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Ten years ago, Wanda Maddocks had a fleeting conversation with her father, John, who was then 70, fit and sprightly. At the time, she didn’t think much of it. Today, she can’t get his words out of her mind.
‘He said his idea of hell would be to end up in a home, and he made me and my brothers promise we wouldn’t put him in one,’ she says.
‘I remember him saying: “If it ever comes to that — give me a gun and I’ll shoot myself.”
At that, the 50-year-old businesswoman starts to cry. A decade on, with her father sadly dead after spending his last years in a succession of care homes — each, claims his daughter, more dismal than the last — Wanda feels she failed him.
In fact, she fought for him like a tigress — and paid an extraordinary price for doing so.
For this week, it emerged that Wanda was the first person in Britain to be secretly jailed by the Court of Protection, which settles the affairs of those deemed too ill to make their own decisions.
Her crime? Officially, contempt of court, for repeatedly breaking orders not to interfere with her father’s life at his care home.
She describes it as being incarcerated for an act of compassion towards the father she loved. She was, she says, simply trying to keep a solemn promise to him to keep him out of the care homes which so terrified him.
Her reward? She was subjected to a gruelling, secret legal battle, at the end of which she was thrown into a prison van, forbidden from speaking to a solicitor and sent to Foston Hall women’s prison in Derby — which once housed Maxine Carr, girlfriend of Soham killer, Ian Huntley.
For six terrifying weeks she found herself locked up alongside murderers and drug addicts.
‘Most of the inmates were serial offenders. Most were on drugs. They’d queue up for their methadone every day. I was a fish out of water, to say the least,’ she says.
‘I got myself into trouble when I said to one of the inmates: “I’m so glad I don’t have to share a room with anyone. Imagine if you ended up sharing with a murderer.” She replied: “I am a murderer”.’
In the bitterest irony of all, Wanda believes her incarceration was all for nothing and that her father’s worst fears came true. She claims he was so neglected by care home staff that he died of starvation within weeks of moving into one residence. ‘He died in their care. As far as I’m concerned, they killed him. The word they used on his death certificate was “inanition”. I had to look it up, but it basically means starvation,’ she says.
She also says her father’s body was covered in bruise-like marks, which the coroner failed to explain at the inquest.
Wanda is telling her story from a beautiful rooftop terrace in the town of Fethiye in southern Turkey, where she used to live and still visits regularly.
She says the battle over her father’s care started innocuously enough in 2009, when Mr Maddocks, who had worked as a decorator in Stoke, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
While Wanda was living in Turkey and running a property business, her three brothers, Ivan, 55, Wayne, 54, and Eden, 49, lived near their father and visited regularly.
When the family was told their father was going to get some help from social services — who were already delivering meals on wheels to the house where he lived alone — they welcomed the news.
It was only when she travelled to the UK that Wanda realised that social services were not providing the basic level of care she says any elderly person should have the right to expect.
‘I opened Dad’s cupboards and there was nothing there. It turned out that social services were bringing him only frozen meals. But he didn’t even have a freezer, so they were still in a little container inside ice-packs.
‘He had a microwave, but never turned it on — he had developed a phobia about things like that, part of the OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] that went with his Alzheimer’s. ‘I asked: “Dad, can you show me how you heat these things up?” And he couldn’t. To this day, I don’t know if he was eating them frozen. Or just not eating them.’
Furious, she contacted social services to complain.
‘My issue was that he was paying for this “care”. The bill was £1,700 for four months of meals he couldn’t eat. It was a lot of money — it’s not as if they bathed him or helped him at home. Some days they didn’t come at all.’
Confident her complaint would improve the standard of her father’s care, Wanda returned to Turkey. But within weeks, her father was struck down by a bout of TB.
As a result, Mr Maddocks spent several months in hospital. He could not return home, so was discharged into his first care home nearby.
‘He was sent there to recuperate,’ says Wanda. ‘It was sold to us as a temporary solution — to prevent him from taking up a hospital bed.’
