Who Decides?



His skin is mottled,

He is 94.

He stands erect,

He walks with assurance.

He says, I feel the same as I always feel.


Right now, I think.

He can’t imagine feeling different,

He doesn’t remember.


Months before, winter of 2016, hospitalized 5 times or more in Florida,

Weakened by persistent diarrhea and congestive heart failure.

We see his mortality as he lay in a hospital bed,

Grateful to have his ‘son the doctor’ by his side.

He felt his vulnerability – then, not now.


Summer of 2017, Saugerties, NY.

They have a full-time aide,

Living ten minutes from their daughters.

Close to their sons.

In an apartment, furnished with familiar things,

In a new community, in an unfamiliar place.


I arrive to take him to his doctor’s appointment,

We leave his wife, many years into Alzheimer’s, with the aide.

We step outside into the light so bright, he shields his eyes til they adjust.

He walks with purpose to the car.

Fall is in the air, he says.

Almost time to go back to Florida, he tells me


I start the car and drive,

I don’t respond to his comment about Florida.

What to say?


When was the last time he drove?

He would not be able to navigate the roads to the doctor’s office,

Or the paperwork,

Or explain his complex medical history.


He might understand the doctor’s instructions,

He is a compliant patient.

He has an iron will,

Which may explain his 94 years.


His long life brought him from the woods in Poland

Where he fought with the partisans against the Nazis,

To fight in the Russian army,

To survive by any means necessary.

To a displaced persons’ camp,

To immigrate to the United States,

To build a life.

To outlive friends and family, still bound to Paula, his children and his faith.


Should he and Paula go to Florida?

What is the right balance between their quality of life and their safety?

What is the right balance between David’s wishes and the peace of mind of his children?

Who decides?

8 thoughts on “Who Decides?

  1. It is a heartbreaking time in a loved one’s life. So hard to know the right thing to do. Speaking as a caregiver of 10 years to other people’s families, I don’t envy you trying to answer the questions you posed. But if there is any advice I could offer, let one overriding decision take precedence over all others: safety first. And remember you make every decision out of love.


  2. Ah. So familiar that reading it brings all the anxiety of those last years back so vividly I feel it in my stomach. We sure told him our fears. Watched him react with stubbornness and frustration that we would speak out loud that which he knew but refused to acknowledge because it was always his job to be strong. Not sure we all agreed, my siblings and I. For my part, I chose his dignity.


  3. The question you pose is, “who makes the decision” I offer the following to consider, as you go through this incredibly difficult ordeal.

    Your blog does not lay out why the children opine that Saugerties is safer than Florida; and the facts which lead the children to believe this is very important to the analysis in answering the question as to who makes the decision.

    I think the overarching issue to consider is as follows:

    “Is your position rooted in:

    (a) is it that David does not grasp the risks and does not have a safe plan” ; or

    (b) is it that moving to Florida will cause havoc for his four children in view of the care / oversight which they provide? or

    (c) you [quite understandably] want to avoid the risks involved in the parents living so far away from family (but David, understands this, and is willing to accept these risks)

    If the answer is:

    (a)i then you take action to supersede David’s “authority” (there are two ways to do this and we can discuss if you want to);
    (b) then your choices are to convince him that he owes it to his children to not go to Florida; if however, it is
    (c) then I suggest that it is not your decision to make and it is David’s decision to make as to whether or not he shall continue to live in Florida during the winter.

    One additional factor which could change my analysis is that Paula is not able to (knowlingly) voice her opinion

    Does David also get to decide for Mom under the same approach? Not necessarily. Do the children believe that Mom, if capable, would say, “do not take ME to Florida if I am in the condition that I am in????” I am not suggesting that Paula would (or would not) object; but, David’s ability to take knowing risks for himself does not necessarily equate with his right to take these risks for Paula.

    But in assessing the impact on Paula…. this brings us back to the threshold question… what is it about Florida v Saugerties which poses the concern?

    Is David making a decision without understanding the ramifications? Is he making a decision which is going to cause the four children enormous stress/ difficulties? If it is more the former than the latter- then you have two options in how to make the decision.(Call me to discuss). If it is more the latter than the former, then, my heart goes out to you, I wish you and Gary’s siblings well in convincing David not to go to Florida, but, if you cannot convince him… I kind of think it is his call.

    Best wishes and Best of Luck to all of David/Paula’s devoted children.


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