Sunday, 31 January 2010


Well, this is all very civilized.
It's Sunday morning, and I've been allowed a lie-in by the kids. When I say allowed, I mean I just ignored the noise and chaos that they were creating downstairs, and continued to pretend to be asleep upstairs.
It's very civilized to sit looking out of the window, with a roof over my head, at the thin blanket of snow that covers the street and the cars. It looks all that much colder, from the warm, heated confines of my house.
It's very civilized to sit with a cup of coffee in front of my computer, and be able to communicate my ramblings to the world, whether the world wants to listen or not.
You'd expect that sort of experience in a First World country such as ours.
Running water. Electricity.
On many occasions throughout my career, meeting patients, as well as their nearest and dearest, has left me with a range of emotions.
I've been at different times;
Amazed by the lengths people go to in order to care for their families, whilst at the same time shocked that there are families who just don't care.
Concerned that people wait to call ambulances until the very last minute, whilst at the same time angry at others who call ambulances for no reason at all.
Inspired that there are parents who give up everything for their children, whilst at the same time saddened by others who would happily throw theirs out on the street.
And I've been encouraged by the way the Welfare State steps in to help many of the needy, whilst at the same time despondent that there are those who can't afford the most basic of life's necessities.
I was asked yesterday by a close family member whether it's really true that there are people who have to forgo these necessities, and how often I meet them. Patients whose houses are dark, unheated and unkempt, whilst often occupied by those who made this country what it is, those whose past created this country's future.
This winter in particular, I've been to several homes, mainly those housing the elderly and infirm, where they sit in one armchair, live, eat and sleep in one freezing room, wrapped in blankets and lost hope. Homes where they have to choose between electricity and water, or between food or heating.
These seem to be the people who are failed regularly.
Their families, neighbours, and friends have failed them.
The Welfare State has failed them.
We, as a society, have failed them.
So whilst I'm having a civilized morning, I'm sometimes left wondering about our civilized society, and whether it truly is all it claims to be.


Fee said...

Having worked with the elderly for a while, I know that for some of them, persuading them to accept the help available can be an uphill battle. What we see as benefit entitlements, they see as charity. Equated with the poor-house.

I agree that far too many slip through the net. Scattered families miss the signs of early dementia and poor old granny slips slowly into a world she can't ever leave. One not connected with the rest of us.

slmiller72 said...

I would like to put a slightly different spin on your entry if I may?

On Thursday I got called out to a woman shouting out for help. On our arrival we were greeted by the Police who had managed to gain entry into the patient's property ( mainly because there were no locks on the door!) Said door would not open fully - because of the floor to ceiling mound of bags full of rubbish. rotten food and faecal matter...

It took my crewmate and I an hour to clear a path through the bags that were stacked up floor to ceiling in every room, discovering rodent droppings as we cleared. The flat was colder inside than it was outside and thankfully the patient was uninjured and had ironically, tripped over and had been unable to get herself up. My first impression was that this patient had Diogenes Syndrome - involuntary self neglect and hoarding. However, upon questioning, it transpired that the patient has actually chosen to live like that and was, to all intents and purposes, happy to do so, and more importantly, perfectly lucid.

I filled out the relevant paperwork to flag this patient up to Social Services as she has said that she would be willing to have someone assist her to sort through her belongings rather than clear out - which is what social services had said to her before and she had declined. Declined help. Had made an informed decision.

The point i'm very long windedly trying to make is that some people actually choose to live like that. The elderly that live in virtual squalor? Many I have witnessed have bundles of cash stuffed into every available container! They have the means to ensure they can live in a civilised fashion but choose not to.

These people also get offered the help. They often choose to decline it...

It is so frustrating that there are those that don't have the means and the way that the "system" lets them down is disgraceful, but that I guess is a whole different blog topic. As long as we, as health care professionals, continue to do our bit of looking after/ looking out for less able family, friends or indeed the elderly couple 3 doors up and pass these values onto our kids we may make a small impact in this massive void that really shouldn't exist!