For members of the VNA of Somerset Hills Adult Day Center, personal stories are a cherished history of the experiences that have defined life. Walking through the Center, these stories can be read everywhere, from the display of old wedding photos to the murals on the wall that illustrate their lives. For Lillian Hoogland, her story is about a mother who will always be a mom.
Despite struggles and hardship, her love and enjoyment for life and family has persisted thanks to help from the Adult Day Center.The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, Lillian Hoogland grew up in Clifton, New Jersey with four older sisters. She and husband, Peter Hoogland, settled in Ridgewood. Together they ran the family business, Heights Service Station, which continues to operate today after eighty years. Although Lillian did bookkeeping and errands for the business, she was, first and foremost, a loving mother and kind caregiver. “Her job was bringing up four girls in the town of Ridgewood,” says Cynthia Hoogland Nance, Lillian’s daughter.
As Cynthia reminisced about her mother, stories of Lillian’s benevolence and familial love began to unfold. Lillian dedicated her life to raising her daughters well, nurtured with a life and future enriched by family traditions like skiing and by providing an education. She was also artistic. Cynthia recalled the beautiful illustrations her mother painted to decorate the gas station. Unfortunately, Lillian faced the emotional and physical toll resulting from family tragedies. Within a two year period, she unexpectedly lost her fifty-nine year old husband and two older sisters. Lillian had been their caregiver, loyal and loving until the end. As Lillian’s health continued to decline, Cynthia found herself faced with making the painful choices required of caring for a devoted parent who had become like her own child. The stress of her mother’s care began to affect the entire Hoogland family. Trapped in a vicious cycle of worry where the care of one translated into the care of the entire family, Cynthia found her lifeline at the Adult Day Center.
Cynthia remembered her first experience with the Center. “It was clean. It was modern. It was sunny. People were smiling…they greeted you at the door… they were willing to try when I was at the point of desperation.” Her most powerful impression happened during breakfast when members are required to sit with people that they do not know. Because Lillian is quiet and shy, this program and other Adult Day Center structured activities have helped her form a new family of friends.
Through the stimulation and care provided by the Center, Lillian’s health has improved and stabilized. She is sleeping sounder, eagerly looks forward to each day, and even dresses herself every morning. Beyond her physical well being, the vivaciousness of Lillian’s past is coming back. No longer afraid to ask for help or assistance, Lillian is happy and active. “This has made her alive again,” said Cynthia. “There’s reason for her to keep going.” Even the beautiful paintings she has made at the Center and displayed in Cynthia’s home reflect the happiness. “Best piece of art work I own – and I own a lot of serious artwork,” laughs Cynthia. “People walk into the house and see that…they love it. It puts a smile on their face.”
Cynthia has also benefited. She is able to drop her mother and leave without worries. Refocused and undistracted, Cynthia’s business has prospered, her own health has improved and she has time for her husband and family. “My life has changed 100 percent,” explained Cynthia as she recalled the memory of herself a year ago. “I am totally two different people…This Center has saved my life.” Most importantly, the Adult Day Center has helped give mother and daughter a new chance to connect and create new stories together. “We have things to talk about!” said a delighted Cynthia.
Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2011 VNA of Somerset Hills newsletter.