Elder Neglect and Self-Neglect

Neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elder. Neglect may also include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g., pay for necessary home care services) or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care.

Seniors can also suffer neglect at their own hands, which is referred to as self-neglect, which is characterized as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety. Self-neglect generally manifests itself in an older person as a refusal or failure to provide himself/herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precautions.

Michigan defines "neglect" as: "harm to an adult's health or welfare caused by the inability of the adult to respond to a harmful situation or by the conduct of a person who assumes responsibility for a significant aspect of the adult's health or welfare. Neglect includes the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care."

Signs of neglect and self-neglect include, but are not limited to:

  • dehydration, malnutrition, untreated or improperly attended medical conditions, and poor personal hygiene;
  • unattended or untreated health problems;
  • hazardous or unsafe living condition/arrangements (e.g., improper wiring, no heat, or no running water);
  • unsanitary and unclean living conditions (e.g. dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing);
  • inappropriate and/or inadequate clothing, lack of the necessary medical aids (e.g., eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures);
  • grossly inadequate housing or homelessness; and
  • an elder's report of being mistreated.

How an Elder Law Attorney Can Help in Cases of Neglect

Elder law attorneys and advocates work with seniors suffering from neglect and their families in a number of ways, including:

  • taking the necessary steps to immediately stop any further neglect;
  • removing any offending party from any position that helped them commit the neglect (i.e. agent, joint owner, conservator, etc);
  • appointing someone to assist with the senior's needs, care and treatment (i.e. power of attorney, guardianconservator, etc);
  • developing a Care Plan for the senior and a plan to finance their care costs; and
  • seeking criminal remedies, where appropriate, against any offending party.

If your loved one may be suffering from neglect, learn more about our elder rights advocacy services or contact Estate Planning & Elder Law Services for a free consultation about your concerns.

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