All mom, all the time

By RuthAnn Hogue/Whiptail Publishing

The kitchen faucet was running and the floor was flooded again today when I got home from an errand. Sigh. This was after we both went to see Mom’s doctor and I fed her a nice hot lunch. She decided to stay home while I was out turning in paperwork with the Veteran’s Administration on her behalf.

Screen shot 2014-02-27 at 5.48.02 PMAs for the flood, I got it all cleaned up in time for the Adult Protective Services visit. This has been an all-mom day. I am still not done. There is more paperwork to finish and a prescription to pick up at the pharmacy. I’m exhausted.

(Oh, we had a bit of a flood in the bathroom this morning as well, but that was OK. She was taking a shower bath and caught me with the sprayer several times drenching me below the knees. Hey, she came out clean. I have no complaints on that one.)

beef fajitas

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Keeping Mom Safe Requires Constant Vigilance

Empty food cartons

Six empty containers littered my mom’s bedroom floor this evening when I returned home after getting my hair done. She had beaten me to her bi-weekly shipment of meals and consumed more than half of its contents.

By RuthAnn Hogue/Whiptail Publishing

I understand what it’s like to be hungry. I stayed home from work this morning. Why? Exhaustion. Pure and simple. I wasn’t sure I was up for driving, even though I went to bed last night at 6:30 p.m. I don’t keep much food in the house so most meals are consumed at work. I keep a few things on hand that I can heat up, but not much. Staying home usually means meals will be lean.

Not so, for my mom. I always have food on hand for her. I hide it in the freezer. I stash it in the back of the pantry. I have even put it in boxes in the laundry room. As her daughter and caregiver, I make sure she has enough food for breakfast and lunch before I leave for the day. Upon my return I stall her with apples and oranges until dinner time. She asks repeatedly for hamburgers, pizza and whatever else she thinks I might have stashed away. We didn’t have a lot in the house when we left, but what we did, I left for her when I headed out for my six-week hair appointment.

I was a tad surprised to come home and not find the expected package she receives bi-weekly from Mom’s Meals. Oh, well, I thought. Sometimes it is a day late, and I had at least one more meal left in the freezer for Mom.

When I stepped inside the house my first thought was that my mom might be hungry. I heated up some leftover pizza (which had been somewhat mysteriously left untouched) and delivered it to her in her room. What I found scattered all over her room floored me. Here’s a list of the contents that were missing from a pile of empty food containers that had to have been consumed between 2 and 7 p.m. today:

1 Hamburger Patty with cheese and seasoned vegetables and a wheat bun
1 Chicken And Vegetable Pot Pie
1 Mini Pancakes with Turkey Sausage and Sliced Peaches with Granola Topping
1 Beef Frank with Baked Beans and Vegetables
1 Asian Style Rice with White Chicken Teriyaki
2 Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
1 Orange
2 Gelatin Cups

This was supposed to have been her lunch for the next five days. It’s already gone. The UPS delivery truck must have come while I was out. She somehow was able to drag a 40-pound box of food inside the house and into her room. This is how I can be sure of when she ate all of this, because none of it was in the house when I left. I checked what she had left against the packing slip and empty containers.

We are going to have to make the five remaining meals last. I have moved them into my freezer (the one without a handle on the door) so hopefully they will be safe overnight at least.

I’m not mad. I’m not angry. I don’t even know that I’m upset. I’m definitely concerned. We just cannot afford to sustain this sort of appetite, and I know it is not healthy. I don’t want her to be hungry. But I don’t want her to overeat herself into a worse case of diabetes.

Oh, and yes. She finished eating her warmed up pepperoni pizza. Both slices. So, I guess it’s time to slip in to make sure she takes her evening medicine. Then I’m going to put myself to bed.

May we both, daughter and mom, be blessed with sweet dreams.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Naomi Revokes Power of Attorney

By RuthAnn Hogue/Whiptail Publishing

Naomi Hesterman is tired of being pushed around by an adult son who thinks he knows best. “I guess I have spoiled him,” the 79-year-old said today.

Well, she’s had enough. She deserves props for standing up to a son who is used to being in charge–without being questioned.

That stops now.

What’s sad, is that no one else in the family, and I mean no one, seems to be willing to take up my Mom’s cause. They too, it would appear, either fear Bryce Hesterman and company or just do not understand the gravity of his abuse.

This is leaving me further estranged. It’s not something I wish or ask for but appears to be reality.

Being amicable does not mean rolling over and letting someone harm your mother or grandmother. Why can’t it mean politely asking those who would meddle into daily matters that are none of their affairs to mind their own business–and what’s more, to encourage them to obey the law?

