What To Do if You Think an Elderly Is Self-Neglecting

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People struggle with a lot of issues as they grow older. Their memory is getting worse, focus and attention to detail might be deteriorating, not to mention their strength and motor skills. While it’s challenging for them to accept this state of things and adjust their daily routine, the situation also becomes more and more difficult for their close ones. Very often, the elders don’t want to admit that their quality of life has decreased. They feel ashamed, don’t want to be a burden, or simply prefer to pretend like everything is fine.

In this case, as their friend or a family member, you need to watch them closely to ensure they don’t need any help. It certainly is challenging to raise the subject if you feel like something is off. Below, you will find some helpful advice on what to do if you think an older person is self-neglecting. When should you talk, and how to approach this? What are the problems? Can you get live-in care in the UK? 

What To Do Before Bringing Up This Subject? 

Before talking to an elderly person about the possibility of self-neglect, there are some things you should do first. First and foremost, you need to examine the situation in detail and make sure that there indeed is a problem. Maybe it’s just a matter of forgetfulness or poor eyesight? You should exclude any medical issues that could be causing this behaviour to avoid awkward, uncomfortable situations. Especially if you suspect that they might suffer from depression – in this case, your approach should be entirely different and even more delicate.

Secondly, you should check if there is a physical problem that impairs their abilities. This could be due to arthritis, diabetes or other conditions that make it hard to perform some tasks. 

Moreover, try to determine specific issues. Do they seem to be eating properly? Do they take their medications on time and pay close attention to what they put into their body? Are they keeping themselves clean and tidy? One more thing you should check is the person’s living environment. Are they living in a clean, warm and comfortable place? Is there anything that can potentially cause injuries (broken glass, abandoned furniture, etc.)?

When in Doubt, Consult with Others

Before you have this tough talk, it is better to discuss the matter with someone more knowledgeable. For example, you could consult with your family doctor in case of any doubts about medical issues, a psychologist or a geriatrician who certainly knows more about elderly behaviour patterns. There are people who have experience in taking care of older people, and they can advise you on what to do and what can be done by professional caregivers stories.

How To Bring Up This Subject?

Once you’re sure that the person you care about is, unfortunately, self-neglecting, it is time to talk about it. You certainly don’t want to make an unpleasant surprise or mention this as a passing thought. Instead, you need to approach this subject very carefully and delicately.

First of all, you have to get the person’s permission before telling them what you think. They might be surprised at first and even deny the fact that they are self-neglecting. This can be especially difficult for them if they already feel bad about what has happened to them and their everyday life. As such, it is vital for you to stay calm, empathetic, and patient. 

Try to make them understand (very subtly) how they can put themselves in danger. Make sure they know you do it out of love and care because you don’t want them to get hurt – not because they are a burden. Moreover, you should have several propositions as to how to improve the situation and discuss them together. Let them feel they are in control and can still make their own choices.

What if They Don’t Want To Discuss This?

If they still refuse to accept the deteriorating situation, remember how crucial it is for you to stay calm and considerate. Try to get to the bottom of things. Are they in denial, or is there more to it? Keep the conversation open. You don’t need to reach an agreement right away. You might want to take a step back, assess the situation once again and identify the issues yourself.

What to Do Next?

Depending on the extent of self-neglect, there are several things you can offer your loved one.

To begin with, you can simply offer your help. If the person can still manage for themselves but needs some assistance with day-to-day tasks, you can visit them daily or every other day, bring groceries, cook, help them clean the house or wash, see if they take their meds, and so on. If you don’t have time for regular visits yourself, you can look for a qualified nurse who will come by for a couple of hours a day or a week.

However, sometimes even the most trivial tasks become too much to manage. If that’s the case, you might consider hiring live-in care. Then, there will be a need for a room in the elderly person’s house so that a caregiver can move in and assist the person around the clock. 

Furthermore, if you think that your loved one could use the company of other older people and constant supervision, you will have to look for a nursing or residential care home.


Self-neglect can result from physical conditions and health issues that make it hard to perform daily tasks, but it might also be caused by depression or other mental health disorders. That’s why it’s vital to identify the problem.

Whether you’re an older adult struggling with self-neglect or a family member or friend who wants to help, self-care is a crucial aspect of our everyday life. It can be anything from eating well and exercising on a regular basis to taking the medications and going for doctor’s visits on time. 

If you need some assistance, don’t be afraid to get it. There are many organisations that can offer the needed help, from affordable live-in care to assisted living facilities. You can talk to your loved ones about it and find the best solution together!