Sacked for helping a distressed 90year old.
Her simple act of kindness left her own life in tatters and Sue
Wondered if the world had gone mad.
Now thanks to the support of strangers in Britain she can hold her head up high again…
Getting the key from the key safe I opened the front door.
‘Hello?’ I called. ‘It’s Sue from the mobile response I’ve been called to attend.’
No response. I looked into the kitchen, a Meals On Wheels container sat untouched on the table. I frowned; it was gone 5pm that should have been eaten hours ago…
Poking my head into the lounge I found an elderly lady sobbing in an armchair.
‘Oh, thank Goodness you’re here,’ she croaked. ‘No one’s been to see me all day. Please, will you help me?’
‘Of course I will,’ I reassured her. ‘I’m not going anywhere until I’ve made you comfortable. Now let’s see what’s happened here…’
Following procedure, I contacted the call centre via her lifeline alarm.
‘I can’t understand why you’ve been called,’ the operator told me. ‘I’m expecting carers on site within the next ten minutes.’
‘Well they’re not here,’ I said. It didn’t make sense. Why had I been asked to attend as an emergency response if carers on their way?
‘Can I speak to the call centre manager, please?’ I asked. ‘This isn’t on. There’s an elderly lady here who’s been alone all day.’
The duty call centre manager promised to phone me back once he’d found out who these carers were and why our service had not been summoned within the usual 20 minutes.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘We need to make sure this never happens again.’
Turning my attention to the lady, I could see her clothing was soaked with urine, she was shivering and in a state of shock, sobbing and apologising for her state.
‘It’s alright,’ I soothed. ‘None of this is your fault. Now let’s get you out of those wet clothes…’
Seeing a hoist, hospital bed, pads and commode, I discussed placing the commode next to her chair and assisting her to transfer to the commode to enable me to give her a wash.
‘That would be lovely,’ she said.
Although I’d worked in sheltered housing for 24 years and was now a manager, I was also trained nurse and knew how to lift safely. Of course usually, this sort of thing was usually up to the carers but this was an emergency.
Placing the commode next to the woman’s chair and safely moving her across, I then set about removing her sodden clothing and washing her back with warm soapy water.
‘Thank you so much,’ she said gratefully. ‘I was beginning to think no one was ever going to come and I was so uncomfortable.’
I was pleased to help. It was my job and the company I worked for encouraged staff to ‘go the extra mile.’
Suddenly, we heard someone at the front door. It was the lady’s carer turning up for her normal teatime call.
While we stood the client back up to remove all of her dressings and the bottom half of her clothing, another carer turned up. So I called the call centre to advise them that as two carers were now on site and as another bedtime call was scheduled, I’d be on my way.
‘I’ll still be expecting a call from the call centre manager to establish why this client had been left unattended for over six hours, I added.
I turned to the elderly lady. ‘I’ll leave you with these two lovely ladies now,’ I smiled.
‘Thank you, you’re an angel,’ she said, taking my hand and kissing it.
As I got back into my car, I smiled. I was glad to have made her happy. Although tiring, my job could be so rewarding. But two days later, a letter plopped through the letterbox. I’d only been suspended from mobile service while they pursued an investigation for breaching safety rules!
They accused me of putting the woman and the company at risk. What? I’d been asked for help and I’d given it! What was the problem with that?
Oh well, it’ll all be sorted out in a day or two, I thought putting the letter to one side and putting on my coat. I was still expected to carry on with my role as sheltered housing team leader.
Only it wasn’t. Three months later and they were still looking into it.
Then, on 19th August I was asked to attend a meeting to discuss the incident.
I listened dumbstruck as I was told how I’d misrepresented myself as a nurse and put the service and organisation at risk. According to my employers, I shouldn’t have moved the lady as incontinence is not an emergency.
‘What would you do if you found yourself in the same position again?’ they asked.
‘I’d do exactly the same,’ I said honestly.
It was the wrong answer.
After 24 years service, I was sacked from both my positions and escorted from the building. I couldn’t believe it. Had the world gone mad? When had helping a vulnerable old lady really become a crime? I truly believed I’d acted entirely appropriately. Devastated, I went home and cried.
But there was worse to come…
The very next day I received an order to evict me from the onsite home where I’d lived with my two daughters for the last 20 years.
The property was managed by the same company that dismissed me and they wanted me out.
‘But where will we go?’ I wept to Sophie, 21, and Natalie, 23.
I was advised by Citizens Advice and my Unison Rep to appeal the decision, but as I attended the internal appeal the following month it was obvious they’d already made their minds up – I was guilty as charged.
‘You’ve not heard the end of this,’ I vowed as I walked out.
My tribunal hearing was scheduled for the following May. Finally, I’d be able to clear my name, return to work and move on from all this.
‘You’ll be fine, Mum,’ my girls promised as the day finally arrived. ‘Everyone will see how badly you’ve been treated. They were the ones in the wrong, not you.’
Only they didn’t. The judge ruled that my employers had carried out a thorough investigation and had met their requirements to enable them to dismiss me. The decision was upheld.
I was in a state of shock when the verdict was read out. It felt like my whole world and everything I stood for and believed in was ripped apart.
‘What am I going to do now?’ I wailed to Natalie.
Instead of things getting back to normal, they got worse… A lot worse. With no references from my past employer, I struggled to find work. When I told them what had happened they looked at me like I was a criminal. I’d no other choice but to sign on. I was a proud woman, had worked all my life. It left me ashamed and humiliated.
Two weeks later, I was evicted from my home.
My new flat was too small for both daughters so Natalie had to find somewhere else to live. As we said to goodbye to house the girls had grown up in we were all in flood of tears.’
‘Maybe a fresh start somewhere new might be good for us,’ I tried to bolster.
But with money – or rather the lack of it – such a worry, it was difficult to stay positive. My youngest daughter Sophia, gave up university to stay with us and try to get more hours at the pub she was working in part time to supplement our income.
But soon the bailiffs were knocking. Without my wages I was struggling with bills. Some days I could barely afford to eat. Did we really deserve all this because I helped an old woman in distress?
At my lowest ebb I wondered if I would be better off dead. But ironically I only had six paracetamol left and no money to buy any more.
My daughter’s were concerned for me. Desperate to find a way to show me that most right-minded folk would be behind me, in August they came up with the idea of setting up a website calling for justice.
Soon comments started appearing. I was worried at first. Would I get abuse? Would they also think what I had done was so bad? But I couldn’t have been more wrong. All of them were backing me and insisting they would have done the same in my shoes.
One person wrote: ‘what a shame that being kind and helpful means you are treated like a criminal.
Another added: ‘this is disgusting. What should she have done, left her there for another six hours?’
‘See, Mum,’ the girls said. ‘You did what any decent person would do.’
The more comments that appeared, the more my confidence returned. My act of kindness and compassion cost me my job, my home and nearly my sanity. But now I could see that other people backed my actions I knew it was time to stop beating myself up and hold my head up high.
Because despite everything that’s happened, I would do the same again. It was all worth it to see the look of relief on that lady’s face. I’m not crazy or foolish and I’m not a criminal. I’m just a person who couldn’t deny an old lady asking for help… ask yourself, could you?