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How to Handle Elder Self-Neglect

It is easier to take care of yourself when you know that someone in the world cares for you. Elders who feel isolated or who do not have active contact with their loved ones can start to physically display signs of their discontent. An elder who stops taking basic care of themselves due to depression or lack of physical ability is said to suffer from elder self-neglect.

Combatting elder self-neglect isn’t always easy. It requires deliberate care on the part of an elder’s caretakers and/or loved ones. Fortunately, there are signs that you can look for to prevent an elder’s health from falling into disarray.

Identifying Self-Neglect in an Elderly Loved One

An elder can suffer from self-neglect for several reasons. Some elders refuse to take care of themselves if they feel that there is no point in them doing so. Others may lack the ability to take care of themselves. In either case, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of self-neglect so that appropriate parties can intervene.

Some of the common symptoms of self-neglect can include:

  • Refusal or inability to eat
  • Malnutrition
  • Untended wounds or broken bones
  • Untended illnesses
  • Inability or unwillingness to change, wash, or put on new clothes
  • Living in unclean conditions

Most of the time, elders will not make a point of disguising their self-neglect. Those who cannot take care of themselves will not have the ability to hide their lack of care. If you notice a loved one living with any of the aforementioned symptoms, then, you need to act quickly to ensure that their behavior has not exacerbated any of their existing health conditions.

How Family Members Can Address Elder Self-Neglect

Some elderly respond poorly to the implication that they cannot take care of themselves. With that in mind, it is important to approach an elder suffering from self-neglect with care. Doing so with the help of a medical professional and a representative from Adult Protective Services can make your approach seem less like an attack and more like behavior taken with a loved one’s well-being in mind.

There are ways to address elder self-neglect without bringing an elder’s condition into question, however. If you have the opportunity to connect with a loved one who does not appear to be taking care of themselves, you can make an effort to reduce their isolation.

In scheduling regular visits with a loved one, you can encourage them to take regular showers, eat regular meals, and improve the quality of their living space. If your loved one is okay with it, you may even have the opportunity to help them clean their home or go grocery shopping. These little steps can make it easier for your loved one to reconnect with their interests and improve their long-term health.

Preventing Self-Neglect of an Elderly Loved One

It is one thing to treat self-neglect. It is another to get ahead of this condition entirely. There are some pre-existing factors that may make a person prone to self-neglect. These include:

  • Living alone
  • Forgoing old habits or personal connections
  • A history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • A history of mental illness

Unfortunately, there are some conditions that you cannot treat. These conditions may require professional attention. Other times, you and your loved ones may learn to cope with them. The more you know about these conditions ahead of time, though, the easier it will be for you to prevent them from encouraging isolation later down the line.

Self-Neglect, Elder Abuse, and Your Legal Options

Discovering that someone you care about suffers from self-neglect can cause major concern. Unfortunately, some instances of self-neglect can also lead to elder abuse. If you suspect that someone you care about may be enduring nursing home abuse due to their age or a mental condition, you can work with an attorney to go to court on their behalf.

The team with Dalli & Marino, LLP wants to help you advocate for your elderly loved ones. Our team can address concerns brought forward in English and Spanish. To learn more about your ability to pursue an elder abuse case or to combat instances of self-neglect, you can call (888) 465-8790 or contact us online.


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