For her part, Wanda was terrified the authorities — who’d failed even to feed her father properly — were now wholly responsible for all his care.
While she acknowledged that the care she and her brothers provided for their father wasn’t perfect — her brothers lived busy lives and couldn’t devote as much time to their ailing father as he needed, while she was often away in Turkey — she was convinced that he would be happier and healthier in his own house than in a care home.
‘Dad told us later that he thought about killing himself in there. It was an awful place for him to be.
‘His Alzheimer’s wasn’t too bad at that stage, but the place was full of people who were much further down the road. There were old people in cots, curled up in the foetal position.’
So two months later, Mr Maddocks was moved to another residential home close by. It was a privately-run home, but again, he was miserable and repeatedly tried to escape, getting on a bus and even changing his clothes in order to disguise himself.
‘They said he was aggressive, which is just not true. My dad was the meekest, most passive person ever.
‘They claim he put his fists up when they were trying to stop him escaping. That, apparently, made him a threat to himself, and others.’
Wanda was desperate to bring her father home, where she hoped to look after him herself, with the help of a full-time carer paid for privately. But she found she couldn’t have any influence over her father’s care without getting power of attorney over his affairs. This, however, proved easier said than done. ‘I spoke to endless lawyers. Some said it was too specialised for them. One guy wanted £15,000 in fees. We were on our own.’
Yet another transfer, to another local care home, followed in November 2010. It had a ‘fancy cinema’, but Mr Maddocks hated it just as much as the other homes.
‘He was depressed there. He wouldn’t eat,’ says Wanda.
Desperate to help him build up his strength, Wanda brought him some vitamin B complex tablets, which she had read were helpful for Alzheimer’s sufferers. This, she says, sparked ‘another battle in the war’.
‘I was made to feel like I’d “sneaked” drugs into my father. I would never do that. I gave them to the nurse and it was all above board. But that was it. After that I couldn’t be with my father unsupervised.’
Wanda says the breaking point came when she visited her father on Christmas Day but was allowed only one hour with him, supervised by staff.
‘Dad begged: “Can I not have some time alone with my daughter?” But they wouldn’t allow it.
‘I went home and cried, and called my brothers. They were furious.’
The family began to hatch a plan to get their father away. On Boxing Day, Wanda’s brothers went to the home, got him out of the fire door, took him for a meal, then called Wanda.
‘I told them to bring him to me and I would take him to Turkey.’
Despite the awful chain of events this action sparked, Wanda says she has no regrets. She claims her father’s health flourished during this time and he — ‘the man the authorities seemed to think was some sort of vegetable’ — was walking miles every day and eating hearty meals.
‘It was proof to me that his medical condition wasn’t as acute as they claimed. They had him down as some sort of vegetable. That simply wasn’t the case.
‘When we visited him in care, he was lethargic and depressed. I’m sure he was drugged up for a lot of it. But here, he was free, he was Dad again.’
Indeed, if Wanda has any regrets, it was that she took him back to the UK again 13 weeks later, in order to access his pension. ‘Maybe I was naïve, but he was doing so well then that he wanted to move to Turkey for good. But to do that he would need money. He’d need to sell the house. I was supporting him, but it was unsustainable.
‘He was receiving a pension of £250 a week, which we tried to access from Turkey but couldn’t. We flew back to sort it out — on Valentine’s Day in 2011 — only to find his money had been frozen. Then the whole Court of Protection thing started. It just all went . . . wrong.’
The controversial Court was set up to safeguard vulnerable individuals. Here, Wanda says, it was blatantly misused to bully her family.
‘We were basically told that if we did not adhere to whatever decisions the Court made, we could be jailed and our assets seized.’
With terrible timing, Wanda herself then fell ill with bronchitis and couldn’t look after her father alone.
‘I buckled, and phoned social services and asked for him to go into care, just for a few weeks, to help me get things organised.
