In almost every U.S. jurisdiction, elder self-neglect is the most common allegation addressed by Adult Protective Service (APS) agencies. Not only is self-neglect common, but this form of mistreatment is an independent risk factor for death. A lack of understanding of the precipitating factors and root causes and of the effect on social and medical systems persists in this field. Research in this area has been limited, because the needs of these vulnerable elderly people are complex and diverse. Moreover, these factors encompass interrelated medical, psychiatric, economic, social, and functional problems.
In 2004, the National Institutes of Health Interdisciplinary Roadmap Initiative provided the means for preliminary exploration of elder self-neglect through the formation of the Consortium for Research in Elder Self-neglect of Texas (CREST). The goals of CREST include to conduct pilot studies, form interdisciplinary working groups, convene a national research conference, and appoint a national external advisory board. CREST orchestrated the work of 35 interdisciplinary investigators to achieve these goals.
CREST researchers have begun to characterize the population of vulnerable elderly people who were reported to APS for neglecting themselves. The pilot studies provided a snapshot of 100 elderly people who had neglected themselves. A proposed next phase could involve a prospective longitudinal study of elderly people with severe self-neglect. This study of the clinical course, the death rate, the causes of death, the occurrence of acute and chronic medical or mental illness, and the costs to the healthcare and social systems would greatly inform the field of elder mistreatment.