Respecting Your Loved One’s Choices


Helping your loved one maintain a sense of dignity can be one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving.

Take a minute to consider your special role as a caregiver. More than a professional caregiver, you know the person you care for. You know the whole person, her likes and dislikes, her individual strengths and weaknesses, and her wants and needs.

It’s easy to slip into a “protective” role when you care for someone else, especially a family member. But we need to remember that unless the person is experiencing some cognitive failure (brain damage because of a stroke, dementia, or other health problem), she still makes decisions about her life. Sometimes she may make decisions that you wouldn’t make, but it is her choice. This can be difficult for you as a caregiver; you will need to watch yourself and guard against overprotection.

Among the most important human needs is the desire for respect and dignity. That need doesn’t change when a person becomes ill or disabled. Indeed, it may grow even stronger.

There are many things you can do to make sure the person in your care receives the respect and dignity that is every person’s basic human right.


Respect Their Privacy, Physically And Emotionally.

  • Close the door when you help her dress or use the bathroom.
  • Knock before opening a closed door.
  • Don’t discuss confidential information with other people, even family members, without her permission.


Respect Their Right To Make Choices.

  • By making choices we have a sense of control over our life. Let her decide what and when to eat, for example, if she is able.
  • If she has cognitive problems, offer choices of what to eat, when to eat, what to wear. If she insists on wearing the same shirt every day, use a protective towel when she eats, and wash clothes in the evening.
  • If a choice seems silly or unimportant to you, try to see why it may be important to her.
  • If she refuses to take medication or makes other choices that would be dangerous, try to negotiate possible solutions. Offer pills with a favorite snack (if the prescription allows), agree to give baths only as often as absolutely necessary, arrange for someone to take walks with her if she is unsafe by himself.


Treat Her or Him With Dignity.

  • Listen to her concerns.
  • Ask for her opinions and let her know they are important to you.
  • Involve her in as many decisions as possible.
  • Include her in the conversation. Don’t talk about her as though he’s not there.
  • Speak to her as an adult, even if you’re not sure how much she understands.


To watch a video featuring one of Forge’s Peer Volunteers who has been a male partner/husband caregiver and can offer tips and support, click here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. Si hablas español y quieres más información, por favor contacta a Yadira Robayna, al (205) 990-5375 O al [email protected].


Source: National Caregivers Library