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Neglect vs Negligence Involving the Elderly — What’s the Difference?

Neglect vs Negligence

The elderly are often at risk of suffering harm at the hands of their caretakers. Whether it be elder neglect, negligence, or abuse, failing to provide an elderly individual with the proper care they need can be devastating and even lead to death. Many wonder about the difference between neglect vs negligence, as the two are often confused. While these terms may share some similarities, they are different.


What Is Elder Neglect?


Elder neglect is the neglectful treatment of the elderly in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The elderly require plenty of care and attention, and when staff members do not provide it, these victims can suffer harm and easily fall ill.

People often use the terms elder abuse and elder neglect interchangeably, but the two differ. Usually, elder abuse involves intentional actions by caretakers. Elder neglect, on the other hand, can be intentional or accidental.

Accidental neglect often arises from staffing issues in nursing homes and other facilities. When there are not enough staff members to take care of elderly patients, and staff members are stretched too thin, the well-being of patients can suffer tremendously.

Nonetheless, certain instances still exist where elder neglect is more intentional than accidental. If this is the case, it’s imperative to take action against the at-fault party for the harm done to the elderly victim.

What Constitutes Elder Neglect?


Elder neglect can take on many forms. Often, the more assistance and attention an elderly individual needs, the more they suffer when facing neglect.

Some of the common forms of elder neglect include:

  • Failure to provide necessary medication
  • Failure to reposition a bedridden patient, resulting in severe bedsores
  • Failure to provide essential needs, including food and water
  • Failure to assist an at-risk patient
  • Failure to keep a patient clean, including those requiring adult diapers

When staff members neglect an elderly individual for long periods, the victim’s health and well-being can suffer greatly.

Common Signs to Look for That Indicate Elder Neglect


medical Neglect
Neglect vs Negligence

Unfortunately, many elderly victims do not know how to speak up, and some victims cannot speak at all. Therefore, it’s critical to look for signs of elder neglect.

Signs that may indicate an elderly individual is suffering as a result of elder neglect could include the following:

  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Cuts, bruises, and scars
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Bed sores
  • Poor hygiene
  • Emotional withdrawal from loved ones
  • Worsening medical conditions
  • Dirty or unsafe living conditions

If you believe your loved one is experiencing elder neglect, you can start by speaking to their caregivers or staff members at the facility. Additionally, try to gather evidence of potential neglect, like photos and videos.

If the situation does not change or improve, it’s best to talk to an elder abuse lawyer for valuable guidance.

What Is Professional Negligence That Involves the Elderly?


Professional negligence is often confused with elder neglect, but the two are distinct. Negligence occurs when an individual fails to act in the same manner a similarly situated individual would act.

Typically, professional negligence can involve the same individuals who can also be liable for elder neglect, like caretakers, nursing home staff, and nurses.

However, professional negligence can also involve those directly treating elderly victims, like doctors. In these situations, professional negligence can be the same as medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice arises when a medical professional’s act or omission causes a patient harm. The negligent party deviates from the reasonable standard of care under the circumstances.

Examples of professional negligence concerning the elderly can include:

  • Making mistakes with administering medication
  • Failing to properly treat illnesses
  • Failing to maintain necessary medical devices
  • Failing to recognize signs of illness

When it comes to neglect vs negligence, professional negligence can more quickly result in an elderly victim’s death, as the elderly are often in fragile health.

Who’s Liable for Professional Negligence?


Professional Negligence
Neglect vs Negligence

Multiple parties may be held liable for professional negligence, depending on the details of the situation.

When a party’s negligence causes an elderly victim harm, they are liable to that victim for the damage they’ve caused. For example, if a nurse fails to properly treat a wound, negatively affecting the victim’s health, they would be at fault and could be held liable.

Additionally, the court could hold the at-fault party’s employer or the facility responsible. These parties may be liable for engaging in negligent hiring practices or failing to provide sufficient training.

An elder abuse lawyer can review the details of the case and perform an investigation to pinpoint which parties the court can hold responsible for their wrongdoings.

Proving Professional Negligence


To prove a party’s negligence, you must establish the required elements of the legal theory. You must demonstrate the following:

  • The party owed the elderly victim a duty of care
  • The party breached its duty of care
  • The breach was the cause of the elderly victim’s harm
  • The elderly victim suffered losses as a result

Establishing the party’s negligence is vital to pursuing justice and fair compensation. While this task can be overwhelming, an experienced lawyer can investigate and gather evidence to prove the at-fault party’s liability.

Neglect vs Negligence? Consult with an Elder Law Attorney Right Away


If you suspect something is off with your loved one, but you’re unsure whether it’s neglect vs negligence, do not wait to speak with an elder law attorney. These issues are serious, and time is limited. The quicker you seek legal help from a skilled lawyer, the sooner you can help your loved one.

The attorneys at The Joel Bieber Firm understand how heartbreaking and stressful cases involving the elderly can be. We’re ready to provide the care, support, and guidance you need.

Contact our office today to request a free case review with one of our dedicated elder law attorneys.

Interesting Reads:

What Is Considered Nursing Home Negligence?

What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Negligence?

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