Worried About Reporting Self-Neglect


When in doubt that an older adult or an adult with disability might dealing with self-neglect, call the APS, or the healthcare provider, they can guide you

Benefits to Reporting a Suspected Self-Neglect Case

There are benefits to reporting suspected cases of self-neglect, which include:

  • Adult Protective Services caseworkers can offer the elderly options to keep him/her safe from harm;
  • Caseworkers can link the person/family to required community resources;
  • Caseworkers can find ways to help the caregiver handle stress;
  • Unaware family/friends can be alerted to step in to help;
  • If abuse is discovered, it may be prosecuted depending on many factors (seriousness, available evidence, and the decision of local criminal justice officials);
  • A person who makes a report  can feel relief that other people are involved in the problem (San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, n.d.).

Each state has its laws independently (National Adult Protective Services Association [NAPSA], n.d.). Please check how your state handles reporting of suspected cases.

Not Sure if There is Self-Neglect?


Still have doubt that an elderly or an adult with disability maybe neglected, contact the APS

If you are not sure, become informed. Speak to the person directly. Talk to the neighbors or others in the community. Let them know that you want to help. There may be a reason for the behavior that you are concerned about. However, if you have doubts, but you cannot speak to the individual, you should call your local APS or the health care provider. If you are not sure if it is self-neglect or other type of abuse, you can still call APS. They can advise you on whether the signs you have observed are self-neglect or another type of abuse. Your phone call could save that person’s life. If you do not think it is self-neglect, but you still have concerns about the person’s safety, you should contact APS.

If abuse is suspected, it is usually reported for investigation. If confirmed, it may be brought forth for prosecution, depending upon many factors such as seriousness, available evidence, and most importantly, the decision of the involved criminal justice officials as to whether or not to prosecute (H. Ramsey-Klawsnik, Selfneglect.org PDSA cycle 2017, February 11).

Adult Protective Services investigates reports of abuse, neglect (including self-neglect) and exploitation of older adults and adults with a disability (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, n.d.). If you are concerned about a health issue, a health care provider can be contacted instead. Still unsure about the situation? It can be difficult even for experts. However, even if you suspect self-neglect, contact APS. it is better to be safe than sorry because self-neglect can be deadly.

Reporting Protections


State laws vary in terms of regulations and policies.  Each state has regulations and policies that address confidentiality. The term “confidentiality” refers to patients information being available to persons authorized to use information or records (confidential, n.d.). All information that comes to the attention of APS is kept confidential in accordance with the law. When APS meet with seniors or adults with disabilities, the caseworker often will explain to the person how the personal information will be handled and stored, how long the information will be kept, who will be allowed to have access to the information, and whether the confidential information will be permitted to be shared with others (NAPSA, n.d.).

Reporter of Self-Neglect


Worried that you will get in trouble if you call? A reporter of suspected abuse or neglect in good-faith is protected

In some states, a report of abuse may be submitted anonymously (NAPSA, n.d.). A person making a report in good-faith can be assured he/she has the following:

  • A right to confidentiality of his/her identity, with a disclosure of identity only with the reporter’s written consent or by the order of a court. In other words the person cannot be taken to court for making a report. The reporter needs  to sign a form allowing for the identity to be released
  • Protection from civil and criminal liability, as well as professional disciplinary action
  • Protection for providing information, records or services related to a report of suspected mistreatment
  • Protection against problems that may affect a reporter’s employment

Visit the American Bar Association website on the right side of the screen.

Safety of the Individual

It is very important that all adults receiving services from APS are safe. Adult protective services will do what is necessary to keep him/her as safe as possible.


“Confidential.” (n.d.). In Dictionary.com. Retrieved January 06, 2017, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/confidentiality

Ramsey-Klawsnik, H. (2017, February 11). Selfneglect.org PDSA cycle.

National Adult Protective Services Association. (n.d.). Facts about confidentiality. Retrieved from http://www.napsa-now.org/get-help/confidentiality-safety/

San Diego Health & Human Services Agency. (n.d.). Adult Protective Services. Retrieved on December 13, 2016 from http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/ais/adult_protective_services.html

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. (n.d.). In-home investigations and services. Retrieved from http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adult_Protection/About_Adult_Protective_Services/in_home.asp

Last updated: June 7, 2020 at 16:41 pm by
I. M. Abumaria, Doctor of Nursing Practice
Version 2.00