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What Is Elder Self-Neglect

What Is Elder Self-Neglect?

By Cheri Platte, Managing Director, Circle of Care Home Care

Elder self-neglect is a global health issue that affects millions of seniors every year. While there are varying definitions from country-to-country, state-to-state, it generally refers to the refusal or failure to provide oneself with basic daily necessities and care in areas of food, water, clothing, hygiene, medication, living environments, and other safety precautions. In the United States, self-neglect has been the primary type of elder abuse cases, comprising nearly 42% of those reported to the Adult Protective Services (APS).

Because an adult living with elder-self-neglect may be vulnerable to the risk of his or her own health, safety, or well-being, it’s important to recognize the signs of elder self-neglect and learn about available resources to manage and care for your loved one.

Recognizing the Symptoms and Signs of Elder Self-Neglect

Recognizing elder self-neglect is the first step to preventing and caring for for your loved one. There are many forms of elder self-neglect including the refusal or failure to take medications, clean house, maintain personal hygiene, or the ability to accomplish other Activities of Daily Living, or ADL’s.

Regular check-ups with a care physician, observation by a home care provider or other professional, can certainly go a long way in detecting this issue early. But for seniors without social networks, who are much more likely to develop patterns of self-neglect, the simplest way to recognize signs of elder self-neglect is by observation during more frequent visits with your elderly love one.

Here are some of the more frequent signs of elder self-neglect:

  • Refusing or neglecting to take medication or assistance for medical issues
  • Signs of poor hygiene
  • Neglected living conditions (House Cleaning)
  • Lack of exercise, symptoms of poor physical health
  • Neglecting financial affairs
  • Trouble with decision making capacity
  • Neglecting risk mitigation, securing property and sensitive information 
  • Lack of attention, confusion, memory loss
  • Abusive drinking or drug use
  • Frequent falls
  • Hoarding items or animals
  • Social isolation, depression

Causes of Elder Self-Neglect

Causes of elder self-neglect include:

  • Intentional (active) self-neglect example: Refusing to see a doctor when they are not feeling well.
  • Non-intentional (passive) self-neglect example: A health-related condition such as dementia that causes them to forget to take their medicine.

Responding to Elder Self-Neglect

If you believe your love one is at risk of elder self-neglect, reach out to your physician for a professional assessment.  You can also contact your local Adult Protective Services office for assistance. APS offices offer social services to abused, neglected, or exploited seniors or adults. 

  • Detection: Health, social service, and home care professionals are well situated to detect the presence of self-neglecting behaviors.
  • Assessment: Once there is a suspicion or known case of self-neglect, there is a need for more comprehensive evaluation that combines clinical assessments and psychological, social, behavioral, environmental, and cultural evaluations of an individual. These assessments will be able to determine the need for assistance, prioritize immediate needs, and assess available resources.
  • Prevention and intervention strategies: It is evident that self-neglect is associated with adverse outcomes concerned to older people’s physical and psychological well-being usually influenced social environment. Increased social interaction, frequent visits from family and friends can significantly help prevent intentional self neglect. Non-intentional self-neglect may be a sign of a serious cognitive issue such as dementia.
  • Legal Assessment: If self-neglect puts your loved one at health risk or financial risk, consider a power of attorney that names a trusted family member to make financial or health care decisions on the senior’s behalf. In some cases when there are signs of elder self-neglect, a conservatorship or guardianship may be necessary.

Final Thoughts

No matter the state of your loved ones self-neglect condition, Circle of Care Home Care can provide a variety of services including enlightening companionship to assistance with the Daily Activities of Life (See Home Care Services). From as little as a few hours a day, our professionals are trained to observe your loved ones condition so you’re always aware of your loved ones state of health. 

For a FREE, no-hassle consultation, contact us.

Cheri Platte
Managing Director

Cheri Platte is a home care expert and a professional consultant for family caregivers. She has been a compassionate advocate for the elderly for over 20 years now. As the Managing Director for Circle of Care, she focuses on providing excellent and high-quality home care solutions for families who care for their loved ones.

Her mission is to educate the public on the benefits of home care and home health, assist families in developing individual care plans, and help them plan for the advanced stages of aging, emphasizing on what matters most in terms of quality of life for the loved one. The company culture enables Circle of Care to hire and retain hundreds of professional care team members who are skilled and compassionate and produces a word-of-mouth referral network in the Southern California communities they serve. They are trusted by families, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospitals, nursing homes, senior communities, Long Term Care Specialists and other esteemed members of the healthcare industry. When not helping families in need, Cheri spends time mentoring other business owners and rising professionals plus volunteering at various organizations.


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