When Doing Nothing is Doing the Wrong Thing

Have you ever faced a decision and just put it off?

A lot of the decisions we need to make with our elderly parents are the kinds of decisions we’d rather put off. Sometimes they involve a difficult conversation. Sometimes they involve a complex choice where we have to weigh out various pros and cons on each side of the issue..

And sometimes the decision is actually pretty simple, but we just don’t make it. Or we’ve decided to take a certain action, but we just don’t follow through.

Case in point. Years ago I first realized my parents would soon benefit from having a few more grab bars around the house, both in their bathroom and at the top and bottom of the basement stairs. But it took many months before I got around to raising the issue (after all, they don’t really NEED them yet) and even once we’d agreed that this was a good idea, it took many more months for any of us to go out shopping. We didn’t find just the right thing, so many more months passed. I haven’t been to visit in a few months, but I suspect the bars still aren’t up yet, even though we know exactly where they’re going to go.

Big deal? Probably not. But I’ll sure feel bad if either of them slips and falls before we get the grab bars up.

The funny thing about this decision, though, is that it’s a really easy one. And even installing grab bars is a simple task. But it doesn’t happen. And the consequences don’t seem extreme until it’s too late.

There are a lot of other decisions like this. For example, I keep meaning to send in my organ donor card so my organs can be given to someone else if I die suddenly. And I keep meaning to set up an automatic withdrawal from my paycheck for my retirement, but I haven’t gotten around to it. (And what a difference that would make to my long term security!)

I’ve read studies before that point to the personal and social benefits when things are changed from a simple choice we have to make (default NO) to a simple choice we don’t have to make (default YES). People have done this with organ donations. They’ve done it with pension plans. Some people say it’s heavy-handed, but I say it’s human nature to avoid making choices unless there’s something that focuses your attention. Like, for example, a very short deadline.

Are there choices you’re putting off for your elderly parents? Some piece of financial planning? A conversation you need to have about final wishes, living wills, etc?

What trick are you going to use to make the choice happen, instead of not bothering to take action and possibly getting yourself or your loved on into a bad situation?



  1. says

    Joe great post that everyone needs to face at some point in their life. Its hard to make decisions for your own mother and father. I think discussing what the best situation as a family is very helpful. If an elder in the family doesnt want to be placed in a home then working with hospice and bringing in machines and material to make them feel comfortable. A friend of mine said her family build an extra room on their home to take care of her grandma and she was very happy to be there and enjoyed the ending of her time. Great information!

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