My neighbour says she's fine but I'm worried about her - what can I do?

Our Ask an expert column looks at safeguarding and what you can do if you're concerned about someone else.

Uncollected post in a letterbox

‘My neighbour has dementia and lives alone. She’s lost weight and isn’t changing her clothes or going out. She says all is fine, but I’m worried – what can I do?’

Safeguarding concerns 

It’s hard to know what to do if you’re concerned about someone’s wellbeing, yet they tell you everything is fine. This could be the case whether or not they have dementia, though you might have particular worries if they do. 

If your neighbour has any family or friends who visit her, perhaps find out if they know what is happening and whether they could help. If this isn’t possible, you can share your concerns with local social services. 

Making decisions and managing difficult situations

Find out about mental capacity and get advice on how to approach decision-making for someone with dementia.

Find out more

Self-neglect 

Self-neglect – where a person isn’t looking after themselves as well as they should be – can get worse and lead to many problems. 

If you raise a safeguarding concern about your neighbour with social services, they have the power to look into it and work out how best to help her. They could find out what she needs to stay healthy and well at home. 

Going to social services might seem like an extreme thing to do. However, if your neighbour is telling you that everything is fine and you feel that it really isn’t, then it’s important she gets the support she needs. Contacting social services – who can find the right solutions with her involvement – could be a vital step in helping her. 

Other concerns 

As well as self-neglect, there are a number of other signs of possible abuse or neglect that could be a reason to raise a safeguarding concern with social services. 

  • Noticing signs of financial abuse – for example, the person lacks money for basics like heating or for other things they’d usually spend it on, they’re befriended by someone new who may be taking advantage of them, or they’re repeatedly buying items from sales callers. 
  • Spotting bruising, cuts, burns or other marks on the person. 
  • Witnessing or hearing arguments that appear more severe than you’d expect, for example they may include verbal or physical abuse. 
  • Not seeing someone for a long time – especially if you’d usually expect to see them, or if they miss something they regularly go to. You might notice their bins not being put out or post not being picked up. 

If you believe that someone is in any immediate danger, then you should call 999 – that is what the emergency services are there for. In other cases, a call to social services could lead to them finding out what can be done to help.

Next steps

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16 comments

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So my neighbour is elderly .. think she must be in her 90’s she keeps throwing her bin bags at my house and shouting with aggression which I don’t mind because I can see there’s some problem with her, I was on video call to my mom at the time and she said it looks as if she had dementia, I just move her bags into my bin, but there a big drop between her house and mine and I’m scared she’s going to fall down it, she keeps walking out her house and she’s getting more aggressive, she had a go at my husband the other day when he walked passed her house, I don’t see anyone go in to help her except a lady once a week for 10 mins, I’d like to report it as I’m concerned for her wellbeing anyway I can report it online or anything, I live 2 mins from the entrance to a motorway and even closer to a lake so I’d hate for her to end up there one day because I never tried to get her the help she obviously needs

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Hi Shannon,
Thanks for getting in touch.
This sounds like a difficult situation, but it's a good idea to seek support if you're concerned about your neighbour's well-being.
Contacting social services might be a good way to find out what kind of help is needed - your local council's website should explain how to do this.
If you'd like to speak to somebody about the situation first, please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. A dementia adviser will be able to learn more about your neighour's behaviour and provide information, advice and support.
Hope this is helpful,
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hi.

Like most people who have posted my neighbour has issues living on her own. Very forgetful, confused, anxious, reclusive and sometimes volatile but insists everything is okay. Her family dont want to know because she rejects them for interfering. Very challenging situation.

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I live in a small block of flats. My neighbour is showing some signs of dementia. Forgetting the thread of conversations, she is making noise in her kitchen late at night and keeps leaving food on the has hob to burn. She lives alone and I am worried about her safety and the safety of others living in the flats. It’s a difficult situation, I’m concerned and want to support them but she is very sensitive and defensive if I try and approach the subject. I don’t know family members and I have some landlord responsibilities. What can I do to help? I don’t want them to feel like I have been talking behind there backs and other neighbours don’t seem to know what to do either. If I ignore some of the issues I am worried about what might happen.

