Preventing and Identifying Self-Neglect in Older Family Members

More families live apart, and there is more isolation because of COVID-19. The amount of self-neglect among older adults is increasing at an alarming rate.

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Preventing and Identifying Self-Neglect in Older Family Members
5 Min Read October 18th, 2021
Linda Kople

Freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

Many people would not think of self-neglect when you think of elder abuse, yet self-neglect is a significant problem with older people worldwide.

Data from the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System shows that self-neglect constituted 51% of all elder abuse in the United States. It is also a growing problem in Canada and other parts of the world.

For example, a study on 1,023 older adults living alone in a metropolitan area in South Korea indicated that 22.8% of the participants had some form of self-neglect.

Ignoring Basic Needs

When an individual fails to take care of their basic needs, it is considered neglect. There are several reasons for these, including dementia, depression, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and a general decline in overall health due to aging.

The problem of spotting self-neglect has increased for several reasons. COVID-19 has created more isolation as families often do not see each other as often as they have in the past. However, before COVID-19, families have been spread apart as adult children often do not continue to live where they grew up, and they are separated by distance from their parents and siblings. 

A parent might 'sound' ok, but without seeing them in person, often the adult children may not know what is happening in their parent's home.

Self-Neglect is Often Unreported

Farida Kassim Ejaz, a senior research scientist at Cleveland-based Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, quoted in a story published in Next Avenue, says the growing isolation makes identifying the scope of the problem more difficult.

"A significant number of these cases go undetected or unreported," Ejaz said. 

Another problem that experts note is your parent's standards, and your standards could be different. At what point is it really self-neglect?

"Self-neglect is a serious problem that may start off unnoticed until it gets out of hand. As a family member of someone who shows signs of self-neglect, it can be challenging to know when to intervene. Your standards might be different than those of your parent or another older adult, and you may not want to intrude," writes Amanda Lambert, MS, CMC, ALCP.

Lambert says prevention is always the best planning. She suggests planning for long-term health care and being sure financial powers of attorney are in place. 

"If you wait too long, problems can mount, making it very difficult to intervene with someone who is resistant and defiant. Without some legal authority, you won't be able to get healthcare or financial information," Lambert wrote.

Ignoring the Problem Makes it Worse

Ignoring the problem increases the risks of health problems, additional health care costs, and the need for long-term care services. Long-term care costs are usually not paid by health insurance (including Medicareand supplements), and Medicaid will pay for long-term care service but only if the care recipient has little or no income and assets. 

While Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for long-term care in all settings, an individual cannot purchase a policy if they already need care or have declining health. 

Look for the Signs

While advance planning is essential, it might be too late for an older family member. You should look for common signs of self-neglect in older loved ones. These signs include:

  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Unusual weight loss - including malnutrition and dehydration
  • Lack of bathing and personal hygiene
  • Unsuitable clothing
  • Hoarding
  • Refusing to take medications or mismanaging medications
  • Too many pets in the home
  • Unwillingness to manage personal affairs

Finding the Root Cause

Once self-neglect is identified, a professional must determine the root cause. Depression would be treated differently than some other form of mental illness. If dementia is the root cause, the person may require the proper supervision and long-term care.

Families should be proactive as ignoring the problem will make it worse over time. There is sometimes the fear of embarrassing their loved ones by addressing the issue, and the problem will usually not go away unless properly addressed.

Getting the Proper Care

If your loved one needs long-term care finding quality caregivers and facilities can become problematic, especially if you live afar. LTC NEWS offers you a free-no obligation service to find care and even get help with processing a Long-Term Care Insurance claim if your parent is lucky enough to have one in place - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.

Aging happens but neglected a person's basic needs is not a normal part of aging. We will see a decline in our health, body, and mind as we get older. Preparing for these changes and the costs and burdens of longevity is an essential part of retirement planning. 

LTC Insurance Key

Long-Term Care Insurance will provide the guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for quality care options, including care at home. When you own a policy, you own a solution giving your loved ones the time to be family instead of caregivers. 

When you have the proper resources to pay for quality care, you will enjoy a better quality of life. You not only protect assets, but you reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on your family.

Long-term health care costs are increasing at an alarming rate, and some states are already seeing shortages of caregivers. Increasing demand for care in the decades ahead as Generation X, Late-Boomers, and the remaining Baby Boomers will worsen the problem. As more families live apart, it becomes even more difficult to manage long-term health care issues, and LTC Insurance makes it easier for everyone.

Long-Term Health Care Costs Vary Based on Location

The cost of long-term health care varies depending on the type of care required and where you live -  Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News

Most experts agree that the ideal time to obtain Long-Term Care Insurance is when you are in your 40s or 50s. Be sure to seek the help of a qualified and licensed specialist who represents the major companies - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.

Stay in touch with your older parents, and don't forget elderly aunts or uncles who may not have other family members. Take immediate action if you notice signs of self-neglect.

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About the Author

Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

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