I live in a block of flats and one of my many neighbours is an elderly woman (approximately 83 years in age).
So, One day (3 months ago) I was returning home with my son from his nursery and I could see a familiar elderly lady standing aimlessly outside the flat entrance or maybe the word I’m looking for is confused (she looked very confused), clutching onto a blue rubber bag, the type you get from the fish market when you buy an ounce of prawns, except it looked as though there were a couple of documents in this ‘sacred’ rubber bag.
I recognised her by her hunched back and fairly frail frame. It was a cold blustery day and she looked so alone, I just wanted to hug her! I could see her head scarf blowing erratically against the motion of the violent wind. I briskly walked over to her and asked if everything was OK. She explained in a very well spoken voice; Oh yes dear, I’m looking for Halifax bank, is there one in the area and I said yes there is but it’s a bit of a walk from here. I had made the quick assumption in my mind that it would be practically impossible for her to walk that distance alone. She mentioned that she would usually travel by bus from the bus stop directly opposite the flat and would go to another town centre, this bus would stop about 1 minute walk away from the Halifax Bank. She explained, however, that because of her decline in mobility she could no longer make the journey alone.
I could tell from her demeanour that she is normally a very strong stubborn character that would not give up lightly.
I seriously wanted to help this poor old lady but I had my son clasped onto my calves reminding me of how hungry he was and so I explained to the lady that if she could wait until tomorrow morning I would gladly take her. Initially she said she didn’t want to bother me but after profusely advising her that it was no bother at all I could see the growth in delight within in her eyes. I was so pleased that I could help this elderly neighbour of mine.
The very next morning immediately after my children’s school run, I went to knock for her, she was so happy to see me (she had brought her blue rubber bag with her). She clasped onto my arm with all her might and we gradually made our way out and crossed the road to my car. She then gasped and said “Oh wow you are chaperoning me in your car too woooo what a Lucky lady I am today”. I chuckled and then helped her to put her seatbelt on. I don’t know why, but I felt so emotional putting on her seatbelt thinking wow one day we will all be helpless and back to how we started, as babies who are dependent on the help of others. This made me somewhat sad.
We arrived at the town centre and the walk to the bank would usually be about 5 minutes but we walked gradually at her pace. We had to stop in the EE phone shop because I could see she was becoming very tired. I explained to the staff that we only wanted to sit down for some rest – they all understood. But I could see some puzzled faces looking at us like.. what is an old white lady doing with a young black girl and they look extremely close, well, that’s what it felt like they were thinking… people were taking second, third, forth looks.
She began to talk at length about how lonely it can be and not having friends and family, she never had children and never married, she was really opening up to me and then stopped herself in her tracks to apologise for rattling on. I guess it was only natural, who knows when her last in depth conversation was?
I could see that she had regained strength so I encouraged her to continue our journey to the bank.
In all, the 5 minute walk took us about 25 minutes, but we made it safe and sound.
Once we arrived at the bank, we got more stares. A member of staff made her way to us and asked ‘how would you like us to help today?’ and then my dear old lady announced she would like to take out £3,000!!! I was alarmed, I wasn’t expecting her to withdraw such a large amount of money. Immediately, I remembered her little blue bag and thought to myself, huh, where are you going to put £3,000? in the blue rubber bag?
The staff also look concerned, the cashier immediately asked(of course);- “is this lady (me) your carer? The old lady happily explained this lovely young lady is my neighbour.
They asked her if she had a carer then she said oh no no no, I don’t want a carer.
The staff then pulled a chair closer to the counter and asked her a few more questions such as what will you be doing with the money she then explained bills, food and general living allowance.
The staff then asked where are you going from here ( I felt like such a criminal the way the cashier looked at me after asking) only then did I realise how this might appear to onlookers.
The old lady profusely explained in a stern weak voice that she simply needed her money in a lump sum because she cannot afford to go back and forth from home to the bank and She then went on to explain that she has several bills to pay and for food and this money would be for the next 3 months.
Once the staff had practically been told to get on with it I stood there like a pole for a moment and then sheepishly asked the old lady in a very quiet tone why she doesn’t want a carer or professional help she then said no no I’m quite capable just the walking bit is getting a little difficult she said. She then said I’m so grateful for your help today I haven’t been able to eat for the past 2 days because I had ran out of money, you’re a Godsend she said .
By this point all I had to do was blink and I would have been in floods of my own tears. I couldn’t even respond, I stroked her shoulder and just about broke a smile.
The cashier had now counted all the money and the old lady then brought her plastic bag forward, the cashier paused and said ‘erm, do you have a secured handbag?’ and she said OK give it to her and she held on to my arm as if to say please just put it in your bag. I felt so awkward and it felt like the whole Bank was watching us like ‘Breaking News’ on Channel 4. I opened my bag and the cashier placed 3 plastic wallets of £1,000 into my bag. We both walked out and all I could think of was this little old lady hasn’t eaten for 2 days. We made it back into the supermarket car park and I asked her to stay in the car and wait for me. I gave her her money back and placed it into her blue plastic bag and locked the car behind me. I ran into the supermarket holding tears back and just started grabbing essentials such as milk, bread, butter, sugar, tea, biscuits, and things that I thought little old ladies would love to eat. I purchased the items and ran back into the car and we drove back home. As I dropped her to her flat she thanked me profusely and begged me to come inside I said I’m sorry I have to rush to get my son now, but this is for you and as I was about to hand her the shopping I realised she wouldn’t even be able to manage. She was incredibly thankful. She looked so frail and delicate so I agreed to come in and I unpacked all her shopping and made her a cup of tea and biscuits with a plate of fresh strawberries, she was so delighted.
I then asked her again why she didn’t want a carer and she stopped me in my tracks and said please No! I can manage myself honestly.
So now, this is my dilemma… if there’s anybody still here reading… let me just say thank you! But yes, this is my concern.. this little old lady undoubtably needs a lot of help.
I am concerned about her wellbeing but she will not allow me to seek help on her behalf and she clearly needs help. Simple things like getting into the bath bath she has not done so for years she said 😣😔😐
Even cooking and cleaning is practically impossible for her.
She has no family and friends and relies on strangers to help her.
Should I speak to our local council about help for her against her wishes?
Any advise would be gratefully taken.