When You Worry About Elderly Neighbors
Nancy called last week worried about her elderly neighbor and wondering what to do. She sees her neighbor out walking, but when Nancy talks to her, it seems like she might have some dementia.
No adult children have visited that Nancy knows of. The house and yard need work, and her neighbor still drives – but driving might be a problem. The garage door has been dented a few times, the fence sideswiped, and her neighbor isn’t careful when backing up.
Over the years, Nancy’s chatted with her neighbor in passing but doesn’t have a close relationship. She wants to help but not intrude. She’s worried the neighbor isn’t safe – for herself or others.
Many good neighbors, like Nancy, are trying to find help for their next-door elders. It’s becoming a common scenario as our population ages.
In 2016 about 14% of all older adults lived alone. They’ve lived long, healthy lives, seldom relying on assistance from others. And they certainly don’t want to start now. Many times, they won’t ask for help because they don’t want to be a bother or they’re too proud.
Aging-in-place at home is most everyone’s goal. Yet it only works when seniors are connected socially. Without family, friends, and neighbors helping, solo-elders are at risk.
If you feel worried for an elderly neighbor and don’t know how to help, follow these tips.
First, know the signs that your neighbor may be at risk:
- Erratic driving or new dents and dings to their vehicle
- An unusual unkempt appearance
- Pets left out all night to bark or no longer taken for walks
- No lights on at night – it can mean the power has been cut off
- Failing to put trash out for weekly pickup
- Mail overflowing the mailbox
Second, what to do:
- Tactfully talk to your neighbor. Ask how they’re doing and mention something you’ve noticed: an unkept lawn, overflowing mailbox, or no lights.
- Offer to help, if you’re willing and able. Some people will gladly accept your offer, others may not.
- Ask about family members or friends and whether you can contact them for help. Ask your neighbor if they belong to a religious congregation. Ask if it’s ok to call the office and explore resources for help.
- If your neighbor is truly isolated, call your local Area Agency on Aging . You can make the call anonymously. Describe the situation. Usually a social worker will follow up with a home visit. He/she will get your neighbor connected to local experts and resources.
- If the situation seems urgent and you’re worried about immediate safety, call your local police department. Describe your concerns and request a well-being check.
It’s not always clear whether an elderly neighbor needs or wants a helping hand. And you might feel unsure if you should offer help. But remember, we all appreciate knowing our neighbors care and have our back. You can be that neighbor. So, go ahead and pay it forward.
BONUS TIPIf you’re in the Portland Metro Area and you’re worried about an elderly neighbor, give me a call. I’m here to help!
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