Mary Hiland

Insight Out

One Blind Woman's View of Her Life

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© 2019 by Mary Hiland

Have you ever had questions about how a blind person survives in a sighted world? Have you ever wanted to know more about guide dogs or service animals? If so, did you think that asking such questions would be rude or inappropriate? Have you ever avoided a conversation with a blind person because you didn't know what to say? Or have you made assumptions that you found out too late really didn't apply?

Insight Out: One Blind Woman's View of Her Life gives you a peek inside the life of a real live person who is totally blind. While she's never climbed Mount Everest or sailed across the ocean alone, she reveals her strategies for pursuing a life full of experiences, achievements, and realized goals.

This memoir is constructed not in chronological order, not as a medical history, but as a realistic description of many aspects of the author's life. While each chapter reveals a new facet of how she meets the demands of living without sight, this is no Pollyanna–like picture. Ms. Hiland tells it like it is. She is always honest. Her observations are authentic, and her story is inspiring.

Her personality is on full display. You'll feel her frustrations, celebrate her victories, and share in her sense of humor. You'll gain new understanding of how blind people are different and how they are not. Myths and misperceptions are explored through thoughtful, sensitive, and personal stories—some of which may even give you a new perspective on your own life.

This book is for you if you know someone who is blind and would like to understand that person better. It's for those who are experiencing vision loss and need a positive perspective to deal with this traumatic time in their lives. It's for sighted people who are simply curious, who want to learn more about people who are not like them. And it's for people who are blind, so they can say with the author, "Yes. This is how it is."

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The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living

A Daughter's Memoir

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© 2017 by Mary Hiland

Making the decision to move an elderly parent into assisted living against his or her will presents myriad challenges. Like many adult children who want to respect their parents' wishes, I didn't take action until it was unavoidable. But unlike most adult children, I had to deal with this crisis as an only living child who is totally blind. The logistics alone were merely the start of my uphill struggle with this daunting task.

During the last two years of my mother's life, I learned many lessons about dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and she learned to accept the difficulties of being in her late nineties and living in an assisted living community.

In The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter's Memoir, I not only describe the move, my mother's adjustment to a foreign way of life, and the emotional trauma for both of us, but also offer some advice and comfort for others who are experiencing such dramatic changes.

What makes my story unusual is that I tell it with blindness always in the background. You will find some touching moments, some troubling ones, and some that are relevant to your own life.

This is a memoir woven through my observations of who my mother was and who I am.

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About the Author

Mary Hiland
Mary Hiland

Mary Hiland, a native of Cincinnati, lives in Gahanna, Ohio with her Seeing Eye® dog, Dora. She is a graduate of the Ohio State University with a B.S. degree in Social Work. She recently retired as Executive Director of The American Council of the Blind of Ohio. Before that, she served for over 21 years as Director of Volunteers for VOICEcorps Reading Service:

Ms. Hiland has been published in Chicken Soup for the Parent's Soul, Redbook magazine, Toastmaster magazine, and The Columbus Dispatch.

Visit her blog at

In 2001, Ms. Hiland carried the Olympic torch, and in 2015, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from her local Toastmasters Club.

Ms. Hiland has two adult children and five granddaughters. Her passions are reading, public speaking, cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming, hiking, and taking long walks with Dora. She writes for the pure pleasure of it.

As an only child for most of her life, she benefited from the single-minded love and devotion of her parents. So when her mother, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and was going blind and deaf, needed to give up her independence and move into assisted living, it was time for Ms. Hiland to step up and assume the duties and role reversals required for her mother. She wrote about her experiences with the hope of being helpful to others in this tough place in life. The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter's Memoir is her first book.

Contact Information

Phone: 614-471-1869

Mary shares her book with Centerville OH Red Hats.
Sept 8 2017

Essay by Mary Published in Next Avenue, an Online Magazine

To read the essay, please click on this link:

Mary Will Participate in the Adventure Summit

Wright State University is holding a FREE two-day event called Adventure Summit on February 14 and 15, and I'll be there. Attendees will learn about all sorts of outdoor activities and sports. Speakers will present stories of their own exciting experiences.

