According to 2017 data, there are approximately 47 million men and women over the age of 65 living in the U.S. The figure is expected to more than double to 98 million by 2060. This is due to the advancement in medicine and awareness in healthy living, which has increased human longevity. However, with the rise also comes increasing instances of elder self-neglect. A New York personal injury lawyer can give you more information regarding elder self-neglect and additional state-specific provisions.
Elder Self-Neglect Defined
Elder self-neglect is a federally recognized issue, acknowledged under the Elder Justice Act passed in 2010. What does this mean? This is defined as the inability of a person 65-years of age and older to care for himself/herself due to diminished physical or mental capacity. This means the person is unable to carry out daily functions essential for living, such as consuming food, using the restroom, taking medicine, putting on clothes, and managing finances. In other instances, the self-neglect may be intentional.
In these instances, there are no third-party perpetrator carrying out the abuse. Nevertheless, it still constitutes as elder abuse. In fact, an estimated half of all cases of elder neglect are in the form of elder self-neglect.
How Prevalent is Elder Self-Neglect?
It is difficult to come up with solid figures and statistics since so many cases go unreported. According to a National Research Council study, only about one in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported. Another study published in the JAMA Network shows that seniors engaged in self-neglect are more likely to be chronically depressed and at greater risk of disease and shorter lifespan compared to their non-self-neglect counterparts.
That’s not all; the American Society of Aging has released some other startling statistics. In its surveys, it revealed that 92% of care workers believed elder self-neglect was a serious problem. 94% also believed the problem is not discussed enough and too often goes unreported. 76% of care managers believed this is the most prevalent form of non-financial elder neglect.
The Warning Signs of Elder Self-Neglect
As a citizen, you have a responsibility to report suspected cases of elder self-neglect to law enforcement or social services. Similarly, you can also contact the National Adult Protective Services Association. There are branches nationwide.
Learn to recognize the signs that someone – whether in your family or otherwise – is no longer able to care for himself/herself or is intentionally forgoing self-care.
Watch out for these signs:
- Refusal to take medication or constantly forgetting
- Poor hygiene practices, such as not bathing, washing hair, trimming nails, etc.
- Unsanitary living quarters. If the individual has pets, animal feces may litter the floor.
- Rapid weight loss
- Overdue bills; mail may pile uncollected in the mailbox.
Not taking care of financial affairs is a form of self-abuse. When a case is reported, an attorney can get involved and assist the individual if he/she is able to sign a power of attorney. The lawyer will act as a trusted agent that can make responsible decisions on the elder’s behalf.
If the elder exhibits advanced signs of diminished mental capacity, then a guardianship or conservatorship may be required. This may also come into play if the elder outright refuses to accept outside assistance, and social services determine intervention is required.
The Law Regarding Elder Self-Neglect
Under New York law, all mandated reporters are required to report self-abuse. Mandated reporters include most individuals in the medical field, such as physicians, nurses, dentists, and EMTs. It also includes police officers, firefighters, and social workers. If you don’t belong in these fields, then you are not legally required to report elder self-neglect, though you’re highly encouraged to do so.
If you recognize the signs of elder self-neglect, report the incident to the appropriate authorities. If you believe your elder loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of caregivers, please contact an elder abuse lawyer at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C. Our personal injury lawyer team has over 40 years of experience in fighting for the rights of injury victims.