Theft is wrong. Stealing from the elderly is wrong. Stealing family photos that could actually help your mother retain her memory is hideous. Withholding them unless she complies with wishes is either theft or worse. I’m not up on the correct legal terms. If you call letting that slide being amicable, well, then don’t expect that from me. It’s not what a good caregiver, or daughter, would allow to happen to her mom.

Forcing her to live in a climate not conducive to her comfort and well-being–and getting her there by trickery–is appalling. Going along with it without a word, in my book, is just as bad.

For those who fear that the family album would be lost forever to the rest of the family if they allow my Mom to have it while living here, I would say that is rubbish. I have no use for such a book once my Mother is gone. They can be sure it will be returned to the Terry family without issue. What they do with it is up to them.

You have the right to your own opinions. And I have mine. If we disagree, fine. Then, “Good day. I said Good Day.”

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Emotions Prove Unpredictable

By RuthAnn Hogue/Whiptail Publishing

Don’t judge. You don’t know how you’d react until you find yourself in an emergency room with a clearly confused mother and healthcare professionals telling you that it’s not safe for either of you to return home together.

Flower blossomYou might feel a sudden sense of relief that your mother is finally in better hands. You might feel grateful that you will no longer be the one responsible for everything from whether she takes her medicine to taking a bath. It might initially feel as if a weight has been lifted.

Then the tears might follow. Tears that maybe you didn’t do enough while your mother was in your home. Tears that you’re no longer an adequate caregiver. That somehow, you’ve failed as a daughter. You might even feel a sense of loss for the role you’ve played in her life for the past two years.

You just never know.

That’s how it felt for me on Oct. 7 when my mother was admitted to Chandler Regional Hospital, with what at that time was no hope of returning home.

From there, all support from family, friends, spiritual leaders and medical professionals seemed to point to one solution: Finding long-term care for Mom.

Picturing her in an unfamiliar place made me sad. Knowing that medical professionals had warned against the safety of her coming home with me–for both of our sakes–made it easier. Besides, caring for her is a huge responsibility. It has taken over much of my life, if not all of it–outside of work. It’s caused me to miss work. And that could end poorly for all involved if not kept in check.

The reality was sinking in.

That’s when the story took a twist.

Test results revealed that Mom if could be managed safely on medication that she could receive in-home health care. No nursing home. No long-term care. She was to return to the place where she’d forgotten only days before was actually her home.

That was Wednesday. It’s Saturday. She’s been comfortably resting and reading at home for the past couple of days. She’s had two home health care visits. One from a nurse and one from a physical therapist.

Her medication appears to be working.

So, yes, I am relieved. No nursing home for Mom.

And, yes, I am embarrassed to admit, I’m sad that there is no full-time help for Mom.

At least we now have home health care in place. She’ll get more help than I could possibly provide on my own. A nurse is on call 24/7. They keep an eye on her blood pressure, and her PT is going to teach her balancing exercises. Apparently, she has all the strength needed to lift herself from a chair. She just chooses not to do it alone because she is afraid of falling. With balance training, her PT said he believes she will become more confident and able to get around better.

Let’s hope so.

Her fear of falling has kept her from many otherwise daily activities.

And I get the chance to do a better job. There is something about resetting the clock that makes it easier to provide care. I’m not sure why.

Maybe you do. If so, please share.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Cross Road or Sign Post?

By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

Mom woke up early Sunday morning with stories tumbling out nearly faster than her lips could handle.

“Oh, you’re there,” she said, spotting me in the living room on my recliner doing research on my laptop computer. “I’ve been telling you life stories all morning.”

Mom settled down on the opposite end of the sectional sofa before continuing. “Do you know what happened to your yellow dress?” she asked.

Expecting the usual stories set in her childhood and the 1940s and 1950s, such a query was a surprise.

“No, not really,” I said. “What yellow dress?”

RuthAnn Hogue as a Toddler

It’s not clear whether this is the yellow dress my mother remembers, as this photo was not taken in color. It is, however, from the same time period.

“You had the most beautiful pleated yellow dress when you were a toddler. You used to wear it with shiny black slippers. You would dance and sing, and you had the most beautiful big brown eyes. Your Grandpa Hesterman used to love to see you in that dress. He was the most special person.”

On most days, tales of my childhood escape her memory. She has trouble accessing much past 1970. It’s as if the entire experience of having raised me has been slowly erased by time. On this day, however, she spoke about the house high on a hill in Great Falls, MT, where she and my father lived with my two elder brothers when I was born. She reminisced how excited everyone was when I arrived.

