The idea of a paid caregiver abusing a frail and elderly patient is abhorrent, and unfortunately, it’s also common. Up to 10% of seniors have experienced elderly abuse and many are also at risk of self-neglect, leading to potentially unsafe living conditions.
What are Unsafe Living Conditions?
If you visit an elderly loved one in their home or care community and notice any of the following, they could be suffering from caregiver neglect or self-neglect:
Dirt and Dust
A little dust in hard-to-reach places is okay, and it’s not uncommon to see dirt around doorways. In fact, if they live in a large old house, dirt/dust will be everywhere, but when the dust is everywhere and the dirt is hard to avoid, it could indicate neglect.
It may suggest that their mobility is deteriorating, and they are no longer able to properly clean and maintain, even if they want to.
Improper Disposal of Pet Waste
For non-pet owners, a few urine stains and the occasional “accident” are perfectly normal, and if there are puppies or kittens present, these things are to be expected. At the same time, if there are adult dogs or cats in the house and a build-up of waste, it could indicate serious neglect.
Cats are very clean animals. They like a little solitude when they use the litterbox, and they prefer it when the litterbox is clean. If there is a lot of fecal matter scattered around the house, it usually indicates desperation, suggesting that the cat’s toilet is not clean and that they have no other choice.
Look for the litterbox and you’ll find the source of the problem. If there are outdoor cats in the house, their access to the outside may be blocked.
With dogs, it’s even more concerning, as lots of fecal matter suggests the animal is not being walked regularly or being released into the yard. Healthy and properly trained dogs would rather hold it in all day than go in the house.
Think about the pet’s health as well as the health of your loved one. They are suffering, and their suffering is putting your loved one at risk of contracting all kinds of nasty diseases.
It doesn’t matter how fastidious you are and how clean your house is, infestations can occur every now and then. Rats get into the basement and cockroaches scurry through crawl spaces. The existence of pests isn’t a huge problem in itself, but if they begin to take over or occur multiple times, it could be indicative of a major problem, such as improper food storage.
Laundry, Dishes, and Waste
If your loved one is unable to properly care for themselves, suffering from mental health issues, or dealing with neglectful caregivers, you may notice that the sink is full of dirty dishes, some of which have been there for days or weeks. The laundry and garbage may be overflowing as well.
Why Does a Home Become Unsanitary?
If your loved one is living in a senior care community or has a caregiver, they might not be doing their job. Neglect is a form of elderly abuse, especially if it reaches a stage where their mental and physical health is affected.
For seniors who live alone, the unsanitary conditions could be the result of:
- Hoarding: Hoarding is a hot topic right now and one that always guarantees a large TV audience. It is said to affect around 2% of the US population and is significantly more common in seniors who live alone. Trauma, loneliness, and mental health problems are often behind cases of hoarding. Some people don’t like throwing things away, and while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, it becomes a problem when they start collecting useless junk and it begins to block doorways and create a safety hazard.
- Depression: A senior with depression tends to spend a lot of time sitting or sleeping. They don’t have the energy or the motivation to do much else and don’t attach the same significance to basic hygiene, health, and home maintenance tasks.
- Mobility Issues: Aging creates numerous physical problems and restrictions, making it difficult for seniors to perform seemingly simple tasks. Many seniors hide their limitations from their loved ones as they’re too embarrassed to admit they are not as strong, agile, and capable as they used to be.
How to Report Unsanitary Living Conditions
If your loved one is being cared for by a homecare service, assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility, or other professional services, you can contact the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). If you’re concerned about a loved one living alone, you should address the issue directly.
Speak to them about their pets. Give them a few pointers, and if that doesn’t work, find alternative living arrangements, including welcoming them into your own home or asking friends if they can take them. You need to make sure the animals are well looked after, keeping them safe and your loved one happy.
Address hoarding issues and offer to clean the house or pay for professional services. If that doesn’t work, highlight the seriousness of the situation and remind them that they don’t have many alternatives. In fact, if they continue to struggle with basic maintenance and hygiene issues, a senior care community or skilled facility may be the only option.
If you’re a concerned neighbor worried that your neighbor’s home is a health hazard, you can report the issues to a landlord or local health department. Click this link for a full list of health departments in the United States.
Don’t worry about being a “snitch,” as you may be doing yourself and your neighbor a favor. It may anger or frustrate them initially, but a complaint could serve as the catalyst they need to change.