Told through the eyes of Jo Ann Blum, “BLESSING AND BETRAYALS: A TRUE STORY OF ONE WOMAN’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM AND LOVE” tackles the difficult and controversial issues of conservancy, eldercare and who decides how a person lives out his/her final days. Blum and Grandma Elena became fast friends as neighbors who shared common interests. Grandma Elena did not have any daughters of her own and Jo Ann had an estranged relationship with her biological mother, who didn’t support her decision to be a stay at home mother. Although not related by blood, they became family by love. Grandma Elena and her husband, Papa Frank, cared for Jo Ann’s children as their own grandchildren, attending school events, taking walks in the neighborhood and celebrating holidays and birthdays together. Jo Ann and Grandma Elena supported each other through illness, the loss of both of their husbands and the everyday challenges of raising a family.
Grandma Elena had two sons of her own. One became disabled in his 40’s and the other, Ralph, was in and out of Grandma Elena’s life based on his needs. He wasn’t there for the everyday challenges of life and was not a support to his mom when his father passed away. Grandma Elena didn’t approve of Ralph’s wife and had no issue making that known to anyone who would listen. She struggled with how Ralph’s daughter was being raised and never had a strong family bond with any of them.
In the end, Grandma Elena wanted nothing more than to stay in her own home to the end, make her own decisions and die surrounded by her loved ones with dignity at home. When Ralph caught wind of the fact that Grandma Elena had started the process of disinheriting him, he went to the courts to have his mother declared unfit to make her own decisions and to have himself appointed as her conservator. Initially, the court granted him temporary conservatorship of his mother while she underwent significant psychological and medical testing to determine her fitness to make her own decisions. While the reports did not declare her unfit, Ralph continued to use lawyers to control and abuse his mother by limiting who could visit her, who was allowed to care for her and even who was allowed to bring her groceries or food. Ralph hired another long time neighbor to be Elena’s caregiver and to ensure that Ralph had complete control of anything and everything that Grandma Elena did. Ralph’s lawyer bullied Jo Ann to the point where it was difficult for her to continue to even visit with her long-time friend and the courts did not move quickly enough or provide enough support to make a difference. Grandma Elena’s desires were never considered by her estranged son. His only concern was protecting his inheritance.
A heart-wrenching true story of the serious impact that fractured family relationships can have on end of life care and decisions for elders, this is a must read for anyone that has an older relative, has an estranged relationship with a relative or is getting older and wants to remain in control of making their own decisions until the end. “Blessings and Betrayals” will have you thinking about your own end of life decisions and who you want to help when you can’t do it for yourself. This book addresses some very timely and important issues in today’s American culture.
A copy of RJ Blum’s book can be found at Joseph Fox!