Friday, May 13, 2016

I Called Adult Protective Services On My Mother And I Would Do It Again

When you call protective services of any kind on a family member I have just one piece of advice, be prepared for a shit storm from the people you don't like and the people you do like, the people you don't love and the painful one, the people you do love.

I started writing this last year and even after time has passed it is still raw for me.


First and foremost and I know it is a cliche to say first and foremost but seriously first and foremost don't tell anyone you are going to make the call.  I told two people I was making the call.  I did not even tell my sisters I was making the call, I told two family members that I had sought advice from in the past.

Within a day, everyone including my mom and her caretakers knew that I had made the call.  Why did it matter that the cat was out of the bag?  The obvious reason, of course, the conditions I was calling to report would be cleaned up by the time anyone from the state came to inspect.  I will preface what comes next by saying if you had a normal happy childhood and normal extended family dynamics most of the following does not apply but, if you are calling protective services chances are that either your childhood was not happy or your extended family has some abnormal dynamics or both.

Between the time I called and the time it took the wheels of bureaucracy at the New Mexico department of Adult Protective services to turn to the point where someone came to check on my mother her living conditions had improved dramatically.  It is good that her living conditions had improved dramatically.  You may say problem solved but as you might suspect my mother can still no longer take care of herself and there is still not anyone who can take care of her but I get ahead of myself.

When APS (Adult Protective Services) shows up my mother's house is clean, my mother is clean and is wearing clean clothes, in fact, it was My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, and Care Bears all rolled up into one.  My mom is a genius, no caveats she is the smartest person I have met.  My mom did not want to leave her house.  These two facts combined I am sure lead to a performance for the ages when APS showed up, hence the eighties cartoon references.

After it became known I had called APS on my mom I became the belle of the family ball.  I was the talk of the town, not to say that anyone from the family actually talked to me. I did hear through the grapevine that the family was appalled that I called APS.  I wondered why no one was appalled my mother was living in her own filth.

Okay breaking the fourth wall here, except it does not exist because this is written to be read but anywho...

I did not wonder why no one was appalled by my mom's living conditions.  First and foremost I had lived with my Grandmother, that is my mother's mother and she was a hoarder.  It is hard to indicate the magnitude of the hoarding but I will try and paint a little of the picture here.  My grandmother lived in rural New Mexico on a large lot, by the time I knew my grandmother she had moved to central Utah to run a hotel but I would still visit relatives in New Mexico and I could see the Stone Henge of hoarding that was on her property.

To the best of my recollection, my grandmother had six single wide trailers full of stuff, now four of these were in close proximity to each other and formed a square loosely speaking.  It was not much of Stonehenge but I am taking poetic license, what I am not taking poetic license with is there were six trailers brimming with stuff.  Legend had it that once a trailer was full and she could no longer live in it, she would purchase another one but this is the Apocrypha of my family and I have no first-hand knowledge of this.

I did not know my grandma when she had lived in these trailers, I only saw them when they were abandoned, but yet not abandoned because there was stuff of value in there.  When I was old enough to remember my grandmother she had purchased a hotel in central Utah after my grandfather had died.  As a small child, it was fun to visit my grandma in her working hotel, she had a coke machine, her hotel was a stop for the Greyhound bus.  We got to stay in hotel rooms and sit in the lobby and watch people, it was great.

By the time, I was of college age the hotel had been converted to student housing for the local Juinor college and I, of course, stayed there when I attended the college because it was free for me and free is my favorite price point.  At this point, there were not many students living in the hotel and a great many of the rooms and old restaurant areas and laundry areas and even the stairs for the maids had been filled with stuff.

Then it happened.

My grandmother sold her hotel to a developer that wanted to gut the hotel and make it into some fancy dancy off campus dorms.

This initiated the move, my grandmother moving back to New Mexico, perhaps to finish the trailer Stone Henge, who knows, but it triggered a move the likes of which I had never seen in my young life.  My uncle John began taking a full-size truck and a four horse trailer full of stuff from Utah to New Mexico on a regular schedule.  Not thinking much of it I was helping to fill up a load one day and I picked up a box of wire hangers and my uncle said to leave them and I was like why? This was a box of perfectly good wire hangers.
I then went into a room I had never been in before and there before me chest deep were hangers.  My grandmother had a hotel room full of wire hangers, now these were older smaller hotel rooms but still my grandmother had a room full of wire hangers.  I then understood why my uncle had been frustrated.  I became scarce.  My mother was a hoarder, not on the scale of my grandmother but she was no slouch and when I saw all these hangers I was having none of it.

Somewhere I had always known my grandmother was a hoarder but it had never hit me, it wasn't real.  I think the cause of this cognitive dissidence was my grandmother was nice. At that time I did not know many nice people, She taught me how to read when I failed the first grade, she took me in when I got kicked out of junior high.  She was nice to me, not like to give me a ride to the airport nice but really nice.  It hit me and I hid.  It was a little touch of the PTSD, okay not really a touch of PTSD, it was bad.  I throw words around for fun and amusement but no joke it was overwhelming and heart-wrenching.

What does this have to do with my mother living in her own filth?  The family is a hoarding family.  I am sure it goes back generations but nobody ever speaks of it so it is hard to know.  In my opinion hoarders have a different opinion about what it is okay.  Secrecy surrounds hoarding.  If you have any questions about this just watch an episode of the TV show Hoarders, they have some real extreme cases but the principles are all the same.

I think I might have become a hoarder, it is in my blood and calls to me at the full moon!

I was lucky, two divorces cut into the amount of stuff I have and my current wife keeps me in check, except for HDMI cables, it is hard for me to say no to a good deal on an HDMI cable.  It was once Ethernet cables but now that the house has been wired for Ethernet that has fallen by the wayside.  On a serious note, I do see these tendencies in myself.  When I could no longer work I brought home everything from my cubicle and my wife found every post it note that she had written I love you on.  I can't throw away a post it note that says I love you.  Thank God post it notes do not take up much space.

Putting all of that aside (I know - why did I write all this if I just want you to put this aside?) it really comes down to life.  When do you interfere with someone else's life?  The way my mom was living was not respecting life - her life - but is that enough to get the government involved?  The way my mom was living certainly was going to cause her to die sooner, is that suicide?  Before that, my sisters and I tried (I did not try much because I was unable to travel but I sent happy thoughts) but try they did to get my mom to go to assisted living.  They traveled from across the country to come to talk to mom in person.

My mom's brothers and sisters said that they could no longer handle the care of my mother and it was time for the kids to come deal with my mother.  Upon my sisters' arrival they received nothing but resistance, it was like they did not think my sisters would do anything, and when they did, the family pushed back hard.  I was not there, but apparently it was real unpleasant.  It was probably for the best I was not there, I don't respond well to bullshit and I would have yelled and yelled and then probably yelled some more.

At this point I contacted the National Catholic Bioethics Center. I am Catholic and they have Medical Doctors and Theologians on staff to answer the sticky questions, and to help determine what, from a Catholic perspective, was the moral thing to do.  The answer came back quickly, apparently this was an easy one, if you have exhausted all other means call Adult Protective Services, chances are it will not be effective but if there is any chance it could have my mother's life treated with more respect (from a Catholic point of view) I had to do it or I more accurately said I should do it and I choose to do what I should.

This post is getting a little long so I will end with this, if you are wondering about blowback, yes there was blowback.  I am not sure whether airing the conflicts that came of my decision would serve any purpose but I probably end up posting the blowback in a post coming soon, or maybe I will be really sick and it will take another year or so for me to get around to posting.

As always Stay Golden, just like Ponyboy. 

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