02nd September 2016

Mrs. P and Her Dog Bobby

I recently learned about Mrs. P, whose court case has just been reported. This lady had worked all her life, and owns her own home, together with good investments and a pension. Following two strokes, she now lives in a nursing home under a DoLS authorisation. The Court of Protection appointed as Deputy a local solicitor, who volunteered for the role, to explore how much money she had that could be used to improve her quality of life.

Mrs. P suffers from coeliac disease, and her money seemed ample to buy a wider range of gluten-free food than the care home provided; this was important since she was losing weight.

Before her second stroke, she had made it clear, too, that she loved to feel glamorous. Yet, due to nothing being done by her Deputy, none of her money was made available. Her diet was far less interesting than it might be, she was in ill-fitting clothes, and could not have her hair and nails done as she always had.

Shared Love and Devotion

The most important relationship in Mrs. P’s life is with her dog Bobby, described as the only living being with whom she shares any love or devotion. Her social worker wrote, ‘I would recommend that of single most importance in her life is her dog and having some form of contact with her dog in the future if possible.’

Money mysteriously missing

The judge found it ‘troubling’ (and said that this was an understatement) that £7000 had vanished from Mrs. P’s bank account, her credit card was in the red, and yet none of her money was being spent by the Deputy on improving her quality of life.

Brutal and Insensitive

He was particularly horrified to learn that the Deputy seemed to be ignoring the basic humanity of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA), by paying no attention at all to the wishes and feelings of Mrs. P.

The Deputy’s firm wrote: ‘In the absence of any factual information about Bobby, his owner or the home’s policy on animals, it would seem irresponsible in the extreme to suggest that a dog visits a care home for elderly and frail people.’ They also said, it was ‘unrealistic to expect the lady to bring the dog to [the Nursing Home].’

Dismissing that Deputy, the judge commented on how brutal and insensitive that response was, to completely ignore the love this isolated lady feels for Bobby. The importance of animals to those with (or, for that matter, without) dementia or other conditions can be enormous. Indeed, some describe it as “animal-assisted therapy.” Bobby was given away when Mrs. P moved into residential care.  Yet the relationship with a pet can make people happier and reduce so-called “behaviour that challenges.”

I don’t know how Mrs. P and Bobby can maintain their loving relationship: but I do hope that the nursing home and the new Deputy will do all they can to make it happen.

 

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Rachel Griffiths

Mental Capacity and Human Rights Specialist

Rachel has huge experience and knowledge in the area of Mental Capacity, including how to recognise deprivation of liberty, when and how to assess capacity and how to go about making decisions in someone’s best interests. She is nationally recognised as a leading voice with regards to Mental Capacity, and is involved with setting the agenda as well as providing advice and information about Mental Capacity. The information, guidance and support that Rachel provides helps to ensure that the way people work is within the law and recognises that the person using services is always at the centre of any decisions made. Read more

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