Shared decision-making is a critical component of any caregiving relationship, but especially one that involves a veteran. When decision-making is shared, the veteran, their family and the health care team collaborate to meet the senior’s needs while also honoring their goals, priorities, preferences and values. Through shared decision-making, the veteran is more likely to understand their health conditions, be informed about decisions that need to be made, understand the advantages and disadvantages of their options, and make the decision that’s right for them.
Although many of the challenges caregivers face are shared by other family caregivers, the distinct nature of veterans’ illnesses, injuries and conditions make shared-decision making even more important. Often, there is no one “right” answer or reasonable option, so inviting the veteran to participate in the process is an effective approach for making difficult decisions.
Ask the veteran to think about what they need help with — from eating and getting dressed to dealing with substance abuse issues and socializing with family or friends — and who normally helps them do those things.
If they don’t have regular help and their needs aren’t being met, present some options for long-term care, and provide information on the benefits and risks of each. Ask what is important to them and what they are concerned about.
It can be incredibly helpful to open the caregiving team to include a social worker or case manager, a mental health provider, a nurse care manager, and a primary care physician. It ensures everyone understands the veteran’s favorite long-term care options and helps build a lasting and trusting relationship between the veteran and their caregivers.
Once everyone has had time to think things over and the veteran is comfortable deciding, help them to follow through. Spell out the next steps, and answer any remaining questions they might have.
Download a worksheet to guide veterans through identifying their needs, goals and priorities; reviewing their options; and making decisions about next steps.