Facilitating Choice For Those We Care For- By Laetitia Hannan, Professional Relief Carer.
Having a choice in everyday matters is something we all take for granted. We choose which coffee cup to use, what clothes we're going to wear that day, what to eat for lunch. We barely recognise we are making these choices until this ability is taken away from us, whether it be through illness, or some other means. As people become older, some sadly, begin to lose the capability to make decisions, and so their choices become eroded.
As carers, caring for individuals who may be living with dementia, or anxiety, or for any other reason, it can be so easy for us to slip into the habit of making choices for them. It is time-saving to choose clothes, food or even a coffee cup for someone who takes a long time to decide or who seems uninterested in the choice. It lessens our frustration and enables us to move quickly onto the next task. In a community care setting, carers are usually pressed for time, however as live-in carers, we have the whole day, most of the time, to facilitate choice.
Choice can be overwhelming for most of us, especially when we are faced with a dazzling array of options. Simplifying choices enables anyone to engage in the task and to find it not only enjoyable but enabling and enriching.
Instead of choosing someone's outfit, why not make up two outfits and initiate a conversation about the clothes, the colour choices and style, and encourage the person to make a choice about which outfit she or he would like to wear. It may not work with everyone, but as an observant carer, you will soon discover if your client is interested in this activity or not.
If clothing does not interest the person, food almost certainly will. We all have the right to choose what we want to eat. Talking about food is a pleasurable experience for most people. Leading a conversation to childhood favourites is a good way of discovering what someone enjoys, especially if their interest in food is beginning to wane and you are starting to despair that you will ever cook that person a meal which brings enjoyment.
Even something as simple as choosing which coffee cup to drink from gives that person a choice, albeit small.
These discussions are not only about facilitating choice, they are a simple way of engendering good feelings in someone, even if it is only for a short moment in time. People living with dementia can often seem withdrawn or apathetic, so as carers it is an important part of our job to find small ways in which to create moments of joyfulness for those people we are privileged to care for. It helps us get to know that person and creates a feeling of comfort and security between two people who are essentially strangers.