– Poster from The World Health Organization's Global Campaign For Violence Protection
Trips to the Land Registries in Dublin and Waterford revealed that Ethan used different names to register the Finglas and Bray properties. Saoirse was much relieved to learn that Dolores and Ronan still possessed ownership of their homes.
Elder Abuse Services had been Saoirse's best hope, and that hope was getting dimmer with every passing day of inaction by them. Ethan's efforts at isolating and controlling Dolores' life were continuing unabated, and were in fact accelerating. Geoffrey Blair was unresponsive to Saoirse's requests for a family meeting.
Saoirse was unaware of Public Health Nurse Gwen Porter's Referral of Suspected Elder Abuse given to Geoffrey Blair at the end of January. Saoirse was unaware of a number of things surrounding Dolores that happened in February. We will see some of that information presented here.
On Sunday, 14 February, Conor emails Saoirse with some advice in response to Saoirse's email in January that the HSE has received a letter from “Dolores” saying she does not want her children to visit her:
If she has done a full letter then someone else must have typed it for her. HSE should be told details of mom's solicitors so they can verify with them what the story is.
At least that way the lawyers will see the broader picture.
This is a pattern we will see again. And again. Several of Saoirse's brothers will be quick to tell Saoirse what to do, what must be done, and the way to do it, but very slow to do it themselves. Why Conor did not himself send that information to Geoffrey Blair and Damian Brass, or at least copy this email to them we don't know. Saoirse responds:
Do you know anything about this power of attorney thing? Do you know if Mom and dad's solicitor notified the two parties and seems to be unclear re: when and where the remaining family members are to be notified. Seems to be vague. Suspect they have to be (among three of Ethan's associates named here)? Not sure though. Still digging.
Conor did not reply.
Saoirse called Dolores' only brother, Dominic, and outlined her concerns for Dolores. She learns that Dominic has found it almost impossible to reach Dolores. He hasn't seen her in a year. He is going to try to arrange to see her the following week. They exchanged email addresses, and Saoirse sent this to him, also on 14 February:
I'm sorry to have not rung with great news. But I've been worried sick about mom and am looking to all the ways I can try and help her. Everywhere I turn the doors seem to close and in my heart of hearts I really believe mom is being kept a prisoner by Ethan and not allowed visit with family or talk freely. I believe he likely monitors her up in Dublin via computer.
I'll fill you in further once we've confirmed emails are working okay and my fingers are crossed the weather will be good this week.
Best wishes to you and Aunty Saoirse.
Surprisingly, Dominic was able to reach Dolores by phone shortly after this:
I have telephoned Dolores to say I would go down on Thursday but she says she is going to the clinic that day.I will go the following Thursday depending on the weather.
I asked her if she had been in Dublin since Christmas and she says she doesn't think so.She says she saw Alex when he was over but she didn't say when or where.
I will phone her again next Monday.
Of course we know that Dolores had been in Dublin at Ethan's house a lot since Christmas. Yet she felt the need to hide this from her brother. Saoirse was surprised at Dominic's report that Dolores had told him she had seen Alex at Christmas and sent Dominic documentation about the events shown in A Christmas Story, including Alex's own account of not seeing his Mom.
Her Uncle responds to this information on Wednesday, 17 February:
I was quite taken aback by your email. I had suspicions that all might not be great down there but from what you say we are back to the situation as it was before they left Dublin. I cannot understand why she puts up with it. She was warned when they went down to Rosslare to keep him at a distance. I will have to be quite blunt with her when I see her.
The card to Alex is very obviously a forgery.I would know Dolores's writing at a glance, but I didn't recognise that. Ethan is a very troubled person who will not admit or seek help. I wonder does D think she is helping or supporting him by submitting to his every whim.
You say Ronan was answering her phone.Where does he stand in this or is he being made a tool of Ethan's?
Feel free to phone at any time. I haven't got your number.Perhaps you would let me have it.
“…we are back to the situation as it was before they left Dublin. Indeed. Another confirmation that the abuse is nothing new.”
So corroboration at this time has come from:
- Deanna & Mark Braveheart
- PHN Gwen Porter
- Dolores' brother Dominic
Senior Elder Abuse Case Worker Geoffrey Blair is aware of at least the first three at this time.
Friday, 19 February was a pivotal date in Dolores' life, and in Saoirse's attempt to help her. That is the day the HSE formally decided to step back and take a “wait and see” stance in Dolores' case, leading to closing it after a time.
