Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Counting the Pennies

They call the houses down there "Millionaire's row" the land was unadopted and each person built their own property according to their means and specifications. It's actually not a place that appeals to me, it's ostentatious, in places it's positively vulgar, and it lacks the patina and charm that age and natural development brings. There are Spanish style "hacienda" houses, their white stucco and curved lines incongruous in the Welsh drizzle, there are mock Georgian mansions with pillars and gravel so deep you could lose a small dog in it, there is even a futuristic creation with a slanting roof and aluminium window frames. We don't go down there much, people who buy or who build there tend to be younger and the help they need tends to be of the "little woman who does" type rather than the commode and catheter type care that is our stock in trade. Our one customer in Millionaire's row is Celia.
Celia and her now departed husband did not have children. They devoted their leisure to breeding St. Bernard dogs and their name was apparantly a byword amongst the dog show crowd. The dogs have been gone for some years but the room is still redolent of dog, the smell echoing a doggy reprise from all of the furnishings which hits you as you open the door. I first met Celia when she was brought home after long stay in hospital following a stroke. Her house is circa 1970 and looks like a fledgling architect was let loose with a sketch pad and an open cheque book. There are Gone with the Wind style curved steps up to a huge metal portico and the double doors open to more steps, wide enough to drive your coach and horses right on in and up to the first floor. The whole living area is built at first floor level, a huge through lounge with French windows at each end and a wrap around balcony that looks down on a terraced garden. It's very kitsch and totally useless to a seventy five year old lady with restricted mobility.
Celia and her husband had some neighbours, Bob and Linda, who lived in the houses that back onto Millionaire's row. Bob used to help Mr. P. with restoration work on his vintage car and he and his wife had become good friends with the couple. They were there to greet Celia when she returned home and Linda told me that Mr. P. had asked them to look after Celia "if anything happened to him" and that they considered her part of their family.
That certainly seemed to be the case. Bob and Linda's teenaged sons were often to be found in the house when we visited and Linda certainly kept in close touch, mostly to say that we had not carried the bin down to the gates or we had used a full pack of toilet rolls or some other spurious complaint. I have no way of knowing how much of Celia's condition dates from her stroke but she is certainly eccentric now and she has some very strange behaviours. Linda is supposed to clean the house but the place is festooned with little bits of toilet paper that Celia has spread around and the whole place is generally grotty. There is never a great deal of food either but we don't do the shopping and there is enough to get by, it's just ...not very appetising.
Celia cannot get down the grand staircase to go anywhere and, while it is true that Linda has taken her to have her hair done once every couple of months since she came home, she has been nowhere else. Celia has two pairs of knickers that we wash out each day, her slippers are so downtrodden that I am sure she is going to fall over them and her few clothes are all stained and worn. We know this lady has a considerable amount of money and we also know that Linda and Bob have full control of it. Celia will not hear a word about the subject. I do not know whether this is because she sees nothing wrong with the situation or because she knows that saying anything could potentially deprive her of the closest thing to a family that she has. She is right, always supposing we could get a court appointment to oversee Celia's finances, the consequence would almost certainly be that her neighbours would have no more to do with her and without them her life would be completely bereft of relationships. She is not being physically or mentally abused and I suppose that, while she is certainly not getting the things that she could well afford and that would make her life better, she is not being starved or deprived of basic necesseties. It's horrible but it is typical of abusive relationships with adults, you can remove a child, you cannot make that judgement with an adult who has the capacity to make their own decisions. You just have to stand there and watch and try to get stains out of her underwear in that grimy kitchen sink.


cb said...

It's heartbreaking, isn't it? I have been in exactly the same situation and it makes me so mad because you are virtually powerless. Yes, you can go in all guns blazing but human contact is so important. Money just annoys me! I mean, don't get me wrong, I like it enough but it turns good people into bad sometimes.

Christy said...

Being poor, I don't understand money.

I doubt anyone will ever use me for my money, and that's good.

AnneDroid said...

That must be hard. Twice I've come across similar scenarios and in one case the so-called "carers" were left the big house too, which some of us suspected had been their game plan all along. On the other hand the lady had no one else to leave it to anyway.