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Self Neglect

Self-neglect is a general term used to describe a vulnerable adult living in a way that puts his or her health, safety, or well-being at risk.

Self-neglect by vulnerable adults is a serious problem.  It can be difficult to know when or if you should get involved.  Law enforcement and social service agencies cannot be everywhere. Your help is needed.

Learn more about:

What is self-neglect?

Vulnerable adults who neglect themselves are unwilling or unable to do needed self-care.  This can include such things as:

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Common characteristics of people who neglect themselves.

There are some common characteristics of a adults who neglect themselves.  He or she is more likely to:

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Signs to look for

The Home

The Person

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What families, friends, neighbors, and service providers can do to help.

Social support by family, members of the community, and service providers is very important in helping vulnerable adults remain safely in the community. 

Family and friends:


Mail carriers, utility workers, other service providers

Police and other first responders

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Tips for preventing self neglect as you age.

Isolation is common among all types of self-neglect.  Avoiding spending too much time alone is very important.

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What can be done by Adult Protective Services (APS)?

APS can be part of a community’s involvement in aiding a self-neglecting vulnerable adult. With the person’s consent, APS will do everything possible to ensure his or her safety and well-being once the case has been reported and investigated. 

Some adults may refuse help. This presents a dilemma for anyone trying to help a self-neglecting adult.  How do you balance the person’s right to this independence and help make sure he or she is safe and well? 

There is no easy answer and each case must be treated individually. Help by family, friends, services providers, APS, or health care interventions can be offered but the person has to accept that help.

APS can’t remove a person from his or her home against their will or force them to accept help. Because of this, APS staff and law enforcement are sometimes stopped from providing help to people who need it.

APS can intervene without the consent of the vulnerable adult only if all other avenues have been exhausted, the person is found incompetent by the courts, and a court order has been granted to appoint a legal guardian to make decisions on his or her behalf. 

A person who refuses help may eventually accept it.  It is important for everyone to stay involved and support the vulnerable adult as much as he or she will allow.

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