Do not read if you are having your tea!
The key turned in the lock and we pushed open the door to the flat. Shuffling between us the dishevelled old man stepped back into his home, his haven, his sanctuary. We had picked him up off the floor outside his flat after he had fainted. He was dirty and his clothes had that shiny lived in sheen to them. His grey hair was matted underneath his flat cap and his hands and finger nails were encrusted with black grime.
But he was as bright as a button in all other respects. All the normal checks, examinations and paperwork had been carried out…there was no need to go to the hospital and he was adamant that he did not want to go anyway.
Stepping over the threshold my nostrils were assailed by the all too familiar smell of uncared for old folk. A distinct smell of warm piss wafted down the hallway. A thick layer of dust made do as a carpet. Everywhere was a drab unclean yellow, not the bright sunshine type that reminds you of Mediterranean holidays but the nicotine type that sits on pub walls and ceilings.
He seemed happy with his lot. In his late eighties his hearing was almost non-exsistent and his eyesight was failing. But he was as sharp as a knife when it came to being independant. He had no family or friends to speak of. Living on his own in this hovel was all he wanted. But I saw it as just existing….not living.
As he was adamant he was not going to hospital we scoped out his flat to make sure all was well before we would leave him. In his kitchen all his food was well out of date and the milk cartons in the fridge were over two months old! His freezer was crammed full of micro-wave meals…yet he had no working micro-wave!
I asked the old chap if he was sure about staying here? He was. I told him that we would contact his GP and ask him to pop round and check him over. What we needed was his GP to see his living conditions and to persuade him to go in to hospital and involve Social Services. I was in the middle of explaining things to our prospective patient (shouting at the top of my voice directly into his grime encrusted ear to be more precise) when my crew mate called out from the hallway.
“Come and have a look at this!”
Stepping from the living room back into the hallway I see my crew mate….gipping! trying hard to stem a barf! His face is a strange colour, his cheeks swollen in anticipation of the multi-technicolour yawn that may happen any second! Using a gloved hand to steady himself against the dirty wall, he points with his free hand to the door next to him.
Using the toe of my boot I carefully and slowly push the bathroom door open. In the dim glow of a low wattage light bulb I initially make out the bath to the right. It is piled high with rubbish…boxes, refuse and papers. “Its not that bad….you must have seen worse than that!” My crew mate gently prods the door further open where the light from the hallway can illuminate the darkness better than the dim light bulb.
“What the f…….!”
There in front of me stands the toilet…the blocked toilet…blocked with the obvious. But it is not just blocked…it is built up! Above the rim of the toilet basin stands a mound of crap. It is at least a foot and a half above the rim! It stands there towering above the toilet bowl! Then the smell hits me! Big time! And now I am standing next to my crew mate in the hallway making the same pre-barf sounds that he is!
We both nimbly step outside the flat for some fresh air and give our stomachs a chance to settle and to try and make sense of what we,ve just seen. After five minutes we venture back into the flat. I try ringing his doctor but the receptionist says he is out although he has left a message that we should just take him to A/E. We cannot remove someone against their will, he is seemingly of sound mind. Again I ask the old chap if he wants to go to hospital? Not a chance. Reluctantly we bid our farewells to him and inform control of the situation.
Eventually arriving back at station, after going from one emergency to another, I start the paperwork for a Vulnerable Adult report and contact Social Services. After what seemed like an age I speak to the Emergency on call Social Worker. I explain what we have seen (and smelt) but the social worker seems totally disinterested. “We,ll try and get someone to pop round sometime tomorrow…maybe.” I hope he gets some help. All the while I have a mental picture in my head of Richard Dreyfuss sculpting things in the film “Close Encounters of the Turd Kind!”
I sincerely hope he gets help.