In some instances, it’s our elderly loved ones who fail to provide for their basic needs or look out for their own safety. When this happens, they become victims of elder self-neglect.
Self-neglect is not a crime, but it is dangerous. It may include deprivation of food, water, necessary medication, health care, a hospitable living environment or shelter, and more. Elder self-neglect also may include consciously or purposely putting oneself in dangerous situations.
If your loved one is suffering from self-neglect, remember that they are still a victim and deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion.
Signs of Elder Self-Neglect
Watch for the following signs that an elder is struggling to care for themselves:
- Unkempt or dirty living environment, clothing, hair, and more
- Lack of necessary working mobility aids, medication, or similar items
- Missed medical appointments
- Bedsores, bruises, cuts, or similar injuries, especially those ignored or dismissed by the injured party
- Sudden unexplained weight loss or change in behavior
- Inability or refusal to prepare and/or eat food
These are only some of the signs of elder self-neglect. Regardless of frequency, Florida considers neglect to be instances of carelessness or disregard that could reasonably result in at least injury or death.
For a more thorough list of elder abuse signs, review this checklist by the National Center on Law & Elder Rights.
What do I do if I’ve witnessed elder self-neglect?
Florida law requires witnesses of abuse to report it to authorities immediately. You can report elder abuse to the state Department of Children and Families by calling 1-800-962-2873 or visiting ReportAbuse.dcf.state.fl.us.
It’s important to note that the department does not take reports of elder self-neglect that are primarily intended to obtain access to temporary emergency service funds, intervention services, placement, or guardianship.
What if I witnessed elder abuse that wasn’t self-inflicted?
Older Floridians are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, both of which may go undetected without direct investigation or observation. Abusers, who sometimes take the form of caretakers or relatives, target elderly Floridians due to their increased reliance on others and potential for decreased mental and physical capabilities.
Regardless of the identity of the perpetrator or their relationship to the victim, you must report the abuse to authorities right away. If the elderly person is in danger of imminent harm, call 911. Authorities will provide you with further instruction, which may include removing the victim from the reach of their abuser.
What do I do if my elderly loved one refuses help?
Elder self-neglect often requires social service and mental health interventions. In instances where elders suffering from self-neglect are capable of understanding the consequences of their behavior, these services and interventions may be refused.In some cases, such as when the self-neglect involves code violations or hoarding, the self-neglect may, at least partially, become a legal issue. In this case, the elder may not be able to fully refuse intervention.
If your loved one is refusing your help and you believe their refusal or self-neglect is due to mental and/or physical disability, you may be able to help them by obtaining guardianship, becoming your loved one’s designated health care surrogate, or pursuing similar legal recourse.
A Florida elder neglect attorney will counsel you on your best options and how to proceed. Pursuing legal action likely will require you to petition the state and argue that your loved one is not capable of caring for themselves. This emotionally wrought process is complex and requires a skilled and compassionate hand.
Contact a Florida Elder Neglect Attorney
If your loved one is failing to provide for themselves or is refusing help, contact us today to discuss your legal options, including the possible pursuit of guardianship. Elder self-neglect is a difficult subject to broach with your loved one, and legal pursuit of possible remedies may feel even more overwhelming. But your loved one deserves to be well cared for and safe, and we are here to help.
At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey, & Fronrath we act with compassion in the best interest of all involved. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation with a Florida elder neglect attorney who can work with you and yours to find the best possible solution for all involved.
Call us at (561) 655-1990 or visit our website to schedule your free elder self-neglect consultation.