I am honored to have been invited to make a presentation. Here's the perfect opportunity to talk about Ski for Light, tandem cycling, and the Hen Hike, three of my favorite subjects. But even more exciting is the opportunity to promote my book Insight Out: One Blind Woman's View of Her Life because three of the chapters are devoted to these very topics. My friend Tricia has agreed to do the readings from the book, which I will select. I have a whole hour to talk about myself and to answer questions. This is a public speaker's dream come true. I've even been promised a table outside the room for selling and signing books, an author's dream come true. How exciting is that?

If you live in the Dayton area, I hope you will come. Everybody is welcome, and I'd love to meet you. And of course, I’d love it even more if you'd buy my book. ☺ But if you can't make it to this event, you can use the purchasing links above to get your copy.

Oh, yes. Dora will be there, so if you'd like her to sign the chapter on all five of my Seeing Eye® dogs, she'll be glad to do that, too.

Guest Blog Post by Mary

On October 29, 2017, a guest post by Mary appeared on Amy Bovaird's blog. To read the blog post, click here.

Article about Mary in The Columbus Dispatch

An article about Mary and her experience caring for her mother was published in The Columbus Dispatch on October 10, 2017. To read the article, click here.

Interview with Mary

On July 24, 2017, Mary was interviewed on Branco Broadcast. To listen to the interview online, click here.

Letters from Readers

Insight Out

Mary, I so enjoyed reading your book. I give you so much credit as you persevere with your aspirations and dreams. You are such a strong, caring, and very able bodied woman. I loved the stories about each of your guide dogs. I especially enjoyed the Afterword and reading about the legacies from the women in your life. I wish you all the best today, tomorrow and always.

—Marti Bragg

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living

Dear Ms. Hiland,

I found your book, The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living, through Joe Blundo's column in the Columbus Dispatch. The book shows your courage and your sense of humor. I truly enjoyed the sharing of your journey with your mother. It gives good insight into life situations that most of us have to experience.

You are an inspiration to me as a low vision individual myself. I was brought up hiding and being ashamed of my poor vision. At the age of 58, I am finally letting go of these beliefs and I believe that your book was brought to me so that I could see that there is another way.

I applaud the work that you have done on behalf of visually impaired people. Thank you for your inspiration.

—Tracy Adams


From Aunt Erma's Cope Book to the Zero Waste Home, our bookshelves are bulging with guides enabling us to improve our bodies, our brains and our bank accounts. For 70 million Baby Boomers, however, the good news of longer lives for all in the 21st century presents a crying need for yet another guidebook: How do we, as older Americans ourselves, settle our even-older parents into assisted living with as much grace and as little disruption as possible.

Mary Hiland has written that guide. She has written it with a blend of tenderness and pragmatism that will touch your heart whether you have a 95-year-old parent or not. She has shared with us her glorious successes as well as minor mistakes, thus outlining for us a road map, both lovely and accurate, for going through the process of parenting our parents ourselves.

Like any gifted travel guide, she sometimes augments our trip by adding alternate paths, providing glimpses of earlier times and additional facets from her own or her mother's history. Mary Hiland is blind and, while she includes plenty of information about her personal experience of blindness, that is not what sets this book apart.

Here is why you should read this book.

Read it for Mary Hiland's reflective journal entries. Read it to observe her gentle orchestration and brilliant formation of her mother's transition from independent to assisted living. And read it for a shining example of how family members sometimes truly cherish one another.

Deborah Kendrick
Award-winning author, editor, and poet
Senior features editor, AccessWorld
Columnist, The Columbus Dispatch
Technology trainer, National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

Mary Hiland's pleasant, conversational style draws the reader right in; the story she tells is the common and wrenching experience of helping an aged parent move to assisted living, but from an unusual perspective, as she herself is blind. The frustrations and rewards of the situation are portrayed honestly and tenderly.

