Elder Neglect

Refers to the failure of a responsible caregiver to meet the medical, social, and/or psychological needs of an older adult who requires assistance in one or more of these areas.

What is Elder Neglect?

Elder Neglect is when a responsible adult fails to meet the needs (medical, social, or psychological) of an older adult who requires assistance. Examples include:

Withholding Essential Needs

Withholding of essential food, medicines, or general medical care (such as not taking the person to the doctor) that the older adult cannot perform themselves.

Failure to Provide Assistance

Failure to provide basic assistance to older person who can not self-perform daily living tasks like bathing, feeding, dressing or going to the bathroom.

Missing Caretaker

Caregiver neglect implies the identification of a person responsible for the care of a vulnerable older adult and that person’s unwillingness or inability to performing caregiving responsibilities.

Why Does Elder Neglect Occur?

Neglect is a relatively common form of elder abuse because older adults have a higher prevalence of medical conditions and functional limitations that render them vulnerable to neglect.

It May Be Intentional

Elder neglect may be intentional – such as when a family member chooses to withhold food or medicine from an older person.

The Caregiver May be Unable to Provide Care

Elder neglect can also be unintentional – such as when a caregiver responsible for an older person is themselves disabled, mentally ill, or too frail or weak to provide assistance.

We are Working to End Elder Neglect

From research and policy, to direct services, the team at elderabuse.org is focused on one thing: ending elder abuse.

What Harm Can Elder Neglect Cause?

The type of harm caused by elder neglect depends on the type of needs that are neglected.

Elder Neglect Can Kill

Older adults who are not provided with their medicines or taken to the doctor will develop worsening of their chronic medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease that can lead to complications, hospitalizations, or even death.

Malnutrition

Those who are not fed will lose weight and become malnourished.

Hygiene-Related Health Problems

Patients who need assistance with daily tasks such as bathing, and turning in bed can develop bedsores or health problems related to poor hygiene like urinary tract infections.

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What Can Be Done to Stop Elder Neglect?

Like other forms of elder abuse, stopping elder neglect will depend on the type of neglect and its causes.

Helping Caregivers

Neglect that occurs because caregivers are simply overwhelmed will require other family members or paid caregivers to step in. Social workers can often determine if Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance — especially long term care insurance – can pay for these services.

Interventions for Intentional Neglect

When neglect is intentional and resulting from mental illness or other problems in the caregiver/neglector, interventions are more complicated and involve things like psychiatric referral and substance abuse counseling.

Handling Extreme Cases of Elder Neglect

In extreme cases of elder neglect, the only viable and safe option may be to move the neglected older person to a different living environment such as assisted living or a nursing home.