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Helping a Loved One

Have you noticed a sudden change in one of your loved ones over 60? Such as recent untidiness? Unwashed clothes? Poor hygiene? Do they seem to be confused or making unsafe decisions? They may be self-neglecting.

Age Well is the designated agency in Northwestern Vermont to receive referrals for self-neglect. 

To make a referral, call the Helpline at Age Well: 1-800-642-5119.

What is Self-Neglect & Self-Determination?

The following definitions are from the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) Self-Neglect Task Force.

“The term ‘self-neglect’ means an adult’s inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care tasks including:

(A) obtaining essential food, clothing, shelter, and medical care; (B) obtaining goods and services necessary to maintain physical health, mental health, or general safety; or (C) managing one’s own financial affairs.

This definition excludes people who make a conscious and voluntary choice not to provide for certain basic needs as a matter of lifestyle, personal preference, or religious belief and who understand the consequences of their decision.”

“Self-determination is the power or ability to make decisions about one’s life without outside compulsion. This means that all older Vermonters have the right to direct their own lives as they age. Whatever services, supports and protections are offered, older Vermonters deserve dignity and respect, must be at the core of all decisions, and have the right to accept or refuse.”

Possible Causes of Self-Neglect

  • Dementia
  • Mental health disorders
  • Medication
  • Other medical condition
  • Substance use
  • Social Isolation

What happens after a referral?

  1. Symptoms of self-neglect can be serious, so referrals for suspected self-neglect are prioritized and assigned within one business day. Typically, self-neglect referrals are assigned to a Specialized Care and Service Coordinator, who will attempt to contact the individual right away to schedule a visit.
  2. The Care and Service Coordinator will continue working with the client as long as the client continues to engage and there are unresolved goals or self-neglecting behaviors. The self-neglect assessment is completed at regular intervals, no less than annually.

Warning Signs of Self-Neglect

Self-neglect does not refer to someone who makes these lifestyle decisions and is able to understand the consequences of their actions. Rather, an individual who is unable to meet their basic needs because of physical or cognitive impairment.

  • Sudden or recent behavioral changes
  • No recent medical appointments or visits
  • Poor hygiene
  • Resistance to necessary care services
  • Untreated wounds
  • Weight loss
  • Poor safety awareness

Help a Loved One

If you think a friend, loved one, or patient may be self-neglecting, call the Helpline at 1-800-642-5119 to make a referral. Age Well’s Specialized Care & Service Coordinators will make contact with the individual within two business days (unless determined that the situation requires a faster response).