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Facing Difficult Decisions

Updated on August 22, 2015
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a Baby-Boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Difficult Decisions give me a Pain


Health decisions

After 30 years of marriage, my husband and I know each other pretty well. I know when he doesn’t want to do something and vice versa. However things often come up that require our attention whether we want to face it or not. Since both of our sets of parents are aging, we are faced with parent’s health issues. They are all pretty healthy parents for the most part, but of course it is bound to happen that someone is going to need our attention.

We both have plenty of siblings who could also help out with parental health issues, so when the time comes for us to do our part, it seems selfish not to pitch in. The hard part is that we do one live near our parents and it is rather expensive to get there and expensive to stay for any length of time. I’m sure we are not alone with these kinds of problems. Many people deal with their aging and ailing parents. When issues like these come up it is hard to know which way to go. Decisions that will be hard either way are difficult to make. I have learned several ways to sort out conflicting emotions.


Plus-Minus List


The Plus and Minus List

Many years ago a psychologist told me to make a Plus and Minus list to help me make a difficult decision. Take a piece of paper and divide it in half the long way. At the top of each column place the heading “Plus” and “Minus”. Then under those write what would be good and bad about each issue you are facing. In the end one column will be longer than the other. If there are more minuses than pluses, don’t do it. If there are more pluses than minus, you know what to do.

Spay the cat

No worries about roaming
She will be sad
No more kittens
Seems mean
No more whining at night
Seems expensive
No more having to keep her locked in the bathroom
Can let her in the backyard again
No more having to find homes for kittens
No more howling cats surrounding the house
She will be a happier cat in the long run
This is only an example of my Plus and Minus list with Spaying the Cat as an example. You can see that there are more Pluses than Minuses.

Money Solves a Few Things



We haven’t much in wealth or we may be tempted to offer money to anyone to keep us from having to go. However in this situation, my honey’s Mom really wants HIM and not some hireling. This is one of those situations were even if we had money it would do little to help. It is our presence that is wanted and needed. Sure there are other siblings that can pitch in, but my husband’s Mom really derives joy from seeing him in person; especially since we don’t make there very often.



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It is holiday time when families get most needy and those with family issues want to stay as far away from family as possible. However, again, when there are health issues, you just need to suck it up and go be where you are needed most. My dear husband and I have gotten to be hermits, enjoying each other’s company more than most family because of past issues and hurt feelings. This year we are being compelled to leave our hermitage and face the minefields of parental territory.

When these times come, you must strengthen your constitution and your bond with each other more than any other time. I think the big deal is that many people tend to lash out at those closest to them when tough times and emotional fall out begin. Above all else you need to have your ally, you spouse, on your side. Make sure you check in regularly before the trip and do whatever you need to do to keep hidden resentments from bubbling to the surface. Talk openly about what is coming. You don’t need to say you HATE each other’s families to understand there are no perfect families. As far as you can, be kind to each other before and during the trip.

My husband is my best friend and I let him know regularly. That isn’t to say that I don’t hurt his feelings from time to time, but I certainly try not to. And when I have I make sure to apologize when I have calmed down. I repair damage sooner rather than later. I need him. The holidays are always nicer with him beside me.

Couples Should Stick Together




When I made my list the small minuses about going to live at my mother-in-law’s for a time to help her were far outweighed by the pluses. However the main plus was that my husband needed me. Someday I will need him to do something he won’t want to concerning my parents and on that day I don’t want to have the thought that I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. The thing is that I’m not all that important except that he finds support and strength just from my presence. If that’s all I need to do, be there for him, isn’t that a small thing to ask? The minuses of the temperature of my in-law’s house being uncomfortable and the TVs constantly on day and night, are a small thing to endure. Sure I don’t want to face that, especially for an extended period of time. However, my honey is worth it.

This will be the ultimate question if you are facing a similar dilemma. Sure you could stay home and let him go do what he has to do, but if your presence gives him encouragement and strength and undying gratitude, won’t that be worth it? I think it is.


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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Kristen, I am sorry for your loss. Those are really tough decisions but I totally understand. I think I would have wanted the same as your mother. I'm glad you are coping well with the decisions and the loss. Blessings,


    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great article Denise. I've made two tough decisions last year---one was last spring, when my mother had a heart attack and was on life support. My brother and I had to let her go and say goodbye, because that was her wish she wanted in 2012, when she'd gotten sick for an entire year. The other one I've made was to move out of my apartment and to find a place of my own, last summer, since I lived with my mother for all my life. Both were hard and the right decisions for me to make at that time last year.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      I totally understand. I would want to be in my own home and not have to go live with some sibling or one of my children, but I also understand there may come a time when that won't be possible. I hope I face my aging parents with the same grace that I hope to receive from my children. I'll be praying for your situations. As one Denise to another! Blessings.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      We have been faced with similar dilemmas in our family. Both of our parents have been getting up in years. We are closest in proximity to my husband's parents, and were able to be there when his mother passed away earlier this year. After her passing, there were a number of issues with his father's living situation. Several of his siblings wanted the father to come and live with them, but he did not want to do so. He preferred to stay in his own home. It has difficult to deal with the feelings exchanged over the issue, however, it is temporarily resolved by his oldest daughter leaving her home and living with him for a time. My husband, being the oldest son, has supported her and helped to buffer the flack from the other siblings. We never know at what point these arrangements will no longer be sufficient and we must make more difficult decisions.