His carer found him, called for the ambulance, and left almost as soon as we arrived.
"I have other clients I must go see. I called the office before I called you, and my boss has told me to leave as soon as you get here and not waste any more time!"
"Hang on a minute!"
"Sorry. Must go. His name's Steve."
And that was it. Left without another word.
Steve sat in his chair, motionless and blue, his mouth gaped open in that rigid 'O' shaped tell-tale sign. Hours must have passed since he had taken his final breath.
Up until that point, I'd barely had the chance to take a look around. A call given as cardiac arrest means arriving fast and carrying bags full of kit. Now I had time to stop and look properly at the last place Steve saw alive. His very own home.
The flat was filthy.
Carpets sticky from years of neglect, walls covered in grime, the kitchen stacked high with dirty dishes and discarded food. There wasn't even a bin in there. Every surface, floor and sink were just covered in the remainders of half-eaten meals and unwanted scraps.
The police had to be informed, and whilst I waited, I had a walk around the flat, trying to find some details that would tell me a little of Steve's history. A carer's folder told me that he'd been looked after for at least two years by the same people. It seemed as though, despite the fact they were called carers, they couldn't really have cared any less.
An unused oxygen tank, the pronged tubing that should have been in his nose easing his final breaths was lying in the bedroom disconnected from its supply.
A bath filled with bags of old, probably unwashed clothes.
A toilet uncleaned for so long that it could only have been held
together by the dirt it housed.
Bags of used incontinence pads that filled the flat with the smell of amonia sat piled high by the door.
Signs of neglect everywhere I turned, and this was a man supposedly cared for.
A single photograph of a group of air-raid wardens, the bright white 'W' at odds with the blackouts they used to enforce. I presumed Steve was amongst the group, although unrecognisable now. They stood proud in that picture, facing adversity in the toughest of times, yet defying the odds and serving the masses.
All those years spent caring for other people, only to be let down by his very own carers.
I could, of course, fill in the forms. Mark him as vulnerable, and all those others who this so-called disappearing carer's employers also look after, but there was no point. The form would go nowhere. The managers might get a telling off, and for Steve, it would be completely in vain. As it was, he was probably better off now.
Steve wasn't vulnerable any more.
Now at last he was safe.