Senior Corner: The battle against senior neglect

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Senior Corner: The battle against senior neglect
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By Velda Weathers

“Tis the season to be jolly” is the age old saying during this time of year. Unfortunately, this is not the case for some of our seniors in Alexandria. Some of the seniors in our community are alone, isolated, estranged from loved ones and friends, depressed and have not had visitors throughout the year. It is not surprising to hear or find that some city residents are self-neglecting or being neglected behind closed doors.

Signs of neglect include the lack of necessary assistance to keep physically and mentally healthy, the failure to provide one’s self with the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, needed medical care and reasonable financial management.

Some examples of neglect are unsanitary or unsafe housing conditions, malnourishment, unexplained weight loss, inappropriate or inadequate clothing, untreated medical conditions, sudden withdrawal from normal activities, property or savings mismanagement and unpaid bills.

Family, friends and colleagues sometimes visit a loved one and find themselves in disbelief over the condition of the home or the condition of the senior themselves (mentally, medically or physically). Adult Protective Services receives calls and makes home visits to investigate suspected allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation of seniors over 60 and disabled adults over 18.

It is important to keep in mind when visiting your loved one during this holiday season that they still have the right to make poor decisions unless they have been deemed legally by a judge to be incapacitated. What you see as being poor judgment or poor decision-making may not be the perspective of the senior. This may be difficult for some to understand but we must recognize the senior’s right to self-determination.

Many seniors will tell their children, friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues to respect their wishes and their lifestyle. This can be a difficult situation for the children as they may have to take the lead in stopping the neglect. Appropriate steps to take may include calling APS, taking the senior to their primary care physician, if there is one, taking the senior to the hospital emergency room — sometimes against their will — seeking help from mental health professionals or seeking legal advice regarding guardianship or conservatorship.

Many seniors tell their APS worker to respect their wishes and way of living. Some fear that they will be taken from their home and placed in a nursing home or assisted living facility. The role of the APS worker is to investigate the allegations, to ensure the safety of the senior and to provide intervention if necessary.

Seniors have the right to refuse APS services and the right to self-determination. If you suspect a senior in your community is being neglected or is self-neglecting call APS at 703-746-5999 or the 24-hour APS Hotline at 1-888-832-3858.

The writer is the city adult protective services supervisor.

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