I had started another blog in 2010, when I first started to try and get help for my mom. This is the first one I posted on there that goes into some earlier history.
My mom is a beautiful human being. I remember her being very intelligent, articulate and supportive and protective of me ever since I was in grade school in Fresno, CA. Like the time in fourth grade when a female classmate accused me of stealing a coveted pencil box the first day of school. The popular pencil boxes were transparent and came in an assortment of sizes and light colors. Students would put them on their desks for display and storage and decorate them as a form of individual self-expression. The box eventually turned up later that day, but that was little consolation to me. I remember feeling hurt and confused as to why someone who I didn’t know would accuse me of doing something so clearly wrong.
I told my mom what happened the moment I arrived home and she instantly became bothered and upset. She said I was being discriminated against because I was Mexican (It was a “Gifted and Talented Education” school and predominantly affluent and white.) and that she was going to school with me the next day to demand an apology from my classmate.
Sure enough, the next morning, with me timidly in tow, my mom marched into the administration office to meet with the principal. I remember being very nervous because my classmate’s mom was the office secretary. I had to wait there in the same room with her as my mom and the principle had their discussion. My stomach churned. They seemed like they were talking forever and it seemed like the secretary knew exactly why we were in there.
My memory is fuzzy as to how things played out next. Later that morning, though, I would get an apology from both my classmate AND her mom. My dignity was restored, and all on account of my mother having the passion and skill to protect me and advocate for justice.
Fast forward some twenty five years later. As I write this, my mother is calling me, but I’m unwilling to pick up the phone. She already left a message earlier in the day about how she has a court date later in the week because her property manager filed a restraining order against both her and her brother. She ended the message asking me to pray for her that justice is carried out in their favor. My mother is claiming that the property manager is just out to get them. Unfortunately, my mother is wrong.
For several years now, my mother has been exhibiting signs of a severe mental illness. She claims that people are spying on her and trying to hurt her, and even kill her, by doing things like trying to run her off the road when she is driving and sabotaging her attempts to find a job. Taking a deep religious form as it does, she also claims that Satanists are placing spells on her and the rest of the family, and that evil spirits are able to cause her physical and mental distress. She can spend much of the night praying out loud in an attempt to rebuke the spirits from causing her or the rest of the family any harm. The current problem with her property manager is just the latest in a long history of conflicts and confrontations with neighbors and strangers.
As any caring family would do, my family is trying to get my mom help. We have encouraged and pressured her in various ways to see a counselor, a priest and a psychiatrist, for instance. However, my mother lacks what psychiatrists call “insight”, the ability for her to comprehend and accept that much of what she believes and experiences isn’t real. Medical evidence suggests that this occurs because of brain damage caused by the mental illness itself. The brain simply loses its ability to self-analyze. Consequently, even though she expresses her desire to live normally again and have a better relationship with her family, she refuses to voluntarily see a psychiatrist for treatment. In fact, anyone who suggests she has a mental illness, in my mother’s mind, is involved in the grand conspiracy against her.
Involuntarily hospitalizations have of course occurred, since my mother puts herself in dangerous situations with regularity, including failing to properly regulate her diabetes. Each time she has been involuntarily hospitalized (“51/50ed” in legal parlance), however, she has been released in under 24 hours because the attending psychiatrists have felt that she is functional enough to receive treatment voluntarily!
This has occurred despite my family’s objections/concerns and, on one occasion last summer, my mom not having anywhere to live. I was my mother’s conservator at the time and I moved my mother in with me in San Francisco, CA to try and get her help. I had my mother admitted because she was having an acute episode, claiming, as she often does, that there were cameras in the walls of my apartment as well as an evil presence. She kept me up half the night by talking to herself and praying loudly and insisting I sleep with the light on. Through the morning she became more agitated, insisting that people walking and driving by were watching her. When I tried to assure her that she was safe, she became hostile and angry towards me. When I mentioned that I might have to call the police, she punched me in my stomach.
The police came and admitted her to San Francisco General Hospital. In around 24 hours, predictably, a hospital aide called me and told me they were ready to release my mother because she seems functional. I told them that as her conservator, my mother is no longer able to live with me because I can’t handle her if she isn’t stable. However, and probably in violation of state law, the hospital aide told me that if I didn’t come and pick her up, he was going to send her to a homeless shelter! State law says that a county is required to involuntarily hospitalize and treat someone who is “gravely disabled.” This includes someone who is not able to provide for their own shelter. In fact, a disability advocate recently told me that releasing someone to a homeless shelter is considered an unsafe discharge and if that happens again, I should contact a disability advocacy group right away.