There are three types of meetings that may be held in response to allegations of Elder Abuse:
- A Case Meeting – This involves the Elder Abuse Senior Case Worker meeting with other professionals.
- A Case Conference – This involves the Elder Abuse SCW meeting with other professionals and family members.
- A Family Meeting – This involves the Elder Abuse SCW meeting with family members.
A Case Meeting was held on Friday, 17 February with The Vulnerable Adult Monitoring Team, or VAMT, during which Dolores' case was discussed. According to the HSE, the VAMT is composed of:
- The Designated Person for each care group, in this case Geoffrey Blair
- Area Coordinator for Disability Services
- Area Coordinator for Older Persons
- Director of Public Health Nursing
- Nurse Manager from Mental Health Services
- Principal Psychologist from Community & Mental Health Services
We believe this meeting was held at St Senan's Psychiatric Hospital in Enniscorthy, which was built in the 1860's.
In 2010, this hospital was judged as “dilapidated, depressing and not fit for human habitation.”
It has been decided to wind it down by 2013. Although St Senan's has held as many as 500 patients, there are currently less than 50 patients there now.
More about St Senan's here, here, and here.
St. Sennan's update 23 Nov 2012: Sadly, has gone from bad to worse: Inspectors criticise 'appalling' psychiatric unit
Of course that 2010 report on St Senan's was only describing conditions for the patients. We sincerely hope that Geoffrey Blair and the other HSE employees who have offices there have decent, well–lit offices with at least the minimum of equipment to do their work. We know that Geoffrey had access to a copy machine, but no way to scan documents during this time; hopefully that has changed.
The Vulnerable Adult Monitoring Team's role is defined like this:
- To oversee and review the process for the management of allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults in WLHO area
- Review cases to ensure the vulnerable adult receives appropriate support
- Review cases presented for discussion by the Designated Person
- Determination of the roles and responsibilities of the various professionals involved in the management of the case where 2 care groups involved
- Review the outcome of cases presented before closure
- Monitor and evaluate the work of the team including referral trends
Access to records of this meeting have as of yet not been forthcoming. Nonetheless, a few things are known. Geoffrey Blair, the Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing, and the Area Coodinator for Older Persons attended the meeting. We are unsure if others were there.
We know at least some of the decisions made at this meeting, decisions that were based on the letters received from “Dolores” and Dolores' comments to Geoffrey Blair on 17 December 2009, and to PHN Jackman on 04 February 2010:
- Although Dolores had only been contacted once (on 17 December) there was to be no further contact from Elder Abuse Services.
- The Public Health Nurses were not to increase their visits.
- “Monitoring” was to be put in place.
- Dolores' case would be reviewed from time to time, with a view of closing her case.
- A Family Meeting would be set up
We are not sure what the “Monitoring” that was put in place consisted of. We are sure of this: The “Monitoring” was ineffective. Geoffrey Blair would remain unaware of important and disturbing events that transpired from this time up to and including Dolores' admission to Wexford General on 26 September 2010.
PHN Jackman was informed of the meeting the same day by the Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing. The ADPHN told her if any concerns arose to contact her Line Manager. Concerns would arise, and PHN Helen Jackman would indeed contact her line manager and Geoffrey Blair with her concerns. By then, it would be too late.
Saoirse received the news that afternoon:
I reviewed the case with the coordinator of services for older people, who is also my line manager, and a assistant director for Public Health Nursing. We have decided that I don't make further contact with your mother or services like the day centre at the moment.
First of all we have to respect your mother's wishes and she made those very clear to Helen Jackman.
Secondly, there is a risk your mother will withdraw from services if we push it further. She seems to enjoy the day centre and is building up some trust with staff. It would be a great loss if she stopped going.
I should be free Monday morning until 11am if you have a chance to talk.
We make note that Geoffrey Blair made no mention of the decision to seek a family meeting.
And why would the HSE consider that further contact would jeopardise Dolores' use of Home Care or the Day Centre in Tagoat? There is no indication that Dolores ever mentioned withdrawing from services. She was in fact very happy with the HCA and especially the Day Centre, where she created her paintings.
Perhaps they saw an implied threat from “Dolores'” 31 December letter to them. The letter had this line in it:
Needless to say, learning that Dolores had become a very low priority for Elder Abuse shocked Saoirse. When asked to describe the effect of hearing this news, Saoirse provided some of her writing from that time. Here is an excerpt:
I guess I'm feeling sadder and sadder because it's time he's not allowing me. I can come so far with mom and now can't get there, sometimes I grab another peek. There are so many stories I'd love to hear, I love to hear the delight in her voice, the impishness. It reminds me of her true spirit that often has been locked away from us. I love to see it out there and her enjoying such simple things.
