Survey: Self-Neglect of Elderly is Growing
Self-neglect among the elderly is a growing problem that commonly goes unreported, according to a survey of elder care experts issued on September 25th by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.
The survey finds that self-neglect among seniors is the most common form of non-financial elderly abuse/neglect encountered by care managers, far outpacing encounters with physical or sexual abuse or neglect by others.
The National Adult Protective Services Association defines self-neglect as: “an adult’s inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care.” They make it clear that lifestyle choices or living arrangements alone do not prove self-neglect. According to the NAPSA, in many communities self-neglect accounts for more than 50% of adult protective service referrals and caseloads.
“Elderly self-neglect is a hidden problem in our community,” said Melissa Mayernik, “we as care managers want families and others to know the warning signs and to be on the lookout to safeguard their elderly loved ones and neighbors.”
Key Findings of the NAPGCM Survey of geriatric care managers surveyed from 9/12 to 9/16/14 reveal that:
* 92% of care managers said that elderly self-neglect was a significant and growing problem in their community.
* 94% of care managers surveyed reported that elderly self-neglect is a largely hidden problem, with cases frequently going unreported.
The warning signs of elderly self-neglect most often cited are:
1. Poor personal hygiene/not bathing or taking care of hair or nails.
2. Poor medication management or refusing to take medications.
3. Signs of dehydration, malnutrition, or other unattended health conditions.
4. Unsanitary or very unclean living quarters.
5. Unpaid bills, bounced checks, utility cut-offs.
6. Lack of adequate food in house or signs of weight loss.
In my professional experience, I have encountered seniors unable to take their medications, pill boxes full of pills — and others empty much too soon; a lack of fresh food in the house, as well as very old leftovers and perishable food sitting out on counters. A couple whose daughter had contacted me included a husband whose dementia had affected his judgement and left him unable to realize how much help he needed. He left his immobile wife in her bed and was unable to effectively clean her. Because he thought he needed to save money, he only changed her incontinent product once a day. Both persons were very thin at this point.
Yet another client was losing a great deal of weight, losing her appetite completely, and not keeping any medical appointments. Over time, she in effect became blind through self-neglect, since her cataracts could have been removed had she sought treatment.
What can be done? The National Center on Elder Care Abuse provides a listing of resources in every state at:
In some states (including Connecticut), you can also call the local Agency on Aging, or the Department of Protective Services.
Elder Care Management, LLC can help: please call 203-822-1350.
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