As our loved ones become older and frail, it is important to ensure they receive proper care. Many are unable to tend to themselves, and will increasingly rely on other people to cater to their basic needs.
Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable people in our lives, and are often neglected. This can include self-neglect and nursing home neglect. However, for their loved ones, it is difficult to distinguish between the two. Here are some ways to detect the differences between these two types of neglect.
Understanding Elderly Self-Neglect
Self-neglect happens when an older person, through lack of awareness, ability, or choice, disregards their health, safety, and well-being.
Causes of Self –Neglect
Elderly self-neglect can happen due to physical or mental illness that may affect the person’s energy levels, physical abilities, motivation, organization skills, and attention.
Types of Self- Neglect
- Active or intentional Self-Neglect
This occurs when a person consciously involves themselves in self-neglect. For example, when a senior person actively refuses to take medication or visit a doctor.
- Passive or non- Intentional Self-Neglect
Passive self-neglect happens when a health-related condition makes the person develop self-neglect. For example, an older adult with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may experience concentration lapses, making them forget about their hygiene, personal care or meals.
Signs of Elderly Self-Neglect Include:
Hoarding occurs when a senior person starts collecting and keeping worthless items like newspapers, mail, magazines, and other worthless knickknacks. They can also become possessive of things, and they become increasingly reluctant to part with them, leading to clutter and an unsafe environment.
Hoarding leads to safety and health concerns, isolation, loneliness, and inability to perform daily tasks like bathing and cooking in the home. When hoarding becomes bad enough that it creates an unsafe environment, it’s a red flag of self-neglect.
- Poor Hygiene
A lack of self-care could manifest in malnourishment and dehydration. This means not eating healthy and well balanced and energizing food, or failing to eat. This also includes not taking medication or refusing to seek medical treatment, and living without electricity, water, and heat in their homes.
Self-neglect can lead to premature death, increased hospitalization, and emergency services. In case you notice your loved one has signs of self-neglect, seek assistance from the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA). The association will investigate and provide the necessary professional care plan to keep your loved one protected and in a safe environment.
Understating Nursing Home Neglect
Most families make the difficult decision to place their aged loved ones in extended care facilities and nursing homes. We generally assume nursing homes will give our loved ones a high standard of care, attention, and treatment, delivered with compassion and professionalism.
However, many nursing homes fail to provide the minimum standard of care, leading to elderly neglect. Moreover, older people avoid reporting neglect due to fear, embarrassment, or lack of mental and physical capacity to recognize the neglect.
Elderly nursing home neglect may be accidental or intentional. Either way, the breach of duty or substandard care easily harms these most vulnerable of citizens.
Types of Elderly Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect involves the caregiver failing to provide care as needed to their residents. It may include unintentional (passive) or intentional (active) neglect.
For the active or intentional neglect, a caregiver intentionally or knowingly does not provide an older person with basic care. Passive or unintentional neglect means a caregiver unknowingly fails to provide the basic needs and care to the elderly. This can be due to under-staffing in the facility, lack of proper training or poor supervision. The main types of nursing home neglect include:
- Basic needs neglect
This happens when the nursing home fails to provide the resident with clean water, enough food, and a safe environment, with bathroom grab bars and other safety features in place.
- Personal Hygiene Neglect
This is failure by the nursing facility to help the older adults under their care to maintain their hygiene, including laundry, dental care, and bathing.
- Emotional or Social Neglect
The neglect involves ignoring the psychological and social needs. Such may include leaving them alone for extended periods, ignoring them, indifference and unkind treatment.
- Medical Neglect
Medical neglect involves failure by the nursing home to provide its residents with proper medical care and attention during a medical concern. For example, inadequate diabetic care, mobility issues, infections, bedsores, and other elderly associated medical problems.
Issues Associated with Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect may lead to wrongful death, soft-tissue infections, respiratory infections, medication errors, skin infections, malnutrition, dehydration, choking, and amputation, among others.
Warning Signs of Elderly Nursing Home Neglect
The most common nursing home neglect red flags for your loved one include:
- Unsanitary Living Conditions
A nursing home should provide the residents with clean bedding, clothing, living areas, and rooms that are free from mold and pests. Lack of proper sanitary conditions can be detected through sores, foul odors, piles of trash, and stained clothing.
- Unexplained Injuries
A neglected person may have unexplained injuries that happen due to lack of support leading to frequent falls or due to sexual or physical abuse. Such signs include cuts, rope marks, broken bones, sprains, fractures, black eyes, bruises, welts, puncture wounds, and lacerations. Sexual abuse injuries may consist of torn clothing, genital infections, and bleeding in the genital or anal areas.
- Psychological Neglect
An older person experiencing physiological neglect may have emotional issues like anger, fear of the caregiver, depression, and resentment. Other signs include mental agitation, crying, and an uncommunicative demeanor.
Reporting Elderly Nursing Home Neglect
Due to the emotional and physical consequences of elder neglect, it’s vital to report any case to ensure the safety and health of the affected individual. contact the state local long-term care ombudsman to investigate the elder neglect claim. Furthermore, they also ensure the victim receives proper care.
Additionally, involve the social service workers, local law enforcement, and Adult Protective Services for more investigation and decisive measures.
Lastly, it’s important to consult with a nursing home neglect attorney to guide you on ways to respond to neglect cases. An attorney ensures the victim’s legal rights and well-being is protected.
Preventing Self-Neglect and Nursing Home Neglect
To prevent elderly neglect, you need to:
- Believe your loved ones – Never dismiss what an older person tells you. Look into it, and encourage them to open up further.
- Review the nursing home facilities – Before taking your loved one to a nursing home, review the facilities provided and check out on signs like sanitary living conditions and under-staffing. Check out the reviews of other families, and rely on referrals.
- Keeping in touch with your loved ones – Visiting your elderly loved ones regularly. You can easily pick up on signs of poor care.
- Check out neglect signs – Being aware of self-neglect and nursing home neglect signs may help in addressing the inadequate care before it gets out of hand.
No one should suffer from neglect during their older and vulnerable years. Understanding the difference between self- neglect and nursing home neglect ensures you take the necessary measures for your loved ones. If it’s self-neglect, talk to your loved one and seek help, and for nursing home neglect, take legal action.