I've been told that I am and am not legally liable for my mom's care. I moved into her house two years ago and have been caring for her the best I can, considering I work a full-time job. While there is always food in the house, liquids at the ready, some days she will go without eating and she doesn't like to drink liquids unless she is thirsty, which is a bit on the late side. She no longer drives and is in a state of dementia that it isn't safe for her to Uber or Lyft alone. She spends her day watching political news, rarely does housing cleaning, I've taken on that responsibility when I noticed cobwebs were forming...I realized she wasn't cleaning much any more. I'm the one who does the cooking, now the cleaning, as well as event planning and hosting events fit for mom. Mom refuses to go to any center alone, I managed to get her to go to a local Sr. Ctr. with a friend of hers, so now mom gets out of the house 1-2 times a week during the day with friend.

Since I live in the house and do all the above and more, am I legally liable for her, in the event she falls, wanders off, etc... even though I am not the POA?

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I think that anytime we know someone is vulnerable and a danger to themselves or others then there is the possibility that the law can hold us responsible. You know that she can not be left alone, you know that she can't figure out help on her own, so that leaves you to get the resources in place to ensure that she is receiving appropriate care. That does not mean that you have to be her caregiver, it means finding her help, whether she stays at home and receives it or she goes into a facility.

Contact the local counsel on aging and request help from them. They can give you phone numbers, names and direct you to resources that most of us don't even know exist. The 1st step will be getting an assessment for her needs and abilities. This will get the ball rolling and then you can get the correct help.

Good luck, it is a difficult journey. Use all the help you can get.
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Hi Sierra,

I found myself in a similar situation not too long ago with my father and although my father is now being cared for I still post here in hopes of helping others. I came to realize that there are gaps in our care system that easily allow some to fall through quickly if you're not prepared or well financed. You very well may not get support from those in the health care system that you and your loved one see regularly, and it is especially difficult if you need to work full time and have no other family support and cannot afford in home hired help.

As to whether you are legally liable or not, no you are not. However, if a health care professional or neighbor sees fit, they will call APS. If APS comes out and suspects abuse, whether it be neglect, financial, physical or emotional, then yes, the focus will be on you as the person living with her and they will start an investigation which could involve the police and ultimately criminal charges. (Note I said could, I don't want to frighten you). Unfortunately you might not get any guidance or help from these professionals until that happens.

I've been through what you are going through and my advice would be to start now trying to find help for you and Mom. If you can afford hired help, do it. But I know many people can't as I couldn't ultimately afford the cost of in home help. I didn't have POA like you, but my father did put me on his accounts so I could access his money for care. You are at least gong to need that if not POA. If she can't afford in home help then you need to start the process of getting her set to be on LTC Medicaid. There may be a program in your state that pays for in home assistance. If not, you are going to need to start looking at Nursing homes to eventually place her in. It is not easy, especially if you don't have the money, but it can be done. We can help you, please keep posting.
Helpful Answer (4)

I am uncertain what you mean by "liable". Do you mean are you "legally" at fault if Mom exits your premises and goes out to shop lift? Takes the car and hits someone?
Or do you mean morally liable, in that you recognize your Mom is nearing the point where anything but 24/7 care constitutes a danger to herself and others?
You won't be taken to court unless a neighbor finds your Mom wandering and you not at home, and Adult Protective Services is called. At that point you may become their "case" in which they would follow to be certain Mom had caregivers who wouldn't leave her alone, or placement.
So liability I think isn't so much the issue. If she falls, who will sue you for it? No one. If she wanders out of the house, what lawsuit would be possible? She would only be a lost Mom.
You recognize that Mom now is in a place where leaving her is a danger for her. So this, for me, is more of a moral liability. I think you recognize that she needs 24/7 care. It is time to speak with Mom's doctor, with Mom along with you. To say you have not got POA (if she has dementia it is too late for that) for health or financial, but that Mom is no longer safe alone--what should you do.
In all truth I don't have an answer other than your local council on aging or whatever help you can access. Start with the doctor. Let us know if you come up with good ideas for others on the forum dealing with the same problem. I hope others who have had this experience of an elder already in dementia, in likely danger and with a POA or guardian. Good luck. So sorry for what you and Mom are going through.
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Others who are actually attorneys can weigh in on the legal liability part. Can you be more specific about what legal liability you think you may be held accountable for? Do you mean just leaving?

Now let's talk about your life:
You absolutely should have your own life to live. Many loving and well-meaning people go into caregiving without knowing what they are signing up for (just read the thousands of posts on caregiver burnout/depression/anxiety/regret etc). Often parents exacerbate the situation by really liking the delusion that they are "independent" and being taken care of by their child. Who wouldn't like that? What you need now is a path forward.

Please know that many on this forum have LOs in NHs, and very nice ones, and even when they are on Medicaid (as in the case of my MIL). Also please know that it is socially sterile for elderlies to be cooped up in their house all day without people their same age, same interests, same place in life, etc. It took my MIL a while before she really embraced her LTC situation, but she did finally embrace it and now enjoys all it has to offer. Modern NHs can be and often are really nice and give great care, if this is the path your mom eventually takes.

Send a group email to your family that outlines in an unemotional way that, due to health issues, you can no longer care for mom and you will be moving out on XX date (make sure you have a place to go, even if it's temporary). Don't let any family member shame, guilt or bully you into staying. Just keep it professional and "I'm so sorry but I just cannot continue the caregiving." Then ask them to figure out what THEY want to do (without your involvement). At some point have a sensitive and loving conversation with our mom, before any family blow-back reaches her. I'm pretty sure she won't like the idea, but...that's not your problem anymore. She's a big girl and can come to grips with it. You are not responsible for her happiness.

When your deadline approaches, make sure you are in contact with family to make sure they have a plan in place, but DO leave by your deadline no matter what. If you are concerned about your mom's welfare you can contact social services to check on her. Most likely your family will step up. Hopefully someone has PoA for your mom. This is the person who should be leading the transition team, not you. They may be upset for a while, until they experience what you experienced. Then they will understand.

Leaving does not mean you do not love your mom. It just means you understand the that you must take care of yourself before it has a more profound and permanent impact on you. Blessings and wishing you strength and courage to move onward and upward!
Helpful Answer (3)

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