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What to do if You're Concerned About the Health of a Neighbour

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 18 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Neighbour Health Concern Contacting

As responsible neighbours, we should all try to be a bit more vigilant and show a little more interest in those who live near us, especially Elderly Neighbours or those who live on their own, particularly with regards to any health issues they might have.

Telltale Signs that a Neighbour Might be in Poor Health

There are often many telltale signs that a neighbour’s health may be in jeopardy simply. Permanently open or closed curtains can be a giveaway, as can newspapers sticking out of letterboxes for an unusual length of time. There can be all manner of reasons why you might suspect something may be wrong but if you strongly sense that something is not quite right, there is no reason why you should not check to see if a neighbour is OK.

If you know their phone number or can find that out, take that option first. If you’re able to speak with the person concerned, just tell them why you felt the need to call and ask them if they’re OK. Alternatively, if you’re not their immediate neighbour, ask the neighbour who lives next door about the current situation before you take any action, as they may be able to reassure you that all is well.

Dealing with the Elderly

The elderly, in particular, are often most at risk of falling ill without anyone realising and they can also be renowned for being the most stubborn when it comes to accepting they are sick and in need of help. If you’re able to gain access to a house where you suspect an elderly person (or anyone of any age, in fact) is in poor health and in need of help, sit down for a while and just pass the time of day with them a little. Talking about life in general will often help them open up a bit more to you, and they’re more likely to discuss issues such as their general well-being.

Recognising they Might Need Help

You don’t need to be a first-aid expert or to have any kind of medical knowledge to determine whether or not a person’s health is a potentially life-threatening situation. Just sitting and chatting to them, observing them and their surroundings will often give you clear signals that all might not be well. Do they look clean, is the house reasonably tidy? Go into the kitchen. Does it look as though they’ve had a meal recently?

If they have pets, is there food and water in the bowls. Are there signs of pet urine or faeces? Do their pets seem fretful or concerned? Often, it’s what you observe around you which will tell you a lot more than the person concerned will express verbally.

What to Do in a Potential Emergency Situation

If you cannot contact a person or any of their relatives on the phone or gain access to their home, you may have no option but to contact the police or social services and report this. Obviously, you’ll need to have some reasonably sufficient grounds for them to investigate the matter. For example, if you know the person visits the same places at the same time each day and they haven’t been seen for days, then it’s reasonable to call the police or social services to ask them to investigate the matter further.

In the event you can gain access and the person has lapsed into unconsciousness or has some other serious health issues, you need to call the ambulance service straight away, carry out any first aid which may be needed and wait for help to arrive.

Non-Emergency but Worrying Situations

If you’ve been able to gain access to the house and have spoken to the person concerned, yet are still troubled by what you witness with regard to their health, try to find out if they have any relatives. You can always weave this into a conversation, by prompting them to give you the contact details of a relative they could get in touch with if they were to become ‘really’ poorly.

Then, if you’re able to get that information from them, you could always call the relative, expressing your concerns and simply advise them that it might be worth checking up on your neighbour. Perhaps the person themselves might be willing to offer you a key in return for you running a few errands for them so it’s easier to let yourself in. You could give them your phone number and tell them not to hesitate in calling you if they’ve got any problems.

All situations of this nature are very different and determining a level of concern isn’t always easy or straightforward. Often tact and diplomacy play a big part as well. Gaining trust is another issue and, where possible, you need to try to enlist the help of relatives to also act as ‘lookouts’.

Ultimately, however, if you think that a situation could be life threatening, you need to call the emergency services or, at the very least, get in touch your local social services department.

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I’m concerned about my neighbours. A couple in their late 60s the man is in good health and the lady is not well. She doesn’t appear to be very mobile and it’s possible she suffers mentally too. A few years ago she was left alone and broke her arm badly and was left for several hours (this happened twice) her husband “gave up work” to care for her but from living next door, I witness him going out to work (doing private jobs) and the lady is left for hours. The man also spends 3 days a week at the pub during the day and every Friday night and Sunday night away. We often hear a lot of violence and screaming and crying. I am lost as to what to do?
Grad - 18-Jun-18 @ 10:16 PM
Katy - Your Question:
I’m worried about someone who lives on my road. They don’t seem to take care of themselves and it’s worrying me. They sat in front of me on the bus today and I could smell literal poo. What should I do? I don’t want to offend the poor man but I want him to help himself. His hair is so badly matted and he clearly doesn’t care.

