How to deal with a mom who does not care for herself

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    I just started caring for my 68 year old mom last August and it has been extremely difficult. Her diet is terrible. She drinks beer every day and doesn’t seem to eat anything. I bring her groceries so she will at least have some basic supplies and all of the food goes bad. If I bring her a dish I made, she’ll either throw it out once I leave or let it sit and rot. She won’t shower and she wears the same clothes every day. I found her a woman geriatric specialist, but she refuses to go see her. I told her that if she doesn’t go to see the specialist, I would have professionals come to her house to see her. She told me that she would absolutely not allow ANYONE into her house. I am out of ideas as to how to deal with her. I have a power of attorney written up, but she won’t sign it. My sister has been paying all her bills for the past year because her house almost went into foreclosure. She just says she doesn’t know anything about that. What can we do?


    What you are describing is self-neglect. More than half the cases of elder abuse reported to authorities are because of self-neglect, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. There are many factors that could be involved here:
    • Medications. Is your Mom taking her medications correctly? Is she taking over-the-counter medications? Some drugs cause mental confusion in older people. Check with her doctor and determine whether she is indeed taking them correctly.
    • Depression. Many older people are depressed, but they don’t talk about it or even realize it. Untreated depression can result in physical exhaustion, social withdrawal and loss of interest in self-care.
    • Alcohol or drug abuse. Your mom is drinking and needs help stopping. She is not getting proper nutrition.
    • Isolation. Studies have shown that many people who do not take care of themselves are socially isolated. Your mom sounds like she is isolating herself.
    Your Mom meets many of the criteria of self-neglect, which include: Not bathing or taking physical care of herself; dirty, disheveled clothing; failure to take medications or go to doctor or dentist; refusal to let health care professionals into the house; old and rotting food in refrigerator; and unsafe living conditions, such as fire hazards or no heat.
    Now is the time to pull together your family and to develop a plan get your mom to the Geriatric Specialist, even though she refuses. Once this specialist can meet her, they can develop a plan with you. Since this is quite common, they will have the expertise to help both of you.

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