New Mexico Senior Self-Neglect Lawyers
Handling Cases of Senior Self-Neglect
Self-neglect among the elderly is a growing problem in the U.S. It is the most common type of non-financial abuse or neglect of seniors, according to the American Society on Aging (ASA). Senior self-neglect can be defined as an older adult’s inability to perform essential self-care, due to physical or mental impairment, or diminished capacity. This form of neglect is often a hidden problem.
How Common Is Senior Self-Neglect?
The ASA reports that based on a recent survey:
- 92% of care managers surveyed said elder self-neglect is a significant problem in their communities.
- 52% said senior self-neglect is a substantial and growing problem.
- 76% reported that senior self-neglect is the most common form of elder abuse/neglect they encounter, followed by neglect by family members (16%), emotional and psychological abuse (8%), and physical and sexual abuse (1%).
What Are the Signs of Senior Self-Neglect?
Older adults may insist they are managing well enough on their own when the warning signs indicate otherwise. Symptoms of elder self-neglect may include:
- Unsanitary or unclean living conditions
- Poor personal hygiene (indications of not bathing or taking care of hair or nails)
- Signs of malnutrition, dehydration, or untreated health conditions
- Refusal to take prescribed medications or poor medication management
- Weight loss or a lack of food in the house
- Utility shut-offs, bounced checks, or other unpaid bills
What Is the Law on Senior Self-Neglect in New Mexico?
Under New Mexico law, “Any person, including financial institutions, having reasonable cause to believe that an incapacitated adult is being abused, neglected or exploited shall immediately report that information to the department.” (The department referred to is Adult Protective Services.) This statement is made in NM Statutes Section 27-7-30.
Self-neglect is one of the forms of elder abuse/neglect that individuals and institutions in New Mexico are required to report. State law defines self-neglect as “an act or omission by an incapacitated adult that results in the deprivation of essential services or supports necessary to maintain the incapacitated adult’s minimum mental, emotional or physical health and safety.”
Who May Be Liable for Senior Self-Neglect in New Mexico?
Caregivers, nurses, and medical providers who neglect, abuse, or exploit elderly patients may be charged with elder abuse. Other individuals who owe a duty to report cases of elder abuse or neglect may also be held civilly liable. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from self-neglect, it is essential to report it and to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
What Can Be Done About Elder Self-Neglect?
In addition to reporting senior self-neglect to Adult Protective Services (APS), legal steps can be taken to help an elderly person suffering from this problem. If the senior still has mental capacity, he or she can sign a power of attorney naming a trusted individual as his or her agent. With this power of attorney, the agent will be able to make financial and healthcare decisions on behalf of the elderly person.
If the self-neglected senior has diminished mental capacity or is resistant to intervention and refuses to sign a power of attorney, a conservatorship or guardianship may be required. In such cases, a conservator or guardian, appointed and supervised by the court, is usually given authority to make personal, healthcare, and financial decisions for an older incapacitated adult.
At Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP, our New Mexico nursing home abuse attorneys are well-versed in state laws concerning elder abuse and neglect. If you suspect your elderly loved one is suffering from self-neglect, call us at (903) 458-9138 as soon as possible to find out how we can help.