The role of caregiver typically includes providing for someone's basic needs when he or she is no longer able to: adequate nutrition and water, physical cleanliness and comfort and a safe environment. Depending on the older person's health, caregiving duties may also involve doling out medication, driving the person to doctor's appointments, bathing and feeding by hand. It's a highly demanding job.
Failure to provide for these basic needs constitutes neglect on the part of the caregiver, the most common form of elder abuse. Sometimes caregivers intentionally neglect their charges. Other times, they're simply ignorant of what needs to be done or are in denial of the amount of care the elder requires. In an institutional setting, a lack of basic care may mean that the staff hasn't been properly trained. If the person charged with caring for the elder doesn't even make an attempt to care for him or her, it's considered abandonment.
Neglected or abandoned elders may appear dirty or wear dirty clothing. Some live without essentials like electricity or adequate heat in the winter, while others wander the streets. They may appear malnourished or dehydrated. Neglected elders may have untreated medical conditions such as bedsores.
Elders can also neglect their own basic self-care. While it can be a conscious choice in the part of the elder, it can also result from Alzheimer's disease, dementia or addiction. Many cases reported to elder care services are due to self-neglect.
Finally, we'll examine the most obvious sign of elder abuse: unexplained injuries.