The meaning of elder self-neglect: Social workers' perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: To explore the unique aspects of the elder self-neglect phenomenon and to achieve phenomenological understanding of self-neglect through the eyes of professional social workers. Method: A qualitative study based on a sample of 14 certified social workers. Data collection was performed through in-depth semi-structured interviews, followed by content analysis. Findings: Three major themes emerged from the participants: (1) "How can you live like that?" self-neglect as an unsolved riddle; (2) "It's very difficult for me, I go outside and immediately start thinking about myself": the personal burden; and (3) "I keep trying": seeking intervention strategies following the refusal to accept assistance. Discussion & Conclusions: Social workers' direct involvement with the self-neglecting elders poses a very significant ethical, personal, and professional challenge. In this context, there is a need to impart tools for "solving the riddle" to social workers through self-reflection, improvement of knowledge, theory, and empirical findings regarding the conceptualization and understanding of the self-neglect phenomenon. Moreover, it may be that adopting a clearer ethical "ideology," which is rooted in a discourse of human rights, could assist social workers to reconcile their tensions and difficulties in providing assistance to older, self-neglected persons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-36
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Aging and Human Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'The meaning of elder self-neglect: Social workers' perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this