My Mother, Your Mother: embracing “Slow Medicine,” the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones 

by Dennis McCullough, Md 

Review by Sophia M. Heftler, RN, CALA 

Dr. McCullough’s book My Mother, Your Mother is a unique combination of authoritative advice and personal memoir. McCullough’s story about caring for his mother, Bertha, his mourning at her death, and anecdotes from his geriatric practice describe and validate the challenges of caring for an aging parent. It is a timely resource for those in the helping professions and for the Professional Geriatric Care Manager in particular, as we serve as advocates for our clients and their families. 

“Slow Medicine,” a phrase coined by Dr. McCullough, refers to a thoughtful, more deliberate, and critical approach to medical treatment for people over eighty, the fastest growing segment of the population. While many physicians advocate for aggressive treatment of all patients’ diseases, Dr. McCullough encourages families and providers to hold back “from the rushed in-hospital interventions and slow down to balance thoughtfully the separate, multiple and complex issues of late life.” Rather than quickly and automatically subjecting elders to “impersonal medical protocols in strange and disorienting surroundings,” McCullough argues that “we need to learn that time and kindness are sometimes more important and humane at these late stages than state-of-the-art medical interventions.” 

Dr. McCullough describes eight distinct “stations” along the path of late life: stability, compromise, crisis, recovery, decline, prelude to dying, death and finally, grieving/legacy. He also offers practical suggestions for elders and their families as they face the challenges of each station. These suggestions include how to practice “witnessing rather than intervening,” resisting overly aggressive treatment, watchful waiting, and forming an “advocacy team” to help protect the older adult and slow the pace of care to a crawl. Most issues are not emergencies and older people need time to absorb and process medical information. 

In essence, Slow Medicine embodies the principles of what Professional Geriatric Care Managers practice every day: identifying what people need, coordinating care, being patient. 

As McCullough concludes: “Over and over, families must identify and ask for what they and their parents need, seeking links to caring professionals who also want to do the right thing, but are often constrained by organizational, institutional and cultural health care practices that are not fully serving our elders and us…yet.” 

Sophia Heflter, RN, CMC, CALA is the founder of Distinctive Care, a geriatric care management practice, who has specialized in working with older adults for more than 17 years. She has had experience as Director of Nursing Services at local nursing homes, served as executive director at assisted living facilities and is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager. She founded Distinctive Care in Ridgewood, NJ on the principle that older adults are entitled to maintain an independent, autonomous, and dignified lifestyle.

Advocare Care Management is your preeminent care manager in Boca Raton. We work with you to get the resources, tools, support, connections, and advice for aging life care for seniors or loved ones. We assist families throughout South Florida including Palm Beach counties. We are available 24 hours a day and will give you the help you need. Contact Advocare Care Management today and let us help you.

Reprinted with permission from Advocare Care Management is the place to go when caring for an aging loved one.