He steals all of that from her. Her chance to giggle, laugh and have those moments of freedom. I know I can't save her. I know the system also won't allow that and if I could pick her up and remove her from it all I would. How a system cannot protect her I just don't know. It seems so cruel and harsh. And yet there's a gentleness when they send aid to Haiti or abroad elsewhere. But what of the Irish in Ireland? I just don't get it.
Every week that passes scares me. Because it means I'm no closer to bringing light to this nightmare. I understand the others letting go etc. and I know I'm just in a low point at the moment. But someone has to be in Mom's corner. I just can't imagine what she must be feeling herself. How does she cope with all of this? How does she continue on? How does she reconcile all of his actions against our caring, our need to spend time with her? How does she allow that to not be? I know the price is hard physically and mentally and perhaps that's it. It's that she's older now and just doesn't have the energy to fight anymore.
I don't think he'd be there if she needed caring for. I'd be surprised, and shit that's the last person I'd like around me when I was not feeling well. I'd feel sicker with him there. Just venting, so I can get this out of me and help relieve the sadness. He doesn't feel that. He doesn't even know what sadness is, does he? He just can't feel. Now I wonder what that feels like.
It is so strange to see it all, so much about him. 35. I can't believe it. Seems like he's stuck in a 12 year old mind, actually much younger. Give me the strength here somehow!! Don't let him do this to mom because Ronan is next.
Three days later, on Monday, 20 February, at 11:45am Ethan was added to Dolores' Eircom telephone account. On 13 September, about two weeks before Dolores' final admission to Wexford General, Ethan would order Eircom to change Dolores' number on this line. To our knowledge no one was informed of Dolores' new number, and it is uncertain if she was aware it had been changed. He would shortly afterwards order Eircom to disconnect Dolores' line altogether.
During PHN Porter's first visit there is a note about ordering a “Panic Button.” Subsequently, PHN Helen Jackman's first visit notes that Dolores has a “Personal Alarm” in use. It is also known as a “Social Monitoring Alarm.” These alarms are often provided to seniors by the HSE.
They are very useful and effective. This short video explains how Dolores' unit operated. They have a backup power supply in case of a power failure.
However – and in Dolores' circumstances, this is a huge however – they cannot work if the phone line is disconnected or not working.
Anytime that phone switch by Dolores' door was turned off, the alarm was dead. PHN Jackman, during that same visit noted “Landline not in use. Phone disconnected." She did not connect the two.
[Editor's note: The only thing wrong with Dolores' phone was Ethan's control of it. We remind the reader that during this visit PHN Jackman was also told that all of Dolores' children lived abroad, with the exception of Ethan.
There was a least one instance where we believe this alarm saved Dolores' life. She wasn't sick. Nor had she accidently gotten hurt in any way. We will report on this in due time. ]
We are in receipt of quite a bit of information about Dolores' use of this alarm, and are seeking more. Dolores would use this alarm quite often and with increasing frequency as her last year went by, matching the increasing abuse and isolation she was suffering from Ethan. The calls started in June of 2009. During the timeframe of A Winter's Tale and beyond they increased in frequency. She would make these calls sometimes as often as three times a day. She initiated these calls to the response centre not for emergencies, but for reassurance.
This is how the monitoring company explained it:
It has been painful to see the PHN's report that Dolores was depressed, and painful to hear neighbours describe her as very lonely. It is heart wrenching to see the record of reassurance calls that put a focus on just how lonely and isolated she became through Ethan's efforts.
Ethan got rid of Dolores' Social Monitoring System sometime between 23 September and 16 October 2010 during the time he was “sanitising” the house and trying to hide and destroy evidence. There was no indication that such a system existed in Dolores' house when Geoffrey Blair, Damian Brass, Nathaniel and Saoirse entered Dolores' house during the afternoon of 4 November, 2010.
Dolores' beloved brother Dominic failed in his attempts to see her in February.
Of course, Saoirse's final attempt to interest Damian Brass in a letter to him at the end of February was met with silence.
The end of February seemed very, very bleak to Saoirse. It felt like door after door had been slammed in her face. And now Dolores had less than eight months before the events of the weekend of 25 September would rain down on her.
[Editor's note: As always, we seek and encourage anyone with knowledge of Dolores' life and/or the events presented here to contribute to this site. Memories, anecdotes, photos and documents are more than welcome. Clarification, correction and alternative views are encouraged and welcomed. Submissions ]