My mom and I have lived next door to an elderly couple for about 3 years now. Over time, I've seen the woman doing a number of things suggesting to me that she is probably experiencing auditory hallucinations and perhaps some kind of paranoia, or other delusional thought process, or highly unusual thought process at least. She and her husband both seem to be somewhat unusual and mainly keep to themselves, though very rarely now and then have conversations with another neighbor on the street, and every once in awhile I've seen a couple people visiting them who seem to be family. It's often unclear to me if both husband and wife are engaging in some of the odd behaviors together (all of this is stuff happening on the street/sidewalk by the way), but more frequently I just see the woman doing this (though I think both spend most of the day at home).

What's prompting my concern is just that the woman seems to be doing these things that seem odd more and more frequently. The behaviors change with time but at present she is going around over and over to the same locations on the street and staring very intently at particularly things for quite some time, sometimes speaking softly and tersely on and off, and will do this for quite a long time (over and hour or more) on most occasions, and repeatedly throughout the day and into the evening, on most days. I haven't seen her go into anyone's yard but she does go right up to stare at things. Some times maybe taking pictures.

As far as other possibly relevant indicators, their house has significantly unkempt foliage of all kinds in front and back (like to the point of appearing quite chaotic with a fairly unusable backyard) but not unsafe per se. They are always timely with bring trash, recycling, and compost bins to the curb and back each week. Very rarely I see the man driving their car.

It's really mainly the increasing frequency and amount of time spent on the behavior that's worrying me. It's easily apparent so that if I have anyone over they almost always ask about it at some point. My mom is worried too and has experience in a mental health triage setting (I have some experience around clinical social work).

Basically I don't see any signs suggesting abuse or self neglect, and I have no idea anything about my neighbors aside from observations. We had a brief conversation once, prompted in fact by something I was doing at the time which understandably might have appeared quite odd (sprinkling diatomaceous earth to prevent pests around our building on advice from a professional), which is also to say, I definitely don't want to put myself in a position of presuming to define odd vs normal behavior. I want to respect their privacy & dignity as individuals & as a family. I definitely don't want to cause unnecessary intervention into their lives. I also don't want to sit idly by while someone's mental state deteriorates to an unsafe condition if there are clear signs (now or in the future) that show a line is being crossed.

I'm not asking anyone to assume the role of expert but just wondering if anyone can share some advice, broadly speaking. I wish I had the sort of neighborly relationship where it wouldn't be abrupt to suddenly go over and check on how they're doing, but that's not the case. However if it seems warranted I would want to figure out how to go about doing this. The easiest advice to receive is basically stop overreacting and mind my own business, but I just wanted to try to reach out somewhere and ask.

Thank you, I welcome thoughts and questions, I apologize for not providing a more concise question.

Find Care & Housing
You could call the police and just ask for a welfare check on them. Someone did that to my folks, which really got my dad's back up because he was functioning perfectly well, driving, very active in the community, etc. However, it was a little bit of a wake-up call that perhaps someone had a feeling things weren't right in the house and it alerted the police that a couple of possibly vulnerable seniors lived there. My dad let them in (he even knew these officers), and they made sure there was food in the refrigerator, and that both my parents could say they were fine. They asked for my phone number and that of my brother, and just checked to make sure everything was OK in general.

The police ended up calling me (who had just been there all day, for heaven's sake), but after feeling a little bent about the unnecessary intrusion, I was glad that some busybody had called, because it led to some conversations with my folks about their general safety at home. Mom was in the earlier stages of dementia, and while Dad was perfectly healthy, he was nonetheless in his late 80s and not exactly Superman any longer. As it happened, Dad passed away less than a year later, much to our dismay, and I had to take over Mom's care.

For the record, we never found out who made the call, though we have our suspicions. (I'm looking at you, Doris!) However, when all was said and done, the police ended up with the contact information of my parents' kids, and that was a very good thing.
Helpful Answer (19)
Reply to MJ1929
igloo572 Jul 20, 2021
“I’m looking at you, Doris!”, omg I so love this!
See 1 more reply
I think you're better qualified than most to answer your own question!

If this were a potential client, and a neighbor reported her to you, what action would you take?

You could keep an informal journal of observations. That way if there really is a significant uptick whether in frequency or severity or risk to anyone you'll spot it early. And keep the door open to communication in the hope that she'll gradually come to see you as someone trustworthy she can turn to.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to Countrymouse

I'm not quite picturing this behavior of going up to stare at things, but are these situations where you could take a walk in her direction and stop by and ask a relevant question about whatever she is staring at? Even a brief one-on-one might give you a better idea about your neighbor's state of mind.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to RedVanAnnie

When she’s out on the sidewalk go up to her and introduce yourself, get to know her. Then you could make welfare checks. See if you can learn who their relatives are.

I wouldn’t call the police or APS just yet. She isn’t hurting anyone. Befriend her. She probably would like to have someone to talk to.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to PatienceSD

I would fix some kind of treat and go share.

It is okay to reach out and meet your neighbors.

I am sure that they would appreciate any effort to be kind. This is the only way to know if all is well. My elderly neighbors all know that they can call us or ring our doorbell if they have a need. Be the kind neighbors that they know they can reach out to in an emergency.

I hope that the professional told you that you have to reapply the DE if it gets wet.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal
disgustedtoo Jul 19, 2021
" have to reapply the DE if it gets wet."

Yeah, like at the moment I'd have to put it out there every day, if it isn't downpouring that day! I'd forgotten I have bags of this until reading this - if it ever stops raining here (can we ship it back to the west coast for a while!!?!?!?!?), I need to get it out there... I keep the cat food bowls off the floor because of ants and until this year was successful, but they've found it!

Now, if it will stop raining...

As for the neighbors, maybe bringing a nice treat to them can open up a neighborly relationship, at least enough to see if their living is "safe." Sounds like maybe the gent is "okay" and the wife has some delusions?
See 1 more reply
Having had experience in social work, I'm surprised that you didn't immediately see the OCD-like behavior. (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
I think a wellness check is not out of order, seeing that the woman may be off her medications or in need of having some prescribed.
They're your neighbors! Go over, introduce yourself, and ask if everything is all right!
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to StillSoSad

As long as they are safe and healthy and the conditions of their home are safe and healthy, you may just keep observing. If you feel that they are no longer safe or healthy, then call adult protective services or the local authorities. Either a police officer or social worker will check on them to make sure they are OK.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Taarna

I think you are going overboard to NOT be intrusive, but you do sense something amiss, so should try to be neighborly and meet the woman 'accidentally', occasionally, to ask how she is doing. If they are able to keep up with there garbage bins etc. that is a good thing , so they are managing somethings even if the yard is beyond them. Sometimes bylaw will step in if the yard gets too crazy. It sounds like if things deteriorate too much, a wellness check would be a good idea. Too bad in our world neighborliness and caring about our neighbors is deemed snooping, and people hesitate to interact at all! Covid hasn't helped.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Deemick

My MIL didn’t want the burden of becoming a neighbor’s crutch and called 2-1-1. They protected everyone’s privacy and helped the neighbor,

Wikipedia: As of 2017, close to 95% of the population in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and Washington, DC) has access to 2-1-1 services. More than 200 agencies, including United Ways, provide 2-1-1 services.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Erikka
Isthisrealyreal Jul 20, 2021
You don't have to become a crutch to become a neighbor that can be called upon in a crisis or an hour of need.
See 2 more replies
Imho, bring some kind of food over, e.g. a homemade pie. Then you could garner a better idea of the couple's strangeness.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Llamalover47

See All Answers
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter