Suzanne Hooper, 59, from Middlesex, tells her story...
I knew my mum Marjorie’s memory was failing. At 91, she’d become very forgetful.
‘It’s just old age,’ I told my partner John, 64.
Mum lived alone, so I’d often pop round for a chat and make sure she was OK.
Only, in 2013, she had a hip op, became less mobile. Her memory seemed to deteriorate, too.
‘Where’s Sylvia?’ she said one day. ‘She went out for a paper and hasn’t come home yet.’
My heart sank.
Sadly, my older sister Sylvia, 62, had passed away a few months earlier.
‘We need to get Mum some home help,’ I told John.
I spoke to my other sister Madeleine and she agreed.
We didn’t want to move Mum out of her home, so we arranged for council-funded carers to go in several times a day.
They’d go in to help her wash and dress, take her medication, visit at meal times, and again in the evening.
At first it put my mind at ease, knowing Mum was being looked after.
I’d still pop round after work. Only, I began to worry Mum wasn’t getting the right care.
Her records would say things had been done, yet I wasn’t convinced.
Mum would look unwashed, clothes crumpled.
‘I’m not happy,’ I told John.
I was so worried about my dear old mum. And I’d read horror stories in the news about cruel carers.
No-one was physically abusing Mum, but I wondered if they were doing their job properly.
I’d also heard about carers being caught up to no good on camera.
‘Why don’t we put a camera in?’ I asked Madeleine.
Just as concerned, she agreed.
Luckily, I had a friend who specialised in installing recording equipment.
‘I’ll help,’ he offered.
So, in spring 2015, he installed a video camera in Mum’s front room, for me.
It was next to the TV, angled towards the table.
After work, I’d pop over, flick through the footage.
There was hours of recording, so I couldn’t do it every day. But I’d check it randomly.
One evening, in July 2015, I started playing the tape after settling Mum in for the night.
On the screen, a female carer came in, sat down in the front room, with Mum at the table.
She started talking to Mum, doing some paperwork.
Mum’s handbag was under the chair next to the carer. Only, then the woman stuck her leg out, dragged the bag towards her.
Next, I watched horrified as she expertly put on latex gloves – and started rooting around Mum’s bag, pulled out her purse.
My poor, vulnerable, trusting mum, 93, sat chatting, mere feet away, none the wiser as the carer opened her purse, pulled out a handful of notes and stuffed them in her pocket.
Then she carried on, like she’d done nothing wrong.
Sickened, I rewound the tape, watched again.
She took less than a minute to carry out the theft as Mum looked on, oblivious.
Anger pulsed through me.
‘How dare she!’ I roared.
I raced home, e-mailed the footage to Madeleine, then phoned her.
‘Watch this,’ I raged.
‘Call the police, now,’ Madeleine cried, outraged.
The police came, took our video footage and launched an investigation.
We found out the carer was called Sara Hodge. She’d been a long-term carer for Mum, we’d trusted her.
It took a few weeks to track her down, but she was arrested, charged with theft.
But I was still furious.
Even in old age, battling dementia, Mum was a proud woman, still had someone come and do her hair once a week. The money that woman stole was to pay for Mum’s lunch and her hair.
While we waited for an update from police, I’d lost all faith in the care system.
‘I don’t trust any of them,’ I said to John.
In the end, John and I moved in with Mum.
We still needed help, as John has been battling cancer for several years, and I work full time.
‘At least I can keep a closer eye on things,’ I said.
In November 2015, Sara Hodge, 49, of Ruislip, Middlesex, appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates Court.
She pleaded guilty to stealing money of an unknown value from Mum.
She was ordered to pay £10 compensation, costs of £50, a court charge of £180.
But she was only given an eight-week suspended sentence.
So she walked free.
‘It’s disgusting,’ I fumed.
Hodge shamelessly stole from a vulnerable old lady. What kind of person does that?
And it feels like she got away with it.
Every time I think about it, I feel sick with anger.
Mum’s now 95, and her dementia is very advanced. But I won’t let anyone take advantage of her again.
And the camera is still up – just in case.