DESPERATE family members are preparing to take their battle to regain control of a stricken mother's funds to the European Court of Human Rights.
Karen Painter, of Alyndale Road, Saltney, has spent 18 months embroiled in a dispute with a government body which has frozen access to her elderly mother's accounts leaving her unable to buy even basic everyday requirements.
Incapacitated Alzheimer's sufferer Pamela Hamill, 72, was sectioned five years ago after attempting to commit suicide.
She can no longer buy her own luxuries and relies on daughter Karen to bring her toiletries, clothing, money for hairdressing and her one vice, cigarettes.
But following a conflict with the Public Guardianship Office (PGO) - the administrative branch of the Court of Protection, which protects the financial affairs of people with mental incapacity - Karen is no longer allowed to act as receiver of her mother's funds.
And with no immediate family in the vicinity, Karen has no idea who has been appointed in her stead.
Having spent £1,000 on solicitors' fees and still unable to reverse the PGO's decision, the Painters are determined to take it to the top.
'I will campaign for a daughter's right to look after her sick mother, even if I have to take the case to the Human Rights Court in Brussels,' said Karen's husband Dave. 'I will defend the right for Karen to look after her mother. That right can only be taken away from a daughter by God Himself.'
The Painters must now either cover all costs themselves, or go through the expensive and lengthy process of attaining a solicitor's letter each time they wish funds to be released on Mrs Hamill's behalf.
They say each transaction takes two months from application to receiving the cash while, in the meantime, they are forced to shoulder any expenses.
'All I want them to do is to let me look after my mother and let her have the pleasures she needs,' said Karen. 'There's nobody else that can take care of my mother but me. The home doesn't want the responsibility, especially when she's got a daughter to do it herself.'
The Painters will today meet MP for Alyn and Deeside Mark Tami to discuss their next course of action.
Mrs Hamill was moved into EMI Nursing and residential home in Brymbo, Wrexham, five years ago. Her husband initiated divorce proceedings, selling the family home and instructing his solicitor to forward half of the money to Karen to invest on her mother's behalf. Karen was asked to act as a receiver for her mother's money.
'The money was to be used to make her mother's final years as comfortable as possible,' explained Dave.
Despite initial concerns that her lack of understanding and education on the matter may be a problem, Karen was reassured by the PGO that she would receive any help and advice she needed.
For the first two years she invested her mother's money to the best of her ability, spending whatever was needed on items her mother required, while Dave forwarded annual accounts to the PGO.
Then in July 2003, Karen received a letter asking why Mrs Hamill's money had not been lodged in the court's funds office.
This was 30 months after Karen had become a receiver and she had not once been informed she had been acting in the wrong.
Soon after the Painters received a mysterious bill for £641.55, with no details or breakdown on the demand.
'For 12 months and dozens of calls nobody could give her the reason for the demand,' said Dave. 'She was told to pay up and shut up.'
This started to affect Karen's health and she was placed on tablets to control depression. At this point Dave decided to involve his solicitor.
Six months later and after 29 calls and sending out 20 letters, the family were no closer to resolving the issue.
It finally emerged that the bill was to cover divorce costs instigated by Mrs Hamill's husband, which the family believe was never finalised as he has since left the country.
The Painters are struggling to understand why the costs are not being recovered from Mr Hamill himself.
Dave has also been advised by a county high court judge that an uncontested divorce should cost no more than £250.
Having refused to pay the bill until her questions are answered, Karen has since been informed that she is no longer her mother's receiver.
'You wouldn't treat an animal like they are treating my mother,' said Karen. 'They have not even had the decency to phone up and see she's getting what she needs. That's the frustrating part. Only once has the Court of Protection gone to see her and that was five years ago and they had no problem with me looking after her', she claimed.
The distress is having a draining effect on Karen. She said: 'This has caused me a lot of upset. I feel as if my mother has been deprived. She had a stroke about two years ago and it's left her so that she can't talk. She is mobile but has deteriorated quite a bit. She has got rights and I am sticking up for her.
'It's been very stressful. All I want to do is just sort it out, take care of my mother and ask them to leave me alone. My husband is prepared to take it to the top but I don't want him to get into trouble or to add stress - I just want a quiet life.'
She added: 'I don't know how long she's here for - it's upsetting enough just to go and see her. I bet they wouldn't treat their own mothers like this.'