What constitutes neglect of an elderly person?

Neglect occurs when the caregiver doesn't try to respond to the needs of the older adult. This may include physical, emotional, and social needs, or withholding food, medication, or access to health care. Abandonment is leaving an older adult who needs help alone without planning their care. Self-neglect occurs when an elderly person can no longer meet their basic daily needs and, as a result, suffers.

Neglect is another form of elder abuse. When a person who is in charge of the welfare of an elderly person does not guarantee their health and safety, that can also be a criminal offence. But self-neglect is a more complicated subject. This occurs when an elderly person does not want or is unable to maintain his or her own well-being.

The National Association for Adult Protective Services (NAPSA) reports that they receive more phone calls about self-neglect than any other form of elder abuse. And the Aging Life Care Association says 92% of aging life care professionals (also known as geriatric care managers) identified self-neglect as a major problem in their area, a problem that often goes unreported. A lawyer specializing in elder law can explain your legal and financial options, such as guardianship or a power of attorney. Emotional and psychological changes can often go hand in hand with other types of elder abuse, such as physical harm or neglect.

Frequent arguments or tensions between the caregiver and the elderly person, or changes in the elder's personality or behavior can be broad signs of elder abuse. If you suspect that an elderly person is at risk of being neglected or overwhelmed by a caregiver, or of being the victim of financial grievance, it's important to talk. The stress of caring for the elderly can lead to mental and physical health problems that leave caregivers exhausted, impatient, and more susceptible to neglecting or attacking the elderly in their care. For additional information about elder abuse in general, see FindLaw Elder Abuse Overview and Dealing with Abuse: While many elders face health problems as they age, they should never have to suffer abuse or neglect.

Elder neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to protect an older adult from harm, resulting in serious injury or illness. Such contact may involve physical sexual acts, but activities such as showing an older person pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sexual acts, or forcing the person to undress are also considered sexual abuse of older persons. Neglect is a relatively common form of elder abuse because older adults have a higher prevalence of medical conditions and functional limitations that make them vulnerable to neglect. If you are the caregiver of an elderly person and think you are at risk of hurting or neglecting them, help and support is available.

Signs of elder abuse can be difficult to recognize or confuse with symptoms of dementia, or the frailty of the elderly person or caregivers can explain them that way. While elder self-neglect does not involve a third party, it is still considered a form of elder abuse that poses serious health and safety concerns. In addition, if an elder's carelessness is affecting their finances or health care and if the elder still has mental capacity, they may be able to sign a power of attorney naming a trusted person (or a professional trustee) as the elder's agent. Self-neglect occurs when an older person can no longer meet their basic daily needs.

If you think a neighbor or other elderly person you have contact with is neglecting their own health and safety, contact your family if possible and share your concerns. .

Erika Shipley
Erika Shipley

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