Adult neglect

Advice for understanding neglect in adulthood

Neglect is the failure of any person who has responsibility for the charge, care or custody of an adult to provide the amount and type of care that a reasonable person would be expected to provide.

Behaviour that can lead to neglect includes including ignoring medical or physical needs, failing to allow access to appropriate health, social care and educational services, and withholding the necessities of life such as medication, adequate nutrition, hydration or heating.

Neglect can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional neglect such as withholding meals may constitute ‘wilful neglect’ and is a criminal act punishable under law (Mental Capacity Act 2005 Section 44).

Neglect includes ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating. Such acts of neglect can result in serious physical or emotional harm to adults – such as pressure sores, starvation, dehydration and serious illness or death.

  • Failure to provide or allow access to food, shelter, clothing, heating, stimulation and activity, personal or medical care
  • Providing care in a way that the person dislikes
  • Failure to administer medication as prescribed
  • Refusal of access to visitors
  • Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
  • Not taking account of educational, social and recreational needs
  • Ignoring or isolating the person
  • Preventing the person from making their own decisions
  • Preventing access to glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc.
  • Failure to ensure privacy and dignity

What does Neglect look like?

Symptoms and signs can be, but are not limited to:

  • Poor environment – dirty or unhygienic
  • Poor physical condition and/or personal hygiene
  • Pressure sores or ulcers
  • Malnutrition or unexplained weight loss
  • Untreated injuries and medical problems
  • Inconsistent or reluctant contact with medical and social care organisations
  • Accumulation of untaken medication
  • Uncharacteristic failure to engage in social interaction
  • Inappropriate or inadequate clothing

More information

Anyone that suspects another professional or adult of abuse or neglect has a duty to refer it to the relevant employer or safeguarding agency to be investigated.  If you need to raise a Safeguarding Adults concern, please call 01472 256 256. This number is available 24 hours a day,365 days a year.

Reporting Neglect