Ever since your elderly father passed-away mom just hasn’t been the same. She looks frail, her hygiene isn’t the best, and mom’s not taking her medications as prescribed. It’s gotten to point that you’re worried about her health and wellbeing. One of the most common types of elder abuse that geriatric care managers see is self-neglect. But senior neglect can also be committed by caregivers- including one’s own family members. Protecting your aging loved one starts with recognizing the telltale signs of senior neglect.  

What is Senior Neglect?

Self-neglect typically occurs when a senior is unable to meet their own needs due to grief, dementia, depression or another reason. Sadly, many seniors refuse to seek assistance because they are in denial, feel ashamed or are worried about losing their independence.

Elder neglect is the failure of a paid or unpaid caregiver to fulfill their obligation. This form of senior neglect is either intentional or unintentional, and is usually attributed to factors like withholding services or ignorance about how much care the recipient needs. When an informal caregiver is involved senior neglect oftentimes results from caregiver stress.

These are some examples of caregiver neglect:

  • Denial of food and water
  • Mismanaging medications
  • Failing to provide clean bedding or clothing
  • Confinement
  • Leaving someone with dementia unsupervised
  • Failing to perform personal hygiene duties

What to Look for 

In many cases the neglect takes place right where the senior lives. If it’s at home, the neglect usually comes at the hands of an adult child, spouse, partner or grandchild. But senior neglect can also be self-induced or happen within an institutional setting like a long-term care facility.

For whatever reason, these are some classic signs of senior neglect:

  • Sudden weight loss, frail appearance or sunken eyes
  • Untreated health issues
  • Unsafe or very dirty living space
  • Poor hygiene, for example stained clothing or strong body odor
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Inappropriate clothing for the weather conditions
  • Lack of medical aids like eyeglasses, medications or a walker
  • Lack of running water or electricity in the home
  • Bed sores

What if I Suspect Neglect? 

If you have seen the signs of senior neglect and suspect that an elderly loved one is being not being taken care of, it’s important to speak up. When it’s being perpetrated by another individual, avoid confronting the guilty party unless you can immediately move your loved one to a safer place.

If your loved one is at risk because of self-neglect, try to get them to speak with a licensed counselor who specializes in treating people with destructive behaviors. A geriatric care manager can also recommend ways to create a safer home environment.

In addition to taking those steps here are some other resources that can help when a senior is being neglected:

  • Adult Protective Services
  • Area Agency on Aging