Decision-making is one of the hardest aspects for many caregivers. It can seem like there is so much uncertainty and a multitude of decisions to make. Emotions, especially fear, can start to rise to the surface and overwhelm you, and then it can feel like you have no idea at all about what you need to do.
There is no doubt that what you and your loved one are facing with colon cancer, it is a difficult and highly stressful time. This challenging journey that you are facing, or are already on, involves many components that you never thought you would have to even think about.
Statistics show the amount of responsibility a caregiver takes on. 98% of caregivers provide emotional support, 79% coordinated their loved ones medical care, 96% went to medical appointments, 74% managed finances, and 82% helped with decision-making.
Decision-making is a complex process that is influenced by a number of aspects. As complex as it is, in any given circumstance that you face, decision-making can be simplified to your brain weighing up the risks and benefits associated with that decision.
Bear with me in getting scientific for a moment to help give you an understanding of how your brain works in this process, it might help shed some light on what is going on for you at a subconscious level.
Your brain processes decision-making through cognitive shortcuts that are biased (cognitive biases or heuristics). These shortcuts can cause you to make errors in judgment in calculating the risks and benefits of many situations because they are based on your personal experiences or the experiences told you by others.
The information our brain has gathered is full of bias and therefore not always factual. This is something to consider when you are in “instinctual” mode and feeling many emotions.
Taking a moment or two from all the emotions (not squashing them though), is an important step in allowing room for a more rational and deliberative decision-making process that will likely produce a more positive result.
When you are in the grasp of fear, you are not necessarily aware of the effects it has on your life. You can be, and usually are, aware that you are affected emotionally, mentally, and physically. What may not be obvious to you is the effect it has on you in your decision-making process.
This psychological process is influenced by the emotional state that your mind is in and can result in making decisions that could potentially have a negative impact, because when you are thinking with fear overwhelming you, with so much uncertainty looming, it can move you away from rational thought.
With a cancer diagnosis, it can be easy to feel a sense of fearful desperation and want to act as though everything is an emergency. You may think that you need to make decisions quickly.
No matter what, this is not true, you have time to think about what the medical professionals are communicating to you, think about your loved one’s goals, and prioritize everything in a way that is best for your spouse.
The truth is, fear can detrimentally affect your decision-making, especially if your loved one will not make decisions for themselves. You need to allow yourself and your loved one time to process and gain a sound understanding of your situation.
This will help your emotions settle and allow you to develop a sense of control so that you can make balanced decisions.
It is really important to try your best to understand what you can and what you can’t control in this challenging time.
Honestly, you can understand and handle more than you think you can, but it is hard when you are feeling out-of-control and are overwhelmed by what you think you need to decide and do.
To help decrease negative emotions and the constant feeling of being overwhelmed, you and your loved one would benefit greatly from focusing on what you can control.
For example, you can control how you handle the circumstances, you can control your emotions (to a degree), your loved one’s treatment plan, and in some sense, this will give you control over the outcome.
Obviously, you cannot control the overall outcome because there is so much uncertainty in every case that a person faces; many unknown factors.
It is important to accept this, however, there are many parts of the process that you and your loved one are in control of. You are in the position to make the important decisions with the help of your chosen healthcare professionals.
Remember that your healthcare team is in place to help and provide the necessary information you need to help equip you and your loved one to make sound decisions that are best for their care.
Having this knowledge can help subdue the fear of the unknown and give you a sense of peace in what you can and do know.
Your emotions are a part of your decision-making process and are a vital part of it. They are the “intuitive” components of your process that should be paid attention to, but, like anything in life, balance is necessary.
A balance of rational thought and emotion can lead to making sound decisions that produce a sense of calm and control that is needed to be able to accept your situation and keep moving forward, one decision at a time.