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Hi there, thanks for getting in touch.
If you speak with one of our dementia advisers on 0333 150 3456, they can listen to the situation with your neighbour. They're available seven days a week to provide advice, support and information about dementia. You can find opening hours for our Dementia Connect support line here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line
In the meantime, we have advice on where to find support for a person with dementia who is living alone during the pandemic, which may be helpful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/coronavirus-support-person-de…
Also, this page gives information for anyone who is concerned about someone else's memory: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how…
Wishing you all the best.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My neighbours husband has recently gone into a home due to dementia, she herself is a bit confused, managing to get shopping via her family. But I think she could do with some help especially due to the lockdown. Who would be best to contact?

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Hi Maxine,
We recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers on 0333 150 3456. They can listen to the situation with your neighbour, provide advice and support. Our advisers are available seven days a week. You can find opening hours for our Dementia Connect support line here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line
In the meantime, we have advice on where to find support for a person with dementia who is living alone during the pandemic, which may be helpful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/coronavirus-support-person-de…
All the best, Maxine.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My 89 year old neighbour I feel he needs some help, he blacks out a lot and we have to help him get up once he phoned us. He is bent over at 45 degrees angle and he still driving. We have spoken to him about getting some care, stopping driving etc but he insists he is okay
He has a daughter whom we had a meeting with but she just says her dad is strong minded and stubborn and she can’t do anything.
Just recently he was in bed ill for a week and if we had not gone into him he would of never of even had a drink !
It’s getting really worrying, he owns his own house and really don’t know what the next step is ??

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A friends neighbour is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

He has become aware that people are stealing from her and charging her lots of money to clean her house

In addition they are saying that they now have a letter from the lady leaving their daughter her home

The police say there is nothing that can be done ?

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I am very concerned about a neighbour . I believe she may have the start of dementia . She will not go to the doctors and obviously thinks nothing is wrong . Several neighbours have voiced concern and she has fallen out with most . I am really worried for her as some will take advantage by taking money off her for trips to shop etc . She is German and has a harsh manner but my partner has known her all his life and is also really worried . Her daughter in law has tried to get her to the doctors bit she has got nasty with her and refuses to even talk to her daughter in law now . Her son died some years ago now from cancer so she is alone . I want to help her but if she knows I have informed any authority then she will never talk to me again and to be honest she needs my partner and myself . We help her by making meals etc keeping an eye on her . But could really do with some advise on what I can do . Thank you

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Hello Carla,
Thanks for getting in touch. We're sorry to hear you're going through such a worrying time with regards to your neighbour.
We recommend calling our National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 11 22 - our expert advisers can provide information, advice and support. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
In the meantime, we recently wrote an article called 'How to offer help to someone with dementia who doesn’t want it' that you might find useful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/how-offer-help-someone-dementia-who-…
Similarly, this page gives information for anyone who is concerned about someone else's memory: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how…
We hope this helps, Carla.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Hi Carla,

I just tried to call the number & it doesn't connect.

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Hi Em,

Are you still having problems?

Also, are you calling from the UK? We're a UK based charity, so you'd need to add +44 if you're calling from somewhere else.

Thanks,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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I have been keeping an eye on my neighbour for several months. She has dementia and very bad short term memory. She does have 30 mins care per day. 3 months ago she was reassessed by adult social services. No change was made with her care program. However I think her mental state had declined. The care provider could not send a representative to the assessment and so she represented herself, alone. This lady believes she is much more independent than reality suggests. I should know as I visit her a minimum of twice per day, provide meals on occasion and also take her shopping etc. No close relatives nearby and no regular visitors. Would it be in order to ask for another assessment, this time with myself or another person who knows her well present? She is not too frail yet but in my opinion her care could be much more suited to her needs. Thank you.

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my neighbour has quite severe dementia ,. she has stopped washing , cannot find the food in the house . she thinks someone has stole the fridge . she keeps coming out of the house , leaving all the doors open and then she forgets where she lives. shes looking for her son who died 30 yrs ago . she has a daughter who calls once a week , but shes not bothered about her .. what can we do ?

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hi Paul, I'm very sorry to hear about your neighbour . If you call our helpline one of our advisers would be glad to advise on this and put you in touch with local services.
Our Helpline is open Monday to Wednesday (9am-8pm), Thursday to Friday (9am–5pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10am-4pm), and can be reached on 0300 222 11 22.
Thanks

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