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.
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?
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.