Neglect of those living in long-term care facilities and those living in the community is an important topic to understand. There are many forms of neglect and a wide variety of signs to look out for. This may make it very difficult to spot instances of neglect. Fortunately, there are steps that friends, family, neighbors, and caregivers can take to prevent neglect of a long-term care resident.
What is Elder Neglect?
Each state has its own specific definition of “neglect.” In Missouri, neglect happens when a caregiver – either an individual or an organization – does not provide necessary protection and services to an eligible adult.
Missouri also defines a second term, “institutional neglect,” as when a care facility does not protect and provide necessary services for a resident, resulting in the harm or potential harm of that resident.
If you’d like to read all of Missouri’s official elder abuse and neglect definitions, or compare definitions across the United States, check out this excerpt from “Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America” (2003).
How Does Neglect Happen?
There are several areas of neglect that older individuals or individuals with different abilities may experience.
This happens when the medical, hygiene, and dietary needs of an individual are not met. The basic physical needs, like healthcare, cleanliness, and nutrition, are not met.
This happens when a caregiver ignores an individual or treats them as unimportant. It may also include treating a care receiver like a child, ignoring their capabilities and experiences. The individual’s mental health needs are not met.
This form of neglect happens if a caregiver or other representative does not care for an individual’s financial obligations. An example is not paying bills on time, creating financial challenges for the care receiver. You may want to speak with a lawyer to clarify the caregiver’s responsibility.
Abandonment occurs when a caregiver stops providing care for an individual without first finding another appropriate caregiver. In other words, a caregiver leaves their care receiver without any support.
Yes, a person can neglect him or herself. Self-neglect is a true form of elder neglect, and it should be addressed like any other kind. The United States Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) defines self-neglect as: “Behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety…” For example, a person might not consume enough food and water, maintain hygiene or safety, or take prescribed medications.
Many reports say that self-neglect might be the most common form of elder neglect. Additionally, self-neglect often happens to people living in their own homes, so it can be hard to spot. It’s hard to know how difficult self-neglect really is. Learn more about self-neglect here.
How to Spot Neglect
There are many signs that may help you identify potential neglect or self-neglect. For example, you might notice:
- An individual losing contact with family and friends
- Changes to physical appearance such as sudden weight loss, appearing hungry, looking disheveled, or seeming confused
- A caregiver not arriving on time – or at all
- Unsafe and unclean living conditions
- An individual suddenly not being able to meet their own needs
This is not a complete list of possible signs. To read all about possible signs of neglect, visit the National Adult Protective Services Association. You can also learn more about self-neglect from AgingCare.
What Can You Do?
In an emergency, call 911. Seek immediate help in an emergency! If you see signs of abuse or neglect, talk to the caregiver about your concerns. If the caregiver is not open to talking, you should reach out to a long-term care ombudsman.
The ombudsman can help you report the neglect to your state’s Adult Protective Services (APS). Missouri residents can find their APS office here. The National APS Association also has resources listed here.
Remember, emergency and APS officials are trained to assess situations reported to them. So, if you think you see signs of neglect, act fast. Call 911, your ombudsman, or your local APS office for help.