Our Response:
Do you know if he has any family members or close friends that you could talk to? Perhaps giving social services a call might be worth while if you know where he lives.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Apr-18 @ 12:02 PM
I’m worried about someone who lives on my road. They don’t seem to take care of themselves and it’s worrying me. They sat in front of me on the bus today and I could smell literal poo. What should I do? I don’t want to offend the poor man but I want him to help himself. His hair is so badly matted and he clearly doesn’t care.
Katy - 16-Apr-18 @ 3:05 PM
new tenant moved in after previous teenage couple and I have had threats which I have had to report to the police and I also came to face with physical violence due to this man. I cant move as yet due to health issues that are beyond my control and cash flow issues health issues = bills rising. So I found out after he threatened me that he was one of the most wanted missing in the next town to me. I reported this but he is still allowed to stay. I think he found out i know about this and I dealt with doors being smashed in wailing through the night. What surprised me most is police did little landlord did little except to say 'keep a diary email us' he had new doors replaced 8am-6pm yesterday drilling banging sanding because he destroyed things. These were all replaced when he moved in. He sub lets too but as he is crazy and an ex con who is on the wanted list for assualt he is somehow allowed to act this way sure beats me. so he lives under an alt name and im told not to say anything to anyone!! yes so he could be sex offender too ive had lude comments too and he tried to invite me in his flat I declined now he is reporting me for noise. he became nosey looking in my window and is even nosier now everytime I am in he tries to open door to view me walking to flat. same as if I go past any window he tries to look at me and mutters. I also have the issue of he listens when I lay in bed and starts slamming things wails if im in the bathroom he follows me room to room like an absolute maniac police know and do nothing. I strongly believe he is a sex offender and has attacked a woman I dont know what the assualt was but im sure it was attacking a female as he has tried to hurt me. yes im stuck with emailing while he bangs wakes me up and I ahsake everytime I put keys in the locks so badly I dropped keys on floor earlier shaking.
myself - 12-Apr-18 @ 9:07 PM
I would value some advice .My elderly neighbor is 92 and lives alone and has always been very independent Recently my family and another neighbor noticed bruising on her face and she said she just woke up like it.she has always been a person of habit but recently has become quite vague and all her usual routines have been ignored.My daughter found her at the end of our road one evening at 10.45 on a really cold frosty night going to catch a bus to meet her son. She thought it was the morning so my daughter brought her back to her house.My neighbors rang her son and told him about this incident and he came to see her and said he had taken her to the hospital and the doctor said she was alright and she told us he was going to get a lady in to help her. but this was quite a few weeks agoMy other neighbor rings her each morning to check if she is ok and she said she was very cold and it turned out she had not had any hot water for 4 days as her water heater was broken,My neighbors got someone in to fix it for her and he did this for free, she has no proper heating only one little plug in heater. When my neighbor can get in she says the house is freezing cold and so is the old lady .She has since had more falls and has a cut and bruised face .On trying to ring her son about these incidents on a home and mobile he ignores all calls and never visits her.She has rang my neighbor asking if they are up thinking it is the morning when it is late in the evening. Today she got in a taxi and could not remember where she lived and gave the taxi driver an address he had never heard of. My neighbor again rang her son today to express our concerns and he was verbally aggressive callingl us curtain twitchers and vigalanties and he told our neighbors that they. are to have nothing to do with her.We feel she is at risk and I feel she is having mini strokes as her speech is slurred . We do not know what to do as she has a relative but he does not seem to care.
libby - 12-Jan-18 @ 10:58 PM
Juls - Your Question:
I am concerned about a elderly neighbour whom cannot look after herself health wise and cleanliness wise, she thinks she OK, but she is not.

