How far would you go to help an senior in need? While some might help them across the road or carry their groceries, for example, others might take them meals or simply sit with them just to keep them company. However, when one kindly woman spotted an elderly neighbor in apparent distress, her desire to help out went so much further.
For 21 years, Lucy Ashen has lived in the same area of London, England. And in time, and having garnered an extensive familiarity with her neighborhood over two decades, one older woman living nearby would frequently catch her attention. Ashen was aware that there was no one to care for her – and so she wanted to help.
As Ashen later wrote on Facebook, “I have lived in Fulham all my life, and I’ve been in the part I am now for 21 years… and I have an elderly neighbor. She lives on her own in a one-bedroom flat and she has mental health issues.”
The 39-year-old mother-of-three had attempted to offer assistance to the lady more than once. But the woman, who is in her 70s, was having none of it. For one, she wasn’t prone to letting people into her home all that easily.
However, Ashen persisted, knowing that the woman lived in less-than-ideal conditions. Eventually, then, she earned her trust and the woman let her in. It was then that Ashen discovered how the elderly woman had been existing – and what she saw absolutely horrified her.
Indeed, the conditions the woman had been living in were horrendous. Grime, dirt and filth covered every floor and surface. There was no food in the kitchen, and the woman’s clothes were dirty and torn. And worst of all, perhaps, the woman hadn’t bathed in more than a decade.
“What I saw when she finally let me in will stay with me forever,” Ashen wrote on Facebook. “It was heartbreaking. This elderly lady was living in horrific filth and squalor. There was no food, filthy clothes, nobody to help her bathe and just never-ending loneliness and despair.”
At this point, many people might have turned and walked away, but Ashen knew she had to help. Consequently, she would spend the next few days thoroughly cleaning the apartment. With such a monumental task ahead, though, she knew she couldn’t do it alone.
So Ashen turned to Facebook. While she had initially only asked her family and friends if they had any unwanted items in need of a new home, she was stunned by what happened next. Her post was subsequently shared more than 400 times, and offers of donations came in from as far afield as Thailand and New Zealand.
Consequently, Ashen completely emptied the apartment of all the squalid items. Indeed, she said, “Without thinking, I gutted her house! I mean everything went, down to the toilet seat.” Ashen’s 14-year-old daughter, meanwhile, even stepped in to help, keeping “Her Lady,” as they nicknamed her, company while Ashen was cleaning.
The further into the apartment Ashen got, however, the more she realized just what Her Lady had been living like for an unknown number of years. Her Lady informed her, for example, that her TV was broken and that she had sat in her room in silence for four long years.
Then, upon speaking to local authorities about Her Lady’s situation, Ashen was shocked to discover a catalog of problems that had gone unaddressed. Among those was an issue which caused the power in the apartment to keep tripping out – subsequently, an inspection was carried out by an electrician, with faulty wiring found to be responsible.
After a total of around 60 hours of cleaning over a week and a half, then, Ashen had finally made the apartment habitable. Only then was she able to appreciate the generosity of those around the world who were willing to help. In fact, everything from a sofa and bed down to clothes and food had been donated – 80 per cent of it within just a day.
Ashen subsequently wrote, “I can’t put into words how grateful I am… I couldn’t stop bursting into tears! The outpouring of love and kindness shown here has just been overwhelming and just amazing.” She was also able to set in motion the care that Her Lady so desperately needed.
Because of Her Lady’s mental health issues, Ashen continually needed to reassure her what she was doing and why. Whenever anybody needed to enter the apartment, such as a plumber or electrician, then, Ashen took the time to prepare the elderly woman for their arrival and introduced them when they entered.
But perhaps the one thing Her Lady was in need of more than anything was the best gift Ashen could have given her – a friend. Indeed, for years the old lady had been without anyone’s company, a situation that was possibly contributing to her mental state and to her living conditions spiraling out of control.
Ashen later wrote that thanks to the generosity of complete strangers from around the world, “I have been able to turn her house into a home. 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.”
After bathing Her Lady for the first time in 13 years, moreover, the pair were dancing around the living room, such is Her Lady’s love of music. Then, after a week of cleaning, Ashen took Her Lady out for a pub lunch, with many locals surprised to see her after so long.
What’s more, Ashen doesn’t intend to turn her back on Her Lady when the job is done. Having noticed a marked improvement in Her Lady’s mental health since her visits began, Ashen set up a GoFundMe page for donations to take Her Lady on day trips, with the target subsequently being reached within a fortnight.
And while she is frustrated at a society and establishment that seems to turn their back on those in need and let them fall through the cracks in the system, Ashen isn’t about to do the same. As she explained on the GoFundMe page, “I want to fill her years with love, laughter and happiness, because God knows she has had so many without it. We may have changed her life, but now I want her to live!”