Thursday 14 December 2017

Elderly woman found living in 'squalid' conditions where rats had eaten her hidden cash, court hears

The woman was found living in 'squalid' conditions in her home (stock photo)
The woman was found living in 'squalid' conditions in her home (stock photo) Newsdesk Newsdesk

An elderly woman with serious physical disabilities who was found living in “squalid” conditions in her home is now in a nursing home and will have her financial affairs looked after by the High Court.

Rats had eaten vast amounts of a substantial sum of bank notes hidden in the woman’s home and remnants of many of those notes could not be retrieved and had to be destroyed, solicitor Maria Dillon told the court. The woman did get credit for a small amount of the remnants, she added.

Although cash poor, the woman, who is single with no siblings and no other known family, is asset rich and owns property with an estimated value of €600,0000, the court heard.

The woman’s house was an unimaginable “mess” with remnants of food all around and vermin having eaten away parts of the property as well as hoarded monies, the solicitor said.

It was difficult to countenance, despite those conditions, the woman, apart from her significant physical disabilities, was “hale and hearty”, Ms Dillon added. 

After the authorities raised concerns about her, the woman was moved from her house to a “state of the art” nursing home which is a credit to the HSE. She appears very happy there, demonstrating no desire to leave, Ms Dilllon said.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, told Ms Dillon, of Co Offaly-based J.D. Scanlon & Co Solicitors, that her reports and her care in this matter demonstrated “exemplary commitment” to this woman “well beyond the call of duty” which did credit to the “best traditions of the solicitor’s profession”. 

This woman, with significant physical disabilities, had been moved from “simply appalling” living conditions, he said. “Squalid is the only word.”  Some of the details are “stomach-churning”.

Because of the woman’s physical disabilities, it was not possible to assess, with a view to deciding whether she should be made a ward of court, if she has the necessary mental capacity to make decisions about her welfare and financial affairs, he said.

In those circumstances, he could not make her a ward of court but would exercise the court’s inherent jurisdiction to try and mirror the wardship process as much as possible in relation to her care.

To that end, the judge said appointed Ms Dillon in a role akin to a wardship committee to assist the court in making decisions on her welfare and managing her financial affairs.

He also made permissive orders allowing the nursing home treat the woman as a resident and arranging for hospital and medical treatment for her should she require that.

The judge, who earlier heard the nursing home is receiving 80pc of her pension and will get some €12,000 in a savings account of hers to go towards the costs of her care, added it is likely that orders will have to be made for the sale of her property so as to finance her care for the remainder of her life.

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