Our Response:
Contact your local social services department, they will look into it for you and if help is needed they will be able to offer the appropriate level of support.
ProblemNeighbours - 2-Jan-18 @ 11:13 AM
I am concerned about a elderly neighbour whom cannot look after herself health wise and cleanliness wise, she thinks she OK, but she is not.
Juls - 23-Dec-17 @ 9:23 PM
Bob - Your Question:
Our neighbour has severe dementia, several days a week we have him for meals. His step son goes out at any time of the day and night leaves him alone locked in. He has no acces to the telephone, the kitchen and cannot open any outer doors. We are extremely worried about his safety, what if there is a fire? Could someone advise on the correct course of action, we have already approached the step son but he feels it is ok to leave him.

Our Response:
If you're really worried about this gentleman, you could mention it to social services. His son may be locking the doors so his father can't get out and wander the streets/get lost etc, but it's worth mentioning just so they can take a look.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-Dec-17 @ 2:37 PM
Our neighbour has severe dementia, several days a week we have him for meals. His step son goes out at any time of the day and night leaves him alone locked in. He has no acces to the telephone, the kitchen and cannot open any outer doors. We are extremely worried about his safety, what if there is a fire? Could someone advise on the correct course of action, we have already approached the step son but he feels it is ok to leave him.
Bob - 3-Dec-17 @ 10:49 PM
I have a elderly neighbor who is constantly accusing me of entering his house and stealing things from him. i.e. His cap, specs,bathroom rug! Whilst this seems comical he becomes very nasty and has on one occasion called the police. He has harassed my daughter in law when outside putting my grandson in his child seat...which my grandson remembers! He tells any one that will listen to him that I steal from him. He has a daughter who never visits and seems to want nothing to do with him. I have her phone number and ring her when he has knocked at my door, but she does nothing.He has harassed another neighbour, a lady that lives alone, accusing her of putting a dead firework on her drive, she puts a chain on her gate as she is afraid of him. He is in his late eighties and has lived alone for many years, he also still drives a very big Mercedes, which I think is also scary as he is obviously not of sound mind. I really do not know what to do as he seems to have a vendetta against myself and my husband. We only moved here 2 years ago and he was fine in the first year, but since then he has turned against us. Can you advise what we can do.
Gingernut - 15-Nov-17 @ 7:00 AM
Hidecote - Your Question:
My neighbour I believe has paranoid schizophrenia he has lived there about 5 years. He always had several visits daily from male support workers who took him to a daily medical appointment. I always said hello good morning etc. However over last 6 months we don't see his support guys at all and he screams and swears mostly at night outside. He leaves front door open all night. He asked me to tell his sister and brother to leave him alone. He poked at his head saying they are in his head. He started approaching people in the park. He said they are telling him to do bad things but he doesn't want to. I learned from another concerned neighbour that the guy has been sent a letter from the agency saying as from Monday they are no longer responsible for him. I am worried that he Will have no One to help him. Any suggestions on who we could ask about this. Don't want to Involve police he hasn't done anything wrong. Thanks

Our Response:
Talk to your local mental health team and raise your concerns with them. While you don't want to mention it to the police, perhaps you could mention it to your local PCSO or call 101, say you are asking for advice, rather than to "report him"
ProblemNeighbours - 28-Jul-17 @ 1:00 PM
My neighbour I believe has paranoid schizophrenia he has lived there about 5 years.He always had several visits daily from male support workers who took him to a daily medical appointment. I always said hello good morning etc.However over last 6 months we don't see his support guys at all and he screams and swears mostly at night outside. He leaves front door open all night.He asked me to tell his sister and brother to leave him alone. He poked at his head saying they are in his head. He started approaching people in the park. He said they are telling him to do bad things but he doesn't want to.I learned from another concerned neighbour that the guy has been sent a letter from the agency saying as from Monday they are no longer responsible for him. I am worried that he Will have no One to help him. Any suggestions on who we could ask about this. Don't want to Involve police he hasn't done anything wrong. Thanks
Hidecote - 26-Jul-17 @ 1:11 PM
Lea - Your Question:
I'm concerned for my neighbour who lives in the flat up from me. She has no window and hasn't done now for approx 2 years. Her garden is getting out of control and is making mine and other neighbours homes look horrendous. I do know she is under the social but no one ever seems to come to visit her and she doesn't leave her house which makes me think how the hell is she surviving plus she has a dog which she never takes out which is cruel who can I talk to for help ?

