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The Quiet Abuse Behind Elder Self-Neglect

Garcia & Artigliere

Elderly people who live alone are at risk of self-neglect. When older people lose their mental and physical ability to take care of themselves and lack a support system, they may enter a situation of neglect. This loneliness and isolation can cause severe depression and stress-related illnesses.

elder woman in bed“Self-neglect” is the term used to describe this lack of care.

The Dangers of Self-Neglect

Self-neglect is considered a form of elder abuse. Reports of elderly self-neglect are increasing as the over-60 population grows. Self-neglectful people are unable to adequately provide the necessities of life for themselves, such as food, clothing, shelter or medicine. They may appear unkempt in public, and their homes may be dirty, in disrepair or unsafe. Self-neglect is life-threatening when elderly people are malnourished, not getting the medical treatment they need or living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

What Can Be Done to Help?

Seniors who are self-neglectful may not receive the help they need, especially if they reject offers of assistance. However, there are ways to help while still respecting the elderly person’s wishes. Family, friends, neighbors and social workers should try these approaches to prevent elderly self-neglect:

  • Watch for signs of self-abuse, such as dirty clothing, hair or skin; hoarding; loss of interest in previous activities; changes in behavior and drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Increase contact either in person or on the phone with the isolated senior.
  • Ask the elder’s neighbors to watch out for signs of self-abuse and check in on them when they can. Obtain regular feedback from the neighbor if you can’t be there in person.
  • Encourage and help the senior to become involved in community activities that will reduce isolation.
  • Contact their state’s Adult Protective Services to find out about the kinds of help that are available.
  • Contact an elder abuse attorney if you suspect the senior is being abused, neglected or taken advantage of by someone else.

Elder Abuse Is Everywhere

Self-neglect is the type of elder abuse most reported to government agencies. This is because self-neglect is the most visible form of abuse. However, other types of elder abuse, while reported less often, may actually be more common. These include physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

Contact an Elder Abuse Attorney

If you ever suspect that a loved one may have been abused by a caretaker, a nursing home employee, a financial scammer, or anyone else, the experienced elder abuse attorneys at Garcia & Artigliere can help. Call us at (800) 328-2630 for a free consultation.


We offer free and confidential consultations. Call (800) 328-2630 Learn About Your Legal Options

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