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Last week I told you about the informal Care Advisory Board that my friend put together when he thought there was some immediate challenges facing his 93 year old mother.  One of the most thought-invoking responses I received was from my friend Heddie Sumner in Midland, Michigan. I have to admit I am justly prejudiced towards paying close attention to what Heddie has to say, because I’ve had the honor to speak at two of her events and can attest to what a service she offers to the caregivers in her community.

Dear Gary,
This was a great editorial noting the importance of involving friends and family. However, my one concern is that there appeared to be no discussion that included the mom herself. (There are plans for a 2-week visit.) The elder needs to be involved in the conversations about care. Even when there are early Dementia issues (not specified here), one has the capacity to share wishes and concerns. At the age of 93 I am sure that the mom mentioned here has specific wants and goals for her own care.

Long distance caregiving is always a challenge. Having a core group to assist makes this easier. That group needs to be aware of Mom’s wants as they have their discussions. These may not always go down the path of the wants of the adult children and family. In this era of supporting the concept of “family centered care” that takes into consideration the person needing care and the supporting family, all voices need to be heard in order to develop and promote a viable plan of action. The multiple issues noted certainly complicate the matter. Will this be easy? Maybe not. However, we owe it to our elders to respect their dignity and hear their voices.

Best wishes to this caregiving family. I encourage them to involve mom in these early discussions, not later.

Thank you,
Heddie Sumner
Heddie Sumner, RN, BSN
Director of Education and Resource Development
Senior Services/Midland County Council on Aging


I am happy to report that as soon as my friend returned stateside they did sit down with Mom and things are being handled as a family unit with her in the midst of the decision making. Some things are better than they had thought and some not so good, but together I am convinced they can work it all out.


Gary Barg

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