What steps can I take to help my father?

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My father is 'only' 67. He's always had mental problems, but managed to keep stead jobs and a family. In past, though, he had 'mental breakdowns' and was hospitalized on a couple occasions. After my mother died in 2007, he has gone down hill. He is 5'10" and weighs 118lbs. He doesn't eat. He doesn't take his medication unless aggressively directed to, and needs to have someone manage them for him. He is a mess with money and throws it away on splurges and things he never uses. He sleeps in a chair, and hardly ever bathes unless directed to. He's said suicidal things, and now he seems delusional and paranoid. He talks about people trying to get him, about hearing things, etc. He sees a doctor, but just a general MD who has him on Risperdal and Lexapro.

My question is basically this: I am a 23 year old who lives with my father, and it is my father who makes all the income. I can't work due to a physical disability, basically, and we live off his pensions. I have no legal work in my favor, like a power of attorney or guardianship. I just have no idea what to do. I fear he is going to hurt someone or more likely himself. I have an older sister who can help, but she lives away from home and couldn't take him to live with her.

What would be some first steps? I thought about talking to his doctors, but maybe they won't speak with me about his mental state due to privacy stuff. I think he needs to at least be in a mental hospital short term to have people aggressively monitor his medication, diet, sleep, and general health. I don't think he will go though, and he can sometimes seem very reasonable and so I think he would argue against it.

The only thing I have been told so far is that I may need to see an Elder Law Attorney, but I have absolutely no income. What on earth can I do? I'm stuck here with a father who is basically dying because he can't help himself, and I feel powerless to do anything!

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You sound very sensible and capable. I'm sorry you don't have more help, but you are doing a great job. Please keep in touch. We'd love to hear how this is developing.
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Thanks everyone. We found out that my father basically already signed a Health Care Proxy form at his current doctor, so we have an appointment to see them and speak with the doctor about our concerns Monday.

Also, I should have stated that I am in the process of appealing for disability benefits (SSDI&SSI). It takes around 10+ months to get a hearing, so I can't count on anything until at least this December. It'd definitely help us all to have any income, but for now at least I have to deal with not having that, which sucks.

Hopefully we can get some good advice from the doctor, and if need be maybe he could encourage my father to check himself into a hospital until he stablizes at least a little bit. No one wants my father to have to leave for long term care, so even if he had to be hospitalized now--it is better than him having to give up all responsibility for himself for the rest of his life.
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If you are unable to work because of a disability, you need to be on SSI. This is something that a parent would ordinarily be helping you apply for, but instead you are trying to help your parent. While nobody's fault, this entire sitution is very sad. My heart goes out to you.

Personally, I would not start with an Elder Care attorney in your case. I'd start with taking care of your needs. For you to be financially dependent on your father is not in your best interest -- nor his.

I would start with calling Social Services in your county. Explain that both you and your father have needs that you are trying to handle and that you need help. The trained professionals there can do a needs assessment and provide some guidance about what is available and how to go about applying for it.

Meanwhile, the next time your father says something suicidal or aggressive, call 911. I am perfectly serious about this. He needs more help than you can give him (inspite of your love and best intentions -- I am not faulting you!) and your kindest act will be to get him into the hands of professionals.

I think of my young neice with physical disabilities and her disastrous attempts to hold a job. Her parents, not wanting her to be dependent on them (both for her psychological well being, and because they know they won't be around forever) helped her every step of the way to apply for disability payments. I sincerely wish you had that kind of help from loving and competent parents. I am sorry for the loss of your mother and for your father's mental problems. You are obviously a very caring and resourceful person. You will get through this!

Come back often and let us know what you are doing and how it is working out. We care!
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You are very young to be dealing and coping with your poor father; my heart goes out to you. I would do as Cattails suggested and in addition, since you say your father is reasonable at times, try to get him to sign a Health Care Proxy. You can obtain this document from your local hospital. or even download one from the computer. This would help you to be able to obtain information about your Dad from hospitals, rehabs, nursing home, etc. in the future.

I would also call Elder Services in your town as they are a wonderful source of information. Also, many lawyers will consult with you for the first appointment at no charge. At least that way you could obtain some legal counsel. Elder Services might also have a lawyer available for questions.

Keeping you in my prayers, and let us know how you make out.
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Does your sister agree with you about your dad's mental state? With your dad's history of mental breakdowns, I think it would be appropriate for you to call his doctor and ask that he be evaluated by a neurologist who specializes in geriatric patients. His doc may not be able to discuss things with you, but you can give him a heads up and ask for his support. Your father can sign a form at the doctor's office which allows you access to the doctor. You don't have to be POA.
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