“‘It’s a girl! It’s a girl!’” Mom said everyone had exclaimed, from hospital nurses to the doctor and–of course–my now late father.

In years past, the storyline suggested that it was actually my father who had made such a proud proclamation. There is even a poem he wrote titled just that. Maybe in this re-telling, my mother felt excited enough about the event to embellish a tad. Or maybe her memory was just so gleeful that she really felt as if even the walls were indeed singing “It’s a girl, it’s a girl. A sweet little girl.”

Wanting to make my mother comfortable, I brought in the small table she’d received just weeks before from two of her granddaughters. I told her how serendipitous her timing was in wanting to share stories considering I had been up late the night before working on launching this blog, I showed her the YouTube videos she’d recorded about six months after moving in and the photos of her trip to the hair salon. I also showed her the page devoted to the recent visit of granddaughters Jennifer and Jasmine and her daughter-in-law, Janethe.

They might as well have been photos of space women.

At first, I wasn’t overly concerned. This is the new normal for Mom. She remembers things for a short time. Then they are gone. It’s one of the reasons I have been taking so many photos of otherwise ordinary things–like going to the doctor or enjoying a Big Mac.

My desire was to turn on the videocam and capture some of Mom’s stories. The sun wasn’t yet up and I have yet to replace the blown fuse for the light in the living room. So that wasn’t really an option. Besides, Mom had just crawled out of bed and needed to at least comb her hair. I suggested that we get her prettied up so when it was light out that we could record family history.

“Why, are we going anywhere?” she asked.

“No, but I thought you might like to look pretty on camera,” I explained.

She didn’t seem interested or impressed.

So I let it go.

Besides, the stories were starting to get a bit jumbled. I wasn’t sure I wanted to record her saying things that were a mixture of truth and once strong memories stained by the color of time.

Instead, I turned on the television and changed it to the BYU Channel. General Conference was about to start and my mom did not want to miss a second. I surprised my mother with a cold slice of chicken and ham pizza I had ordered from Dominoes the night before. She seemed happy. Content, even.

As usual, my mom chit-chatted during the sermons. Every time someone spoke a word that triggered a memory she’d tell a story. Most of the stories were repeated numerous times throughout the session, as if each telling was the first.

Between sessions I decided I would take a nap. I hadn’t planned on being up and staying up so early. I was actually going to go to bed just before my mom came in so eager to visit.

But there was no nap. Instead, my mother peeked in my room and asked when I was going to take her home. She was wearing a sweater and had her cane.

“You’re already home,” I said, trying to turn over and go to sleep.

That’s when things got strange. Without going into detail, let’s just say my mom became extremely confused and became angrier by the minute each time I tried to assure her that she was indeed home, and that she had lived here for two years.

Calls from two of her grandchildren and a personal visit from a third would not convince her. She even asked our bishop, whom I invited over to offer comfort and support, could not convince her that this is where she belonged. She offered to give him gas money if he would drive her to 35th Avenue and Camelback Road so she could find the rest of the way home.

Our bishop asked if she would settle for a blessing instead and put off any trips until tomorrow. He blessed her with the ability to find peace and feel safe in her surroundings and assured her that she was loved by her Heavenly Father, her bishop and the daughter who has been taking care of her for some time now.

It was enough to get her to agree to go to bed.

I sincerely hope this passes. But my mom is very confused right now and as of this morning was still asking to be taken home. Her first words to me this morning were, “When do I get out of this joint?”

I am concerned for her safety and will be speaking with her medical providers about what can and should be done. I am home on leave related to the stress this situation causes me personally and am working on making arrangements in both of our best interests.

At the very least, this is a significant sign post along my mother’s journey. If things don’t get better, it could become a cross road as we move on to the next phase of her life.

Please pray for her. It’s what she would want.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Sibling Reactions Rival Common Sense

By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

It’s a quiet Sunday evening, and I’m spending a little time with three dogs by my side and a computer on my lap. It’s a welcome respite from months of stress and harassment I could never have possibly anticipated, especially considering the source.

Screen shot 2013-10-05 at 7.09.02 PMI never would have guessed, for example, that siblings becoming enemies over disagreements on how to care for an aging parent is not only an all-to-common phenomenon in America, but that it could happen to me.

But it has. And the potential for permanent, irreversible damage to all parties involved is immense. It breaks family bonds which were meant to be eternal. It grinds brotherly or sisterly trust into bleak nothingness darker than any hole in our grand universe.

Most importantly, it breaks the heart of their mothers.

And it’s all done in the name of “protecting” the very women these misguided adults wind up terrorizing, along with their caregivers.

