Individuals with developmental disabilities have a higher risk of experiencing medical and physical neglect. Neglect occurs when a caregiver(s) fails to meet the critical needs of an individual with disabilities. Chronic neglect has long-term adverse effects on an individual’s physical, emotional and cognitive development and can further compromise the functioning of an individual with developmental disabilities.
The Developmental Disabilities Act defines neglect as:
A negligent act or omission by an individual responsible for providing services in a facility rendering care or treatment which caused, or may have caused, injury to an individual served or which placed an individual at risk of injury, and includes an act or omission such as the failure to carry out an appropriate individual program plan or treatment plan, failure to provide adequate nutrition, clothing or health care or the failure to provide a safe environment.
Neglect can take many forms. It can occur in private homes, as well as group settings, such as group homes or institutions, in schools and workplaces. In many cases, primary caregivers, such as parents, family members, personal care assistants or staff members create and maintain situations where neglect occurs. For example, a caregiver can intentionally limit the individual’s food, medication or access to medical care, thereby placing the person in jeopardy. Common examples of neglect include:
- Not providing adequate food or drink.
- Leaving an individual with disabilities unsupervised or placing the person in a potentially dangerous situation.
- Not providing adequate heat or air conditioning.
- Withholding personal care or medical care.
- Not providing a safe environment for the individual.
- Withholding access to necessary medical equipment, including hearing aids.
Neglect is often thought of as primarily affecting children. However, neglect isn’t limited to children. Senior citizens and adults with disabilities are also victims of neglect. In fact, the Administration on Aging estimates that 2.1 million Americans over the age of 65 are abused, neglected or exploited each year.