I reluctantly went to the hospital to pick up my mother out of guilt and not knowing what to do. It was Mother’s Day and she called me hours earlier in the morning telling me how she wanted to come home and didn’t want to be in the hospital on Mother’s Day. She promised to make me Menudo, a Mexican soup, when she got home. I certainly didn’t want her to end up at a homeless shelter and I didn’t know if I had any legal options at the time. I suspected the hospital was violating the law, but I had no idea who to call nor how it would have played out exactly. Would my mom have to actually be on the streets or a homeless shelter before I could take legal action? Do I even want to go the arduous legal route? I don’t trust it, frankly. My family’s experience with the courts/legal process, after all, has also been one frustration after another.
I recently resigned as my mother’s conservator because of the emotional and financial hardship it created for me. I work fifty plus hours a week as a teacher during the school year and I have no family around in San Francisco to help me with my mom. Being with her, seeing and listening to her when she was experiencing a severe psychotic episode and just being her caretaker and part-time counselor was way too much for me. I’ve been dealing with borderline high blood pressure for around three years now and I felt my own well-being and health necessitated my resignation.
Before resigning, I tried to find an assisted living situation of some kind for her to live, but at around $4500.00 a month, the private places were way out of my family’s price range and the county facilities that accept some government assistance like state disability had, on average, a five month waiting period. In addition, there was no guarantee that a facility, either public or private, would accept my mother as a resident because, as I was told, they want people they accept to be relatively stable and adherent to treatment and medication. This route seemed entirely fruitless.
My hope was in resigning the county of San Francisco would take up the role as conservator. The county, like I was, would then be responsible for finding her somewhere to live and taking care of her medical needs. I could then play a more singular role as advocate and try to make sure she was getting the proper care she deserved. Instead, and despite my family’s vehement objections, in early April the SF judge decided to transfer the conservatorship back to Fresno and give it to my mom’s brother, even though we argued convincingly that he is not financially or psychologically capable of taking care of my mom adequately.
Since that time, my mother’s physical and mental health has predictably deteriorated. She hasn’t seen a doctor about her diabetes, broke her nose and received a concussion last month in a fall, and, along with her brother, has been evicted from two apartments in the last four months. What more obvious proof can there be that my uncle can’t care for my mom?! We talked about similar, past incidents at the hearing, but the judge granted the conservatorship to my uncle anyways. In her own words: “I reluctantly grant the conservatorship to [name withheld.]”
I’ve notified the SF court and my mom’s court appointed attorney, since the case hasn’t been transferred to Fresno yet and is technically, still in SF, but they have done nothing. The last conversation I had with the SF court investigator, in fact, around two months ago, ended in a heated exchange with her claiming there was nothing they could do and me exclaiming to her that the county is just trying to pass the buck to Fresno so San Francisco can save money. She did not deny this, while the Fresno court investigator confirmed as much in a recent phone conversation. The Fresno investigator has expressed a willingness to reconsider my uncle’s conservatorship, but she can’t do anything until the case is officially transferred in Fresno, which won’t be until sometime in late August.
Both my sister and I have also contacted Adult Protective Services (APS) in Fresno several times, and while they acknowledged they have a responsibility to make sure my mom is safe, they have dragged their feet in intervening. For instance, it has been two weeks since I talked to a supervisor who at that time said they would send an investigator to examine the situation. My understanding is that they are required to do so in ten days. I haven’t heard from the supervisor since. Recent messages my sister and I have left for her have gone unreturned.
In the meantime, my mom is suffering and putting her life at risk. Among other things, she has admitted to me that she hasn’t checked her glucose level in a few weeks and I doubt she is taking her diabetic medication regularly. Last time she came to visit me in SF a few weeks ago, I checked her glucose and it was at 487, which is considered life threatening!
My family is frustrated, angry and sad at the lack of help and support we are receiving from the government. As far as we are concerned, our situation is a perfect example of government neglect towards the poor and sick. They would rather someone wither away and die than spend money and time on helping them. Well, I’ve personally been watching my mother wither away for years and a part of me is dying along with her. I want to see my mom as whole as possible again, so we can share laughs, have real conversations and start making up for the years we have lost since her illness has taken over. Starting this blog is an attempt to help achieve that. The public needs to know about how the government refuses to help families like mine. Nobody deserves to live like this, least of all, my lovely mother.