2 out of 4 stars
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As people are living longer, the need for senior housing is a growing concern. Many individuals are faced with the daunting decision of where a family member should reside once it has been deemed unsafe to have him or her live alone. This is the subject of the book Parental Controls written by Faye Hollins-Moore.
Martha is an eighty-four-year-old woman who has memory issues, and after receiving home health care, it has been determined by her eldest son Tom, who holds a power of attorney document, to place his mother in a long-term care facility. He and his sister Sarah visit Safe and Sound eldercare and find it to be conveniently located near their homes and not as expensive as other options. Jim, the youngest child of the family, is against the move but passively lets his brother exercise his legal rights over their mom. As the book opens, Martha is sitting in her deceased husband's chair in a near-empty home that she shared with him for thirty-one years. She is wholly relying on her children to assist her with this phase of her life as she looks longingly about wishing that she didn't have to depart from her familiar surroundings.
Once checked into her new dwelling, the story takes a dark turn as verbal, physical and emotional abuse is inflicted upon the senior residents by the staff and the administration. There are threats of being transferred to a place called the D-Ward where both chemical and physical restraints are used as crowd control. Martha begins her stay in a state of terror as she is subjected to starvation, mismanagement of medications and neglect. She seemingly has no one to help her as there is no phone in her room, and the administrator, Mrs. Grimes, won't allow her to make a call to her son James.
All of this is the premise upon which the book is built. It depicts the oldest son Tom as an impulsive, ego driven person who seems to want Martha placed somewhere freeing him of responsibility. His sister Sarah wants their mom safe but seems to take her lead from Tom due to his intimidating personality. James, on the other hand, is a character not like either of his siblings and as the book progresses, the reader discovers family dynamics that aren't apparent initially.
The coldness of the staff at the Safe and Sound was written in a way that made me cringe as they interacted with vulnerable adults that were looking to them for comfort and assistance. I spent ten years working in a nursing home that was considered one of the best in my area, and while I never witnessed a co-worker speak or act toward a resident with the severity that was displayed in this book, I know that people get burned out by the constant care for others. The elderly can be perceived as a burden as the staff struggle with their issues of being overworked and underpaid. This part of the novel seemed reality-based as the story unfolded. And, while it was unpleasant to read, the author was able to impact my emotions with these scenes.
While the foundation of this book is written based on fact, I found an extensive amount of punctuation errors. Namely, with all of the dialogue in the book, hardly any of it was done correctly. I noticed right away that the author inserted unnecessary commas after question marks inside quotation marks as seen in this sentence: "Can't you help me?," she returned. This mistake is repeated throughout the entire book. Also, sentences that should have had punctuation inside the dialogue box were left on the outside such as this one: "It's not in the closet". I decided to highlight each time I saw this in the text, and it did not cease. A thorough proofreading is needed because this is distracting and does take away from the conversations that the characters are having with one another. In addition, I found many words capitalized that should not be.
Besides punctuation being an issue, there are a few flaws in the story that I could not overlook. Usually, a person who holds power of attorney does not get to exercise this right unless the person he or she legally represents is considered no longer able to make decisions independently. I felt that none of this was explained. Tom makes a statement that he couldn't keep up with taking care of Martha's house any longer and that is the reason for the move. To make this part of the story more believable, a segment detailing a doctor's order or Martha acting in an unsafe manner when left alone would give validity to her removal from her home. I thought the ending of the book was anti-climatic and a twist is thrown in with Sarah that seemed entirely out of place.
This book probably would not appeal to those who are currently considering placing a loved one in a senior facility as the situations in this book are scary and might cause one mental torment of making a wrong decision. However, even though this is a work of fiction, it would serve those who have not had much exposure to the world of vulnerable adults, the warning signs of abuse and how to report it.
I am giving this a 2 out of 4 stars because the punctuation errors need to be attended to, a gaping hole of why Martha must leave her home needs to be corrected, and the storyline falls flat at the end. This novel has the potential to be a better work if these issues are addressed by the author.
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