Elderly relative refuses help but not able to cope

Hi guys

I’m hoping that someone can offer some much needed advice, although I feel a bit guilty posting on here as I’m not really a carer due to the distance that I live from my relative.

My elderly uncle is struggling. His eyesight is very limited, he forgets things, (although I think at present it’s just age rather than dementia or anything similar), he falls, he sometimes has toileting issues and his house is a terrible mess. He’s always been a little ‘different’ and has never taken care of his house and has hoarded stuff but it’s got to the point where it’s filthy, he’s a mess and when I was able to visit in the Summer I was basically trying to clear a path through stuff so that he was at less risk of tripping and falling. He doesn’t have a downstairs loo and struggles with the stairs. He is struggling to feed himself as he seems to be having issues cooking things and even though we’ve provided microwave meals he sometimes puts them on for far too long and cremates them. I live some distance from him, but am the closest relative, and have been going to see him when I can - especially tricky lately with Covid obviously. I worry about him a lot - as do the rest of the family.

I’ve tried to talk to him about moving to a care home or similar but he won’t entertain the idea at the moment. He also absolutely won’t ever allow someone to come into his house whether that’s to help with cleaning, meals, personal hygiene etc. I realise that he very much needs a Needs Assessment, however he’s extremely pig-headed and stuck in his ways and thinks that he’s coping so won’t willingly subject to one. Any attempt to ‘force’ any help onto him will probably result in him getting extremely angry and cutting communications.

What can I do in this situation? Any advice? I’m spending a lot of time worrying about him but it doesn’t seem productive since I’m not currently able to do anything. Everything that I come up with is very quickly turned down as he’s ‘fine’, ‘doesn’t need help’ or ‘can’t be bothered’ - even when it’s something very simple that wouldn’t be any hassle for him at all, such as me switching his mobile phone tariff so that I’m not worried about him running out of credit and not being able to contact me in an emergency.

Thanks for any help…

Hi L,
Does he trust his GP? If so, you could write to the GP expressing your concerns as you have to us, and see if the GP manages to get any further with him.

However, he might well not want anyone to come into the house because he is embarrassed abut the state it is in.

Otherwise, it might be that it takes a crisis/emergency to force the issue - i.e. he falls and gets taken to hospital and social care won’t allow him to return home until he has allowed it do be decluttered and cleaned etc

Sorry I haven’t been much help, hopefully others will be along to advise.


Have a look at “Diogenes Syndrome”.

Elderly people do tend to be stubborn and insist they can manage when they clearly can’t.

As time goes on health gets worse but they perhaps just don’t realise, think in their mind they are young and fit

when they are not.

The not wanting to end up in a home so insisting they can manage.

As Melly says often it’s a crisis that forces action to be taken,

A fall or perhaps leaving the gas on.

All you can do is be there for him and keep offering help.

You are a carer, you are looking after an elderly relative.

Thanks so much for the replies. I was really hoping to avoid a crisis, (which I’m sure is coming), but I guess without him on board there’s not an awful lot I can do to avoid one :frowning: Can a doctor request a Needs Assessment if they’re concerned about someone do you know? He does go to his doctor but I think to say that he trusts them might be going a little far. I’ve looked up some information about Needs Assessments but everything that I’ve read so far seems to assume that the person being assessed is willing.

He is a little embarrassed about the state of his house, I think, but also doesn’t want people in because he thinks they might take things. When I visit I’m allowed to tidy a little but he keeps a very close eye on what I’m doing and it’s really only possible to make the area a little safer with less trip hazards than to make any real inroads.

You are in a very difficult situation.

My older sister fell at home recently, cutting a long story short, admission to hospital. This revealed long standing health issues, and the result of the fall five broken ribs.

She too thought she was coping, but had begun to have help with cleaning, but wasn’t managing her health issues.

It has been a long road, but following the fall has agreed to respite care.

I too am the old relative, it’s hard.


I’m glad that your sister is finally getting some help @Susan_20121234 x

Some doctors will normally do a home visit on the pretext of “visiting their most senior patients they haven’t seen for a while” where there are grave concerns about the welfare of a patient. All I can suggest is that you take some photos of the property when you are next there, so that there is clear evidence of his self neglect.

That’s a good idea Bowlingbun, thank you. I’m now in contact with his doctor so might be able to work out something that way…

The whole purpose of the forum is to pass on ideas like this, things that might work when nothing else has. Keep posting.

If your uncle finds out you’re taking photos of his belongings and showing them to people in authority then he may feel betrayed and not trust you anymore.
I think a better approach is to continue being very kind towards him and visiting him whenever you can. Let him know in advance when you’re coming to see him.
Encourage your uncle to choose one room which you will tidy and clean first. Then tell him to choose 6 items which he is willing to throw away.
Once you’ve made a start on the room it will be easier to get it clean and tidy. Tell him to choose another 6 items to dispose of on your next visit and so on.
The important thing here is that your uncle feels he is in ‘control’ of getting rid of his belongings.
This method should also make him feel better about himself.
Good luck!

Karen, I wasn’t suggesting taking photos in an obvious way!
This is a VERY serious problem.
Being kind, suggestions etc. is like water of a duck’s back. It just doesn’t work!
My mum was a hoarder, more attached to her vast collection of Ercol furniture than anything else. It took me and my two big strong sons a year to empty out her home for sale. Over 60 dining chairs and over 10 dining tables for starters. We married in 1971, mum never EVER entertained anyone in her dining room or cooked a meal for my family! There was a carport rammed full of Ercol, a garage also rammed full of furniture and “stuff”. Four Ercol studio couches hanging from giant cup hooks were suspended from the rafters.
I was already under instruction never to care for anyone ever again when this lot happened, I was very ill, and 6 years later I realise that I’ll never get back to how I was before this.