The pressure eases

I told you in the last post about Mary and Janet, and I want to update you on things here. In short, things are looking much better for Mary and much worse for Janet.

It’s been two months since I knocked on the door of the townhouse where Mary lives. I wanted to check on the sweet, kind soul I first met in February, when we shared a hospital room. What I saw in July shocked me. Mary, who is slight in frame anyway, was gaunt. Her cheeks were hollow, clothes hanging off her frame and she was prone to dizzy spells. Still, she had faith that Janet would deliver food eventually, “although it’s been a while.”

Janet had power of attorney over Mary, an arrangement put in place decades ago. The thought was Janet was looking after her friend who had a childhood brain injury and slight cognitive impairment. Mary gets disoriented easily and has some short-term memory issues. When I first met Mary in hospital, she said Janet was like a sister. I was never sure why Mary was in hospital, other than she fled a violent situation with the man who she rented a room from. He never laid a hand on her, but he raged at Mary when he got drunk, which was quite often. Eventually Mary got so scared she fled in her nightgown to her car, clutching a kitchen knife for protection. Police found her and brought her to hospital.

Mary was in hospital for several weeks, maybe months, when I met her. She said she was there “for shelter.” Janet was trying to find a place for Mary to live, but it was had because everything was so expensive. I asked why she couldn’t room with Janet and Mary said Janet’s husband was a mean drunk, and Janet was trying to protect Mary from that sort of thing. It all sounded very promising. Who wouldn’t want someone like Janet by their side? Over the next few months I occasionally chatted with Mary. Janet had given her an older cell phone.

I told Mary I’d like to take her for a drive once the weather warmed up, but I let things slide. I was confused about the terms that kept Mary in hospital and I didn’t want my take on the situation to jeopardize her being able to shelter there. After being a journalist for 27 years, I knew that half the story is just half the story. And this is true for some many things about Mary. I’ve come to know her since that day I appeared on her doorstep. I’ve been in contact with Mary almost continuously since first reporting her situation to the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee of B.C., and then the RCMP.

It turns out the townhouse where Mary lives is actually in her name, and was purchased by Janet in 2007 using Mary’s name. It’s likely the property was rented out over the years, and the rent went to Janet’s bank account. No mortgage payments were ever made and the property is facing foreclosure. Still, it hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve met with Island Health social workers called in by the PGT to assist Mary since she became abandoned by Janet. I’ve taken Mary to the government office where her identity was verified and her pension cheques will be mailed directly to her, instead of going to Janet’s bank account. I took Mary to her doctor, whose wide eyes reflected his alarm at her condition. We found a meal replacement formula that agreed with her intolerance of lactose. I shop for her favourite foods, bananas, seasoned meat and nut bars. I suggested a hair cut. Long, flowing hair is lovely but difficult to care for. Turns out she has a favourite hairdresser in town, and the long hair is gone. Now she gets compliments daily from aides who visit her to administer antidepressants and cook meals.

Once she let go of the belief that Janet was on her side, Mary leaned heavier on me. Of course I didn’t mind, even though at times I found it exhausting. I’m just recovering from a bout of bronchitis, something I think was brought on by fatigue. The infection forced me to double my insulin dose, and endure hypoglycemia as the infection subsided. Nailing the correct insulin dose seems impossible, and continuous bouts of low blood sugar is exhausting in itself. My glucose now is almost normal but I still have a smoker’s cough.

Mary was worried that Janet would appear on her doorstep, so I had a locksmith change the lock. She also worried about the cell phone Janet gave her — would she lose contact with me it Janet cut service? I got her a new iPhone using my plan. She has panic attacks over its complexity, so I made it as simple as possible. When she finds something strange on the screen, she knows how to swipe upward and return to the home screen. On there is a widget with a big S, that takes her to a green button to call me. Her imagination has Janet trying to break in, and after realizing Mary wouldn’t remember her address in an emergency, I tell her to call me. I’ll call 911 for her. I put old drapes I had in her living room so the room isn’t illuminated for anyone in the back yard.

I have to help her. Helping has been a way I get attention since I was a child. Nobody would tell me I was worthwhile unless I did something to elicit positive feedback. I’ve learned that putting myself out for others makes me feel good, and that’s why I help Mary. She desperately needs help. Until I found her she had no one else.

I continue to learn about her past, from the sad loss off her dad when she was 11 — hit by a drunk driver as he tried to flag down help beside his broken-down car — to drawing on strength from somewhere inside to quit a cult-like church. As a result she was ostracized by family and friends. She has convictions like this that I admire and respect.

The other night a social worker said to Mary “We’re going to get you out of here.” Meaning there are plans afoot to get her into an assisted-living facility. It turns out she’d been put in a lovely assisted-living place for a few weeks after coming out of hospital, but Janet yanked her out — staying would mean Janet would lose Mary’s pension income. So Mary knows what assisted-living is like, and this helps alleviate the worries about moving there. She forgets that the townhouse is a tenuous situation, since the bank will eventually want to sell it.

Also, her cataract surgery will happen by the end of the year. I can’t imagine how anyone would let her suffer with blurred vision for so long. I tell her that clear vision and residing in assisted living will change her life. It’s about time things turned around for her. I’m hoping that she can manage her own finances with some assistance. Or, possibly, the PGT will have someone do it.

The investigation into Janet and the years of financial abuse and wilful neglect is in the hands of authorities, as it should be.

Leave a Reply