May 8, 2022

By: 
Rachel Strella

Mental Health Whack-A-Mole: The Saga Continues

Mental Health

I received an overwhelming amount of feedback on my last blog post that revealed the history of the mental health crisis my family is experiencing with my mother. Many people have reached out to me to share their stories about a family member who went through something similar. Sadly, nearly all the situations ended tragically. The person they loved ended up in an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing facility — and/or the individual died. And, in every instance, the police and hospitals dismissed their cries for help.

As much as I hope my mother’s story will have a different outcome, I’m afraid it won’t unless something changes. 

The Latest

On Monday morning, the local Office of Aging was granted an extended emergency guardianship for 20 days. I asked, “What’s next?” My contact said, “I am unsure what the plan is for her. I was told this morning there was going to be another psych consult since the 302 expired yesterday.”

I didn’t hear anything else from her, so I called the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. The nurse I spoke with was new to Mom’s care and had to review her notes. 

She said a note in my mother’s chart from a physician’s assistant says Mom doesn’t meet the requirement for a 302. WTF!? Her mental state has not changed. Why does she suddenly not meet the criteria? It makes no sense! 

So, now what? 

According to the nurse, the hospital was waiting for the Office of Aging to decide if Mom should go to an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing facility. 

So, that’s it? Because the previous 302 (which revealed she needs crisis intervention) expired, they intend to toss her out the door to a facility that does not specialize in mental health conditions. 

In my last post, I shared that we had no diagnosis of her condition. This remains true. Still no diagnosis. The hospital informed me they are unable to diagnose her, and that can only be done via an outpatient psychiatric service. But my mother refuses to go to a doctor because she doesn’t think she has a problem. 

She won’t even take the medication the Office of Aging authorized the hospital to give her to control her hallucinations. Mom refuses it, so they put in her food like you would for a finicky animal. If she won’t willingly take medication, she certainly won’t agree to go to an outpatient facility. 

The ideal outcome would be for Mom to receive an in-patient diagnosis at a mental health facility and receive treatment. However, no space was available when her 302 was active. So, we’re back to square one.

A Vicious Circle

Clearly, Mom has a mental health condition — otherwise, they wouldn’t be giving her meds for it. Now I wonder if the most recent 302 attempt was denied because the medication negated the need for it? 

I finally heard from the Office of Aging on Thursday —  the hospital refused to provide another psych consult. Somehow, our contact managed to secure a consultation on Friday. She said that Mom being prescribed meds will help our cause rather than hinder it. 

Still, she was not confident that psych will state my mother needs inpatient treatment. “Even when she wasn't medicated, psych initially stated she didn't meet criteria. They are stating it's Dementia.”

Well, our advocate at the Office of Aging was right. Not only did the hospital determine Mom is “fine,” but also they determined she is ready to be discharged! They explained they conducted an MRI, and the results showed nothing of concern. And so, they cleared her to leave. 

I asked if there are any other alternatives. They said we have two options:

  1. Mom goes home.
  2. She goes back to the homeless shelter. 

Yes, you read that correctly: BACK to the homeless shelter. She went there once before when she convinced herself she was a domestic abuse victim. My Dad and I couldn’t find her for days. 

We are confounded — what happened to the previous options of an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing facility? They certainly sound more appealing now given our current choices.

What’s Next?

The current guardianship order will expire soon, so the Office of Aging has asked us who will take over on their behalf? After a long discussion, Dad and I believe we will be co-guardians.

Unfortunately, that won’t solve any of our problems. We still have no diagnosis for mom, so there’s nothing official on record that will enable her to get proper mental health treatment, and now she’s going home (starting this circus all over again).

We feel powerless.

The emotions we are experiencing come in waves of sadness and anger. We also feel guilty because we are not looking forward to her return home. We never know which “Mom” we will get. Sometimes, she acts like the person we once knew, and we see a faint glimmer of hope. Other times, we feel frustrated and angry because she’s making ridiculous accusations and demands. Then, we’re back to feeling sad and hopeless. Rinse and repeat. 

We have a long road ahead of us. I am fearful it will end like the dozens of other stories I’ve heard from my community. I can only pray for a solution. 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss the Mom I knew and I hope to one day she’ll return for good.

For those of you who wish to help, I urge to join me by contacting legislators and media. If nothing else, please share this post with your community. Thank you for your support.

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One comment on “Mental Health Whack-A-Mole: The Saga Continues”

  1. Rachel, l am so sorry you & my brother is going through this. I had no clue your mom was once again ill.l am also sorry I haven't been more in touch.i love you all & I'll keep you in my prayers. If my any change I might can help please let me know. New no.2232373657 or 7178530288. Aunt Bernice

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