Our Response:
Please call social services again and report your concern. It sounds as though she needs more help than she is getting. Have you been up there yourself to check on her at all? Is she even still alive? (Maybe you should ask the police to take a look)
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-17 @ 12:11 PM
I'm concerned for my neighbour who lives in the flat up from me. She has no window and hasn't done now for approx 2 years. Her garden is getting out of control and is making mine and other neighbours homes look horrendous. I do know she is under the social but no one ever seems to come to visit her and she doesn't leave her house which makes me think how the hell is she surviving plus she has a dog which she never takes out which is cruel who can I talk to for help ?
Lea - 25-Jun-17 @ 10:19 AM
Can you help our next door neighbour understand that she no longer can cope by herself. She no longer responds to banging on her door,window or her name. She totally ignores you because her mind is somewhere else and not on this planet. She leaves her front door open,and doesn't respond if you enter in the room like most people would. Her so called home helps have done nothing to help her and now she's annoying others. Can you help her?
Tigi - 22-Apr-17 @ 12:43 AM
Our next door neighbour is not capable of looking out for herself any more. She leaves her front door ajar at night,she doesn't answer your calling her name,knocking on the door,knocking on the window or any other form of calling. She is not deaf or hard of hearing,she is not on this planet mentally. Not only is she a danger to herself constantly but now she's becoming a nuisance. Her so called home helps show no concern about her well-being or they would have noticed she's She's got worse over time! Can you help her please,she needs reassessing.
Tigi - 22-Apr-17 @ 12:30 AM
Rosie - Your Question:
In the last year we moved into a house, it became apparent early on that the elderly neighbour next door, does not like us, she has on a number of occasions made accusations (false) about certain things, to the point she called the police stating we were having a party and burning chemicals, a local PSCO came and to her embarrassment realised we were in actual fact having a small family BBQ, we showed her all the things that have happened over the last year and she informed us we were within our right to log and start proceedings for harassment if we wished, we declined and instead sought advice from the military priest in our next steps, as its known that she is a Christian woman and we believed she worshipped at a local church, this has been hard to find so we are trying to find alternatives solutions, we have small children who should not bear witness to her rants, rants that although not of foul language can put stress on a family that bought this home to bring our children up in and for us to enjoy spending time in the garden. This is obviously the short version and any advice would be appreciated.

Our Response:
Could you perhaps try mediation? Citizens' Advice will have a list of local mediation services. If you are actually worried about the state of your neighbour's mind, could you try having a word with one of her friends/family that visits the property regularly?
ProblemNeighbours - 13-Apr-17 @ 12:49 PM
In the last year we moved into a house, it became apparent early on that the elderly neighbour next door, does not like us, she has on a number of occasions made accusations (false) about certain things, to the point she called the police stating we were having a party and burning chemicals, a local PSCO came and to her embarrassment realised we were in actual fact having a small family BBQ, we showed her all the things that have happened over the last year and she informed us we were within our right to log and start proceedings for harassment if we wished, we declined and instead sought advice from the military priest in our next steps, as its known that she is a Christian woman and we believed she worshipped at a local church, this has been hard to find so we are trying to find alternatives solutions, we have small children who should not bear witness to her rants, rants that although not of foul language can put stress on a family that bought this home to bring our children up in and for us to enjoy spending time in the garden. This is obviously the short version and any advice would be appreciated.
Rosie - 11-Apr-17 @ 4:31 PM
Paul74 - Your Question:
I work in a supermarket cafe and I'm concerned about an elderly customer who comes in regularly , he has dementia and over the last few months I have seen a big decline in both his physical appearance and his mental health , he mentions family but I have not seen any family with him for a very long time. He wanders about for a lot of the day he often comes in for something to eat but eats very little and then maybe comes back a couple of hours later but has no recollection of having been earlier , he's been buying paracetamol ,then day later buying more , I'm concerned he doesn't know when he's taken them or how many , overall I'm concerned for his wellbeing it's clear to see he's not a well man and needs help , I'm just not sure what I can do about it

