Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The Washington Post carried a recent story by Samantha Schmidt on the tragedy that befell the Tarnowski family in Minnesota when Mary, age 78, and Ron, age 81, somehow wound up stranded with their car on a remote rural trail. Sadly, they both perished, with heat and dehydration likely factors in their deaths.
One element of the story has attracted a lot of reader attention -- the report that Ron Tarnowski, who had been his wife's primary caregiver for more than 35 years, was "showing signs of early-stage dementia" in recent years. Implications from this label raise questions for many.
From the article, a facebook page, and the obituary, it is apparent that the couple's two sons were very caring and attentive. One son had built them a home "adjacent to his own so he could keep an eye on them." That son's wife had given his mother a bath and cooked breakfast for the couple earlier on the day they went missing, and the fact that they were missing was reported the very same day. Despite the sons' attentiveness, and the all-out efforts of authorities and volunteers to locate the missing couple, the search lasted eight days.
I read with interest the comments to the story posted on-line at the Washington Post website. I expected there would be "flamers" and shaming, so typical of many on-line comment websites. But for the most part, the readers showed kindness and empathy, especially as they told their own stories of struggles to balance protection with respect, attempting to preserve autonomy of beloved family members who are aging.
Significantly, many readers addressed the potential for modern technology in the form of automated trackers on cars and cell phones to help avoid, if not completely prevent such a tragedy.