A lot can be going on behind closed doors. It’s hard to know what life is really like for someone when they put on a brave face and keep to themselves, and most of the time all we can do is guess at their actual condition.
But sometimes that’s not enough, especially when the person in question is vulnerable because of age, physical or mental health, or all of the above. The sad truth is that some people in this world have no close family or friends, or have outlasted them all, and their twilight years can be incredibly depressing if no one steps in to help.
One elderly woman in Fulham, London, had retreated into her shell of a home and had kept to herself for decades, slowly rotting away in a squalid prison. No one knew, no one stopped to check, until Lucy Ashen, the woman’s neighbor of 21 years, finally convinced the woman to let her in.
Of course, the woman (who remains anonymous, referred to as “My Lady” by Ashen) had resisted Ashen’s initial attempts to help. But finally, for some reason, she let Ashen in.
Ashen was shocked by the state of the flat. “There was no food, filthy clothes, nobody to help her bathe, and just never ending loneliness and despair,” she wrote in a post.
My Lady hadn’t been able to use a shower or bath in years, and for the past 13 years had used only her kitchen sink for washing her face and brushing her teeth. Ashen immediately set out to get the house righted.
“It was horrific! NOBODY should live like it! So without stopping to think, I gutted her house! I mean everything went down to the toilet seat. I knew I needed help at this point, so without thinking too much of it I put a post on Facebook asking for help along with a list of what she needed.”
Overwhelmed by the amount of work and supplies she’d need to tackle the wreck, Ashen posted a “wish list” of sorts online with a plea for help. Within a day, most of the items had been funded by people shocked by the state of the home and wanting to help.
Ashen, along with her teenage daughter Ruby, spent 60 hours cleaning the fridge, tearing out rot, scrubbing, replacing carpet and getting the dingy flat back to an acceptable level of repair. And, of course, she took the time to carefully wash the elderly woman, taking her time and ensuring the woman she wouldn’t let her fall.
“She has everything she could need, a bed to sleep in (she was sleeping on the floor) good clean furniture, fresh new bedding, beautiful new clothes, three meals a day, and most importantly company,” Ashen continued. “She truly has been saved from a lonely and degrading life, she has been given her dignity back and I intend for her to live out the rest of her life in comfort and surrounded by love.”
For the next two years, My Lady lived in much better conditions than she had in a long time. Ashen visited often, and while My Lady often struggled to remember her name or who she was, she was cared for by her neighbor.
A year and a half on, Ashen found relatives and was able to connect them with the woman. They were all able to spend time together before My Lady passed away in her sleep on July 20, 2018.
“The last 2 years of her life were spent comfortably and were filled with laughter happiness and new friends and I thank you all for that,” Ashen wrote in a sad, heartfelt post on July 25.
If Ashen hadn’t stepped in when she had, the woman’s last years of life could have been heartbreaking, but instead they may have been some of her best.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.