In the words of my mother, Naomi Hesterman, who recognizes that her own children mean well when they intrude in her daily life to the point of making her feel “like a puppet being pulled in opposite directions,” it’s still hurtful and it’s still destructive.

Consider, for example, the position he’s putting his mother in when a trusted adult son works tirelessly to convince her that her caregiver, a trusted daughter, is mishandling her finances. Faced with stories of “dwindling” savings and general malfeasance, what mother wouldn’t sign papers revoking her caregiver’s legal ability to assist her, and turn it over to him?

But what if those accusations are based in supposition, with no basis in fact? What if this mom is horrified and surprised to discover that the only withdrawal from her savings account was $25,000 removed with her signature under the direction of that very son, in stark contrast to regular deposits her daughter had set up on her behalf?

True, he’d created a new bank account in his name with her money. But he did include her as a secondary owner of the account. And surely it was done with the best of intentions.

“People with good intentions ought to be shot,” she said, as we exited my car on a recent visit to our local bank to sort out what my oldest brother had done. “Everything is a mass of confusion.”

My job was to get her there. I briefly explained the situation and handed things over to a professional.

I  chose to sit in the lobby to avoid influencing her in any way.

A while later, with the help of a kind personal banker, my mother was able to understand the paperwork she’d signed and its implications. From there, she was able to come up with a solution to correct the situation to her satisfaction. It was a relief from being expected to dance like a puppet to please a son who, by this and other actions, appears to desperately need to control her daily life.

“I hope Bryce doesn’t have a cow,” she said, worried that he might not respect her decision to close the account he’d opened with her money in his name. “I wonder if I should answer the phone if he calls.”

“You can’t please everyone, Mom,” I remember saying on the way to our next errand, to see her doctor. “You’ve got to please yourself.”

Just then, the chorus of “Garden Party,” an old familiar tune, came tumbling out.

All right, now. I learned my lesson well,” I sang, turning to smile at my mom. “You see you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

For a moment, just a small moment, I felt warm inside. It felt good empowering my mom to not only make her own decisions, but to stand tough.

No mother should feel so pressured that they are afraid to answer the phone for fear of being chastised by an adult child who thinks he knows better than she does regarding what’s in her best interest.

In stark contrast, my mother was in rare form that stressful day. On Most days, no pedestal is tall enough, no white bright enough to convey the perception of perfection she has always associated with her oldest offspring.

It’s always been that way. It’s something my fellow siblings and I have just learned to accept. She does love us. But it has always seemed as if she loved Bryce more. It explains why when he says things which do not match her personal knowledge of reality that she will often take them at face value, simply  because “Bryce said.”

It’s why she was concerned about dwindling finances, she said. It’s why she believed she needed to be protected from the very daughter who has been protecting her from:

  • A son who tried to put her in a nursing home or assisted living facility
  • A daughter who unsuccessfully pressured her to move back into a 50-year-old house in disrepair rather than live with me in my nearly new home
  • A daughter who stripped the home she once shared with her (rent free for three years, including paid utilities all on my mother’s dime for her and her six children) in an apparent attempt to prevent it from being sold
  •  A son who after weeks of unsuccessfully trying to extort thousands of dollars from her declared both her and me “dead to him”
  •  A son and daughter who spied on her long distance by calling on several church leaders and neighbors to check into supposed suspicious activity and poor living conditions
  • Four children who took her to an attorney they wanted her to hire for her own protection, although she felt no such need for protection–then expected her to keep the entire experience a secret
  • A son who called Arizona’s Adult Protective Services to investigate her living conditions, which she considers comfortable and desirable, needlessly subjecting her to an investigation she found to be humiliating and intrusive
  • A son who tried to bribe me into moving my mother out of my home by promising to withdraw all financial assistance on her behalf as long as she lives with me

On that day, and on many others since then, my mother has found the courage to speak up about how she really feels.

“I love you dearly, RuthAnn,” my mother said. “I want to live with you. You always see to my needs.”

Gossip about the caregiver. Secret alliances between siblings ganging up on the caregiver. Distrust and vicious attacks on her caregiver, based on supposition, even when their mother reports being happy.

Sadly, these types of scenarios play out daily in families across the nation. It’s what the bankers told us. It’s what my mother’s doctor and nurses told us. It’s what social workers have told us, and it’s a sad tale other caregivers have confided in me as having happened to them, too.

“I lost my entire family over it,” a woman told me who happened upon my mother and I one afternoon when my mother and I were getting mani-pedis, courtesy of this year’s tax refund. Her mother had died almost a year ago to the day. She said she’d noticed the two of us having a girls day out and that it reminded her of when she and her late mom had done the same.

