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Can a Person Neglect Themselves?

Updated February 21, 2020

Leacey Brown

SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist

Would you be surprised to know that self-neglect is the most common form of non-financial abuse? Self-neglect does not involve abuse perpetrated by another person. Generally speaking, self-neglect occurs when a person engages in behaviors that poses a risk to their safety or well-being. These behaviors may occur as a result of the adult’s inability to perform essential self-care tasks. Physical impairment, mental impairment, or diminished capacity are among the reasons why a person may fail to perform appropriate self-care. For example, an adult without any mental impairment who refuses to take a prescription medication to manage a chronic condition is not engaging in self-neglect.

Signs of Self-Neglect

  • Poor hygiene
  • Inappropriate clothing for weather
  • Living conditions: dangerous, disconnected utilities, or unclean
  • Inadequate housing
  • Homelessness

South Dakota law requires mandatory reporting of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation by medical and mental health professional and employees or entities providing ongoing care. To report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation, please contact your local law enforcement agency, local state’s attorney office, or the nearest Division of Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Office.

References & Additional Information:

Related Terms

Aging Well, Family Caregiving