As our loved ones age, we want what’s best for them. At the very least, we want them to have compassionate and high-quality health care and the overall peace of mind that their needs are being met. While family members often know to look out for signs of elder abuse and neglect, most are not as familiar with elder-self neglect.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines elder self-neglect as, “the behavior of an elderly person that threatens their own health or safety and generally manifests itself by failure to provide himself/herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precautions.”

What are the signs of elder self-neglect?

Elder self-neglect can take many forms. Sometimes, the signs are subtle and easy to miss, such as when an elderly person is experiencing depression. Or, the self-neglect can be overt, like when a person fails to bathe and maintain their personal hygiene. Either way, family and friends should know the signs of elder-self neglect so they can protect their loved ones. 

Signs of elder self-neglect to look out for include:

  • Symptoms of depression
  • Confused or disoriented mental state
  • Poor hygiene (failure to brush teeth, bathe, etc.) 
  • Excessive drinking
  • Drug abuse
  • Lack of sleep
  • Weight loss 
  • Dehydration 
  • Frequent falls 
  • Inability to complete 
  • Inability to properly dress themselves
  • Allowing health issues to go untreated
  • Not caring for family pets 
  • Forgetting to turn off the stove or leaving a door unlocked 

If you have witnessed any of these things in a loved one, it’s possible that they’re suffering from elder self-neglect. Even if an elder claims they don’t need help or refuse assistance, they are at risk of further damaging their health. Elder self-neglect can even become life-threatening if not taken seriously.

It’s crucial that family members intervene to ensure their elderly loved one gets the help they need. If an elder is committing self-neglect, families need to know what their options are. 

What can families do if a loved one is self-neglecting? 

Elder self-neglect can put loved ones and family members in an incredibly difficult position. This is especially true if an elder is fully functional but continues to neglect their needs and health. It’s also difficult for family members to know what to do because elder self-neglect doesn’t appear to harm anyone else but the person committing it.

However, this is all the more reason to know how and when to intervene. You should begin by discussing the situation with the elder’s doctor and making a care plan with them. Other things you can do to ensure your loved one is in a safe environment include:

  • Visiting them often and on a schedule
  • Take care of household chores such as cooking and cleaning for them 
  • Create a support network with neighbors, social services available in your area, and nonprofit organizations that serve the elderly 
  • Assist them with their personal hygiene 
  • Take them to and from medical appointments 

Family members should be aware that elder self-neglect is a grey area that’s difficult to navigate. This is due to a person’s right to refuse care, which is not uncommon in seniors with higher levels of cognitive and physical function. 

Elders may also be living in denial of their living conditions and truly believe that they do not need help. This is where family members and loved ones need to step in. Elder self-neglect is still a form of neglect; every person deserves to live with dignity and respect, and intervention may require legal assistance

Contact an Experienced and Compassionate Elder Abuse Lawyer Today 

At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we believe in treating all people with compassion and respect. Do you have a senior in your life who is failing to care for themselves due to a physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity? If so, it may be time to call an elder abuse lawyer. 

After learning more about your situation, we can advise you on your legal options and if you have a path toward gaining guardianship over your elderly relative. 

We strive to make complicated legal issues as clear and simple as possible and offer several options to learn more about elder self-neglect. Call us today at (561) 655-1990 to schedule a free case evaluation.

Locations We Serve:


Free Case Evaluation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.