It eventually became too much to take care of both of their homes leading to the sale of the family home. In the process, she said, each of her siblings turned on her. Even a year after her death, she said those once-strong family ties remain severed.

wise contemporary theologian advises those caught up in such mischief to “Stop it.”

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t need anything else. No apology or gift or any amount of cash would ever make things better. I just want the abuse to stop.

No, I’ll never have a white pedestal in my mother’s eyes, nor do I want one–even one pretty in pink. But I have the love and respect of my mother, along with the opportunity to continue to see to her needs.

In a perfect world, I would like to do so in peace. Sadly, siblings bent on whipping up one disaster after another, will never allow it. So, I will dutifully accept the great burdens they impose on us, regardless of whatever vitriolic bomb they plan to launch at us next.

Whatever they can dream up, I know that my mother and I will be able to endure, with a little help from the Lord above.

And in the end, that’s all I need.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Trading Places With Mom

Naomi Hesterman By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

Mom is quietly reading in her room. She’s lived in there since late September in what she now refers to as her apartment.

Never mind that it’s one of three bedrooms in my house. To her, it’s more comfortable to confine herself to the east wing of our home, leaving the heart of the home and the west wing to me. And why not? She has a kitchenette of sorts, a comfortable recliner where she can watch her favorite DVDs and a large boom box, probably left over from the early 1990s, so she can play CD recordings of her late husband crooning love songs or recordings of one of his live or radio performances.

With a restroom down the hall, and a doggie gate creating a barrier between the west hallway and the main living areas, it gives her a feeling of separation. Of independence. Of not needing to rely on her adult daughter in her golden years.

Granted, there is no doorbell. But the handcrafted wood sign, which hung for years over a front porch on West Orange Drive announcing to the world that those who passed under were about to enter the “Hesterman’s” home, now hangs in the hall above he entrance to what was once the bedroom of Michael, my youngest son. A closet full of handmade dresses, an iron, well-worn shoes and ladies slippers have replaced wheels, bearings, wax and a large collection of skater-themed T-shirts. A few pairs of popular branded skinny jeans that seemed to whisper memories of years spent perfecting jumps, grinding and ollies recently found a new home at Buffalo Exchange. By now, they are probably in the closets of another generation of skaters, ready for new tricks and adventures.

Meanwhile, a few steps down the hall, my mother, Naomi, now enjoys a private bathroom–complete with two sinks and a bathtub outfitted with special hand rails and a hand-held shower head on a hose she can reach from her chair. Baby powder, pain relievers and muscle relaxers have replaced Michael’s drawers full of Axe products and men’s razors.

It’s odd trading the familiar sight of well-worn skate shoes for a bookcase filled with combination of knick knacks and well-worn hard cover books. An indigo blue velvet valance Mom designed and sewed herself more than 40 years ago with matching baby blue sheer panels now covers the majority of white wooden blinds, however, and it’s clear that this is no longer the room of a growing young man.

A quick glance between the door frame and Mom’s signature blue bookcase, however, reveals that the new occupant owns a cane. It’s not really hers. It belonged to her late husband, Lenny. Until recently, she’d avoided even talk of using any form of assistance walking beyond a helping hand or a rolling cart at the store. Now, at her request, it stands at her door–ready and waiting–for a time when it might come in handy.

For someone who’s always loved to go on long walks, it seems appropriate that she be prepared. Just in case. For now, when attempting to walk on a grade or step down from a curb she prefers to reach out to put her hand in mine.

Oddly enough, it seems appropriate. I’m sure there was once a time when her strong hands steadied my uncertain steps. I guess that’s why life is referred to as circular. I just hadn’t anticipated becoming a caretaker again so soon after my youngest child left home for college. My Mom certainly hadn’t anticipated needing my help so soon, either. We’re both strong willed and fiercely independent. Maybe being on our own isn’t what God intends for either of us.

At least not today.

So, as Mom continues to read a few feet, a hallway and a closed door away, I am online blogging. Earlier today I hung some family portraits in her room along with a couple of wind chimes. We also reorganized her electrical outlet usage making it possible to place both of her phones in the same room. One is now within reach of her recliner; the other is within reach of her bed. This should make it easier for her to reach out to the outside world. That, and her stash of envelopes and forever stamps, that is. My Mom is among a dying generation of folks with snail mail pen pals. Good for her. And for those whose mailboxes she fills with stories and tales of what’s new in her life.

As for me, it’s time to get back to working on business projects. Yes, I’m trying to re-launch a business while entering a new era in life. In a way, this is a time of new beginnings for each of us–in more ways than one for both my Mom and me.

Until next time…

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.