Anti aging guide

Self-neglect and Age Related Problem



Why elderly people are sometimes neglect of appearance and hygiene in later life ?

The psychiatry of later life is equated in the public mind with dementia, and although the dementia illnesses do dominate the field in old age and particularly in the 80s and beyond, there are numerous other problems which can occur over a considerable age range. Perhaps we should start by looking at some of those areas which are not necessarily pathological before considering serious disease states.

Most of us are familiar with people who, although they do not necessarily live alone, have created an environment which we would not regard as being particularly hygienic. This is by no means the sole prerogative of elderly people, as the bedrooms of some teenage children or some of the flats shared by groups of students demonstrate. Nevertheless there is perhaps a tendency for most people to lead relatively orderly lives throughout middle age, even if some retain a certain disregard for conventional standards of neatness of house, garden, clothing, or person. In later life this variation becomes more marked, and elderly people are sometimes encountered living in conditions of extreme degradation with total neglect of appearance and hygiene. This state of so-called ‘senile squalor’ is quite often the cumulative result of a degree of lifelong eccentricity, the lack of structure that follows retirement, and the isolation that may follow bereavement. Depression and poverty can further reduce the chances of any action being taken to break the vicious circle.

There is a subdivision of this unfortunate group of people who, although perfectly lucid, positively hoard rubbish and surround themselves with piles of newspapers or old baked bean tins so that the house becomes crammed and access to different rooms is through narrow tunnels. This is sometimes called the Diogenes Syndrome in recognition of the Greek philospher’s total disregard for social niceties although his dwelling, a barrel, was more notable for the absence of personal possessions than their accumulation. The geriatrician who coined this title recalls rehearsing his lecture aloud prior to its delivery and being told by his wife that if it was not for her, he too would have sunk into an identical lifestyle. A familiar fictional character who exhibits some of the features described is Charles Dickens’ Miss Haversham.

Posted by Carol Hudgens - April 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm