When a Loved One Can’t – or Won’t – Take Care of Themselves

Mitchell went to visit his father during the winter holidays. He was alarmed to find his father’s house in complete disarray – piles of unpaid bills sat on the kitchen table, clothes were lying all over the house and there was almost no food in the cabinets or refrigerator. Additionally, he couldn’t walk more than a couple of steps without having to stop to catch his breath. Mitchell immediately took his father to the Emergency Room, where doctors told him that his father had pneumonia. Mitchell discovered that his father was just one of a growing number of cases of self-neglect.
Self-neglect happens when a person, typically an elder, is no longer able – or chooses not to –practice basic self-care, including personal hygiene, eating healthfully, maintaining a safe environment and managing personal finances. This can be due to simply losing interest in life or because the person may no longer have the mental or physical ability to care for themselves.
According to many Adult Protective Services agencies across the U.S., self-neglect accounts for the largest percentage of substantiated reports of elder abuse. A study by the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) found that 92 percent of care managers identified self-neglect as a significant problem in their area and 94 percent said it is a largely hidden problem that is severely underreported.
Getting help for a loved one
If you have a parent or loved one who is suffering from self-neglect, help is available. A ProperCare in-home caregiver can provide the services needed to help them live safely and comfortably. While you may encounter some resistance to having a “stranger” in the house, explain that a caregiver will actually increase their independence to do the things they enjoy without having to worry about the day-to-day maintenance of the home. In-home caregivers can provide support in a number of important ways.

  • Nutrition

A lack of healthful food in the home is one of the most serious manifestations of self-neglect. An in-home caregiver can help in the planning and preparation of nutritious and tasty meals as well as do the grocery shopping. Having a companion in the home may also be a catalyst for increasing a senior’s interest in food.

  • Hygiene

Poor grooming, wearing dirty clothes or spending all day in one’s pajamas is often one of the first signs of self-neglect. An in-home caregiver can help with an elder’s most basic hygienic needs, while providing a kind and sympathetic ear.

  • Activities of daily living

Self-neglect also occurs because the senior simply isn’t able to perform the duties of daily living, either because of physical limitations or cognitive impairment. An in-home caregiver can help with getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, and even providing reminders when it’s time to take medication.

  • Companionship

Simply having someone else in their loved one’s home, monitoring the situation, provides numerous adult children with a sense of relief. Companions can help with daily tasks such as laundry and light housekeeping, but their real service is simply spending time with the person to learn about their past accomplishments as well as their hopes and dreams for the future. An in-home companion can keep an eye on things to ensure everything is running smoothly while giving the elder a sense of purpose and well-being.
If your loved one needs more help than an in-home caregiver can provide, a ProperCare care manager can help you find a senior living community that meets your loved one’s needs.

Categories: Caregiving, Geriatric Care

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