‘They said they would help us. They did not. They used the situation against us,’ says Wanda, weeping.
So in March 2011, Mr Maddocks ended up in his third local care home. ‘He went in for two weeks and was still there two years later,’ Wanda says, bitterly. ‘They went back on everything they said.’
This was the beginning of an incredible secret legal battle, which saw Wanda attend more than 20 court hearings and be subjected to various psychiatric evaluations.
While we can’t report any of the details of these proceedings, Wanda’s experiences outside the courtroom make for compelling reading.
‘Some of it was farcical. During one of my own meetings with the psychiatrist, I’d had a chocolate bar and a pie, and I was made to feel I wasn’t capable of cooking healthy foods,’ she says.
‘Were they kidding? The pie was lunch — grabbed because I only had a few minutes to dash to the nearest place that sold food.’
Wanda and her siblings became increasingly convinced that, for the authorities, this was an open-and-shut case — their father would remain in care, no matter how hard they fought.
‘I was made to feel like I didn’t understand how ill my father was. My brother was hauled over the coals for trying to get Dad into court so the judge could see for himself that he was lucid. They kept depicting him as this vegetable.’
‘All we ever wanted was to care for Dad. They told us we couldn’t and threw me in jail for trying.’
When Wanda was ordered to appear for one court session, she simply didn’t turn up, sending a sick note.
That did not impress the judge, who ordered a custodial sentence after hearing that she had repeatedly broken orders not to interfere with her father’s care at the home.
Her brother, Ivan, was also sentenced for defying the Court of Protection, although his two-month sentence was suspended.
The next time she went to visit her father was September 11, the anniversary of the collapse of the Twin Towers. ‘My whole world came down on that day, too,’ she says.
‘The police came in a van and said they had to take me there and then. I wondered if I was in a dream because, surely, these things don’t happen to people like me, not in real life.’
She’s right. They don’t. The reaction of the first prison officer Wanda encountered was proof of that.
‘She looked through the paperwork and the first thing she said was: “There is something wrong here”.
‘She kept saying that I couldn’t have just been put in prison, I’d have had to come here from court. She also couldn’t believe that I’d been imprisoned without having a solicitor.’
Yet she could, and was. The ramifications are staggering.
‘The other inmates just didn’t believe me. They thought I was a fantasist, or that I’d done something so awful I was lying about it.’
For a middle-class businesswoman, who had never been in trouble with the law, prison was a terrible shock. Far worse was the fact that the case was conducted in such extreme secrecy.
‘I wanted to go to the press and say: “Look at what is happening here. Look at what they can do.” But I couldn’t.’
She says she was treated more harshly than violent prisoners.
‘All the others got to go to classes and other recreational events. Instead, they put me in a cell with one of those slits where the metal slides over the door hatch.’
No one told John Maddocks that his daughter — who had always phoned him twice a week in recent years — was in jail.
‘He would have been so confused. I did phone him from prison once, to try to explain, but to be honest I don’t think he took it in.
‘When I got out and went to see him, I’ll never forget what he said: “You don’t bother about me for weeks, then you just turn up . . .” and he walked out of the room.
‘I could see the hurt in his eyes. I tried to explain, saying: “Dad, I’ve been in prison.” But I was told that I couldn’t talk about that.’ John Maddocks died on January 8, 2013, just weeks after being moved to yet another residential home in December 2012.
While authorities insist that he was well cared for and saw a GP and other medical professionals on five separate occasions in the weeks leading up to his death, nothing will convince his daughter that his death was unavoidable.
Wanda sighs. ‘I can’t help but think that if I’d kept him here, he would still be alive today.’
She watches an old woman on the steps below. ‘Do you know, in Turkey, they don’t even know what a care plan is. I tried to tell a friend here about getting power of attorney over my Dad and they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
Here, they don’t have care homes. Old folk move in with their children, and stay there until they die. I can’t help but think they have got the right idea, but it is too late.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...g-neglect.html
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