When people think of elder abuse or neglect, they most likely think of the abuse taking place at the hands of a caregiver. While this kind of abuse is common and does take place, there is another kind of elder abuse that might be more common. The Bend Bulletin reports that self-neglect may be the biggest cause of elder abuse and neglect.
A state caseworker in Texas arrived at a home to investigate a call that claimed an elderly man was being financially exploited by a so-called friend.
When she arrived, she found an 86-year-old Vietnam veteran in a house that was cluttered, dirty, and full of empty liquor bottles. The man had missed doctor appointments. Even though he had cellulitis in his legs so bad that he could barely walk, he didn’t take medication that he had for the condition or for his diabetes.
He had two dogs that he did not clean up after. Although he had a functioning toilet, the man preferred to relieve himself in gallon plastic jugs.
The veteran was suffering from a growing consideration that is often underreported: self-neglect.
Self-neglect actually accounts for more calls to adult protective agencies than any other form of abuse.
Though, as a society, we respect an individual’s right to autonomy and decision making. We often only hear about the kinds of abuse that are perpetrated by others. Many times, family members that have tried to help previously get fed up and no longer wish to be involved.
The American Society on Aging will address the issue of self-neglect at their national conference in San Francisco this month.