Practice Wisdom: Professional Responses to Self-Neglect in Israel

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Self-neglect among older adults is a social and health phenomenon that has attracted increasing research interest in recent years. Very little empirical attention has been devoted to evaluating intervention programs in the field of self-neglect among older adults. The aim of this study is to explore the meaning attributed to the phenomenon of elder self-neglect by social workers in their encounters with self-neglecting elders. A qualitative phenomenological study was conducted using a sample of 16 certified social workers. Data collection was performed through in-depth semi structured interviews, followed by content analysis. Four key scenarios emerged: (a) immediate threat to life, (b) potential future threat to life, (c) avoiding deterioration in the absence of imminent risk, and (d) addressing environmental nuisance. The complexity of the self-neglect phenomenon is experienced not only on the personal level, but also on the interpersonal, societal, and professional levels. The findings of this research show that social workers developed intervention strategies based on the tension and the need for balance between preserving autonomy, protecting human rights, and respecting the older persons’ wishes versus paternalism and client safety.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSelf-neglect in older adults :
Subtitle of host publicationa global, evidence-based resource for nurses and other health care providers
EditorsMary Rose Day, Geraldine McCarthy, Joyce J. Fitzpatrick
PublisherSpringer Publishing Company
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780826140838
ISBN (Print)9780826140821
StatePublished - 2018


  • Self-injurious behavior


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