Advice for dealing with my Stepmother, who is possibly neglecting my Father's healthcare needs.

Started by

My Father married a retired nurse years ago. He granted her medical and financial POA.

She bluntly told me she married him for his house, money, and name. My Father was Mayor Pro tem in the city where he was raised. My ancestors were one of the original settlers of the area. My Father receives oil and gas royalty checks on a monthly basis. Just wanted to provide some background.

For the past two years or more, my Father has been showing signs of memory loss. I have discussed this with the SM on numerous occasions. She would not take him to have his condition evaluated. She would tell me she does not want him on medication because of the side effects. My Father will be 87 in August. The SM is 75.

My husband's Step Father has Alzheimer's, was evaluated as soon as he began having symptoms, and for the past several years has had the best quality of life he can have considering his illness. Luckily his wife actually loves him.

My sister is also an RN. She lives in another city, but I have kept her informed about our Father's condition.

In 2011 my Father was becoming progressively worse, so much so that in the week to two week intervals between my visits, that he would sometimes not recognize me, and his conversations were becoming increasingly bizarre.

His wife has a nickname that everyone calls her. Now my Father believes the person with the nickname is a stranger, and thinks her given name is his wife. He keeps asking to "go home" and gets very agitated and sometimes aggressive in his confusion. He lives in the home his Grandfather built, it's my Father's homestead. He does not recognize his own home now.

My sister believes he is now in full blown later stage Alzheimer's/Dementia.

His wife basically has refused to have him evaluated and treated and I highly suspect she has ill intent.

I know she has left him alone for hours at a time while she runs errands, has lunches with friends, manicures and pedicures and such.

All of which I would have no problem with IF she would do or have done the right thing, the thing anyone with a heart would have done, and made sure my Father has had his medical needs looked after, and hired a professional health care worker to be with him while she does whatever so he is not left alone.

On the advice of my sister, my Mother, my Step Father and my husband, I have contacted Adult Protective Services and filed a complaint. Now the sh*t will hit the fan.

On a personal note I am scared for my Father, I feel no matter what I try to do to help him he is basically at his wife's mercy. I have tried to always do my best to maintain as decent of a relationship as I can with this woman, but now the gloves are off, as they say.

I am depressed, scared, not sleeping well, anxiety name it.

Besides my need to seek out support groups for myself, is there anything...ANYTHING else I can do to help my Father at this point?

All advice is appreciated.

Scared in H-Town


Remind yourself that this is the woman your father selected to spend the rest of his life with. This is the person he entrusted with POA and medical proxy. Maybe he was foolish to do that, but it was his choice.

Many, many parents wring their hands and wish that their child's spouse would treat their child differently. Many adult children think their step parent or even one of their parents isn't taking proper care of their parent.

But marriage trumps all. POA is recognized legally. Let us hope that if there is true neglect or mistreatment that the APS investigation will reveal it. But if this is just a difference of opinion on whether medical intervention is useful for dementia, and whether/how long Dad can be safely left alone, you may be powerless to change things.

You could consider visiting him more often. You could offer to stay with him while SM runs errands. You can continue to show your love and do things with your father that bring him comfort. You might invite him to spend a day or a half day at your house once in a while, to give SM some respite.

Do consider counselling for yourself as well as finding a local support group. You are in a very stressful situation.

Best of luck to you.
First of all, thank you for your kindness.

I do realize my Father made a choice here. I do and will remain part of his life, call him several times a week and see him either weekly or biweekly. I am also married, work part time and have pretty ugly health issues of my own.

But that aside..I am aware his wife has a very different life now because of my Dad's mental state. Not as carefree etc. I have been there caring for my Dad so she can take off for a week or more just about every month starting late 2011.

There is more to this than I have typed so far and I will save that for another venting session :)

Honestly the few posts I've posted have helped me feel a little better..not so thanks.


What has happened has happened and I have to deal with this as it is now regardless of my fears and opinions.
Call department of aging they should be able to help
Your father did make a choice, but that doesn't mean that it was a good one, either then or now. Things change. And as his daughter, you have a right to be legitimately concerned.

You might prepare for APS' position of non-involvement by asking them to assist in a compromising way - get him evaluated, since his wife is apparently unwilling to do that. It may in fact be that as a former RN she recognizes the symptoms, but it also depends on her specific area of expertise. A hospital, geriatric, neurological or ER RN would I think be more likely to recognize dementia symptoms than a pediatric RN, just for example.

If APS doesn't determine abuse, or at least lack of medical assessment of his condition, be prepared to ask for a "step-down" evaluation of his mental condition.

It might be, however, that they will respect his wife's position that the side effects are the basic reason she hasn't sought treatment. And I think she or any other caregiver has the right to make that decision. But it does sound as though he does need some additional help and shouldn't be left alone.

It might be that APS' involvement could serve to accomplish that - hiring someone to be with him instead of being left alone. If he's wandered, become lost, driven and caused an accident, left a stove on and forgotten about it....activities that could jeopardize his safety, there would be more impetus for APS to mandate care when he's alone.
This post is from 2012..
Thanks for the reminder, A&A. I didn't even check the dates, just (erroneously) assuming it was a current issue. Another wasted effort to try to help in a situation that's probably been resolved by now.

Many forums archive and prevent additional comments after posts are of a certain age. People can read, but not post. That might be a good idea here.
My aged father is asking for my help. My stepmother does not want me involved. My father says to come and help anyway. I have asked for a family contract specifying on paper what my father and stepmother would like me to help with. My dad won't follow through. Help. We live on a boat 400 miles away. My husband is going to have a dialysis catheter placed. He and I have been vilified with the rest of the family after we knocked ourselves out helping Dad the last time. All because of my stepmother. We are leary of what could happen this time. I am an RN.
Diananguished, it would be best to start your post as a new subject on the main forum page. Many of us when we see the date of the original post was many years ago, we tend to skip over it. I don't want that to happen to your posting.
I agree with FF ... copy and paste your text into a new post. It will get more attention that way, and it deserves it.
Imo, your husband's health should be your first concern.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support