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One in Ten Elderly Experiences Some Form of Abuse: Neglect is Abuse!

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

I remember it as clear as day even if it was over 20 years ago. The social worker from the local Adult Protective Services (APS) and I walked into the room where a frail elderly woman lay in bed with an overwhelming odor of bowel movement (BM) and urine and at least a week’s worth of open TV dinners and rotting food scattered on the floor, and the nearby toilet commode filled to the brink.

Clothes, mail, paper, and plastic bags were filled with oddities and trash in piles around the room. There was some sort of path cleared to the bathroom and out of the room to the kitchen. She probably walked this path until she was too weak and dehydrated to get out of bed. The handheld phone set which was within grasp was dead because it had not been charged.

The smell of rotting food and spoiled milk was immediately evident as we opened the refrigerator that for some reason was not working. Dust film was seen throughout the house and plastic and paper bags were filled with trash in different rooms.

It was obvious that “living alone” became difficult at some point and she did what she could until she was too weak to get out of bed.

The mailman did not notice anything amiss because the mail slot opened into the hall inside her house where there was a steady pile on the floor. Thankfully her neighbor across the street noticed that she no longer came out to feed the neighborhood cats or opened her front door. A call into the local precinct and Adult Protective Services (APS) led to us finding her in time.

She was a single independent woman until her refrigerator broke down and she could not eat, drink, or take her meds, eventually becoming weak, dehydrated, and bed ridden. We entered the house with the help of emergency personnel who were now transporting her to the nearest hospital.

There was no known family or friend to call and her neighbors did not have any information in case of an emergency. This was only the start of the next phase of care and I felt a kind of sadness at the neglect and abandonment this once “vibrant” woman experienced. It was now up to the state and the system, and the social workers to facilitate and execute the next plan of care to support her once she left the hospital.

Ps. pay attention to the elderly in your neighborhood and building. Neglect is a form of elder abuse. Other forms also include physical, emotional, mental, and financial abuse.

For family or professional caregivers as a mandated reporter you are responsible for the person you care for and can complete the following form if you detect or witness abuse.

Form SOC 341 (CA) Report of suspected dependent adult/elder abuse.

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