A personal tale of the benefits – and risks of hiring a carer when you live miles away
My Aunt was a very brave, determined lady. She lived alone, had never married, and yes, she was quite set in her ways. She hated doctors, did not drive and had no TV but she was blessed with some good friends and a sharp mind.
Slowly as she approached her nineties she became increasingly less mobile, her eyesight began to fail and she found herself increasingly isolated as one by one her friends passed on.
As the sole next of kin her care was my responsibility. Living some 300 miles away this was challenging to say the least. She wasn’t able to hear the telephone, and with a young family to look after, getting over to see her was tricky and nigh on impossible in the event of an emergency. I was lucky though. Brenda, her daily help for fifteen years, was able to keep an eye on her. They had a fantastic relationship, Brenda not standing for any nonsense (including moldy food in the fridge). It seemed a simple and sensible solution to suggest that Brenda increase her hours to include ‘care duties’ such as shopping and running errands. For many years things ticked along and everyone was happy. I was regularly in touch with Brenda and as my Aunt’s health failed she took on more hours, even involving other members of her family. In my Aunt’s last year (aged 97!) she was in and out of Hospital but it had always been her fervent wish to die in her own bed in her own home. The time came, when, despite major protestations from her, she agreed to 24 hour live in care in addition to Brenda’s daily visits. I used a private care agency and despite a few initial blips (which included my Aunt being far from nice) the girls were wonderful and with Brenda keeping an eye on things, all went smoothly. With strangers coming into the house Brenda suggested she made a full inventory of all my Aunt’s valuables.
My Aunt died peacefully one morning.
It was during the administration of her Estate that questions began to be asked. A number of jewelry items specified in her will were nowhere to be found, collections of china and other ‘antiques’ that I remember having seen on visits appeared to have ‘walked’. Her cellar was empty, as was her garage. Stranger still was the suggestion by the Executor that he thought someone had gained access into the house following its closure.
I will never know whether my Aunt ‘gifted’ her possessions away, or if other light-fingered hands were at work. Possessions are but possessions, my Aunt got her wish to die in her own bed, she died eternally grateful and clearly fond of Brenda, without whom I don’t know what I would have done. I guess that’s what matters.
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