Study Offers New Look At 'Self-Neglect' Among Older Persons

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Many older adults who cannot take care of the tasks of daily life such as eating and bathing are battling a multitude of health problems with little help from family or others in their community.

This portrait of "self-neglect," the most comprehensive to date, suggests these adults frequently suffer from heart problems and depression. They struggle with simple physical and mental tasks, and might even be oblivious to their problems.

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"We believe elders who self-neglect are those with impairment in activities of daily living, who lack the needed support services, and who fail to recognize the danger," say Carmel Dyer, M.D., and colleagues in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Self-neglect is a common problem faced by Adult Protective Services agencies throughout the country, said Dyer, a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Self-neglect happens most often when an older person lacks social support, the researchers found.

"Some elderly persons who self-neglect simply lack access to support services, whereas others either refuse help or who

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