Self-Neglect vs. Elder Abuse: Do You Have Grounds for a Lawsuit?

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 3.00.24 PM.pngThe signs of elder abuse are disturbing, to say the least. Victims of elder abuse are often poorly nourished and socially isolated, and they might also have untreated injuries or poorly managed chronic illnesses. Of course, these signs might also be present simply because an elderly person has a hard time taking care of him or herself but hesitates to seek treatment, for fear of losing his or her treasured independence. We like to think that if left to live independently, elderly people will be the picture of health. In reality, few elders who can live independently are healthy enough physically and mentally to get their hair styled and bake cookies in anticipation of their grandchildren’s weekly visits. Knowing when an elderly parent needs the help of a home health aide or assisted living facility is difficult. The signs of an elderly person who is not properly caring for him or herself are similar to the signs of one who is being improperly treated by caregivers, but as legal issues go, the two are very different matters.

Whose Responsibility is an Elderly Person’s Well-Being?

Elder abuse is physical, psychological, or financial abuse of an elderly person by someone in a position of trust to that elderly person. Nursing home neglect is one of the most heinous forms of elder abuse, but it is also one for which it is easiest to know whether you have grounds for a lawsuit. California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) outlines the protections that California affords elders, whether they live independently, with family members, or in nursing homes.

It is often quite easy to determine whether nursing home staff are giving your elderly relative adequate care. They have a clear duty to give nursing home residents the medications prescribed for them and to provide adequate food and help with hygiene. If your elderly relative has sustained preventable injuries in a nursing home, it may be the result of nursing home neglect.

What is Self-Neglect?

When elderly people are not under the care of home health aides or in nursing homes, they are responsible for their own care. Self-neglect is when the elderly person’s poor health or hygiene is not due to the intentional actions of a third party. Hoarding is a common sign of self-neglect, and it is especially associated with dementia. Self-neglect is often a sign that an elderly person is having trouble functioning independently and needs more care. That care could be provided by family members or by healthcare professionals. Making decisions about an elderly person’s care is challenging and can be emotionally fraught. Since no one has intentionally harmed the elderly person, self-neglect among elderly people who are living truly independently and who have not been assigned to someone’s care does not involve the liability of another party.

Case Barnett Helps Prevent Elder Abuse

The decisions surrounding an elderly relative’s care can be difficult. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California for advice about how to protect your relatives from elder abuse.

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