In 2012, I had the honor of attending a seminar featuring the late Dr. Dennis McCullough, author of “My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing ‘Slow Medicine,’ The Compassionate Approach to Caring for your Aging Loved Ones.” I had previously read the book and, awed by his insight, bought copies for each member of my assisted living leadership team; several of whom joined me in attending the seminar. His presentation was thoughtful, and brilliant, and inspiring - I became a total "fan girl" that day and floated away with a signed copy of his book which remains on my shelf with signed copies of books by Naomi Feil and Nicholas Sparks.
Dr. Dennis McCullough most eloquently described individuals involved in the care of a senior as their “Circle of Concern.” The Circle of Concern describes “balanced, mutually respectful, and supportive partnerships between doctors, nurses, and other health practitioner and elder patients, their families, close friends, neighbors, and anyone else chosen to be a part of the circle.” Each is uniquely qualified to provide support and insight and, while some may be gathered to help in a time of crisis and some may be engaged with the senior for the long haul, all should recognize the role that they play and defer to the professional expert in matters that move beyond support and require professional expertise.
I encourage anyone caring for a senior parent, or preparing to care for a senior parent in the future, to read Dr. McCullough's book (see link below for Amazon purchase). It can serve as an invaluable tool, even a how-to guide regarding difficult discussions with seniors and tips for successful communication, including a unique understanding from the perspective of Dr. McCullough's experiences with his own mother.
Gathering a Circle of Concern is an important part of caring for a senior parent and often happens organically as they age and acquire more physicians and specialists – just be sure those who gather in your Circle respect the difference between “support” and “expertise.”
Embrace the support, heed the expert.