll keep a clear heart.

Don’t make the call and you’ll face a ride on the horns of a greater dilemma.  No one wants that, no one needs that, but it happens all the time.

David Gillaspie


2 thoughts on “Use Best Judgement

  1. cynthia says:

    David, it’s nice to read a post on aging, a topic that I can imagine will only become more and more interesting, both on an individual and a demographic level.

    I enjoyed visiting the various “rooms” of your blog. I look forward to another visit in the near future.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Thanks for the comment Cynthia. I’ve wondered about calling a blog a B&B. When I told my mom, she asked how many could stay at once. I’m still explaining that one.


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