What Is Neglect?

Neglect is a form of mistreatment by individuals resulting from inadequate attention, especially through carelessness or disregard for the needs of others. If you witness a life-threatening situation involving a senior or adult with disabilities, dial 911.

These are commonly reported types* of neglect received by Adult Protective Services agencies:

  • Physical neglect: includes failing to attend to a person’s medical, hygienic, nutrition and dietary needs, such as dispensing medications, changing bandages, bathing, grooming, dressing, or failure to provide ample food to maintain health.
  • Emotional neglect: includes causing emotional pain, distress or anguish by ignoring, belittling or infantilizing the needs of adults. This includes neglecting or discounting the emotional well being of others, as well as actions to isolate adults from visits or contact by family and friends.
  • Abandonment: involves deserting the caregiving needs of an individual while neglecting to arrange sufficient care and support for the duration of the absence.
  • Financial neglect: involves disregarding a person’s financial obligations such as failing to pay rent or mortgage, medical insurance or invoices, utility and garbage bills, property taxes and assessments.
  • Self-neglect: involves seniors or adults with disabilities who fail to meet their own essential physical, psychological or social needs, which threatens their health, safety and well-being. This includes failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter and health care for one’s own needs. You can learn more about self-neglect here.

* Definitions of neglect vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Please contact your local APS office for additional information.

When to Report Checklist

If you witness a life-threatening situation involving a senior or adult with disabilities, dial 911. Contact your local Adult Protective Services agency anytime you observe or suspect the following:

  • Sudden inability to meet essential physical, psychological or social needs which threatens health, safety or well-being
  • Disappearing from contact with neighbors, friends or family
  • Appearing hungry, malnourished, or with a sudden weight loss
  • Appearing disoriented or confused
  • Suddenly appearing disheveled or wearing soiled clothing
  • Failing by caregiver(s) to arrive as scheduled — or disappearing without notice
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or insignificance
  • Failing to take prescribed medications or nutritional supplements
  • Blaming self for problems arising with family or caregivers
  • Living in squalor or hazardous situations such as hoarding or cluttering