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What Is Self-Inflicted Elder Abuse?

Most states in the U.S. have adopted laws that provide special protections for elderly citizens and harsher penalties for those who abuse them, but one of the unfortunately overlooked problems facing the elderly community in many parts of the country is self-inflicted elder abuse, or self-neglect. This occurs for many reasons including medical and psychological deterioration, loneliness, ennui, lack of motivation, and even substance abuse.

What Is Self-Inflicted Elder Abuse?

Adult protective services all over the country receive more calls concerning self-neglect than any other type of situation. Friends, neighbors, and family members of self-neglecting elderly persons may attempt to help, but if they continue to watch an elderly person decline from self-neglect, they will likely call for help.

Self-inflicted elder abuse can include skipping doctor appointments, refusing to take required medications, poor diet, alcoholism, or neglecting to clean one’s living environment. Technically, living in poor health and squalor is not illegal, so a person capable of making rational decisions should have the right to live how he or she chooses. The difference is when rationality deteriorates due to failing health and consistently poor living conditions. At this point, social services, family, and friends may intervene to save a person suffering from self-neglect.

Self-neglecting is often connected to a larger problem – if you suspect that your loved one is not adequately being cared for, contact our Phoenix elder abuse attorneys as soon as possible.

Signs of Self-Inflicted Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, the family members of elderly individuals suffering from self-neglect often mistake a declining ability to manage personal wellbeing for character traits like stubbornness or laziness. Many possible symptoms and signs of self-inflicted elder abuse may manifest.

· A dirty and cluttered home could be a sign that the occupant no longer cares about cleaning.

· Poor personal hygiene, untreated injuries and illnesses, and open wounds from medical conditions will worsen as they remain unchecked.

· Elderly individuals who require medication for dementia or other degenerative neurological conditions may suffer an intense decline.

· Failure to clean up and keep after pets can create a serious health hazard.

· Poor diet, vitamin deficiency, and dehydration can all exacerbate other medical conditions and negatively impact overall health.

· Hoarding can be a sign of self-neglect and possibly mental illness. Hoarding can include keeping an excessively large numbers of pets, allowing garbage to accumulate in the home, or otherwise refusing to throw things out when they become useless or even dangerous.

· Isolation is one of the most dangerous factors involved in self-neglect cases. If an elderly person has no support or regular care it is much easier to slip into self-neglect. Loneliness can also deteriorate overall mood and negatively impact motivation to maintain daily self-care.

What Can You Do to Help a Self-Neglecting Loved One?

Most states have adopted laws that require everyone to act as mandatory reporters of abuse, even self-inflicted abuse from self-neglect. In other states, only medical providers and caregivers are mandatory reporters. If you suspect a loved one suffers from self-neglect, the best first step is to try to have a conversation about your concerns. If your loved one can’t carry on a rational conversation or becomes combative or incoherent when confronted, these are likely signs of deteriorating health and a diminished ability to make lucid decisions.

Adult protective service hotlines are available in virtually every area of the country, so if you can’t have a reasonable conversation with your loved one you should find your local hotline number and call for help. A caseworker will investigate and may be able to coordinate free or low-cost assistive services like prescription delivery or Meals on Wheels. Ultimately, the caseworker must ensure the elderly individual is capable of practicing reasonable self-care and making good decisions before the caseworker will allow the individual to remain home unsupervised. If the determination of any adult welfare caseworker or other welfare check is that the individual is a danger to him or herself or the individual requires immediate medical care, medical personnel may remove the individual from the home and arrange transportation to a hospital or other care facility.

We understand that placing a family member in a home is often an agonizing decision, made worse when the needed care is not provided. Our Phoenix personal injury attorneys will review your case free of charge, and work with you to make sure your loved one is adequately cared for and represented.

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