ConfusedHave you ever had to make a decision for someone you love that will impact the remainder of their life?  If not, chances are good that you will be asked to do so at some point.  To make things more interesting, this task often occurs during an already stressful period.  Wondering what I am talking about?  Let me provide you with an example.

You have an elderly parent who has lived in their childhood home for over 80 years.  They have lived alone for many years and value their independence.  As an only child, your parent has made you their power of attorney for both legal and medical issues.  On your last visit you noticed that they have begun acting out of character and becoming more and more forgetful.  Recently, they fell in their home and had to be hospitalized for almost a month.   The diagnosis is a mild stroke with signs of dementia.  The hospital calls to inform you that they will be releasing your parent in three days but they can no longer live alone.   Of course, your parent is adamant that they can take care of themselves.  They just want to go home.

Here is where the decision comes into play.  The first step is to determine your options.  The number of options you have depends on many factors such as family preference, geographic location, insurance and most often, financial resources.   In rural areas, the number of options available is often limited.   There are few assisted living or long term care facilities in rural areas and locating someone to stay with your loved one can sometimes be difficult.  Adding to the stress is the fact that either option can be financially challenging. You worry about making a choice that is not only safe but comfortable for your parent.    Families often find themselves at a loss when looking for information, support and/or advice.

Healthcare providers can sometimes overlook how difficult making these decisions can be for both the patients and their families.  They make the pronouncement that they cannot go home in the same manner or they order a test or prescribe medicine without offering decision making support.  Providing resources, support and encouragement during this stressful period can truly impact the entire experience.  There are many resources available to help people locate and evaluate assisted living options.  The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services provide some valuable resources and the contact information for local centers. is another valuable resource.   In my personal experience, a reassuring word that I am not alone in making this decision, and as much lead time as possible, goes a long way to making these decisions less stressful.  Providers should always remember that they too will be asked to make these hard decisions at some point in their own lives.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Leslie Hargrove, Executive Director, Texas AHEC East Coastal Region.

Join us for a real-time discussion about the complex issues raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: