Do you make decisions for someone else, in the same manner, you make decisions for yourself? Heaven forbid! It’s a very different process.
This process may surprise you because it won’t match your typical approach to making decisions. The major difference is that you’ll go through more steps to evaluate options and reach an answer, because you’re not considering just what you prefer. Rather, you’ll be making decisions for another person. And that’s an ethical matter.
So how to do the right thing? You must first train yourself to look through the eyes of the other individual, not your eyes. Try to think: what would I want someone else to consider when making decisions for me? Determine what they would want if they were still able to make the decision; if they were choosing based on THEIR judgment. This procedure is called substituted judgment: Deciding in accordance with the incapacitated person’s choice, not your preference. Keep in mind, their definition of well-being may differ wildly from yours.
To be a credible advocate, you must first investigate the individual’s preferences (past & present). This typically requires time, thought, and research. Questions to ask yourself:
- What has the person verbalized or written regarding what they want?
- What do I know from their past actions?
- What is the opinion of those closest to the person?
- Do they have a “Directive to Physician?”
You are to make decisions in accordance with their preferences unless you are absolutely certain that harm will result. Don’t take that as carte blanche to rule on what is good for them. Resist that impulse; instead, take care to explore and clarify what harm really means to this individual. Your definition of harm could be very different from theirs. Go back to square one: Deciding from their perspective, not yours.
If the individual has been a lifelong smoker, chocoholic, or some other habit you may not like, then stop for a moment and think. Would you want another person removing what provided enjoyment and comfort to you?
Do the right thing – for them, not for you.