How to Help if You’re Worried About an Older Person
When you’re concerned about a loved one – particularly if that person is elderly – beginning to deal with whatever issues are worrying you can feel overwhelming. This guide is here to show you that instead of feeling like you’re stuck at the bottom of an intimidating mountain of problems, in reality, each step can be manageable with a little advice and open communication.
Responding to Immediate Risk
The purpose of this page is to help you figure out how best to work together with any elderly individual to provide support on whatever issues you’re concerned about. However, if the situation carries an immediate health risk for themselves or others, then you must get outside help without delay. This means potentially calling 999 for an emergency, especially where there’s a risk to life.
Examples of situations where you may consider there to be an immediate risk include:
- Living in dangerous and/or unhygienic conditions
- A worsening health issue
- A failure to take care of illness or injury
- Suicidal thoughts
- Dangers in their environment
- Any immediate and serious risk to health
If you’re unsure whether a situation would be considered an immediate risk, you should contact and talk it through with the local council’s adult safeguarding team. This must be done with the consent of the person you’re concerned about.
It’s also a good idea, wherever possible, to gain as much information from them as to how they’re feeling. This will help you best assess the situation.
Consent may not be practically possible or advisable in some instances. Only if this is the case should you contact the council without the consent of the individual you believe to be at immediate risk.
Before the Conversation: Pinning Down Your Exact Concerns
If there’s no immediate risk to life, then you have the opportunity to consider how best to approach a conversation with your loved one about your worries for them. This may be a delicate situation. Many concerns relate to matters which could be personal, sensitive and/or have the potential to cause embarrassment. These are often the reasons we avoid such conversations in the first place.
Nonetheless, the fact that you’re worried means that these discussions are worth having wherever possible. That said, it’s important to make the most of them too. You can go a long way in having the most fruitful conversation possible, by considering the following:
1.Specifically, what it is you’re worried about
Sometimes, it can be hard to articulate our worries. However, if you go into a talk with someone about concerns you have for them, and fail to explain yourself properly, it may appear as though you’re confronting them for no good reason. That’s why it’s important to deeply consider exactly what it is you have concerns about, and wish to discuss.
It may be something simple that you feel may be an indication of greater problems. This could be that they’re not taking care of themselves like they used to, or someone who was typically house proud is no longer cleaning up after themselves. These could be early indicators of greater physical or mental health problems but may be missed by those who don’t have a personal relationship with them.
More serious issues could include a lack of hygiene, refusing to go outside, not eating as regularly as would be typical, refusal to take medications, or drinking excessively. Do note that if any of these seem as though they may be crossing over to an immediate risk, then you may want to seek the help of a safeguarding team.
All these are just common examples. It could be anything which creates concern for a person’s well-being. Think of what they are, and even write them down if needed.
2.How best to discuss the issues
Now you have the problems clear in your mind, it’s important to think about how best to actually have the conversation. You may want to consider if they have any particular sensitivities around certain subjects and how best to approach them.
Timing and environment also play a factor here too. You want any discussions you have to be as positive as possible, and these elements can have a big impact on how such things are received. For instance, a conversation put forth in the midst of a stressful, fraught environment is less likely to be beneficial than one where it’s approached positively and without distraction.
3.Consider any logistical barriers
The best way of dealing with anything that might get in the way of a fruitful conversation is to consider them as best you can in advance. Some may be emotional. For instance, two thirds of people fear a loss of independence. And some discussions may trigger this issue.
The barriers may be practical ones, too. There are many medical issues which can cause problems with communication, from hearing problems to those like dementia which affect a person’s ability to think clearly, understand, and make decisions.
The potential cost of care can also be a subject people shy away from. So, you may want to learn a little about that so you can help alleviate worries on financial subjects beforehand. One of the reasons we provide so many different options and suitable advice at Amberley Lodge is because we know this can be a source of stress at a time when it’s least needed.
4.Always assume mental capacity unless proven otherwise
If any barriers are insurmountable – for instance, if you believe that a person does not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions and such a situation is putting them at risk – then it’s vital to speak to adult safeguarding teams. However, we must be clear that mental capacity is to be assumed whenever feasible and the person must be helped to make their own decision wherever that is possible.
Discussing the issue with your loved one
If you’ve fully prepared as much as is possible, then it’s time to have a talk about what it is that’s concerning you.
Remember when doing so that this is intended to be an open conversation. It’s vital that when discussing matters of another person’s well-being, you don’t impose your views upon them or attempt to fix the problem. The conversation is supposed to be a two-way street. Remember that you’re there to listen as much as you are to talk – perhaps more so.
Furthermore, you’re there to assist anyone capable of making their own decisions and must not attempt to force or impose your will upon them to do something they don’t consent to.
And in stressful times, keep in mind that you’re both there because of your personal relationship. This can really help you here. We always prioritise respecting the individual at Amberley Lodge, and we know that no one understands your personal relationship or how you communicate better than yourself.
Our guide is simply intended to provide you with a framework on how to successfully approach a conversation and to hopefully move forward positively with whatever issues may be causing you concern.