What is Elder and Dependent Adult Self Abuse or Neglect?

This is a significant category of elder and dependent adult abuse or neglect that generally isn’t discussed or defined. When thinking about elder and dependent adult abuse most of us tend to first think about abuse committed by persons other than the victim, and those perpetrators are typically classified either as outside third party or family perpetrators. Statistically, I have read that approximately 1/3 of the perpetrators are outside third party perpetrators, and about 2/3 of the perpetrators are family members.

But what about self abuse or self neglect. The following is a definition of self neglect from the National Center on Elder Abuse – and then below that definition I have added one area to that description:

“Tragically, sometimes elders neglect their own care, which can lead to illness or injury. Self-neglect can include behaviors such as:

  • Hoarding of objects, newspapers/magazines, mail/paperwork, etc., and/or animal hoarding to the extent that the safety of the individual (and/or other household or community members) is threatened or compromised.
  • Failure to provide adequate food and nutrition for oneself.
  • Failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness
  • Leaving a burning stove unattended
  • Poor hygiene
  • Not wearing suitable clothing for the weather
  • Confusion
  • Inability to attend to housekeeping
  • Dehydration

Self-neglect is one of the most frequently reported concerns brought to adult protective services. Oftentimes, the problem is paired with declining health, isolation, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or drug and alcohol dependency.

In some of these cases, elders will be connected to supports in the community that can allow them to continue living on their own. Some conditions like depression and malnutrition may be successfully treated through medical intervention. If the problems are severe enough, a guardian may be appointed.”

See also the discussion about self neglect by the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life at Click Here.

The area that I would add is financial elder and dependent adult self abuse or neglect – i.e., difficulty or the inability to make sound financial management decisions or choices, also including (1) lack of or difficulty with mental capacity and ability to understand the issues and choices at hand, (2) delay, procrastination or simply not making decisions that need to be made, and (3) also including an already recognized area of abuse by a third party which is the inability to resist the efforts or activities by a perpetrator of financial abuse.

I am seeing an already not insignificant, and an increasing number of materials and articles about elder and dependent adult situations that fit the financial elder and dependent adult self abuse or neglect definition.

These situations can raise a whole host of issues to address, such as how to protect the elder or dependent adult without violating his or her rights, in addition to satisfying personal third party duties and avoiding personal third party liability.  A scenario, for example, where you might see this type of situation in the financial category is when the elder or dependent adult goes to consult with his or her banker, investment advisor or financial advisor and the banker or advisor sees or gets a feeling that there are or might be actions or occurrences by the elder or dependent adult that evidence financial elder or dependent adult self abuse or neglect.

Please do pass information about self abuse, this blog and this blog post to other people who would be interested.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco), Civil Litigation; Trust, Estate, Conservatorship and Elder Abuse Litigation; Trust, Estate and Conservatorship Administration; Representing Fiduciaries and Beneficiaries.

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