There’s a very old West Indian lady in our church – she’s at least 90, but she’s not sure – she may have been born at a time when birth certificates were not necessarily issued automatically. She’s had a hard life, being sent away from home as a ‘slave child’ to care for other people’s children. She got married eventually but never had any children of her own, and then was widowed. She now lives locally and has played a key part in our church in the past, as someone who made others feel very welcome.
She’s coped with herself really well until a couple of years ago, when she started to get confused and was found wandering in the street in the middle of the night, not knowing where she was or what she was doing. At the same time, a woman suddenly materialised, spending all hours with Sarah and behaving in a very proprietorial way.
We were worried. We looked into it: this woman was no relative, but had been introduced to Sarah at some point recently. After a lot of suspicion, it became clear that she was stealing money from her, and had clearly moved in on her with an eye to her estate – not that there’s a great deal of it, but Sarah does own her little house.
Things went from bad to worse until one day her house flooded. We were at last able to get social services involved, and they whisked her off to a nursing home while her house was sorted out. We could breathe easy for a while – she was being looked after and fed properly.
As a result she was more compos mentis, so her social worker decided to return her to her own home, with more support from carers. We wrung our hands and pleaded her cause, to get her into residential accommodation: but social services need to conserve their money, and it was much cheaper to have her at home.
Then somebody else moved in on her, claiming to be a niece who lived in the next town. Oh yes? we thought. Where were you when Sarah really needed somebody to look after her? This woman has proved to be most unpleasant, spreading lies and slander around the place and insisting that she has the say over what happens to Sarah now.
Then Sarah fell over, and had to go to hospital, and was not judged fit to go back to her own home: so at last she was able to go into a very nice local home which has been recently built. This means she’s able to stay in familiar surroundings and continue to see people she knows.
Except. The ‘niece,’ it appears, plus another ‘relative’ who has appeared out of nowhere, are now making massive nuisances of themselves at the home. They are trying to order the manager about, commanding that he does not let Sarah go out unless he has their express permission.
They are both trying to get power of attorney.
So their true motivation is now out in the open.
We are so relieved that she’s in safe hands, with professional case conferences in which her needs are paramount. The machinations of these women will eventually come to nothing.
And serve them right.
In situations like Sarah’s, the church can and should be her ‘family’.