6 Things to Look for if You Suspect Elder Neglect

6 Signs of Elder Neglect

Bedsores, malnourishment, and unsanitary living conditions—are someone who you love the victim of elder neglect? These alarming indicators are often a clear signs of elder neglect, requiring immediate attention and action.

Elder neglect is a form of elder abuse in which caregivers charged with taking care of an elderly individual fail in their duties. The perpetrators of elder neglect are often those whom the patient and families trust most:

It’s pivotal to understand that the nature of elder neglect varies. While some caregivers might be overtly negligent, others may unintentionally falter due to lack of training, resources, or sheer overwhelm. With the rising number of elderly individuals needing care, there’s an increasing responsibility on institutions and families to ensure caregivers are adequately trained and equipped.

  • An in-home caregiver
  • A staff member  of a nursing home
  • Even a relative

The neglect might be intentional or not; in either case, the victims suffer because they are fundamentally unable to care for themselves and depend upon others for their well-being.

The gravity of this situation is compounded by the fact that many elderly individuals may suffer from cognitive impairments like dementia, which can hinder their ability to communicate their suffering or even recognize neglect. Consequently, it places an even more significant responsibility on friends, relatives, and loved ones to be vigilant about the signs of neglect.

If someone you love who needs help caring for themselves begins displaying one or more of the six symptoms below, chances are they might be the victim of elder neglect.

1. Clothes Inappropriate for the Circumstances

It’s crucial to approach the issue with sensitivity. There might be instances where a person’s choice of clothing is linked to their personal comfort or cognitive state, like memory disorders. So, while keeping an eye out for signs, it’s equally essential to communicate openly with the caregiver and understand the context.

Elderly persons wearing inappropriate clothing might be an indication that their caregivers are failing in the duties. However, this must go well beyond wearing white after Labor Day.

Some examples that might legitimately cause concern include:

  • Wearing shorts or a light cotton dress outside in the snow
  • Wearing a winter parka during a summer heatwave
  • Wearing inappropriately revealing outfits
  • Wearing clothes covered in stains, food, or holes

These issues can serve as signs of elder neglect. Indeed, in certain scenarios, wearing inappropriate attire can pose serious risks.

2. Sudden Weight Loss

A sudden, obvious weight loss might be another indication of elder neglect, because it is often a sign of malnutrition. If your great-grandfather starts looking skeletal and frail after years of robust health, his caregivers might not be feeding him enough, or the right type of food.

3. Unsanitary Conditions

Maintaining hygiene can be a challenge, especially if the elderly individual is resistant due to cognitive disorders. Open dialogue with caregivers can shed light on any barriers they might be facing in maintaining cleanliness.

If your beloved Aunt Pearl’s current living conditions are unsanitary, it might simply mean she’s sloppy by nature. However, if she has been fastidious and clean all her life, a filthy bedroom or clothes that have not been washed in weeks might indicate elder neglect. Be on the lookout for dirt, mold, signs of insects or other vermin, and soiled bedclothes that nobody has changed.

4. Unsafe Living Conditions

A cluttered environment can also be a result of hoarding tendencies, which can be a symptom of an underlying psychological issue. Addressing the root cause can be a more effective approach than merely tidying up.

Similar to number 3, unsafe living conditions can be a sign elder neglect.  If Aunt Pearl’s living room is filled with stacks of newspapers beside a kerosene heater, or if the gas or water has been shut off in her apartment, something is likely amiss.

5. Being Left Alone in Public

Desertion is grave, especially if the elderly individual suffers from conditions that impair judgment or orientation. It’s crucial to ensure that caregivers understand the medical and psychological needs of the person they’re caring for.

Your Great-uncle Don gets confused and scared when he finds himself in unfamiliar places. If his caregiver then leaves him alone at shopping mall or grocery store, it might be a good idea to get a new caregiver. Desertion in public is one of the most serious indicators of elder neglect.

6. Untreated Illnesses or Sores

While bedsores can indicate neglect, they can also arise even with good care, especially in individuals with limited mobility. Continuous monitoring and seeking timely medical intervention can mitigate the risks.

Untreated illnesses or bedsores can cause serious problems for anybody, but they are particularly dangerous to the elderly, who are often frail and have immune systems that do not function well. Therefore, if your loved one displays symptoms like these, you should be very concerned.

Bedsores result from unrelieved pressure on the skin. To prevent them, caregivers must regularly help patients roll over onto one side or the other to relieve pressure on the buttocks, the back, and the backside of the legs. Failure to do this can indicate neglect.

In conclusion, be aware that none of these symptoms taken individually is cause for immediate concern that your loved one is a victim of elder neglect. Always remember that early intervention can prevent further harm. Regularly communicating with both the elderly individual and their caregivers, along with periodic checks and professional consultations, can ensure the safety and well-being of your loved ones. However, if a pattern of neglect becomes apparent, you should takes steps to make sure your loved one is safe and receives proper care.

If you suspect a loved one has been injured, neglected or abused while in the care of a Southern California nursing home, assisted living facility or caretaker, or if you are the victim, it is important to contact Moran Law: “Most Esteemed” Elder Abuse Firm, immediately to discuss your case.