The latest horror to hit the news is David and Louise Turpin and their 13 abused children. We are all shocked and disgusted by the parents and wonder how they got away with this for so long. How could anyone abuse and starve their own family? Why didn’t someone say anything? Most will agree, no matter how harsh the punishment for those inhumane monsters, it isn’t harsh enough. Our hearts just bleed for those poor kids.
But what if what they did was legal? Is it possible that someone can be treated as cruelly as that and the law is on the side of the perpetrator? Yes it is, and let me tell you a true story.
There is a kind and sweet woman in her mid 70’s in the very later stages of Alzheimers disease. Lets call her Lorraine for this story. She chose to live with her son and his wife because of how her husband treated her. Lorraine was very happy living with them. She got 3 meals a day, her medicine, clean clothes and a room and bed of her own. Best of all for her, is that she got to see a lot of people. Lorraine is a people person and even though she couldn’t remember many names or who they were, everyone she met got a hug and a warm ” I love you”. As soon as company left, she was ready for some more people to come over. She was a joy to everyone that met her.
You see previously, when she was living with her husband, lets call him Lew, she didn’t get 3 meals a day, have a bed to sleep in, have someone to help her take care of her bathroom issues( by this time she was entirely incontinent), have clean clothes or even have her medicine. No one ever visited. Instead of kindness or hugs, she was called stupid or dummy because she couldn’t remember how to take care of herself and Lew. She couldn’t cook, do laundry, bathe herself, dress herself properly, or make it to the bathroom on time. She would unintentionally wander off or forget how to get back in the house. Communicating was getting difficult for her. Instead of love and care, she got insulted and made to feel worthless and ashamed of herself. He wouldn’t hesitate to belittle her in public. Lew wouldn’t even give her the medicine the doctors prescribed for her because it cost him money and wouldn’t cure her anyway. Any money spent on her was a waste in Lew’s opinion. She was there to take care of him and when she couldn’t, she was an object of scorn. He would say to her, that she ruined his life by getting sick. He didn’t even pretend to love her.
Fortunately after moving to the sons home, she really began to come out of her shell. It took a while, but getting her medicine, 3 meals a day, a warm bed to sleep in, and a loving family environment, she began to improve greatly. She requires 24 hour care and a watchful eye. Physically, she gained weight after being malnourished and her other health problems were being addressed. Mentally is where the biggest gains came. She began to laugh, not be laughed at. Lorraine wasn’t ashamed of herself anymore and she became the funny gal again, laughing freely without any hesitation. Even if she didn’t understand the joke, she would still laugh. She began to smile very often and noticed the beautiful things in nature. Like a beaten puppy learning to play, she could be herself again, and come out of her protective shell.
For nearly a year she was with her son, while Lew was still at his place and things were okay. Okay until the suggestion was made that Lew could maybe help pay for some of Lorraine’s supplies. Now that the wife was caring for Lorraine fulltime, they were down to one income and things were tight. There are programs to assist, but Lew refused to fill out the needed paperwork. You see, Lew was spending all of his and her Social Security checks and her annuity. Lew takes good care of himself and it shows. It seemed like he couldn’t spend her money fast enough, but the thought of spending a penny on her was too much. He drove a brand new pickup, but had no money for a pair of shoes for Lorraine. On one of his weekend visits, he left with her and never returned. In fact, he refused to bring her back. Now she can’t get away. Back to no bed, malnutrition, not getting her medicine, no bathing or clean clothes, no one to help with her bathroom issues and no hugs or ” I love you’s”. Now she’s back to being the dummy and stupid, in a filthy home.
So why can’t she go back to the sons home? The legal device to abuse someone is called Power of Attorney (POA). Since Lorraine is legally incompetent because of her Alzheimers disease, Lew is her POA. Lorraine doesn’t have the right to speak or decide for herself. Someone incompetent is unable to communicate with legal authority about what he/she wants to do. The POA cant be forcibly removed from Lew until he’s declared legally incompetent. He even brags that no one can make him do anything. Seems like he is correct. She has said she wanted to return to the sons home and has even pleaded with a social worker that she needs help. Can you imagine the horror of begging for help and watching the Sheriffs car leave you behind? What do you think happened to her after that? Legally he had no choice. The Sheriff can’t remove her without immediate danger of injury or death. Malnourishment, verbal abuse, cruelty, filthy conditions, lack of medical care don’t count. There is no law against forcing someone to live in squalid conditions. You see in this case, Lew is the one the law protects. The “David Turpin” in this case is on the laws side and the abused person has no rights. Cruelty is sanctioned by our legal system.
Think of it this way, Charles Manson got 3 meals a day, a warm clean bed, clean clothes and any healthcare he needed. According to the law, because of the POA, sweet Lorraine has no right to the same treatment that Charles Manson got. The POA has no requirement to provide these things or care for her safety in any way. Its pretty hard to believe isn’t it? If she robbed a bank and went to jail, it would be a huge improvement for her. Any abuse in jail couldn’t be any more cruel than what she gets now from her own husband.
So who’s to blame? Why cant something be done? I will say this, people of authority are trying. They truly are, but this Power of Attorney system is messed up. Everyone needs a POA for very good reasons, but there needs to be some minimum standards acceptable by law. There has to be a limit to the amount of cruelty that the law can tolerate. Who can fix this? I just don’t know. I hate the idea of more laws, but the current care of Lorraine even violates the Geneva Convention standards of humane treatment, and the good people trying to help are blocked by POA rights.
I know many of you can’t believe that nothing can be done. So far that is the case. Mistreatment or abuse of a horse or any other animal will get you sent to jail, but an old person? Not so much. I have no doubt in my mind that Lorraine will die directly or indirectly from her treatment by her husband, if she won’t be allowed to leave. She may wander off, get sick from being so weak, or just die inside from hopelessness. In her generation this wouldn’t happen. Why are we allowing it in ours? Certainly Lorraine isn’t the only one in a POA prison. There may be thousands or more. I don’t have all the answers friends, but this is the most inhumane thing that I’ve ever witnessed. Won’t someone help free Lorraine? I’m asking for your prayers. Pray hard friends