Neglect is the failure of a carer to provide the necessities of life to a person for whom they are caring. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional (ANPEA).

Unintentional neglect occurs when a carer does not have the skills or knowledge to care for a dependent person. They may not be aware of the types of support that are available, they may be ill themselves and unable to provide care.

Neglect is considered intentional when an older person is abandoned, not provided with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical attention or dental care. Neglect may be the improper use of medication, poor hygiene or personal care or the refusal to allow other people to provide adequate care.

Examples include:

  • Inadequate food and drink, which may result in; malnutrition, weight loss, wasting and dehydration. The person may have constipation or faecal impaction.
  • Isolation, lack of mental, physical, social or cultural contact/stimulation.
  • Inadequate supervision particularly when caring for someone with a dementia, the person is abandoned or left unattended for long periods or locked in the house without any supervision.
  • Inadequate or inappropriate use of medication, for instance, the person may be over-sedated in the middle of the day.
  • Unmet physical needs such as decaying teeth or overgrown nails.
  • The person may not be provided with necessary aids such as spectacles, dentures, hearing aids or a walking frame.
  • Clothing may be in poor repair or inadequate for the season.
  • Poor hygiene or inadequate skin care. The older person may be very dirty, smell strongly of urine or be infested with lice.
  • There may be a urine rash with abrasions and chafing.
  • In some cases when a person is immobile, they may develop pressure areas over the pelvis, hips, heels or elbows.
  • Hypothermia, recent colds, bronchitis or pneumonia.



Self-neglect is not considered abuse by the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit. The respect of a person's rights to make their own decisions on matters affecting their lives is of paramount importance to the EAPU. However, careful consideration is needed to determine whether the self-neglect is a life-style decision or is unintentional due to lack of access to services or some form of dementia or mental illness.

Signs of Neglect Include:

  • Malnutrition, weight loss, wasting and dehydration, constipation or faecal impaction.
  • Lack of mental, social or physical contact or stimulation
  • Decaying teeth or overgrown nails
  • Clothing may be in poor condition or inappropriate for the temperature
  • Consistent poor health, always has a cold
  • Pressure areas over the pelvis, hips, heels or elbows
  • Dirty, smelly, lice infested, urine rash etc.
  • Lacking aids such as glasses, dentures, hearing aids
  • Over sedated or Under sedated
  • Abandoned or unattended for long periods