The exact cause of self-neglect is unknown. However, researchers believe that it is related to one or more of the following factors:
- Decreased executive function/frontal lobe function
- Poor social support,
- Physical or mental disability,
- Long-standing medical conditions,
- Mental illness, and
- Poor reasoning/dementia (Lien et al., 2016; Day, Leahy-Warren, & McCarthy, 2016).
One’s life experiences can also affect self-neglecting behavior (Lien et al., 2016; Paveza, VandeWeerd, & Laumann, 2008). The two most common experiences cited by individuals with self-neglect are traumatic loss of a loved-one and being a victim of violence (Lien et al ., 2016). Self-neglecting elders may not view themselves as having self-neglect (Day et al., 2016; Kutame, 2007; Bozinovski; 2000). This is true even when they are unable to perform essential tasks required to maintain independence. Individuals with self-neglect see themselves as trying to maintain their identity and control within the limits of failing physical and mental health (Day et al., 2016; Kutame, 2007). In other words, these individuals do not think of their condition as “self-neglect,” instead he or she may think of themselves as “self-care challenged” or “self-care disabled.”
Self-neglect most often occurs in the elderly, especially in people over the age of 75 (Lauder & Roxburgh, 2012). It can also affect individuals with mental health problems like dementia, and long-standing alcohol abuse (Lee & LoGiudice, 2012). Self-neglect is more often in black, men, and people with low income (Day, Leahy-Warren, & McCarthy, 2016; Mosqueda & Dong, 2011).. Self-neglect occurs more with social isolation, intelligence, and certain personality characteristics (Clark, Mankikar, & Gray, 1975; Macmillan & Shaw, 1966). Self-neglect has no preference for religion or region. It is not known if self-neglect is hereditary.
The following are risk factors for self-neglect:
- Old age
- Poor memory, poor reasoning
- Untreated mental health problems
- Long-standing and untreated diseases
- Poor diet resulting in low levels of vitamins and minerals
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Needing help for routine daily activities, social support, and transportation,
- Not wanting to be around anyone for long periods of time
- Living alone
- Mental confusion that can come and go
- Poverty ( MacLeod, 2015; Lauder & Roxburgh, 2012; Day & Leahy-Warren, 2008; Dyer & Goins, 2000).
Some personality traits are associated with the development of elder self-neglect (Dong et al., 2011). Elder self-neglect was described in a 1966 and used the term “senile breakdown syndrome” (Macmillan & Shaw, 1966). A pattern of personality characteristics in self-neglecting elderly was described. Self-neglecting individuals are typically described as unfriendly, stubborn, obstinate, aloof, aggressive, suspicious, secretive, and quarrelsome (Macmillan & Shaw, 1966). These personality traits are viewed as a part of the typical presentation of self-neglect and may be risk factors for developing SN later in life (Macmillan & Shaw, 1966).
Commonly Described Risk Factors
Table 1 provides more details about some of the important risk factors commonly describing self-neglect (Day & Leahy-Warren,2008).References
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Clark, A. N. G., Mankikar, G. D., & Gray, I. (1975). Diogenes syndrome: a clinical study of gross neglect in old age. The Lancet, 305(7903), 366-368.
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Lien, C., Rosen, T., Bloemen, E. M., Abrams, R. C., Pavlou, M., & Lachs, M. S. (2016). Narratives of self‐neglect: Patterns of traumatic personal experiences and maladaptive behaviors in cognitively intact older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64(11), e195–e200.
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Macmillan, D., & Shaw, P. (1966). Senile breakdown in standards of personal and environmental cleanliness. British Medical Journal, 2(5521), 1032–1037.
Paveza, G., VandeWeerd, C., & Laumann, E. (2008). Elder self‐neglect: A discussion of a social typology. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 56(s2), S271-S275.
Ungvari, G. S., & Hantz, P. M. (1991). Social breakdown in the elderly, II. Sociodemographic data and psychopathology. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 32(5), 445-449.
Last updated: March 13, 2017 at 18:42 pm by
I. M. Abumaria, AGPCNP-BC