When most of us hear the term ‘elder abuse,’ we typically associate it with physical or emotional abuse. However, there are actually seven different types of elder abuse that sadly affect millions of older adults across the nation. One of these types of abuse is self-neglect, and even though it may not receive as much attention when compared to other forms of elder abuse, it is just as important to raise awareness of this issue.
What is Self-Neglect?
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines self-neglect as “behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety.” Contrary to popular belief, self-neglect is actually the most common form of non-financial elder abuse according to a recent survey of elder care experts conducted by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. This survey revealed that 92 percent of care managers agree that self-neglect is a significant issue, and an even larger 94 percent agree that most self-neglect cases are never reported.
There could be many causes of self-neglect, such as mental or physical impairment, and some older adults may simply be unaware of how their decisions are endangering their health and safety. This makes it essential to be on the lookout for common warning signs of self-neglect.
Common Signs to Look Out For
When providing care for a loved one, it is important to be able to recognize signs of self-neglect. Below are six of the most common signs of self-neglect as outlined by the American Society on Aging:
- Lack of basic care (ex: dehydration or malnutrition)
- Poor personal hygiene (ex: not bathing)
- Refusing medications or managing them poorly
- Unsanitary or unsafe living arrangements (ex: no running water or hoarding habits)
- Inadequate food and weight loss
- Unpaid bills
So what do you do if you recognize any of these signs in your loved one?
It’s difficult to think about the devastating stories of seniors who consciously make decisions that threaten their overall health – this is perhaps any caregiver’s biggest fear. Unfortunately, the very sad reality is that these tragic stories do occur. Even worse is the fact that most cases of self-neglect go unreported.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why a large majority of self-neglect cases go unreported is because the information outlining the appropriate actions to take is just not well-known. Should you notice any of these signs of self-neglect, talk to your loved one about it – make sure they know that it’s coming from a place of concern and love, not judgment.
You should also contact your state’s elder abuse hotline as listed by the National Center on Elder Abuse to report and respond to self-neglect cases. Even if you are not fully certain your loved one is suffering from self-neglect, it is still best to voice your concerns – these resources will assist you in discerning whether self-neglect has in fact occurred.
Self-neglect is certainly something that we all never hope happens to any of our loved ones, but it is important to be on the lookout for these signs. Just remember that the sooner you act upon your suspicions or fears, the sooner your loved one can receive help.
Click here to learn what to do if you suspect your parent is a victim of other forms of elder abuse, such as verbal, physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.