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Lonely death of alcoholic prompts changes to care rules

Lonely death of alcoholic prompts changes to care rules

Thursday 16 July 2015

Lonely death of alcoholic prompts changes to care rules

Thursday 16 July 2015

The case of an alcoholic who lay dead in his house for up to seven months before being discovered badly decomposed has prompted changes to rules for looking after vulnerable people.

A warning from the police about the health of the man, who was in his early 60s, that was submitted just days before he was last seen alive in town was not picked up by social workers.

He had refused treatment and support from several agencies in the months and years before he died – that led to a finding in a Serious Case Review that even if the warning had been acted on, his death may not have been preventable.

The review of the man’s death has found that carers and professionals must properly consider whether people who drink heavily are capable of making rational decisions.

And changes have already been made to ensure that when one agency – such as the police, a social worker or probation – raises concerns about a vulnerable person, they get a proper response explaining what action will be taken.

The Serious Case Review into the death has found that the man – who has not been identified - was a long-term heavy drinker whose alcoholism had destroyed his successful carpentry business and family life, including his relationships with his ex-wives and two children.

He was last seen alive on 20 June 2013 at the Shelter Trust, after being discharged from hospital – the following January he was found dead in his home, so badly decomposed that the exact cause of death will never be known.

In a presentation yesterday, social work expert Glenys Johnston outlined the findings of a Serious Case Review – a report that is put together to investigate when vulnerable people considered to be “at risk” die or suffer harm – saying that: “He had a very long history of alcoholism, and despite being offered services he could not make the decision to stop drinking. Over time his care of himself deteriorated and he would be seen in Jersey falling down, looking dishevelled, and clearly appearing unwell.”

She added that his home had been in an appalling condition, with the bannisters and skirting boards ripped up and presumably burnt as firewood.

“It is impossible to say whether his death was preventable,” she said.

“Probably, some of the circumstances that led to his death could not have been prevented. There are general grounds for thinking that if professionals had come together, if there had been a way to make a relationship with him, it might have been possible to extend his life and to improve the quality of his life so that he did not die in isolation.

“There were missed opportunities when agencies might have made a positive difference and there are certainly lessons to be learned from this review.”

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