Willene S. Hardy, Ph.D.

I was totally engrossed in this book from start to finish. With insight and humor, the author perfectly relates her experience with her mother as 'Mom' transitions from independent living to assisted living and from being a functional 94-year-old to a totally dependent 98-year-old with dementia. Ms. Hiland adeptly describes her changing relationships with her mother as well as with the facility staff. Whether the reader is blind like the author or not, so many of us can relate to this experience, as it's something we have already gone through or that we worry might happen to us and our parents in the future. The author has a special ability to paint scenes that are both so real and poignant with her words. All professional caregivers in any discipline — in fact, all adult children — should read this compelling book. We all can learn from the author's words.

Cindy Wentz
Independent Living Consultant

Most of us have faced, or will face, the problems of dealing with an aging parent, but Mary Hiland did it blind. Her book The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living captures the frustration, rewards, and incredible complications of the ordeal with feeling and humor. I was impressed that Mary handled it so well — and thankful that she tells us about it so vividly!

Daniel Boyd
Author of 'Nada and Easy Death

Mary Hiland weaves anecdotes with didactic information in learning to recognize her mother's symptoms of dementia. She details how the cognitive changes affect family dynamics in her delightful book, The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter's Memoir. Her fierce honesty educates how to navigate practical and personal challenges, including the actual cost of assisted living vs. the advertised costs, how to advocate for your loved one, and ways to cope with the frustrations and grief involved in role reversals, as parent becomes child. She infuses humor and journal entries to highlight the "road" with universal appeal and her insights as a blind daughter. As a psychologist who counsels caregivers, I see this book as a welcome companion, normalizing feeling involved in the process. The book can be read in one sitting or digested a chapter at a time, spiced as it is with tenderness, pathos, lightness, helpful hints, and tasty-sounding recipes.

Cheryl F. Meisterman, Ph.D., L.I.S.W.-S
Psychologist, Licensed Independent Social Worker-Supervisor

Mary Hiland brings us on a journey many of us will experience, and none will enjoy. She takes us through her odyssey with heart, humor, and wit, imparting her wisdom along the way. Her work should be required reading for any son or daughter.

Eric M. Ralph
Author of And God Said...An Absurd Tale of Love, Power, and Paperwork

Mary Hiland captures the emotional roller coaster of a changing relationship with an aging mother. The book is an honest and realistic look at what is involved in planning for transition to assisted living.

Although Mary's blindness creates problems in her seeing what was going on with her mother's decline, as a social worker, I have witnessed many sighted people also unable to grasp these changes in a parent. We may emotionally deny changes because we expect our parents to function as competently as they always have.

Mary tackles these sensitive issues while preserving dignity and respect for her mother. Her stories also reflect her shared memories and her mother's legacy, and demonstrate how each of us internalizes traits from our parents.

I believe her lessons learned will be helpful to anyone who reads this book.

Mary C. Kozy, MSW
Retired Clinical Social Worker

This book offers profound insights into managing the difficult years with an aging parent as it shares the emotional roller coaster of blessings and challenges in a mother/daughter relationship. The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living provides useful guidelines for readers anticipating that journey, yet it also tells a story of a proud woman who raised an independent, strong daughter. Mary Hiland won't let blindness hinder her commitment to making her mother's final years peaceful and meaningful. We should all have a daughter like her.

Lynda Bragg
Language Arts Instructor

This touching collection of memories, journal entries, and insights is a must-read for anyone with aging friends or loved ones. Mary Hiland does a masterful job of explaining the challenges of helping someone through the final chapters of life. She shares her story with grace and humor, citing frustrations, lessons learned, and moments of joy and reverence gleaned from otherwise difficult situations. Ms. Hiland offers a unique perspective, being visually impaired, but, in general, she highlights the qualities that should be essential to being human—love, compassion, and mutual respect.

Cathryn K. Thompson
Teacher, Toastmaster, and author of Once in Love with Lily and Always in Love with Lily