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What To Do When You’re Worried About An Elderly Person

February 2nd, 2023

There are many reasons you might be worried about an elderly person, whether you’re worried about an elderly relative or are a concerned neighbour. Often, the elderly person might simply need some extra support with simple tasks and you can be there to offer any help. However, in some cases, things may be a little more serious. This guide will explain any worrying signs to look out for, ways you can help, and who to contact when worried about an elderly person. We will also talk through when it might be time to consider a care home and what a care home can offer.

Reasons You May Be Worried About An Elderly Person

There are some obvious and some not so obvious signs that an elderly person is struggling. If you’re worried about an elderly relative, then you’ll likely know them well and be able to spot any changes in behaviour. If you’re worried about an elderly neighbour, you may be less sure if your worries are warranted. 

With this in mind, here are some of the telltale signs that an elderly person needs additional help or more continuous care:

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1. Eating

According to the NHS, it is common for our appetite to slow down as we age. Although this can be a normal part of growing older, you may be worried about an elderly relative if you’ve noticed a drastic change in how much they eat or even what they eat. A sudden drop in appetite leading to weight loss could be caused by an illness. Equally, if an elderly person has started only eating cold food like sandwiches, it may be because they are finding it harder to cook hot, nutritious meals. 

An elderly person not eating can be a red flag and a sign that they now need extra assistance with essential tasks. If you have any concerns that their health may be being affected, you should always speak to your GP.

2. Loss Of Mobility

A very typical sign to look out for when worried about an elderly neighbour or relative is if they have more trouble with movement than before. Perhaps you’ve spotted your neighbour struggling with stairs or noticed that they’re leaving the house less often. A loss of mobility is not only frustrating for seniors, but it has a knock-on effect. Not being able to move freely can cause them to skip meals, avoid toilet breaks, and become sedentary and lonely.

3. Self Care

Basic self care can fall by the wayside if an elderly person can no longer take care of themselves the way they used to. Signs that you should be worried about an elderly relative include their clothes not being clean or if they’re looking less put together than usual. It could be that they need some simple adaptations to their bath or shower room or they could now require more physical help to wash but feel embarrassed to ask. Approach the subject carefully and make it clear that there is help available, whether that’s a care home environment or a visiting carer.

4. Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness happens to all of us and is a natural part of ageing. Small oversights are one thing, but if you notice that mail hasn’t been collected from the front door, bins haven’t been put out or conversations are peppered with forgotten words, it may signal that you should be worried about an elderly neighbour. 

Forgetfulness will be even more apparent with a close relative. It isn’t immediately a sign of dementia or another serious illness, but it is a prompt that an elderly person needs to see a doctor.

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5. A Change In Personality

A decline in physical and mental health can be accompanied by changes in personality. This could show itself as an elderly person making bad decisions or being unusually rude or distant. For example, a friendly neighbour might now ignore you or your elderly grandparent may suddenly be frivolous with money. Keep an eye out for any significant changes in personality and note the frequency of these incidents so you can pass any information onto a healthcare professional.

6. Falls Or Accidents

A serious fall can be a precursor to a decline in an elderly person’s health or it could be a symptom of an existing condition. You may have become worried about an elderly person after seeing bruising or they may have had multiple falls that you have seen or heard. Falls and accidents should be taken seriously and it may be time to have a conversation about the next stage of care available.

7. More Regular Illnesses

Elderly people are more susceptible to illnesses. However, you are justified when worried about an elderly relative or friend if the number of illnesses they get seems unusual or if they’re unable to administer any medication themselves. 

It could even be that these illnesses are occurring because they keep forgetting to take their regular medication. In this case, seek advice from a doctor and weigh up whether it’s time to seek support to manage any care needs.

What To Do When You’re Worried About An Elderly Person

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In the first instance, you should talk to the elderly person and explain that you’re worried about them. There may be some initial steps you can take to help that easily solve the problem. 

For example, if you’re worried about an elderly neighbour not being able to get to the shops to buy food, you could offer to set up an online shopping system for them and help them to unpack it and put it away each week. If an elderly relative is forgetting to take any medication, they may just need a pill box with simple daily reminders or even a smart speaker that gives them a nudge each day.

More long-term solutions might be stair lifts or handrails throughout the home or a rota system between family members to check on your loved one regularly. These interim measures can all help to improve a senior person’s quality of life and might be all that’s needed to overcome any obstacles you were worried about.

Obviously, in some cases, these steps will not be enough. If you’re worried about an elderly person and unable to remedy the situation or offer support yourself, it might be time to look to professionals who can step in and provide more long-term support.

Who To Contact When Worried About An Elderly Person

If there’s an immediate threat or emergency then you should always contact 999 in the first instance. If a situation occurs but it’s not an emergency, then call 111 for advice.

With an ongoing health problem, such as persistent forgetfulness, make an appointment with a GP. As well as diagnosing the problem and prescribing any treatment, they will be able to point you in the direction of support services in your area.

For those cases where you’re worried about an elderly neighbour or even a relative that won’t accept help, you can get in touch with your local council and raise an adult safeguarding concern.

Finally, you can look at visiting or live-in care options if you’re worried about an elderly person no longer being able to take care of themselves or manage essential needs.

When To Consider A Care Home

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Visiting carers allow seniors to stay in their own home, but are not there all the time. They help take care of tasks like cooking and cleaning, but may be absent if something serious happens like a fall. For seniors who have illnesses like dementia or where a stroke has left them much less mobile, a care home could be the safest choice. Care home staff are available at all times and are experts in helping elderly people live full lives. It may be time to consider a care home when: 

  • An elderly person can no longer take care of basic needs like cleaning or cooking
  • Their current home is not fit for changing needs, for example it has steep stairs
  • They regularly forget to do things or to take medication
  • Their health is declining and illnesses are much more common
  • They keep falling or having accidents 
  • They are at home on their own for very long periods and are suffering from loneliness

It can be difficult to accept that your loved one is no longer able to care for themselves. Knowing that they are safe and cared for can be the best way to help when you’re worried about an elderly person. There’s more information and advice in our guide if you’re still unsure about when to consider moving into a care home.

Choosing New Care Homes

Staff at New Care homes are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our residents and are experts when it comes to caring for elderly people. Our care homes are spacious and sociable spaces that take the worry away from loved ones and give seniors a safe and relaxing place to live. 
To find out more or to visit one of our homes, please contact us. We’ll answer any questions you may have and set your mind at ease.