Avoiding regret

Family caregivers are often thrust into the role of making decisions for a loved one. Some decisions are relatively small: Purchase a walker with wheels or one without? Others are large and may have life-changing ramifications. Approve that surgery? Initiate a move to assisted living or set up care at home?

Rarely is there a single “right” answer. Your intention is to make the best decision you can with the available information. Sometimes the outcome is as envisioned. Other times, not so much.

Tips to help you avoid regret

  • Gather all the information you can. Ideally from a variety of sources. Learn the facts, and perhaps seek out others’ experiences. Being well informed supports your confidence in your process.
  • Evaluate the sources for credibility. Is any information coming from someone who might personally benefit (a salesperson)? As for stories from others, consider how closely their situation matches your loved one’s. Similar temperament, lifestyle, and values? They may have very different priorities.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this a ‘hot’ decision?” When we are anxious or in pain, we tend to be reactive and rush. We want things settled—FAST! We may downplay an option’s risks. Or overestimate the benefits or likelihood of success. It’s precisely when we’re most upset that we need to hit “pause” before choosing.
  • Acknowledge the pull to do nothing. If there is no urgency, it’s natural to put off a decision. Sometimes waiting, doing nothing, or “letting nature take its course” is the best decision. Just be sure you have made the choice consciously.

Regret is a natural response to a decision that yields an unexpected outcome. Using these strategies, you are more likely to avoid the sting of blame and self-recrimination. Or at least arrive sooner at the more constructive state of accepting with disappointment that things didn’t turn out as it seemed they would.