Our Response:
Is there anyway you can find out his name or where he lives? It's a really difficult situation as he's just a customer, so these are things you don't usually get to find out. You could try contacting social services for advice - they may be willing to pop in one time when he's at your café?
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Mar-17 @ 12:41 PM
I work in a supermarket cafe and I'm concerned about an elderly customer who comes in regularly , he has dementia and over the last few months I have seen a big decline in both his physical appearance and his mental health , he mentions family but I have not seen any family with him for a very long time . He wanders about for a lot of the day he often comes in for something to eat but eats very little and then maybe comes back a couple of hours later but has no recollection of having been earlier , he's been buying paracetamol ,then day later buying more , I'm concerned he doesn't know when he's taken them or how many , overall I'm concerned for his wellbeing it's clear to see he's not a well man and needs help , I'm just not surewhat I can do about it
Paul74 - 25-Mar-17 @ 10:13 PM
Lmenz - Your Question:
I have an elderly couple living above me and my partner. The woman is partially blind and her husband and we believe her husband had dementia, from 7am to 11pm at night they argue, scream, shouting (he shouts for help, tells his wife to F off and she is telling him to be quiet and to stop shouting constantly), they go out with their daughter on a Saturday we presume and all is well but on their return straight back to it. We cannot get a good night sleep because of it and since we bought the flat it has only worsened!!! Any ideas what we can do other than potentially speaking to their daughter?

Our Response:
You could start by talking to the neighbours directly. They might not realise that they are disturbing others. It can be very frustrating living with someone who has dementia and also to be suffering from it as an individual, so maybe they aren't coping very well. Talking to your daughter is the next approach. If that doesn't resolve things, your environmental health officer may be able to investigate even though the hours you mention aren't necessarily those that would warrant action.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Mar-17 @ 11:18 AM
I have an elderly couple living above me and my partner. The woman is partially blind and her husband and we believe her husband had dementia, from 7am to 11pm at night they argue, scream, shouting (he shouts for help, tells his wife to F off and she is telling him to be quiet and to stop shouting constantly), they go out with their daughter on a Saturday we presume and all is well but on their return straight back to it. We cannot get a good night sleep because of it and since we bought the flat it has only worsened!!! Any ideas what we can do other than potentially speaking to their daughter?
Lmenz - 19-Mar-17 @ 12:46 PM
The old lady in the stair constantly screams and shouts through the night and through the day she lives alone I don't know why she would be doing this her daughter isn't approachable to talk to about this...
...... - 4-Feb-17 @ 6:30 AM
I currently live above an elderly woman has huttisons. The woman now tends to scream continusoly during early hours and during the day.. never when home help is there and lives with her husband.. she screams for help time to time but i am unable to knock on there door to see if shes ok as she takes aggressive outbursts. Her husband says everythings fine a deny the screamingbut i know he doesnt want her in a home.. im not sure what to do im worries about the woman
Enzie - 2-Jan-17 @ 9:13 AM
RedPoppy - Your Question:
While walking our dogs I was speaking to an elderly woman who I only know by sight but know lives on her own in a large house and who I suspect has no family. She mentioned she was about to post a cheque for just over £1000 to NPower which I said I thought sounded a lot. She claimed she had not heard the meter reader knock so the meter had not been read, and it was for 3 bills. My initial concern was that it might be hugely overestimated and to try to get her to submit a meter reading. I offered to accompany her to read the meter but she said she knew how.I tried to enquire when she had last made a payment and she went on to say that she had been contacted by them some time ago to take part in a survey and was told because of this not to pay the bills. Now she had been asked to pay but she said they had already knocked something off the amount due, bringing it down to this amount she was about to post. That all sounds odd to me so now instead of just being worried that she is perhaps paying an overestimated bill I am worried she might be victim of a scam. I offered to come around to look at her paperwork, the bills and payments she has made but she declined.Is there anything I could and should be doing.

