Self-Neglect: The Overlooked form of Elder Abuse

As Elder Abuse month comes to a close, the Houston Chronicle recently ran an article about the lesser-known and often overlooked form of elder abuse, self-neglect. While it is difficult enough for elders to report abuse from family, friends, or caretakers, self-neglect reporting must come from a different source altogether. An elder individual neglecting him or herself is never going to be able to report it, so it is up to friends, neighbors and loved ones to take up that responsibility. This is not a rare occurrence or a responsibility to be taken lightly, however, as over 60 percent of the 1,500 cases handled by Adult Protective Services each month involve elderly individuals who cannot properly care for themselves.

It is easy to shrug off the eccentric or erratic behavior of elderly individuals as simply the typical behavior of someone their age. Sadly, though, in far too many cases it can be much more serious. External signs such as excessive clutter or letting their homes fall into disrepair are some of the common signs that elderly individuals are neglecting themselves. Sometimes the signs of self-neglect not as easily observable, though. Often times an individual may not be eating enough, or getting a balanced diet. They may be forgetting to take their medications, or accidentally taking the wrong doses. The only way this can be observed and reported is if those close to them take the time to educate themselves and take on the responsibility of knowing how to care for their loved one.

This type of elder abuse poses significant danger to the elderly, and only promises to get worse as we see the baby boomers aging. Take the time to learn about the medications your neighbors or family members are on. If you suspect a friend or loved one is a victim of self-neglect do not be afraid to make an honest assessment of the situation. If you believe that someone is incapable of caring for herself, you not only have a duty under the law to report it, but more importantly you owe it to her for her own safety and well-being.