“Up until 10 days ago this elderly lady was living in horrific filth and squalor. There was no food, filthy clothes, nobody to help her bathe, and just never-ending loneliness and despair.”
– Lucy Ashen
An angel among us
Lucy Ashen didn’t have to do anything. Upon seeing the atrocious conditions that “The Lady” (which Ms. Ashen calls her) was living in, she could have thought “meh” and went on her way.
Not only did Ashen do something, but she also changed the woman’s life. She possibly directed the public eye to a demographic often neglected: the elderly. Further, she demanded accountability. She wanted an answer to the question “Why was this mentally ill, isolated, and forgotten person allowed to live in such despicable conditions?”
The 39-year old and mother of three said, “I’ve known for a while that she was living in pretty bad conditions, but it’s taken me a long time to get her trust enough to let me into her house.”
One day, The Lady was locked out of her home. Ashen was called upon to help.
“It was absolutely horrific.”
On opening the lady’s bedroom window, Ashen discovered what can only be described as utter filth. Human droppings, rotted furniture, no food, no clothing – and no one around. Something was obviously wrong. “It was horrific. No one should ever be left to live like that. She has no family and no friends.”
For confidentiality and legal purposes, Ashen is not allowed to state the 76-year-old pensioner’s name. However, from all accounts, the woman suffers from severe mental health issues.
That is the length of time that this poor, disabled woman went without bathing. Not a word spoken to a health authority in London or anywhere else. 13 years, and not one person knew of her condition.
As mentioned, Ms. Ashen states that the woman suffers from mental health disorders – a common characteristic of the elderly. Per the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Over 20% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. The most common neuropsychiatric disorders in this age group are dementia and depression.”
No particular mental health condition was cited; but one can infer, given the woman’s living conditions, she suffers from some type of dementia. Dementia, which is an umbrella term for numerous psychological disorders, is defined by the Alzheimer’s Association as:
“a (term) that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with decline in memory of thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.” This description seems right on.
13 years. That’s how long it took for a stranger of all people, to make a real home for this woman.
Woman With A Heart Of Gold Helps Transform Life Of An Elderly Living A Nightmare
“I gutted the entire place.”
Lucy Ashen spent “ten days binning (trashing) the rotted furniture and cleaning the place.” She went no holds barred on the living space, tearing the place apart; even putting in a new bed and toilet. In the meantime, Ashen’s 14-year-old daughter, Ruby, cared for the woman.
A mother of three’s resources only goes so far – and Ms. Ashen turned to others for some help. She turned to Facebook (of course!) for “asking for donations of furniture, clothes, and food.”
That’s when strangers from around the globe started showing up. “It was shared and shared. It went far beyond my friends and family. (Even) people from Thailand and America got in contact.” Per The Sun, a UK news outlet, Lucy was “overwhelmed by the huge response.” She was sent fridges, sofas, clothes, and even some spending money.
She created a Facebook page, ‘My Lady and Me,’ which quickly grew to over 50,000 followers. Ashen, according to sources, took the lady on vacation. More importantly, perhaps, “She’s coming out of herself bit by bit. She’s been singing songs with my daughter Ruby.”
The greater good
We hear constant rhetoric about “personal responsibility” and “when government doesn’t step in, people will.” Well, Thailand is approximately 5,820 miles away. The United States of America is about 4,500 miles. The total area of Greater London? 683.
Not one visit from a registered nurse, a doctor, or – from what can be extrapolated from the story – a human being in over 13 years, probably more. What if this lady had passed away in such filth? None of it being her fault.
Mental health problems, particularly in an aging population, is a humanitarian issue. Both a personal and government responsibility. The woman worked long enough to earn a pension and entitlement to healthcare; only to have the system abandon her.
“When I first saw the flat (“apartment”) I was angry. This lady was defenseless and helpless. She had nobody and didn’t have the capability to ask for help,” Ms. Ashen explains, “The good thing about this is that it’s bigger than her or me or anything. It raises awareness of mental health and elderly isolation.”
– “Care for elderly ‘close to collapse,” according to the The Guardian online.
– Per the same source, “the leaders of the four main political groups” expressed their displeasure, “as the UK Prime Minister (Theresa May) dismisses talk of a crisis despite calls from politicians, NHS leaders, doctors, and others.”
– The Guardian explains the troubles facing seniors: “the quality and safety of care for our elderly is at risk, and the vulnerable will increasingly struggle to receive the help they need to meet basic needs such as washing, dressing or getting out of bed.”
This last point was published by the largest newspaper outlet in England just a couple of weeks after Ashen’s pleas went viral. A coincidence?
Should we even have to speculate?