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How to tell when someone needs help at home (and how to approach it)

It’s not easy to ask for help, especially when we might not even realise we need it. That’s why family and friends can play a crucial role when determining if someone needs a little bit of a hand around the home. Unfortunately though, sometimes being in these close relationships can make this a fraught subject to bring up, particularly if you suspect you’ll be met with resistance.

Here are some ways to work out whether those close to you need help at home, and how you can frame this conversation in a positive light.

Check in on at them at home

It may sound obvious, but to get a clear idea of how the person is or isn’t coping, a visit to their home should be on the cards. If all of your catch-ups happen at your place or somewhere public like a café, you’ll have no idea what their actual living situation is like.
Inside their home, look for tell-tale signs of someone not managing well, such as piles of dirty dishes or lots of dust and grime. You might even notice that your loved one is not regularly bathing or cleaning their clothes.

Even though you think you are acting in the person's best interests, this is a really sensitive area, so be mindful that you’re not being too obvious in your observations (or as they might see it, snooping).

Have a chat

When you talk with the person, you’re concerned about, do any red flags (such as memory loss or hard to follow speech patterns) come up? Do they talk about feeling overwhelmed by things to do, or seem depressed and unable to motivate themselves to do small tasks? Many people can become isolated at home when the effort to go out seems too great. They may not know of the many options available to assist them getting out and about, maintaining a social life or even getting errands done.
Active listening will help give you an idea about what’s going on in their situation.

Focus on the benefits

Not everyone is thrilled at first by getting outside help, but having that additional support can bring lots of benefits. There’s someone who regularly pops in to perhaps cook for you, takes you on errands, keeps you company and does some light housekeeping. This extra set of hands can lift a whole bunch of chores from your plate, especially ones you probably won’t miss in the first place! A carer can help a person remain in their home for longer than they’d otherwise be able to and enable them to retain some independence.
Focusing on these positives will help reframe the discussion around getting some assistance and make it a more appealing prospect.

Take it slow

If your loved one is resistant to the idea they need some help around the home (even if you’re adamant), pushing for this outcome can create stress and animosity. On your end, spend your energy instead researching the options available so that you can explain what you think is best, however be open to taking their perspective on board as well. This can be tricky terrain to navigate, especially in child-parent dynamics where there can be power struggles.

Baby steps can help, such as just getting the person some cleaning assistance every so often. Starting small can get them to realise that they’d like assistance in other areas, and once comfortable with the idea will be more receptive.