Will I be held responsible if I move out and leave my 80 year old Mom with dementia and other health conditions to live alone, even though she shouldn't be? If something happens will I be legally held responsible for neglect? I have been her in home caregiver for years and I have been in the home buying process for some time now, trying to get other siblings to take charge of Mom. They don't want the responsibility and keep talking about her staying in her own home and them just "checking in" on her every few days. I know it my heart of hearts this isn't right, but I need to live my life for once. Will this be a mistake?

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We already had multiple family meetings. No one has come up with any concrete answers. "It is what it is" seems to be their concensus. No one wants the burden, but I am done doing it all on my own. Mom's dementia has progressed to her being a danger to herself. Forgetting pills, the stove, everything short term. She won't remember we have left for our new home most likely. She over eats. Drinks mustard and olive juice eats tons of bread in a day and with diabetes and high blood sugar, things will get bad really fast. But this home buying process has been a year in the making and they still won't step in to help. I just don't know. Tomorrow is our close date.
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ExhaustedPiper Jul 2021
Meg, what is the reason that your mom is not in assisted living or a LTC home?

I'm sorry you are going through this and your siblings are so useless, but I agree that you need to move out and move on. Looks like calling APS when you leave is your best bet. Does your mom (and your siblings) know that she could end up in state's care?
If you are the PoA for her and your authority is currently "active" then I would think you might be legally responsible, but this is a question for an elder law attorney in order to know for sure.

Others have given you good advice to consider. I would only add that if no one is currently her PoA and she still seems to have most of her cognition and memory, I would encourage her to get her legal protections in place now, since dementia progresses at unique rates for each person and it's invisible as it does this - you won't know when she's gotten worse or lost an ability until you come upon it unexpectedly.

Regarding people "popping in" to check on her... her best oversight would be a single point-person who filters the information and needs to all caregivers so that no one is assuming someone else is popping it when they aren't. This would provide her optimum continuity of care, since she eventually won't be able to remember what's going on with her health, etc.

If it becomes overwhelming for her family, or finances are an issue, and she didn't assign a PoA, and dementia or memory loss then APS can be contacted to report her as a vulnerable adult so that she is on their radar.

FYI we were attempting to do this for my MIL and then came to realize she was much less able to care for herself due to her short-term memory loss. If we asked her very general questions like, "What are you up to?" she'd give very general answers, which led us to believe she had things under control. BUT then we realized she didn't remember we had stocked her fridge with food, didn't remember how to use her appliances (even the microwave) and eventually didn't remember whether she had eaten that day or not. Then we had to consider AL (for our particular family situation).

So, if at all possible I would get her in to her doctor to get her cognition and memory tested so that your family has an accurate idea of her true abilities in order to keep her safe in her home.
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You are perfectly within your rights to move out. My, talk about a full plate, between your mom and your son. Burnt out? I bet you are!

Since you are living with her, you know quite a bit about her needs. If she's diagnosed with dementia, I would be VERY reluctant to leave her to live on her own. Regardless of what she wants, I would arrange either for full-time live in help, or moving her to a facility appropriate for her needs.

Maybe gather the family together and calmly tell them of your plan.

Having people pop-in from time to time is not enough, IMHO. The family that does not live with her probably has little to no idea of what her true needs are. They tend to brush it off and belittle the issues to calm their guilt of not helping more. May not always be true, of course, but seems common enough to me.

When is your home closing? Assuming it's pretty soon so it is time to get the wheels in motion to get yourself out of being responsible for your mom's care.

Good luck.
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Having dementia doesn't rule out her staying alone. What stage is she in? Some people live a rather normal life for years before becoming dependent on others for their help and safety. If she's in the mid stages, I would say no to leaving her alone. Someone dropping in occasionally won't insure her safety. It only takes a second for your mom to fall and hurt herself, or for her to leave the stove on all night. She has a raft of medical issues that require her to take her meds as directed. Skipping or overdosing could cause problems.

I think it's time to have a family meeting to discuss a plan for mom's future. Have her assessed for her ability to care for herself, then start looking for a care facility.
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Legally, the big question is whether Mom is still capable to make her own decisions or not?

Morally, trust your gut - or heart as you say.

Do you think Mom would be safe to live alone this way? With intermittent caregivers just popping in?

Personally, when I backed out (different situation, not so hands-on or living in) I explained this in front of my relative, to their Doctor. Described what the situation was, what my concerns were & asked for advice. It was short & direct. Supervised Living was required. (Despite other family 'pop ins').

I feel the Duty of Care does currently lay with you as the person at the frontline. But that does NOT mean you have to stay, must be her caregiver or hands-on at all. It also doesn't mean any siblings need to step in & up either.

The pickle is to step out safely. So it really depends on how unsafe your Mom will be alone.

How about a Needs Assessment asap? Get home health help in?
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