Was it Coercion? A warning to relatives, social services and would-be carers

Was it Coercion? A warning to relatives, social services and would-be carers

‘She has given them the house’, announced the solicitor and power of attorney for my cousin Anne. (Fortunately not her residence, but a neighbouring property that she had let to them). “They were her carers”. News to us relatives, but at least explained why she was always in clean clothes when I visited.

Anne had talked about knocking a door between the properties so that Kelly and Steve would be able to take care of her. Steve had managed to drive a wedge between Anne and a previous friend who did what she could for Anne, a friend who’d taken her in after an operation. And why had Anne sacked her weekly home help and gardener? Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Mind you, Anne had a habit of falling out with helpers over the years.

Not an easy person, Anne, a compulsive shopper and hoarder, arriving home would abandon her shopping bags by the door –forgotten! I visited once a month, and was finally allowed to clear some of this build-up. The washing-up took a while, but I was assured that Kelly would do it – and shouldn’t we defrost the fridge – ‘No, Kelly will do it’.

In the autumn, Anne was in good form, talking about the Christmas cruise she’d always wanted to do. The washing up still hadn’t been done and the fridge was still frosted solid. Oh and Steve was going to mow the lawn and mend the gate: neither of which had been done. But after all, they were a busy family with three lively youngsters and another on the way.

Should I have phoned social services for advice? I felt that Anne would never forgive me, let alone allow them in through the front door.

I phoned Anne as always before visiting. No reply. I had a worried call from her brother is Australia who had been unable to contact her. I explained she never listened to phone messages but would dial 1471 and use ring-back which of course does not work for overseas calls. I tried phoning again. And again. The only option was to drive the 50 miles and find out what was going on. No answer at the house, or at Kelly and Steve’s.However another neighbour told me that she’d been taken to a care home after being found wandering down the middle of the street in her dressing gown.

An old friend, on returning from an evening out discovered numerous calls from Anne. On not getting any reply the next morning, phoned Steve and Kelly. No answer from their house, but pick-up on their mobile. Had they seen Anne that morning? She was assured that she’d been seen in the garden. Then friend heard Anne had been taken into care – so it was a downright lie. They had been away on holiday. Why hadn’t Kelly or the power of attorney contacted me? Maybe at Anne’s request: she was a strong-willed lady!

On checking, we discovered that the gifting happened days before Anne went on her Christmas cruise. Had Steve insinuated that if she didn’t sign over, he wouldn’t drive her to the holiday start? One gets suspicious when reportedly Steve had told Anne they would move out if double glazing was not installed in the rented property: as well as bragging he would get the house, whatever it took.

And the date of the will? Just after her return in January, drawn up by her solicitor/ power-of-attorney, the start of the year Anne went into care. It all seemed rather dubious. Why the incorrect names of well-loved people and pets? Why had her nephew disappeared from being a beneficiary? Even though she was a lady who frequently renewed her will, Anne had been diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer’s the previous July.

Warning to Social Services: check on care being given by neighbour carers. There need to be rules for dealing with hoarders since they are often too embarrassed to let you in.

Warning to would-be carers: it may not seem too much of a task to begin with, but usually cases are going to deteriorate. Ensure someone checks up when you are on holiday (we found weeks of untaken tablets and another neighbour had found Anne sitting in the rain waiting for Kelly when they were away).

Warning to relatives: do you have a relative living on their own? Get phone numbers of anyone who has contact and make sure they have yours.

Perhaps these situations would not arise if we still had district nurses who visit regularly!