As she battled Alzheimer’s, Anaru’s mum should have been safe with her carer.
Here, Anaru, 44, tells the story in his own words.
￼Growing up knowing we were adopted, there were times my sister Rochelle and I couldn’t help but feel like we weren’t wanted. Otherwise, why would our birth parents have given us up? But our mum, Susan, would pull us into a big hug. ‘We wanted you,’ she’d say to us. ‘We chose you.’
My dad, Owen, passed away when I was nine so Mum showered us with enough love for the both of them. Every day we sat down to dinner together and she always cheered us on at our sports games. Later, she became a minister at our local church, where she knew the whole community. Even after I moved 300 kilometres away, we chatted constantly.
One day, a friend told me that Mum, then 73, had forgotten where she’d parked her car. Eventually, she’d had to call the police to help her find it. Going to stay with her for a couple of weeks, I noticed other things. Mum put milk in the cupboard and left the stove on. Rochelle took her to the doctor and Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The progressive disease would worsen over a number of years, destroying her memory and other mental functions. It was heartbreaking. In time, Mum stopped cooking and driving, and gave up work. Someone from an agency went in every day to provide care and Rochelle had power of attorney. We talked a lot about where she should live long-term. ‘I’d like to stay at home,’ Mum said.
One day, Rochelle phoned. ‘I’ve got someone to care for Mum,’ she said. Mark Clement was a new friend. ‘His mum had dementia and he looked after her at the end of her life,’ Rochelle explained. I wasn’t sure about a man helping Mum with the most intimate care. ‘He’s a good guy,’ Rochelle reassured me. So Mark moved into Mum’s. I still spoke to her on the phone, but she often didn’t remember who I was. Worried, my partner Di and I moved with our kids to be nearer to Mum. Meeting Mark for the first time, I got a funny feeling. Even though Mum didn’t always know who we were, she still engaged with us warmly. But when Mark was around, she became withdrawn. ‘I don’t like him,’ I told Di.
Then one day, we were having a family barbecue when Di came rushing up. ‘I’ve just heard Mark speaking really rudely to your mum,’ she said. Confronting him, I asked what had happened.‘I’m really sorry,’ he said. ‘She keeps moving things around and I didn’t want her to mess up your house.’ ‘She’s my mum and she can do what she wants to my house,’ I told him.
A few weeks later, we all got together again when someone told me they’d seen Mark throw a newspaper at Mum.‘Don’t ever do that again!’ I said.I was furious. She was 80 and vulnerable. How dare he?‘I don’t want him looking after her,’ I told Rochelle. But before we’d had a chance to arrange alternative care, Rochelle phoned. ‘Mark’s just called me,’ she began. ‘He said we might have heard some abuse go live on Facebook, but that someone hacked his phone.’ The clip had since been deleted, so I headed out to see Mum. Then someone in Mark’s family called me. ‘It’s disgusting abuse,’ she warned me. ‘I just wanted to let you know we made a recording as evidence.’
By then, I realised Mum would be safely at her dementia day care, so I went to the police station instead. They’d already received a number of calls from people who’d watched the clip. After checking Mum was safe, they arrested Mark. Back home, I sat down to listen to it. Mark’s phone had been in his pocket at the time, so I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him helping Mum to get changed. For five horrifying minutes, he screamed and swore at my precious mum, calling her awful names and threatening her. ‘Get up and get undressed,’ he shouted. ‘Hang on,’ Mum whimpered. ‘Get a move on,’ he yelled. ‘I’m going to smash you.’ Tears rolled down my cheeks as I imagined what Mum had gone through. That monster had been caring for her for 18 months. I was so angry and so sad. ‘He’s gone now,’ I told her. ‘You’re okay now.’
In January this year, Mark Anthony Clement, 47, appeared at Masterton District Court and pleaded guilty to ill-treatment of a vulnerable adult. The court heard that on September 12, 2017, he’d accidentally turned on the Facebook live-stream feature on his phone and audio of the abuse was broadcast live on the internet. He was sentenced to three and a half months community detention and 100 hours community work. I read out a victim impact statement.‘She deserved your respect, patience, understanding and authentic care, but what she got was unfounded and deeply disturbing,’ I said. Clement had also manipulated and deceived Rochelle. She’d trusted him. But it wasn’t her fault. Rochelle has now moved in to care for Mum, to look after her the way she deserves. And we will continue to shower her with love, like she did for us.
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