Defining Elder Abuse: Neglect

Bed sores, soiled clothing, missing dentures, and too much alone time can all seem like symptoms of old age—but it’s not that simple. They are also possible signs one of the most common forms of elder abuse: neglect.

Neglect occurs when caregivers fail to fulfill responsibilities when it comes to the elder’s care. This failure can be on the physical front, including failing to provide food, water, shelter, clothing, or medicine. It can also be on the psychological front, including leaving the elder alone for extended periods of time or failing to provide adequate social contact.

Who are the common perpetrators? 

Surprisingly, some of the most common offenders when it comes to any form of elder abuse, including neglect, are members of the elder’s own family—often those in the caregiving role. While no less excusable, this abuse may sometimes stem from caregiver stress. Caregiver stress may be caused by depression, lack of support from other family members, or the caregiver’s mindset that caregiving is nothing more than a burden.

When it comes to neglect, another common perpetrator is actually the elder themselves. Known as self-neglect, this form of neglect occurs when an older person does not provide necessities, such as food, water, adequate shelter, or medication, to themselves. This can either be on purpose due to illnesses like depression, or by accident due to Alzheimer’s or simple forgetfulness.

Keep an eye out for the warning signs

There are several signs to watch for if you suspect an elder in your life might be suffering from neglect, whether from a caretaker or in the form of self-neglect. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Health and wellness issues, including untreated medical problems, dehydration, and malnutrition
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as no heat or no running water
  • Unsanitary living conditions, including dirt, fleas, soiled bedding, and dirty clothing
  • Lack of necessary medical aids, such as hearing aids or dentures
  • A report of mistreatment from the elder

A large number of elderly people suffer from abuse, but that number is next to impossible to accurately portray as many elder abuse cases go unreported. The cases are severely underreported for several reasons, including the elder’s fear of what might happen to the abuser if reported; the elder’s fear of what might happen to themselves; the elder’s feelings of embarrassment or shame; and the lack of realization on the part of the elder that anything is wrong.

In an effort to increase the number of reported cases of elder abuse, Colorado implemented a mandatory reporting law a few years ago. But while the law has helped, the problem of underreporting still exists.

How can you help stop elder abuse? 

If you suspect elder abuse, one of the best ways you can help is by reporting the suspected abuse to the proper authorities.

While reporting that abuse is very important, it isn’t the only step you can take. The Colorado personal injury lawyers at Bachus & Schanker can help you and your loved ones navigate this difficult time. Contact Bachus & Schanker for a free initial case consultation to learn more.


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