Close Encounters …!

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 In his kitchen all his food was well out of date and the milk cartons in the fridge were over two months old!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.

“The bathroom……!”

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.


(I aim to follow up this job to see if the old boy gets some help.)


8 Responses to Close Encounters …!

  1. I can hear the ‘clean sanitised’ words from the Dr’s pine and magnolia surgery, telling you how it is not possible to make a house call, Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
    Hope you have been able to make a difference.

  2. annette says:

    I presume that that man is living in council dwellings. If thats the case then perhaps you could inform the council how bad the toilet is and get it cleaned proffessionally by them.
    Also what about the “Home help” system, and “Meals on wheels”?
    He could have his flat/house cleaned one or twice a week, that would help, and have his meals delivered as well.
    The only problem, as I understand it, is that they will have to be paid for.
    Could he afford it?

    What about talking to a councillor who will then make sure he gets all the help he needs.

    Please do update us on this particular problem.


  3. Kingmagic says:

    The problem with this job is gaining consent and patient confidentiality.

    We really struggled to get him to allow us to ring his GP. And we had to carefully choose our wording when mentioning Social Services.

    We seem to be working more and more with one hand tied behind our backs.

  4. Kim says:

    Blimey, poor old chap, hope you managed to get him some help.

    If I had seen a toilet piled up like that I think i would have vomited there and then!
    then had visions of it for a long time.

  5. Sharon King says:

    Most elderly hide the problems for fear they will be sent to a nursing home. They need to be told if they accept services they can stay home for a longer period of time. At least it has worked for me.

  6. Kingmagic says:

    In my post I said that he was “seemingly of sound mind…” and this was why I wanted the GP to call.

    From a communication point of view it was a nightmare trying to talk to the gentleman due to his deafness. (We established it was,nt selective hearing).

    Another element to the story which I did not relate was the amount of mail order stuff he had…DVDs/videos (remember he was partially sighted), dozens and dozens of language tapes (he was almost stone deaf).

    Whilst on scene my crewmate answered the phone on his behalf hoping it would be a family member or a friend. It turned out to be a charity call line asking for donations.

    Somewhere along the line he was being inundated with adverts for subscription services which he may/or may not have been fully aware of.

    This was one of those jobs where it would have been easier to get the paperwork release signed and bugger off. But after spending almost an hour and a half on scene and coming up against a brickwall all we could do is report our concerns.

    Will hopefully have an update next week.

  7. Frustration in dealing with social services (or trying to) aside, is it more rewarding to be try and help some one like this, with genuine needs, rather than the usual band of time wasters?
    I hate to hear of some one like this become prey to the unscrupulous, such as the DVD/tapes. Even if he had originally bought them ‘knowingly’ there would be know way he could extract himself from the agreement now.
    I know the frustrations a family member experiences trying to communicate with the audiology dept at hospital. You would hope they would be skilled at speaking to the deaf!
    (they can’t manage to even look at her whilst talking to her, pretty basic stuff.)

  8. Hello, I just began a new blog, but I can’t seem to get many readers. I can see that you’ve got some comments. Can you give me some advice on how to get more readers and how to encourage comments? Thanks

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