Columbus Dispatch Columnist Joe Blundo Comes Through for Me

Blind author explains how she cared for aging mom Joe Blundo The Columbus Dispatch @joeblundo Mary Hiland is not accustomed to feeling helpless. But when her 98-year-old mother broke a hip and was lying cold, hungry and unattended for hours in an emergency room, she had reached a low point, she said. "I felt more blind than usual. Hiland, in fact, is blind. She lost her sight to a genetic retinal disorder as a young adult. It made helping her fiercely independent mother make the transition to assisted living more challenging, but Hiland persevered and learned a lot in the process. The Gahanna resident tells the story in a self-published book, "The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter’s Memoir" (available at, that offers advice to people on helping an aging parent at the end of life. Hiland, in an interview, said she was late recognizing the signs of dementia in her mother. Once she understood that she could not argue her mother out of her forgetfulness, confusion and depression, she found it easier to accept the situation. "Be open to the possibility of dementia," advised Hiland, 72. Her mother, Regina Wilson of French Lick, Indiana, was a take-charge woman determined to live on her own. When Wilson’s friends began calling Hiland to alert her of Wilson’s decline, she realized that she had to move her to central Ohio. (Hiland’s only sibling, a brother, had died years earlier.) Her mother insisted on moving many more things than she could possibly use in assisted-living unit: martini glasses, cocktail dresses, gardening tools. "I think it’s part of holding onto the past," Hiland said. "I think owning things gave her a little more feeling of power. The two had always enjoyed a close relationship, Hiland said. Wilson didn’t shelter her daughter, despite her eye condition, which left her legally blind by age 18. "She was very, very supportive of anything I wanted to do," said Hiland, who until her retirement served as executive director of the American Council of the Blind in Ohio. Their close relationship kept Hiland from taking things personally when her mother became combative. Enlisting her adult children and some close friends to help her manage was vital, she said. Her daughter worked persistently on organizing Wilson’s belongings. Her son went to the hospital that desperate night to help his grandmother get dressed. "There we were, my son and me, putting a bra on his 98-year-old grandmother," she writes. She ends the book with a journey back to French Lick, a 12-hour round trip by car, to put flowers on her mother’s grave after her death in 2014. The logistics weren’t easy for a blind person, but she had a good reason for doing it. "I had the gift of a loving mother," Hiland said. "A gift I cherish. Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist. @joeblundo


2 thoughts on “Columbus Dispatch Columnist Joe Blundo Comes Through for Me

  1. I read your book. Loved it. I think knowing you and Regina made it so real to me. I gave it to my sister and she read it and I gave it to my aunt and she has read it. They love it, too. Of course, they both knew Regina, too. I so loved the stories from your trip to the British Isles. I laughed and cried. Thanks so much for writing this wonderful book.

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