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How to Spot Self-Neglect in Seniors

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Laguna Niguel, California.

As people grow older, they become more vulnerable and often fall prey to scammers. No doubt, you have heard of heartless crooks that steal retirement funds from American seniors or deceive them into sending money to unknown people. However, while this is a cause of concern, seniors can also be extremely vulnerable to themselves.

In other words, the elderly often self-neglect either willingly or unwillingly, which can put their health at risk. For instance, seniors that don't prioritize their self-care easily fall sick and have a higher hospitalization and mortality rate. This is according to a senior research scientist, Farida Kassim Ejaz, who's based in Cleveland at Benjamin Rose Institute of Aging.

The worrying thing is, elderly self-neglect is a very common phenomenon. Take, for instance, a 2019 report by the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System. It shows that cases of self-neglect made up 51%, which is more than half, of all the cases linked to senior abuse. Elder abuse allegations are the jurisdiction of Adult Protective Agencies (APS), which provided the information in the report. However, cases that are not reported should also be taken into account, meaning that instances of elder self-neglect can actually be higher than suspected.

Farida Kassim Kajaz confirmed this by explaining that instances of elder self-neglect were indeed higher when qualified and trained healthcare practitioners responded to elder abuse allegations that were reported to APS. That's because these practitioners were better able to spot the signs of elderly self-neglect. To make a bad situation worse, the pandemic has led to extended periods of isolation for the elderly. This not only increases the number of self-neglecting seniors, but it also makes it difficult to spot the signs, since most people are not able to check up on their older relatives.

The good news is, there are ways to familiarize yourself with signs of self-neglect in seniors to ensure they get the best help available sooner rather than later. That being so, here are the top ways of spotting self-neglect in seniors.

Spotting the Signs of Self Neglect in Seniors

As we grow older, our capacity for self-care can decline due to things like poor physical health, mental illness, or emotional problems. This usually manifests in the form of:

Failure to Take Medication

The elderly person is ill but does not communicate this or take steps to seek medical treatment. In some cases, they may already be taking medication, but you find the prescription contains more than what should be available.


While it's normal for older adults to require less food, failure to eat regular meals can be a sign of self-neglect. Perhaps the person doesn't bother to cook for themselves, forgets to eat, or is too distressed to eat. This often leads to weight loss, dehydration, and poor physical health.

Lack of Basic Hygiene

Some seniors may forget to pay attention to their appearance or may be unable to groom themselves properly. This may lead to the wearing of unsuitable clothing, bad smells, skin sores, and lice, as well as a generally unclean appearance.

Unsafe Living Conditions

Seniors may also find themselves not only unable to take care of their body but their living environment as well. This can lead to things like hoarding and clutter and other unsafe and unsanitary conditions, such as lack of proper heating, and the presence of roaches, rats, and flies.

Unexplained Injuries

These usually manifest as broken bones, sprains, and even dislocations. If an elderly person is unable to clean their home, it's easy for them to trip over stuff, fall, and get injured.

Substance Abuse

Seniors can also turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with life and this can lead to self-neglect. If they're in a drug or alcohol-induced state, their cognitive function is further impaired, putting them at further risk of harm.

What Is the Solution to Self-Neglect By Seniors?

If you have encountered a situation where an elderly person is showing any of the signs mentioned above, it's best to report it to your local APS office. However, you may not wish to leave your loved one's fate to institutions like the National Adult Protective Services Association. In that case, it's best to consider looking for reputable senior home care services. If you are ever in need of such services, look for the best home health care Laguna Niguel has to offer. Our senior home care services provide quality senior care Laguna Woods can trust and rely on!