Saturday, July 23, 2011

What to Do about Noelle?

Noelle, maybe not unlike many people, has moments of sheer brilliance, where she has overcome all kinds of odds to do things that most handicapped individuals don't dare consider, such as learning to roller-skate with chest-high braces and a walker as a child, and moments of sheer stupidity, where any logic behind decision-making is tidal-waved away by a churning sea of emotion. A call last night from Molly, her part-time caregiver, who helps her with laundry and housecleaning a couple of times a week, revealed the latest maelstrom. Noelle is about to be evicted from her low-cost, handicapped apartment, to which information she has reacted in aggressive and self-destructive obliviousness. "Won't happen," she told Molly. "And don't tell my parents; they will try to do something about it, and I plan to wait it out."

Here is the back story. After Ray died and then Noelle's cat, Prince Shadow, mysteriously died at a young age, Noelle was alone. She would not admit to being lonely, but then Noelle never admits to anything she thinks will make her look weak -- and as an extrovert par excellence, being lonely would certainly seem like a weakness. Nonetheless, she clearly was lonely. She had given up everything -- school, potential career -- to be home with Ray, who, for more than four years, spent the last days of his life in and out of comas and hospitalized in one venue or another. Although we suggested to Noelle that she could now return to school, finish the college degree that she had started years ago, and find a career for herself, Noelle was not ready to make such a drastic lifestyle change.

Before she could develop any readiness for moving on, along came Dreamee, a friend of a friend. Dreamee floats through life on other people's clouds. We do not know if she has any relatives, but we have heard that she has a godmother somewhere in the area. She does not talk about her past or even her present. She clearly has some disabilities -- she is very tiny for an adult in her thirties, her teeth are in bad order (but that could be from not taking care of them), and her face has a haunted look to it (but perhaps that comes from chain smoking). Dreamee and Noelle developed some immediate rapport, and Dreamee within days had moved in with Noelle. She pays no rent and does not help out in any way that we can see. Molly says that she now does Dreamee's laundry, too. I suppose none of that is any of our business, except that Noelle has in the past been used by people who learn that she is so good-natured and selfless that she will give away her last dime if someone else says he or she needs it. (In fact, we found out a while back that she was giving away every penny left over after paying bills every month, literally amounting to hundreds of dollars, to a "friend." It took us almost two years to convince her that a "friend" does not show up at your door right before payday, asking how much money you still have from the previous payday and demanding to have all of it because she is in tremendous need of it.) Now, there is Dreamee, who is, in essence, freeloading, but were we to use that world, Noelle would be terribly offended.

The matter has come to a head, though, because Noelle is in Section 8 housing, which is all she can afford, and the landlord has learned that Dreamee is living there, too, in a one-bedroom apartment. The landlord has sent a letter, demanding that Dreamee leave immediately or Noelle will be evicted. (Molly has seen the letter and is going to get a copy to me.) Noelle has told Molly that she has no intention of responding to the letter -- and certainly she has no intention of asking Dreamee to move out. So, something will come to a more frightening end here very soon if Noelle does not pull her head out of the sand.

The more complicated part of the matter is that Noelle has told us nothing. She acts like life is all hunky dory. Molly does not want us to let Noelle know that we know. She is afraid that Noelle will not only be angry at her but also fire her as her caregiver. That would be truly bad -- but within the realm of Noelle's more illogical responses to situations she does not like -- for finding another caregiver like Molly, who really becomes involved and tries to help, would be difficult.

The core of the situation seems to be Dreamee's hold over Noelle, who, at times, has told Molly that she really does not want Dreamee living with her but that Dreamee insists. Then, after Molly has left, Dreamee seems to take over and when Molly returns, Noelle contends that she does not want Dreamee to leave and Molly must have misunderstood. Clearly, the situation is driving Molly nuts, but more than that, Molly is genuinely concerned about Noelle's welfare.

So, what to do about Noelle? She does not want us to know, but we do know -- and I would rather do something now and not after she has ended up on the street. How to help her keep her independence while wanting to help out? How to break up a destructive relationship without appearing destructive ourselves?

Moreover, Noelle's dilemma has appeared during a moment of depleted resources for us, having just forked over more than $2000 last week to Lizzie for cat surgery and helping out Shane to the tune of $600 or more each month since he is still coping with a lowered salary from having been fired when Nikolina's $2 million hospital bill was too much for the insurance company at his place of employment to handle (the company refused to provide policies on any employees unless Shane was removed from the group).

Has anyone seen a similar situation? Any ideas for a creative and supportive resolution?

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