What is Senior Self-Neglect?

It can be frustrating and frightening when a beloved elder is not taking good care of themselves. Family members may see unintended weight loss, untreated medical conditions, or unclean living conditions and worry about the senior’s well being. They may have tried many times to talk to the elder to express their concerns to no avail. What can be done? 


When a senior is unable to care for their own health and well being needs, it may be considered self-neglect. 

Caring for one’s own needs includes:

Elder Care Finksburg, MD: Senior Self-Neglect


  • Maintaining a clean body – bathing, brushing teeth and hair and changing into clean clothing when needed 
  • Using the toilet as needed 
  • Eating adequate nutritious food including staying hydrated 
  • Keeping a clean house, free from pests 
  • Meeting the needs of pets, if applicable 
  • Moving around the house or community if needed or desired 
  • Managing one’s finances appropriately 


When is it Self-Neglect? 

It isn’t always clear cut exactly where the line between preferences and self-neglect lies. People have differing definitions of what constitutes a clean house, for example. Preferences vary in how often people want to bathe, change clothing or get out of the house.  


It stops becoming a matter of preference, and starts to be potential self-neglect when the living conditions jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of the elder. 


Legally, self-neglect is defined as “an adult’s inability, due to physical or mental impairment, or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care tasks including: (A) obtaining essential food, clothing, shelter, and medical care; (B) obtaining goods and services necessary to maintain physical health, mental health; or (C) managing one’s own financial affairs”.  


The law does not find self-neglect if the person is mentally capable to understand the consequences of their decisions. 

Common symptoms of self-neglect include: 


  • Dehydration or malnutrition 
  • Untreated medical conditions 
  • Poor personal hygiene, unclean clothing or body odor 
  • Filthy living conditions, including mold, rotten food, foul odors, pest infestations 
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as hoarding clutter and garbage on a stovetop or a fire exit 


A person who is self-neglecting may not recognize the severity of the situation. They may repeatedly refuse offers of assistance because they don’t believe or understand that they need help.  

What to do if Self-Neglect is Suspected 

It’s a good idea to talk to the person directly about your concerns. If you still have concerns, contact your state’s Adult Protective Services office for help.  


Self-neglect is considered a form of elder abuse. Adult Protective Services is the organization responsible for investigating suspected abuse, including self-neglect.  


If the person is in immediate danger contact 911. 

Consider Professional Elder Care Services 

Elder Care service agencies match professional caregivers with elders who need assistance taking care of themselves. Caregiving staff can assist with a variety of needs including light housekeeping, personal care and transportation. 


It’s not uncommon for seniors to hesitate to invite people into their homes to provide care, but professional elder care services have a variety of approaches to reduce the initial stress. For example, by starting small with tasks like transportation or laundry, a professional elder care aide can build a trusting relationship with the elder.  


Building a trusting relationship can be an important part of elder care. Over time, the senior often grows to trust the elder care aide to assist with more needs – and that feels good for everyone. 


If you or an aging loved-one is considering Elder Care in Finksburg, MD please contact the caring staff at Help at Home Services, LLC today. (443) 275-1524