What Are the Warning Signs of Elderly Self-Neglect vs. Abuse?

Posted in Elder Abuse on February 15, 2018

The elderly are some of our most vulnerable citizens, and they can’t always tell us when someone is mistreating them. Loved ones look for signs of abuse, but it’s difficult to distinguish the difference between abuse and self-neglect in the elderly. If you are concerned that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, talk to HawkLaw. We have seen enough cases of this horrific practice to recognize both abuse and self-neglect. Here are some ways you can tell the difference.

Signs of Self-Neglect

  1. Hoarding is one of the important signs of self-neglect. When senior collect items like newspapers and magazines, mail, paperwork, and other items, it could be a sign of self-neglect. It could also happen with animals, where people allow too many animals to live with them than they could care for safely. If the hoarding is bad enough to create an unsafe environment for the person or anyone living with them, it’s a red flag that they could be neglecting their care.
  2. Poor Hygiene. Another indication is if they are not taking care of themselves. A lack of care could manifest in dehydration and failing to eat enough healthy and energizing food or not eating enough in general. It also includes medications. If they are not taking their medication or are refusing medical treatment for a serious illness, it could be a sign of self-neglect. Hygiene is another requirement for self-care. If they aren’t taking care of their hygiene, it could mean they could easily become sick.
  3. Problems around the House could also be a sign. These problems could be leaving the stove turned on unattended or ignoring necessary housekeeping tasks. Especially in winter months, failing to wear clothes that are proper for the weather could be an indication that they are neglecting themselves.

Primary Signs of Abuse

Unfortunately, some elderly people also experience abuse. Abuse can come in many forms including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial. It can be difficult to notice, so it is important to know the signs if you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home. One or two of the following issues alone is unlikely to be abuse, however, if it seems repetitive, it may need further investigation. Here are some things that might signal abuse:

  • Physical abuse. Injuries like bruises, pressure sores, broken bones, cuts, and burns could signal abuse. Though the elderly may be clumsy and prone to bruising, signs of injury around the neck, hands, or where clothing would hide blue marks signal physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse. Bruises around the breasts or genital area can be an indication of sexual abuse. Fear of removing their clothes or sudden shyness around a particular person are also signals of abuse.
  • Emotional abuse. This is often the hardest to see. The elderly may forget that someone spoke cruelly to them, but they may indicate they don’t want to be around certain caregivers. If this is the case, pay attention to their fears. If they suddenly seem less alert or more depressed than usual and there is no clear reason for it, it could be because they are experiencing emotional abuse.
  • Financial abuse. A sudden drop in finances for an inexplicable or unclear reason could indicate that someone is taking advantage of their finances. Watch bank accounts and credit card history to prevent financial abuse of elders.

Similarly, strained or forced relationships between the elderly person and a caregiver could be a sign of all these types of abuses. Whether due to fear of repercussions or forgetfulness, your loved one may not be able to tell you what’s happening. Be on the alert for self-neglect, but don’t count out nursing home or caregiver abuse. If an elderly person you know begins exhibiting any of these signs and you suspect some sort of abuse is taking place, you need an experienced personal injury law firm on your side in South Carolina.