Opinion

Tri-City Herald: One sad lesson teaches us to be better neighbors

The recent tale of the demise of an elderly Finley woman is heartbreaking.

And a reminder to us all to be mindful of our neighbors.

It’s hard to imagine how horrific an end 79-year-old Charlotte Roney met on a urine-soaked sofa inside the home she shared with her husband Bob for decades.

The Benton County coroner says Charlotte died the day after Christmas. Bob waited two days before he told anyone. He chose to tell his favorite checker at the Finley Shopper, someone he trusted. When authorities arrived they found Charlotte dead, covered in bed sores, her death most likely from starvation.

Many might blame Bob. But Bob himself is elderly; Charlotte had dementia. They reportedly had no close friends or relatives. Someday, any of us could end up in that situation through a twist of circumstance or misfortune. Navigating the web of social services is not easy when you’re old and in failing health.

Bob still had some grasp on the need to care for himself and Charlotte. He managed to drive to the Finley Shopper for groceries. Authorities are inclined to think Bob believed he was taking care of her.

It’s hard to blame anyone for what happened to Charlotte. Some folks likely had the opportunity to intervene, to push a little harder to make sure the couple was OK.

It didn’t help that the couple shunned most offers of help.

Long-time neighbors say they tried to respect the couple’s fierce independence even as they clearly became more secluded. They quit paying some bills, including garbage service, and the exterior of their home deteriorated. Charlotte apparently hadn’t been back to her physician in 11 months.

Maybe the doctor’s office reached out and Bob didn’t respond.

The second-guessing could go on and on, but this is not a blame game. It is is a wake-up call for us all. Looking back, we’re sure many in the community wish they had done more. Being a little more pushy or invasive than most of us are comfortable with might just save a life.

Make that visit or, if you want to be anonymous, call local police to conduct a welfare check. We all have a gut instinct that tells us when something is not right and we should trust that.

We believe we have a responsibility as community members to look out for our fellow man. That we had to be reminded of it in such a horrible manner is heart-wrenching. Please let Charlotte’s death be a lesson that could help someone else.

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