Monday, May 24, 2010


This blog post is a bit of a departure from my usual snarky self, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a little while. You know that Melissa and I are working on our book “For My Aging Parent” dealing with organizing information when hiring a caregiver for an older adult.

A few days ago, I had a conversation about this new book with an old (but newly connected) friend who watched her father-in-law deteriorate, and eventually pass away, from Parkinson’s. She told me that one of the most profound lessons she learned was how important it was to let him make his own decisions, no matter how she, or anyone else, felt about them.

As we discussed this, I brought up examples like, “but what if those decisions will shorten his life or add to his pain or reduce his quality of life?” And she just countered with, “but aren’t those his decisions to make?”

So what do you think, readers? If your smoker Mom is dying of lung cancer but won’t give up smoking, isn’t it her right to make that decision? If Dad has lived a full and happy life and just can’t fight the fight anymore, who among us can tell him to keep fighting for that life? Or what if he hasn’t had a full, happy life? What if his life has been full of misery and hardships, and he just doesn’t want to prolong it anymore, who are we to tell him he must? Maybe accepting death is the right thing for some folks, and by giving them our blessing, it would make it easier on them, instead of covering them in a blanket of guilt.

When my dad was getting worse, and we knew that depression was setting in, it seemed that all he wanted to do was sit in his chair and watch TV. After having had such an active life, it was painful for my sisters and I to watch this, so we tried to come up with activities for him, such as volunteer work. We’d get so aggravated, though, because he just wasn’t interested. To us, it looked like he was just sitting there, waiting to die. You know what? Maybe he was. And in retrospect, if that’s what he wanted to do, we should have respected that and maybe just gone to sit with him more often.

We all do what we do out of love. We don’t want to see our loved ones die, so we do what we can to keep them alive. So as my title asks, who’s making the decisions? Us… or them?



  1. Karen- that last line- maybe in retrospect we should have just gone to sit with him more often- wow. That hits home today. Well said. Sometimes it's more important to give grace than it is to be right. Thanks for the reminder to step back and think about ALL sides of the matter.

  2. My dad is 81 and now lives with my sister and her family after he had lived alone for 13 years. He still insists on driving. We are worried. We may have to call DMV and ask that they send him a notice to have a drivers test.He says if he can't drive he wants to die. He is very independent.And would still be living alone except he fell on the ice in Feb. and broke his shoulder. His body seems to be shrinking along with his strength.He is blind in one eye. He seems to have some depression but says no,he doesn't. What to do,what to do!