When Your Elderly Neighbor Needs HelpWhen Your Elderly Neighbor Needs Help

As our population grows older, this is becoming a more common scene: neighbors trying to find help for another neighbor whose driving now poses a danger to others, whose home is in disrepair, or whose utilities are often cut off for nonpayment. If you’re in this situation, you may feel both worried for your neighbor and frustrated by your efforts to find assistance. Here are some things to know when your elderly neighbor needs help.

More seniors living alone and more “elder orphans”

Aging in place and living alone can work fine for seniors, as long as they’re socially connected and can live safely on their own. In 2014, about 12.5 million US seniors lived alone, including nearly half of American women age 75 and older.

Problems arise, though, when solo-living seniors have no one to check in on them and no family to step in and help out. These so-called “elder orphans” can suffer from social isolation, and health problems can cascade into poor self-care, a neglected home, and problems running errands and caring for pets.

Signs that your older neighbor may need help

You may notice behavior changes like increased irritability or confusion that can indicate health problems. Other signs your neighbor may be in need are:

  • Erratic driving or new damage to their vehicle
  • A suddenly unkempt appearance
  • Pets left out all night to bark or no longer taken for walks
  • No lights on at night, which can be a sign that the power has been cut off
  • Failing to put trash out for weekly pickup
  • Mail overflowing the mailbox

If you and others in the neighborhood are concerned, it’s time to ask for help.

Who should you talk to when a neighbor needs help?

Talk to your neighbor first, in a tactful way. You might start by asking how they’re doing and then mention something you’ve noticed, such as an unmowed lawn or mail spilling out of the box. Offer to help, if you’re willing and able to do so. Some people will gladly accept, others may not.

Find out if your neighbor has family members you can contact to see if they can arrange for help. If your neighbor belongs to a religious congregation, ask the office if they have resources to help their senior members at home.

If your neighbor is truly isolated, or if they need more services than neighbors and family can provide, get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging and describe the situation to them. These agencies are the experts on what’s available in terms of

  • state, local, and federal benefits
  • assistance programs to help seniors live safely at home
  • health and wellness programs
  • in-home care coordination
  • adult day care
  • senior housing options
  • transportation

and many other services.

These agencies are a valuable resource for seniors and the people who care about them. You can search the national site to find your local Area Agency on Aging here.

Finally, remember that if you’re ever worried about your neighbor’s immediate safety—you haven’t seen them in an unusually long time or they failed to return from an errand—you can request a wellbeing check from your local police department or sheriff’s office.

Learn more about aging in place safely and see how aging in place compares to assisted living on the SeniorAdvisor.com blog.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

11 Comments

  1. Linda Wise May 23, 2017 Reply

    Great post! There are so many times that a senior living alone just needs a little bit of help every once and while. Your article is a great reference for anyone who is worried about an elderly neighbor.
    1 Comment C

  2. Author
    Casey May 26, 2017 Reply

    Thank you, Linda!

  3. Mario Marino August 9, 2018 Reply

    I am a senior and on occasion I need help with minor chores around the house. I have trouble lifting so I need assistance putting bags of salt in water softenor. Changing lite bulbs and house filters, etc. Like I say a lot of minor jobs. I would
    prefer a older high school student with skills to do minor work. Will pay going hourly rate with performance.

  4. Lara Vielee August 18, 2018 Reply

    Thank you. Have a situation with a neighbor in my condo complex. She has family but they do not care/are in denial because they are not around enough and can’t be bothered with the truth of the situation. I am concerned because this neighbor is still driving! My stepfather just diagnosed with PRE dimentia or Alzheimer’s and lost license…where do I go for that part of this safety issue? God bless!!

  5. Patricia Buckwalter December 15, 2018 Reply

    I need to find help for my elderly Neighbor who doesn’t think he needs help, yet will stop a neighbor to tie his shoes. Many of us in our community do our best to help him when he doesn’t make it too difficult to help. He has family who aren’t around I’ve contacted one of his sons and another Neighbor sends reports to neighbor’s daughter who lives across the country. I’ve been told to not contact family anymore like mind my own business via request of neighbor’s family. I could go on and on , bottom line we need help.I’ve tried contacting local senior agencies with no avail PLEASE HELP Thank you.

  6. Beth Labib January 12, 2019 Reply

    My 88 year old mother is,reluctantly,thinking about giving up her car. She uses it to go to work, shopping and visiting family and friends. She’s willing to use an Uber to get to work but not for the other times. She asked her younger friend if she’d be willing to drive her for a fee and, needing extra money, seemed happy to do it. What would be a fair price for me to pay her?
    Thanks for any help you can give us,
    Beth Labib

  7. Torres February 4, 2019 Reply

    We need help for 82yr. Neighbor, We live in a senior apts. today she fall and has a lump on the back of her head. she said she’s ok, But am worried.. This is the fourth time that she has fallen, We have called 911 a few times but she tells them that she’s ok and refuses to go with them to hospital. We have call her daughter and son but they don’t seem to care very much. They hardly come to check on her most of time she’s by herself. We the nieghbors don’t know what else to do for her. She dose Havel a caregiver that come 4days a week but she’s only their for 4hrs from 9-1:00 P.M. …Friday -Sunday She’s by herself… We have told her caregiver that she need full time care she barely walks with her walker, but nothing has been done for her. And always falling most of the time at night. We don’t think she should be living by her we self. But her family don’t seem to care. We are vey concern for her we don’t know what else to do for her.

  8. Denise July 2, 2019 Reply

    There is a couple living inadequately on the husband’s social security who live across the street from me. They’re usually running low on food for themselves and their cat by the end of the month, run out of gas, have almost had utilities turned off, owe back taxes on their house, and they are hoarders; the porch is filled with bags of food and all kinds of stuff. I pay the husband to mow my lawn and give them the 2nd item when my grocery has 2 for 1 specials in the produce department since food pantries don’t give out fresh produce, but those are drops in the bucket. Any suggestions about what can be done for them?

  9. LIS September 21, 2019 Reply

    THIS IS HORRIBLE ……… why DONT the neighbors HELP the one’s they’re WORRIED ebout too INCONVENIENT ???

    PEOPE R SO VERY SELFISH & should help other VERY VERY OFTEN
    DONT RELY ON POLICE & GOV SERVICES _

    they’ll find out when they die hopefully whet they should heve done

  10. TERESA GUAL November 14, 2019 Reply

    I live in Pembroke Pines, FL 33023 and I’m looking for an institution to whom donate some unopened, non expired medical supplies. Is your organization accepting them?
    If not, do you know where could I address for this purpose?
    Thanks

  11. David mueller December 25, 2019 Reply

    I have an elderly neighbor he’s in a wheelchair, he has a son that stays with him but he disappears for three and four days at a time. I took him something to eat because he hadn’t eaten anything in 2 days I don’t know who to call I’m not sure what’s going on with son but I know he has no food in the house at all. I don’t mind taking him food but I know I just got out of the hospital with a stent put in his heart I know it’s health is really bad I’m pretty sure he needs somebody around I have no way to contact any of the family. Could you please help me was someone I could call in Florida if you could it would be Grace with greatly appreciated I just watched him be completely alone for Christmas what’s nothing to eat again. thank you

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