Self-neglect is when a vulnerable adult lives in a way that puts their own health, safety, or wellbeing at risk by failing to take care of their basic daily living needs, such as washing, taking medication and keeping clean etc.

This lack of care can cause the individual to suffer from serious physical, mental or emotional harm within a short period of time.

Self-neglect does not involve another person, so differs from other forms of abuse.

There are many reasons self-neglect may occur. Some of these include:

  • Not being aware that they are unwell or need help
  • Poor physical health or illness
  • Mental health issues
  • Reduced independence due to an accident, trauma, illness, or frailty
  • Change in care or support needs
  • Lack of financial support
  • Pain
  • Reduced mental capacity
  • Childhood neglect, trauma, or adverse experience
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Major life events such as losing a loved one, major illness, loss of a job etc
  • Cultural life views for example, not wanting to complain, fear of professional intervention, fear of losing home, possessions, pets, etc
  • Not knowing where to go/ get help from
  • Inability or unwillingness to maintain own self-care and household chores or accept help from others

Self-neglect covers a wide range of behaviours including neglecting to care for one’s own personal hygiene, health, or surroundings (for example hoarding disorder).

People can experience self-neglect in different ways. Some of the signs of self-neglect can include:

  • Signs of poor personal hygiene, not bathing, taking care of hair and nails
  • Unwashed clothes and personal items
  • Unpleasant odours coming from the person
  • Dishevelled unkept appearance
  • Poor medication management, or refusing to take medication
  • Unsanitary/ dirty living quarters
  • Not doing basic household chores
  • Hoarding animals and or items
  • Non-functioning utilities
  • Dangerous living conditions
  • Home infestation e.g. lice, vermin
  • Lack of food in the home or signs of poor diet
  • Missing scheduled appointments
  • Signs of unpaid bills, returned cheques or utility shut offs
  • Refusal to acknowledge there is a problem or seek/ accept help
  • Dangerous forgetful behaviour such as leaving the stove on and going to sleep
  • Decreased ability to reason, confusion, depression, psychosis such as hallucinations

Treatment of self-neglect varies from case to case and can include addressing the underlying cause(s). This could be in the form of treatment with medication, the use of talking therapies, detoxification and/or introducing self-help strategies.

Other forms of assistance that may also be used to help individuals suffering from self-neglect include the use of occupational therapy, domiciliary care, housing and environmental health and other home care and support services to assist the individual with daily living requirements.

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of self-neglect speak to you GP to get some help.

You can also report persons of concern to the Safeguarding Adults Review (SAR) by contacting them on:

Further information can be found on the Leicester City Council’s ‘Safeguarding Adults Board’.

Other support services

Challenging Behaviour Foundation

For families and professionals caring for children and adults with severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

Telephone: 0300 666 0126



Whatever you’re going through you can call us any time, from any phone for free on:

116 123 or email:

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