What’s at stake?

It’s quite possible that your relative knows they are 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 you 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:

  • 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 that take place over time may mean that you and your relative are unsure about whether 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 to have to deal with the situation when something happens.

How to start the conversation

Often just a little extra help is needed. Ask leading questions that can reveal what your 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.

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 plus and minus exercises, dividing a piece of paper in half, and look at the risks and benefits. Things like that. So you lead them into considering rather than telling them what they should be doing.

What are your options?

If you think your relative needs some extra help at home, a good place to start is a care needs assessment. You can contact your relative’s council to arrange one. This is free and will work out what support your relative needs and how to get it.

If money is a concern, check that your 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:

Next steps

To find contact details of your local council, go to gov.uk/find-your-local-council

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