Is a Parent or Elder Relative Being Neglected?
Many of our neighbors visited family during the holidays, including their elder relatives. If you do not see family regularly, you might be shocked at the differences you observe after being away for a year. Naturally, many people are concerned for their loved one’s wellbeing, and they often reach out to elder law attorneys to discuss their fears.
Neglect is a serious problem for our nation’s elderly. Although abuse tends to get all the headlines, neglect can be equally as devastating. Below, our elder law attorneys in The Villages highlight some of the most common red flags that a loved one is being neglected.
Types of Neglect
According to Psychology Today, neglect occurs when a caretaker fails to provide for a dependent’s safety or needs. For example:
- A caretaker can take a person out of the home and forget to bring them back, or they can leave dangerous implements around the house.
- Physical needs. The caretaker neglects to feed or provide medical care. They also fail to keep the home sanitary or the dependent bathed.
- Emotional or psychological needs. Emotional neglect is harder to see but can consist of leaving a dependent isolated and failing to nurture social contact with others outside the home.
Unlike abuse, neglect is not an intentional act. It can stem from carelessness or from the caretaker feeling overwhelmed or unsupported. When a caretaker is herself older (60+), she can be struggling herself with medical issues that require her full attention.
Red Flags: What to Look For
Neglect is prevalent. Statistics show that hundreds of thousands of seniors are neglected every year, and they suffer considerably. A loved one might tell you they are being neglected, but usually concerned family members must look for signs:
- Poor hygiene. Your loved one might not have bathed or combed their hair. Their clothes could be soiled or in disrepair.
- Unclean premises. A very dirty home is another sign of neglect. Compare the cleanliness of the home to how it appeared when you visited 3 or 4 years ago. If the home is infested with insects or rodents, there is a clear problem.
- Weight loss. Some people lose weight as they age, but a dramatic weight loss is a sign a person is not getting fed enough.
- Unexplained hospitalization. Your loved one might have an undiagnosed medical condition or not be taking their meds.
- Behavioral change. A person being emotionally neglected can withdraw or become depressed or agitated.
How to Respond
There is no one “right way” to respond to neglect. For example, you can talk to the caretaker and ask if they need additional help. There are many resources available to help people stay in their homes, and you could help a caretaker access them. Regularly calling or checking in can also help a caretaker feel supported.
If you seriously doubt that the caretaker can provide adequate care, then you might consider additional steps. One could be requesting guardianship of your loved one. With this step, you can gain control over your loved one’s daily affairs and take care of them personally or find an appropriate home.
To discuss your options, call the estate planning lawyers at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group today at 800-743-9732. We offer a free consultation.