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.