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Neglect is the failure of caregivers to fulfill their responsibilities to provide needed care. It can be in three forms, active, passive and self-neglect.

Active neglect refers to behaviour that is willful, where the caregiver intentionally withholds care or necessities. This neglect may be motivated by financial gain or other reasons.  Passive neglect refers to situations in which the caregiver is unable to fulfill his or her caregiving responsibilities whether caused by illness, ignorance, stress or lack of resources.  Self-neglect refers to situations in which there is no perpetrator and neglect is the result of the person refusing care.

The Act of omission is when anyone knows that abuse of any description is taking place and yet they fail to report it.  Indicators of neglect can be poor personal hygiene, including soiled clothing, dirty nails and skin, matted or lice infected hair, odours and the presence of faeces or urine.

Others indicators include:

  • Pressure sores or skin rashes
  • Wearing inappropriate clothes for the temperature or no clothing at all
  • Dehydration which can be evident by dry skin, low urinary output, dry sore mouth, apathy, lack of energy and mental confusion
  • Untreated medical or mental conditions
  • Absence of needed dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids, walkers, wheelchairs, braces or commodes
  • Chronic illness getting worse despite a care plan and worsening dementia.

Behavioural indicators observed in the caregiver include:

  • Expressing anger, frustration or exhaustion
  • No contact with the outside world, friends or relatives
  • They may also show an obvious lack of caregiving skills
  • Be unreasonably critical, dissatisfied with social and health care providers
  • They may change providers frequently
  • They may also refuse to apply for economic aid and resist outside help.

Behavioural indicators observed in the victim include:

  • Emotional distress, crying, depression, despair, nightmares and difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite that is unrelated to a medical condition
  • They may be confused and disorientated possibly as a result of malnutrition
  • They may appear emotionally numb, withdrawn, detached or exhibit destructive behaviour
  • They may also exhibit fear towards the caregiver
  • Finally, they may also express unrealistic expectations about their care, they may claim that their care is adequate when it is not or insist that the situation will improve.