When most of us think of people who perpetrate elder abuse, we usually think of nursing home staff or at-home caregivers, such as a family member or a hired professional.
That, however, is just one form of elder abuse. A senior citizen who is unable, for physical or psychological reasons, to care for themselves in basic ways is suffering from elder self-neglect. It is also classified as elder abuse, even though it is caused by the person themselves.
Describing elder self-neglect
Elder self-neglect has some definite manifestations. As stated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, it arises when a senior is not capable of handling the following fundamental necessities on their own:
- Safe living environment
- Managing medication if needed
- Laundered clothing
The ability to keep a residence orderly and pay bills on time are two additional areas of concern.
How can you know if an elderly person is neglecting themselves?
Maybe you are uncomfortable with coming right out and asking an older loved one or friend how they are getting along. They might be reluctant, embarrassed or defensive. That is understandable.
If so, you can pick up on self-neglect by noticing certain telltale warning signs. For example, their living space is badly cluttered and has not been dusted or vacuumed, the person may be clad in stained garments, and food scraps and trash are left lying around for days. There may also be an offensive smell on the premises.
What can be done to help?
Older people who still possess “cognitive and physical function” yet are not taking appropriate care of themselves may turn away well-intentioned help from family members, agency representatives or professionals in the healthcare field. In extreme cases, they may have to be ruled incompetent to get assistance.
Questions about the person’s rights in this kind of situation, as well as whether you can legally step in to assist them, can be addressed by someone with experience in this area.