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Facing Decisions about Aging Loved Ones

May 4, 2019

Another Way for week of May 3, 2919

Facing Decisions about Aging Loved Ones

Two summers ago at a church convention in Orlando, Fla., I had a soul stirring conversation with a former acquaintance whom I knew multiple ways. I’ll call him Steve. His mother was a tablemate of my mother’s for several weeks in a healthcare facility a few years ago while my mother recovered from some pretty serious surgery. His mother lived at the facility for fulltime care. My sisters and I ate numerous meals with them as we took turns hanging out as Mom got rehab, adjusted to her new regimen, and eventually moved back to her independent apartment.

Steve and his father had gone through some tough decisions regarding his mother’s care; families dealing with aging parents were fresh on my mind from helping conduct a seminar that week with family therapists Gerald and Marlene Kaufman, authors of the book Necessary Conversations Between Families and their Aging Parents (Good Books, 2017).

Several pieces of advice from Steve stick out. At some point my friend realized that he as a son needed to step up and make a decision that his father simply couldn’t make. “Perhaps Dad literally can’t bring himself to make a decision about Mom,” Steve reflected. He was speaking about the great difficulty they had in facing that it was time to move his mother to healthcare. Other tough decisions include feeding your parent, or intubating so they don’t starve, or deciding to have the DNR “Do Not Resuscitate” order on health records.

He recalled phone calls with his mother as being very hard—and then they became impossible. I’m not sure if that was because of hearing issues, or memory losses, or what. But if you’ve ever been in that situation, you know how painful it becomes when even a simple phone conversation with your mother or father or grandparent—deeply intelligent and robust at one time—just becomes a one-way monologue or shouting match. Very sad. At what point do you stop making mechanical or technical or medical interventions? How do you let go?

“Try to make sure ahead of time the family is on the same page in making decisions,” he said. Steve said doctors and nurses who work in the emergency room had shared with him that when kids come in with an older family member, many times they are not of one mind about what kind of care the parent should receive. “It is heartbreaking to do CPR on a frail body,” Steve said doctors told him. If you’ve seen CPR performed in real life or on TV, you know how strenuous that attempt at saving a life by pushing repeatedly on the chest can become. Steve said we need to get to the point where we recognize that it may be best for Mom or Dad to “go home to Jesus.”

On the other hand, older patients have been revived after a heart episode or other trauma and gone on to thankfully live many additional years and be grateful for them. I worked with one author and medical doctor, Glen Miller who went through major heart episodes and went on to write the book Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well (Herald Press, 2014). In some ways I feel that memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s can be the hardest to deal with.

Regardless of the specific difficulties and decisions, Steve gave this excellent piece of advice he had learned from others that I want to leave with you as well: “The ones who visit their parent or loved one are the ones who have fewer regrets after a parent has passed away.”

I’m grateful my own mother is still in relatively good health and that my husband and I are also. But I know as surely as the sun comes up, those days of difficult decisions and changing needs will come for most of us.

For a free booklet “Wondering What’s Best for an Aging Parent” and my own “A Loving Legacy” providing a guide to the conversations we need to have with our children or parents, write to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. I have plenty of A Loving Legacy if you would like several copies to share.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  



  1. I’m sure I could relate to many of the details in these books. As you know, I’ve been down this road three times in the last five years.

    Never easy, or simple!

    • Too many times, so close together. Yes, you could write your own booklets on this topic. I had help from readers with the “A Loving Legacy” one.

  2. BEVERLY SILVER permalink


  3. I find myself in the midst of this situation. Compassion, love and laughter I find helps the most.

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