Thursday, 10 September 2009


Over the past few weeks I've seen a huge increase in the number of patients who I feel are at risk. Adult patients. They've either had no family, no family that cares, no friends who care, or no-one that cares at all. Some live in the most depressing and appalling conditions that, truthfully, I can't believe still exist in a country that claims to be one of the world leaders in social care. Over the years I have come to accept that it happens, to expect to see it twice or three times a year. Over the last few weeks it's been nearer that number every week. It's horrifying, and it's heartbreaking. It shouldn't be allowed to happen, and I wish I could do more about it. It's one of the hidden ills of our supposedly illuminated society.
A few shifts back I met Hetty. She's 85. I can't expand too much more for fear of identifying her, although I can tell you she's spent her entire life caring for others, and now she can cope no more. But now, in her hour of greatest need, all those she's cared for have decided that their lives are too important. She'd been practically left to die in an abandoned wasteland. Whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive to take her to hospital, she told me of her greatest fear.
She didn't want her children to find her diary if she dies. She told me a little about what's in it, how long she's been writing in it for, why she writes. She refused to tell me what the last entry, the one she's scared they'll find, contains, but sadness and anger were reflected in her eyes in equal measure. I could only go on to imagine.

Dear Diary,

I've confided in you since I was young, many, many years ago.

I told you of growing up, of my many successes and failures there. And of my parents' pride.

I told you of my school life, of my many successes and failures there. And of my eventual triumph.

I told you of my university life, of my many successes and failures there. And of my graduation.

I told you of my early years of marriage, of my many successes and failures there. And of my joy.

I told you of my years of parenting, of my many successes and failures there. And of my immense pride.

Now, Dear Diary, I must tell you a painful truth.

I'm old. And lonely. And a failure.

I've failed to instill my morals.

I've failed to teach my way of life.

I've failed to make them realise that the carer now needs care.

I've failed, and I've been failed.

Must I really end my days in squalor? Alone? Abandoned?

Do I deserve to see out my life neglected by those I have raised? Cherished? Cared for?

Dearest Friend,

Where are they when I need them most?

My care goes as far as the hospital, and only a little further. I can fill in a form. A form to inform Social Services of my concerns. A form to advise them that I think she desperately needs help. A form to call for that help and pray that it arrives in time. Just fill in a form.
And then all that's left for me to do is hope.
Hope that someone sees the form and realises the urgency of it.
Hope that someone sees the form and shares my concerns.
Hope that someone sees the form and feels the same as I do.
Hope that someone sees the form and realises that this isn't just another pile of paperwork.


Petunia said...

I believe that the state of elder care (or rather, the LACK of it) in our country is probably the Great Crime of our century. It's appalling.

And it's what we have to look forward to for ourselves.

How can we let this be?

Thank you for caring.

Andy said...

Quite disturbing. I'd like to think I'd never let anyone I love or am close to be in that situation as they grow old.

The state can only take so much of the blame, many people have a fierce sense of independence and try and pretend they can cope to the outside world. I do, however, completely agree that often when it is noticed not enough is done to change quality of life for the better.

Most of the blame can and should be apportioned to those who should be caring, and should be trying to ensure the best possible life for their friend / relative, but instead are content to do little, and, as you rightly say, neglect the welfare of those who need it, when they need it most.