We’ve all had a turn at going in to see Jasper. He’s one of the regulars, an intractable alcoholic, a serial self-neglecter whose M.O. is to get drunk, take too many pills (by mistake or design it’s impossible to say), fall over, be admitted to hospital and then discharged with a referral to the community health team. He’s had numerous multi-disciplinary team meetings, everyone from the psychiatrist to the CPN, physio and occupational therapists, pharmacists and social workers, everyone doing their best to come up with a workable plan. But inevitably Jasper ends up back in hospital, and the whole thing starts again.
This time was different, though. I heard about it from Carla, one of the carers, the next day.
‘It was the same old thing,’ she said, settling in to the story. ‘Door locked, curtains closed, no answer when I buzzed or called his phone. I mean – that’s always the way it is with him. He’s hardly ever there.’
‘It’s so frustrating.’
‘Anyway, I thought – right – I’ll just try one more thing and then call it quits. The curtain was a little caught up in the corner, so I shielded my hand over the glass like this, and had a good, long look. That’s when I saw the boot. You know those dreadful things he wears? There was just the suggestion of it, poking round the end of his bed. And it was difficult to tell, but I got the impression that there was a foot in there, too, the angle it was keeping. So I banged on the window a bit, and when nothing happened, called the police. They came pretty quick. Put the door in, and there he was, wedged down the side of the bed. We had to see if he was alive or not – and I know it doesn’t sound very caring – but what we did, we dragged him out by the leg. And you didn’t need a doctor to tell you he was dead, because he kept the same position he was in when we got him clear, all crumpled up on his side, poor thing, and a look on his face – I don’t know – like he was falling down a great big hole, which in a way, I suppose, he was.’
‘It wasn’t nice. Still…’ she says, taking another generous bite of her sandwich, and dabbing at the corner of her mouth with a napkin. ‘you’d have to say, it was a long time coming.’