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Assess your worries

Have you been noticing changes for a while, or are they new? How serious are your concerns?

Using what we heard from older people, friends, family and professionals, we developed the following scale which might help you assess your own level of concern.

Lower level concerns

Examples: Not doing their hair, not putting on make-up or taking as much care about other aspects of their appearance as they used to, not being as house-proud as before.

These are often the earliest signs that something’s wrong. Other people who don’t know the person as well might not notice them, as they might be examples of a high standard that the person used to take some pride in slipping. That doesn’t mean they aren’t unsettling to the people who know them well.

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Medium level concerns

Examples: No longer washing regularly, not getting dressed during the day, refusing to go out, trouble sleeping.

The person’s daily routine may be affected by these changes. Other people who aren’t as close to the person may be noticing things too.

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High level concerns

Examples: not eating properly, drinking a lot of alcohol, smoking a lot, not taking medications, living in unsanitary conditions.

The things the person is doing are affecting their health or wellbeing quite a lot. They would probably need support to be able to make changes.

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Immediate risk

It’s very rare, but sometimes a person can be an immediate risk to themselves or others.

Examples: Living in a risky environment, in dangerous or unhygienic conditions, failing to take care of an illness or injury such that their health is at immediate risk, feeling suicidal. 

It’s not easy to judge this on your own, so if you’re very worried about an older person you should contact the local council’s adult safeguarding team. You can talk it over before any action is taken; you don’t have to tell them your name if you don’t want to.

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Things to consider

Remember, in most cases you can’t force someone to accept help or act on their behalf unless they agree to it.

Understanding where your worries lie on this scale may help you decide how to raise them with the person, and what support may be needed.

Let's recap

  1. It's good to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. 
  2. Some things may be less serious than others, but that doesn't make them any less valid.
  3. If someone's at immediate risk of harm, you need to act.  

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Last updated: Dec 06 2023

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