Self Neglect

The law defines [RCW 74.34.020(19)] self-neglect as the failure of a vulnerable adult, not living in a facility, to provide for himself or herself the goods and services necessary for the vulnerable adult's physical or mental health, and the absence of which impairs or threatens the vulnerable adult's well-being. This definition may include a vulnerable adult who is receiving services through home health, hospice, or a home care agency, or an individual provider when the neglect is not a result of inaction by that agency or individual provider.

Possible self-neglect indicators

The following are signs and symptoms that may indicate self-neglect is occurring or has occurred:

  • Inability to manage finances
  • Decrease in mental functioning
  • Cannot perform activities of daily living
  • Not keeping medical appointments
  • Poorly kept environment
  • No food in the house
  • Malnourished/dehydrated, weight loss
  • Physical sores, poor hygiene, body odors

An Example of Possible Self-Neglect

John is concerned about a renter in his apartment building, 70 year-old Joan. Joan has not left her apartment for the past two weeks and yells, “go away!” whenever John knocks on the door. Joan refuses to open the door. Joan has not paid her rent for the last two months, nor has she picked up her mail. Joan’s neighbors are making increasing complaints about the smell coming from Joan’s apartment. Joan has several cats and John can hear them when he comes to her door. John doubts that Joan has sufficient food and wonders if Joan is caring for herself at all.

The law does not require mandatory reporters to report self-neglect, but APS highly encourages both mandatory and permissive reporters to do so. See the section on mandatory and permissive reporters.

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