Where are the answers?

“Elephant in the Room ™” is a new discussion and decision tool my wife created and I have helped bring to existence. It involves a series of 96 cards in 4 categories:

  1. Values and Beliefs: to entice thought on one’s belief systems of life without restrictions.
  2. Complex Care: using multiple real and potential “what if” situations which could possibly impact the care and needs of a dependent, critically advanced, complex disease or care circumstances.
  3. Definitions and Resources: to assist in the exploration of who-what-where-when-how-why of caregiving and preparation for future needs as time, trauma or disease dictates.

4: People and Places: to stimulate an examination of the resources, discover and help establish a plan for the utilization of resources for current and/or future needs.

Each of the 24 cards are formed in the shape of an Elephant Footprint in representative of the “steps” that are often necessary to achieve the most positive outcome for easing the stress of sudden or chronic life changes we all will eventually face someday.

During a recent conversation about “The Elephant in the RoomTM” I was asked the question:  “Where are the answers?”  Every time I have an opportunity to discuss end of life issues, advanced care planning or general care for the declining independence of someone, I am always eager to share our Elephant and offer it as an additional motivator to encourage continued discussion and thought.

The variety of reaction from people after they see the Elephant is as individual as each personality could be. The most important impression I try to make on everyone is that there are no answers that will apply to everyone in every situation. What is best for me may not be best for you. What is desired by me may not be acceptable to someone else. What is needed for each of us may be impossible to determine ahead of time. But what is most important of all is that there are discussions along these lines to help families and caregivers understand where to begin in coming up with answers.

Life is too short to ignore the inevitable consequences of living. And to spend all day focused on death is certainly no aim I have intended. After 20 plus years in healthcare, in a host of different environments, I can only say that the softest path for an exit from this earth is not always the easiest. I once read something that said we have replaced the need for comfort above the need for happiness. In relation to pain, planning, and lifestyle, I can see the truth in that statement. There is certainly a time for pain medication to ease suffering, but not at the expense of a little exercise to eliminate potentially avoidable, severe pain if possible. And not with a complete disregard for the benefits of behavior modification or non-narcotic alternatives. Not all plans are perfect; ongoing discussion and change is needed to adjust plans as options become available and progress brings about more choices. I understand the right of everyone to make their own lifestyle choices, but there are very few of us who are incapable of learning new ways to live if we are facing serious consequences from the “normal” routine of our habits.

Caring Choices has developed “Elephant in the Room™” to be a guide for the inspiration of thought. Not to give answers. We are hopeful that the tool we have created will bring a sense of relief and comfort to a discussion that is all too often filled with fear and despair. Please join us in the hope we share that review of the Elephant can bring family, friends, and caregivers a little closer to understanding what is important to all of us when there becomes a need to finally acknowledge that there really is an “Elephant in the Room™.”

© 2014 Caring Choices