Why you might want to talk

You may notice that your friend or relative seems to be struggling with everyday tasks - such as getting washed and dressed, cooking or cleaning ­- or they might be finding it difficult to get around inside their home. It’s quite possible that they know they're not coping as well as they did in the past. But they might be struggling to come to terms with losing their independence and trying to hold on to what they have left. Be aware that:

  • your concern could be mistaken for criticism
  • help with washing and dressing can feel like an invasion of privacy and a loss of dignity
  • admitting that they need help means giving up some control
  • they may be worried about the cost of getting help.

You need to balance these concerns against the potential benefits of discussing the issue, such as:

  • improved safety
  • better quality of life
  • living independently for longer.

When to talk

It can be difficult to know when to step in. Subtle changes can take place over time and may mean that both of you are unsure if they need help or what help they need.

Try to talk to them as soon as possible. There may be some simple solutions that can be put in place and it’s better to prevent a crisis – for example, a fall – than having to deal with the situation when something happens.

How to start the conversation

Often just a little extra help is needed. Ask open questions to reveal what your friend or relative is struggling with:

  • ‘Is there anything around the house you need help with?’
  • ‘Is the cooker/fridge working okay?’ This could lead to a conversation about how they are managing to cook and whether they are eating properly
  • ‘Is the washing machine okay? How often do you do laundry?’ This could reveal issues with personal care
  • ‘How’re you managing on the stairs?’ This could tell you how they’re finding getting around the house.

Give specific examples of things you have noticed and suggest possible solutions:

  • ‘What would make that easier for you?’
  • ‘I heard of a service that can…. What do you think?’

Do one of those pros and cons exercises, dividing a piece of paper in half, and look at the risks and benefits. Things like that. So you lead them into considering their choices rather than telling them what they should be doing.

Look at your options

If you think your friend or relative needs some extra help at home, a good place to start is a free care needs assessment. You can contact their council to arrange one with their permission, or they can request an assessment themselves. The assessment works out what their care needs are, so both of you can start considering what support might work best for them.

If money is a concern, check that your friend or relative is receiving all the benefits they are entitled to. You can call the Independent Age Helpline 0800 319 6789 for more information.

As a first step, look at the following for information about:

Next steps

To request a care needs assessment with your friend or relative's permission, find and contact their local council.

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