How To Make Hard Care Decisions For An Aging Adult

Aug 25, 2021
Monica Van Dam

Many of us consider it an honour to provide care for our parents as they age. It’s a journey that can bring you closer, and it’s comforting to know that we can be there for them, the way they have always been there for us. However, while we’re happy to provide the care they need, being a caregiver does present some serious challenges.

Making decisions on behalf of your aging parent can be stressful. Even when you’ve had essential conversations about their preferences in specific situations; life is rarely so straightforward. This is a lot of responsibility that we take on. It can create frustrating moments, and you may even become angry with your parent, or yourself at times. That’s why we wanted to offer this guide to Making Hard Care Decisions for an Aging Adult, so you can continue doing what’s best for your family.


Making a decision that affects your life is one thing, making a decision on behalf of a loved one is another. It comes with a lot of added pressure. When you’re faced with deciding what your parent would want for themself, it’s easy to start second-guessing your decisions.

Instead, remind yourself of your relationship with them. There’s a reason why you’re the person tasked with making these decisions; simply put, you’re the best man for the job. Your parent loves you, they also trust and respect you. Remember that. If you’re struggling to feel good enough, or doubting your choices, just remind yourself of all the reasons why you’re the one making these decisions. This can help boost your confidence, which is often what we need in moments of doubt.


Decision fatigue is a psychological experience that affects our capacity to make decisions. Some psychologists also refer to it as “ego depletion”. The theory behind decision fatigue and the research that is currently being done to learn more about it shows that we have a limited decision-making capacity. The brain literally becomes tired from making decisionsthroughout the day. Towards the end of the day, our ability to make educated decisions has depleted, making us more likely to make the wrong decisions.

To help reduce mistakes or bad decisions psychologists and researchers offer the following tips:

–       Make important decisions first. You have more energy and a clearer mind at the beginning of the day. Use that time to think through your dilemmas.

–       Remove distractions from your day. A good example is our cell phones. Studies are showing that when we keep our phones on our desk at work, it takes willpower to not look at it, to not check your messages, or browse social media. Removing small distractions like this helps to keep our minds sharper, longer.

–       Eliminate other menial daily decisions by planning meals in advance and simplifying your wardrobe. It may sound silly, but all these little decisions are adding up and taking a toll.


When you and your parent have discussed the new role you’ll be playing in their life, and the responsibilities it brings, you have an opportunity to start planning. There are many resources available for you to quickly learn about what will be expected of you over the next months or years. If you enlist the help of professional care providers, they can also offer guidance about what decisions to expect in the near future.  Some decisions you might want to prepare for include:

–       When your parent is no longer able to handle daily tasks such as driving, shopping, cleaning, or cooking, will you hire homecare professionals to help, or move into a long-term care facility?

–       If cognitive function declines, how will financial issues be dealt with? This could include paying bills, handling investments, or writing a cheque for their grandson’s birthday.

–       Decisions around medical and health issues vary. Many older adults suffer from chronic conditions that require medications or monitoring.


Caring for a parent can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s important you take time for yourself, and care for yourself as well. You may feel guilty when you need to take a day or two away from your loved one, but you will both be better from it. Take your time making these important decisions and remind yourself that you’re doing your best. Your parent is grateful for your dedication and proud of the good work you’re doing.