The caring and the callous

I worried about my sis - and then did the worst thing possible to help her...

Published by: Kerry Harden
Published on: 21st January 2010

Her brow knotted in confusion as she stared at the piece
of paper. 'What do I do with this?' my sister Judith frowned.
'It's your TV licence,' I smiled, softly. 'You have to buy one if you want to watch telly.'
She nodded, but I could tell she was still confused.
You'd have thought she was a teenager just leaving home, but Judith was 65, and this was the first time she'd lived on her own.
As kids, we'd been really close. Six years younger than me, I'd showered her with affection and always kept a close eye on her.
I'd left home at 24 when I'd married Alan. We moved more than 100 miles away to Warwickshire, and had two kids, Phillip and Claire.
Judith got a good job as a secretary for a lorry company. She met a nice man and got engaged.
She always looked perfect ? in smart clothes, her hair freshly cut and highlighted. As a mum to two young kids, I often felt dowdy in comparison. Lively and fun, my two loved their Auntie Judith.
In her 20s, she'd talked about leaving home, and getting her own place, but it never happened. The engagement broke off, along with two others after that.
Then, back in 1966, our dad Maurice suffered a stroke. He survived, but needed lots of help.
'You've got a family of your own,' Judith told me. 'I can look after Mum and Dad. I'll just have to put off leaving home.'
'Of course you don't,' I'd disagreed. 'You've got your own life to lead, you could visit them every day.'
But she never listened to my advice.
Dad died a year later, but she'd looked after Doris, our mum, until now, when she moved into her own flat.
At last, she was standing on her own two feet. But I worried it was happening too late. She had no idea how to look after herself.
I just felt bad that I couldn't be around as much as I'd have liked, but I lived so far away.
'Right, that's the telly sorted,' I smiled. 'Now let's do the gas and electricity bills.'
We went through it together, me explaining how it all worked. These days, my kids were grown up and Alan had died seven years ago, so I was pretty self-sufficient.
As Judith waved me off, I felt a stab of anxiety.
Please let her be okay...
A month later, our elderly mum passed away. Her bungalow was sold and my brother Stephen, 62, and Judith received £77,000 each, a useful boost for her in her new, independent life.
But over the next year, Judith's health started letting her down.
She developed epilepsy and had circulation problems in her legs.
Even worse, she started to show signs of dementia.
I phoned her regularly, and drove over when I could. Our cousin Gillian, 67, lived nearby, and she kept an eye on her, too.
Living miles away, I wanted peace of mind that someone was looking after her, without having to put Gillian out, so I arranged for a carer to drop in on her twice a day.
The next time I called my sister for a chat, all she wanted to talk about was her carer Caroline Blyth, who she called Carol.
It put my mind at ease knowing she was in safe hands.
A few months later, Gillian phoned after paying Judith a visit.
'I noticed on her bank statement she'd taken out £500 twice in a couple of days,' she mentioned.
'What does she need that kind of money for?' I frowned.
'I asked her, but she changed the subject,' she sighed.
'Strange...' I muttered. 'Next time I talk to her, I'll bring it up.'
But she wasn't interested, she just went on about all the shopping Carol was doing for her.
Maybe she'd given her the cash to get the shopping with?
I tried not to worry. Perhaps at last she was getting to grips with her finances and bills.
Six months later, I met Carol for the first time when I picked up Judith for our two-week holiday in Worthing, Sussex.
'I won't be seeing Judith for a month now,' she said, handing
me a cuppa. 'In two weeks, I'm off to Egypt on holiday.
'I've been cooking up some meals,' she added. 'The freezer's packed.'
'Carol really knows how to look after me,'
smiled Judith.
'Nice woman,' I said to her, as we drove off.
'I don't know what I'd do without her,'
she nodded.
But when we got back from holiday, Judith had a message to say Carol had resigned.
'I'm going to miss her,' she sighed. 'She always knew what biscuits to get me.'
A new carer replaced Carol and things soon got back to normal.
Then, a few months later, Gillian phoned.
'You are not going to believe this,' she told me, breathlessly.
'Carol's been stealing Judith's savings.'
'H-how?' I cried. 'She was her carer...' Then my mind wandered... Carol going on endless shopping trips, the money going missing from Judith's account...
The police interviewed me and I told them what I knew.
'I just can't believe someone she trusted could do this,' I sighed. 'She's so dependent.'
When I explained to Judith what Carol had done, she stared at me in disbelief. 'Carol wouldn't do that,' she cried.
She couldn't get her head around it, and didn't understand why I was making her friend out to be evil.
'She did my shopping for me,'
Judith scowled.
Last February, Carol appeared at Leicester Crown Court where she denied stealing from Judith.
She then skipped bail, but the trial went ahead without her.
It came out that between February 2006 and October 2007 Carol stole £31,000 from Judith.
She wired £7,000 to her boyfriend in Egypt and splashed out on two lavish Egyptian holidays.
She was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison in September.
'But will Judith get any money back?' I asked a police officer.
'Carol lives in a council flat and drives a battered old car. It doesn't look likely, to be honest,' he said.
All that money Mum left Judith ? virtually all gone.
After Carol left, Judith's health went downhill, and she had to have both legs amputated.
She's now at a fantastic care home with nurses on-hand 24 hours a day. At least I can rest easy that she's finally in safe hands.
I hope Caroline Blyth spends every day of her sentence regretting what she did to an innocent old lady.
Shirley Livsey, 76, Wootton Bassett, Warwickshire