Our Response:
That's very considerate of you, but if she refuses your help there's very little you can do at this stage. Next time you see her ask her about it again it might not hurt to mention that you were worried she had been the subject of scam so she'd appreciate why you were asking.
ProblemNeighbours - 30-Sep-16 @ 2:43 PM
While walking our dogs I was speaking to an elderly woman who I only know by sight but know lives on her own in a large house and who I suspect has no family.She mentioned she was about to post a cheque for just over £1000 to NPower which I said I thought sounded a lot.She claimed she had not heard the meter reader knock so the meter had not been read, and it was for 3 bills.My initial concern was that it might be hugely overestimated and to try to get her to submit a meter reading.I offered to accompany her to read the meter but she said she knew how. I tried to enquire when she had last made a payment and she went on to say that she had been contacted by them some time ago to take part in a survey and was told because of this not to pay the bills.Now she had been asked to pay but she said they had already knocked something off the amount due, bringing it down to this amount she was about to post.That all sounds odd to me so now instead of just being worried that she is perhaps paying an overestimated bill I am worried she might be victim of a scam.I offered to come around to look at her paperwork, the bills and payments she has made but she declined. Is there anything I could and should be doing.
RedPoppy - 30-Sep-16 @ 10:38 AM
Taylor - Your Question:
Hi, it is early morning and I have a neighbor that lives behind me with dogs and a few hrs ago I realized they were whining to get back inside. The neighbor is elderly and I have even seen the ambulance come,to her house in the past. I can see the dogs of,the back stoop wanting inside. I worry she fell or went to lie down and is still unconscious. I tried to get a hold of her son but he didn't answer so I am at a loss next to calling the police. Since it has only been 4 hours I feel it is too soon to do that.Also in the year I have lived here, her dogs have never whined to get back inside.

Our Response:
Call the police on the non-emergency number 101. It's clear that something might be wrong if the dogs are whining to get back inside.
ProblemNeighbours - 13-Sep-16 @ 11:54 AM
Hi, it is early morning and I have a neighbor that lives behind me with dogs and a few hrs ago I realized they were whining to get back inside. The neighbor is elderly and I have even seen the ambulance come,to her house in the past. I can see the dogs of,the back stoop wanting inside. I worry she fell or went to lie down and is still unconscious. I tried to get a hold of her son but he didn't answer so I am at a loss next to calling the police. Since it has only been 4 hours I feel it is too soon to do that... Also in the year I have lived here, her dogs have never whined to get back inside.
Taylor - 11-Sep-16 @ 2:27 PM
StuartM90 - Your Question:
Hey, I live in a top floor apartment with my partner, where is a lady that lives alone below us and lately we've noticed she has gone very quiet. her car has not moved for weeks, all her curtains and blinds are shut and we haven't heard or seen her leaving the house. The only sign of life I've managed to detect is whole out working on my car I could hear dishes being clanged together as though she was washing and stacking. Apart from that though.absolutely nothing? Should I be concerned and maybe do something? I have also tried knocking once or twice but I get no response.

Our Response:
If you've heard her moving about it might all be fine, but if you get no response, try putting a note through asking her to contact you. If you don't hear from her, give your local police a call, they'll be happy to check for you.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Jul-16 @ 10:10 AM
Hey, I live in a top floor apartment with my partner, where is a lady that lives alone below us and lately we've noticed she has gone very quiet... her car has not moved for weeks, all her curtains and blinds are shut and we haven't heard or seen her leaving the house. The only sign of life I've managed to detect is whole out working on my car I could hear dishes being clanged together as though she was washing and stacking. Apart from that though...absolutely nothing? Should I be concerned and maybe do something? I have also tried knocking once or twice but I get no response.
StuartM90 - 11-Jul-16 @ 12:12 AM
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