Should we do this? Can we go there? Is this safe? What's best? Is it too risky? These are the questions I have been asking myself since COVID-19 hit our world. Decision-making seemed slightly easier when schools and businesses were closed. I didn't have to re-evaluate my family's choices so frequently. But, now that cities have reopened, I've had to manage ever-changing CDC recommendations with balancing my family's physical and mental health.
Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful things have opened up again. I'm just finding this new makes it harder to decide what's best for my family.
At the height of my stress, a dear friend who is also a mother of a child with CF reminded me, "You know we're experts at risk-benefit decision-making, right? We've been doing this for years." I took a deep breath. She was right. From the moment I brought my child with CF home from the hospital, I have had to evaluate the risks and benefits of our family's decisions daily. Making decisions in light of COVID isn't much different from making decisions in light of CF; it just feels like the stakes are higher now.
Fortunately, there are two things that help me find peace in the midst of decision-making during COVID:
- Giving myself permission to find a healthy balance with each decision. Every decision has risks. Every decision has benefits. I have to take both into account. For example, yes, a decision might increase our chances for COVID. But it may also be the right choice for us, considering we must balance risk with depression or financial distress.
- Using a tool to evaluate my decision on paper and get input from others, such as my family or my CF care team. Using a printable risk-assessment tool like this allows me to evaluate multiple risks and factors for any activity. Making many decisions at once with the support of others can soothe my cognitive load. All decisions are ultimately mine. Only I know how much risk I'm willing to take given the benefit of an activity. But being able to look at the risks objectively helps me feel much less alone.
We know exposure risk to COVID-19 is higher when you're around more people and for longer periods of time. So, I placed each of my family's potential activities on the grid, based on the risk from the number of people we'd be around in that environment and the length of time we'd be spending with them.
While this is what my personal decision-making box looked like for my family, others might place these same activities in completely different places. And that's ok. We all have different lives and needs to manage, and those can change over time. Although I placed these activities in this location in October, I might very well place them in different places next month, depending on what we know about COVID and how my family is doing emotionally and physically at the time.
You can print a blank copy of this grid to use to plot your own situations.
Things with COVID keep changing, so my decisions must adapt. For example, I recently chose to take a trip to a state that has strict mask-wearing rules. I traveled with a friend who was willing to quarantine before our trip. Later this month, we're planning to trick-or-treat, but only in areas with few trick-or-treaters and only to the homes of people we know personally who will commit to keeping us safe. And right now my children play with friends in the neighborhood, but only outside.
While finding peace in the midst of making decisions can feel daunting, it does help to remember that I'm an expert at decision-making in the face of a changing health condition.
I do it with CF all the time. I can do it with COVID too. Rarely is there a "right" or "wrong" decision. Instead, it's risky versus less risky. I'm grateful for tools that can help me think through my decisions and make the best choice for my family.
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