Could she have died and lay so long in a house near you?

It was a news story I heard today.

 Three sentences causing my emotions to spill:

 Eighty year old woman found dead in own home is thought to have been dead for approximately six months.

Her disabled son lived with her.

There were no suspicious circumstances.

She was dead in the house for six months.

And no one knew.

Clearly no one was visiting.

Clearly the neighbours didn’t notice her not there, didn’t check.

The isolation we create and support horrifies me.

Six months lying dead; a disabled son unable to react; smack bang in the middle of thousands.

There may be no suspicious circumstances but all is a circumstance that speaks to our shame.

 Could she have died and lay so long in a house near you?

14 thoughts on “Could she have died and lay so long in a house near you?

  1. Many people live side by side in adjacent houses. Some people live on “lifestyle blocks” out in more rural areas where their neighbours live an acre away or more.
    I live in a shared driveway with… two?… other houses.

    See? I don’t even know how many other houses I share my driveway with.

    I know I live next door to some “old people” and some “young people” live further down the driveway.

    They could be burgled, die, have their house catch fire, or any number of other things and I’d have no idea.

    On the plus side, there is some hope, however small. During the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand (my town), we visited our elderly neighbours immediately following the quake to make sure that they were okay. They were.

    A day or two later they baked us a carrot cake in thanks. The elderly woman who lived there told her gardener, “I didn’t think people did things like that these days.”


    It’s a start.

    • You’re right Iain it is a start . I wanted to share this story in the hope that more of us might think about how those around us are travelling, whether they are family or not . Personally I don’t want it to be true what your neighbor said…”I didnt think people did things like that these days” and the only way to change what we dont’ like it is to be the change we want.

  2. This is an Absolute disgrace on our society , where were all the disability services for this elderly parent, let alone neibours, garbage man, postman,local doctors office just somebody? I read this too apparently the power & water had been shut off, i dont know if this is true or not
    If this was the case There should be something in place to check before power is turned off, Any way Leesa i enjoy your writing , been missing it latley,
    Love from Sandy

    • yes Sandy it is a disgrace but something that we the people can change every day with our own individual actions. And thanks for the compliment my friend. 🙂 xx

  3. In my street at least, I am relieved to think that this almost certainly couldn’t happen. Although these stories tragically pop up here and there every now and again, even within my own city (which has more of a town mentality), I think there must be a number of factors involved. Some people naturally isolate themselves from their neighbours, while others wish to befriend the whole street; individual personalities and histories can come into play.

    Obviously this woman was not close with her neighbours or it would have been less than a fortnight to discover (most people would allow a week of inactivity before becoming curious or suspicious, I think, as a sickness, holiday or busy time could last that long), and we shouldn’t immediately blame that on social/cultural reasons or some flaw of the neighbours. Maybe they knew the old woman as fiercely independent and very healthy, or either party had never developed a relationship; there are many possibilities.

    I don’t mean to suggest that you are placing any unfair blame, but I think that although these stories are of course tragic, they aren’t necessarily an indictment of modern society. It is disappointing, tragic, worrying and upsetting but I think that sadly nothing can be read from such happenings, unless a rash of them occurs in one area or over a shorter period.

    • Thanks for your thoughts , I really do appreciate your taking the time to comment .

      Unfortunately this isolation so vividly reflected by this story is not at all uncommon here in Australia where I live nor the USA, the Uk, and New Zealand (countries I have researched) though the six months is a record this year down under.

      I can say with all certainty that there are thousands of elderly ignored by their neighbours, with family too busy…natures to grumpy, habits too annoying whose only human connection in a week is their visits to their Doctors. Doctors that are far too busy to even notice that they haven’t turned up for a while.

      As a community mental health nurse I got to see a range of folk living in the community alone, suffering and ignored until the ambulance and coroners van comes and then they come out of their houses for a look. The elderly, folk with mental illness, transexuals, the depressed, carers…all sorts of folk.

      I’m sorry but it is what it is and I personally believe that its time we folk stepped up and helped each other out a bit more (in a dignified manner). We’d be doing better and I don’t know about you but I think life could be enhanced that way for all of us.

      • I think you’re justified in feeling as though we could help each other more.

        You’d think it would be easy enough to turn just a tiny bit of the inherent power of Social Networking and Web 2.0 and make people who ARE ACTUALLY CLOSE know each other better.

        Besides, to make a biology nerd point, people say that our psychology was formed in a world where tribes of up to 160 people were our whole world. The average person makes, I believe that I heard, regular connections with 30 people in their weekly life of a repeated basis. It sounds like we have plenty to spare. I think we could easily “love our neighbours” better without too much trouble.

      • Those are all good points, and I do agree with you — when I type comments on these sorts of things I always end up focussing on certain points and neglecting others. I also didn’t realise quite how common these events are here, because (in a way less horrible than it sounds) they tend to blur together in my memory. I would rather pay attention to the news each day than not, but unfortunately that means a constant overflow of information which I often miss or misinterpret.

        I also agree of course that people need to be helping each other out and even just communicating more; it is something I try to do, and try to influence others I know to do, but social anxiety and depression tend to make me want to isolate myself from anyone else. Without the few strong relationships I have I believe it wouldn’t be such a stretch for me to end up as one of the people who has very little outside contact or rarely leaves the home.

        For now I am thankful at least that in my culdesac everyone at least knows vaguely about who lives where. I wish that more people, especially the elderly, could live in situations such as those that my own grandparents do — they have known a number of their peer neighbours for over thirty years, and even with the rash of young couples moving in, everyone still knows most other people if passingly. Neighbours really go the extra mile in helping out. I lack the personal experience you have of such isolated people, so I agree with you very much and recognise now that I have underestimated the reach of this situation.

    • Seriously unfunny and how sad that this would be a joke. I wonder if the tellers of the joke have ever imagined ‘what if it was me?’ Because it could be and really on a deeper level it is. Fortunately this can change…not by someone else doing something but by our own actions.

  4. I agree with Leesis
    Have checked on elderly neighbours (and always took one to vote) before they passed and when family members arrived I was viewed with suspicion. Not a comfortable feeling when you are trying to help.
    Tends to dissuade you.

    • Oh Cherry I hear you! It is disheartening to be treated with suspicion and the fact is its easier to act like everyone else so you don’t cop crap. Bluntly I sometimes feel my ‘ethical’ standards are more like a ball and chain around my neck rather than anything good due to the problems they can create for me.

      Having said that despite moments of exhaustion I personally cant’ let these negative reactions dissuade me ; right action is right action and shitty behaviour is shitty behaviour.

      I’ve never met a person who disagrees that a kinder humanity would enhance the quality of life for all. No one would disagree the implications of this news report are horrific. But agreeing is easier than taking action. And action is needed.

  5. Actually, yes. I don’t know my neighbours. No, wait a minute… I do see, and say hi sometimes to my immediate neighbours.

    Our family had a situation where our great-grandmother died and the rest of the family forgot to tell us! We found out months later.

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