Six signs your elderly loved one may not be safe living alone

Are you worried about you or an elderly loved ones safety at home? Do you have concerns that your friend or relative is struggling to stay safe and independent in their own home?

Here are six signs to look out for that your elderly loved one may need some extra support to continue to live independently in their own home:

  1. Their home is messier or dirtier than it used to be.

    As we get older, daily chores can become more difficult – hovering and sweeping are pretty labour intensive. Little things like dust on the skirting boards or on a door frame aren’t always cause for concern but things that could become dangerous are red flags. Look out for dishes piling up, washing not being done and signs of vermin. These things could cause a risk to your loved ones health and should not be ignored. Other signs to look out for are piles of unopened post/bills stacking up and items being left on the floor – this could create a tripping hazard or be a sign that your loved one doesn’t want to bend over to pick up the item as they are worried they may lose their balance.

  2. Your loved one is no longer looking after themselves as they once did.

    Lack of bathing, dressing, personal care or wearing clean clothes is a clear sign that something is wrong. This could be due to a physical or cognitive impairment or even depression and should not be ignored.

  3. They are losing or gaining weight.

    Weight loss is usually a sign of neglect or a problem with mental or physical health. If there doesn’t appear to be a good explanation for their weight loss then you should encourage them to see their GP. Just as weight loss may be a sign a loved one is struggling to live independently in their own home, weight gain could also be cause for concern as they may be snacking or eating easier to cook junk food instead of healthy, balanced meals.

  4. Struggling to remember how to do familiar tasks.

    If you notice your elderly relative is having trouble or unable to perform, what once were, every day familiar tasks such as making a cup of tea or turning the thermostat up or even finding their favourite TV programme on catch up, then this could be an early sign of a cognitive impairment and they should see their GP if this happens regularly.

  5. Staying At Home.

    Has your loved one stopped going out? Have they stopped visiting friends, attending family events or stopped their hobbies? This could be a sign that they are finding it hard to get out due to a physical or cognitive problem or it could be a sign of anxiety or depression and must not be ignored.

  6. Forgetting or Miscalculating their medication

This could be extremely dangerous and lead to severe complications or even premature death. If you notice your loved one has left over medication or have run out of their medication before their repeat prescription is due then this must not be ignored.

Other signs you should not ignore if you are worried about an elderly loved one living alone:

  • Cuts and bruises on their skin
  • Paranoid or defensive behaviour
  • Scratches or dents on their car
  • Missing payments or other important deadlines
  • Familiar places appearing foreign to them


What should I do if I recognise or am worried that my parent or elderly relative/friend is struggling to look after themselves?

Even if you know they need some help or additional support, your loved one may not be ready to accept this for a variety of different reasons; they could be scared, proud, worried about the cost of care or fearful of the unknown.

The first thing you must do is speak to them about what you have observed. You should respectfully acknowledge the changes you have noticed without any blame. Be honest and factual but also sensitive and understanding. Listen to what they have to say, they may have legitimate reasons as to why something is happening and just by talking it through, a simple solution could be found; such as getting a litter picker, so if they drop something on the floor they can pick it up by themselves without bending over, so instantly a tripping hazard has been removed.

Even if you know they need some help or additional support, your loved one may not be ready to accept this for a variety of different reasons; they could be scared, proud, worried about the cost of care or fearful of the unknown.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to get them to agree with what you are saying straightaway. Let them have time to think about what you have said and then raise your concerns again a few days later.

Have options available to them

Have several options available to them, so when they ask what can be done to keep them safe, you can suggest some ideas. Make sure you ask them what they think and what they want and LISTEN. By listening to their concerns and own observations, you can then offer them practical solutions to help them decide which road to go down.

What help is there if I’m worried about an elderly relative living at home by themselves?

If, after taking practical steps to prevent hazards and dangers to themselves, you are still concerned for their safety or if you feel their quality of life is being impacted and additional help and support could regain their independence then they have the following options:

  • They could move in with you or another trusted family member or friend
  • You or another family member could move in with them
  • They could use a Home Care service also known as Domiciliary Care service. Home Care Services like ourselves don’t just offer help with personal care, they offer medication support, cooking and cleaning services and access to the community.
  • They could move into a residential or nursing home
  • They could move into a supported living scheme.

Looking for support at home?

If you are looking for home care for yourself or your loved one, then please call our friendly team for a chat today.

We are committed to supporting people in their own homes so they can maintain their independence and quality of life. We understand that everyone is different and everyone has different needs so we pride ourselves on delivering tailor made home care with dignity, compassion and respect.

We offer personal care, waking nights, live in care and a range of further services such as companionship, cooking, cleaning, help with shopping, social activities and access to the community including medical appointments. Our wellbeing teams provide high quality, person-centred care in the community, focussing on what matters most to you!