Can I be held liable for an accidental death? My FIL is roaming outside while I’m asleep.


Example: freezing in the winter or getting hit by a car, or causing an accident because he was wondering around near the road or trying to hitchhike. All of which we’ve caught him doing/almost doing. We can’t afford to put him in a nursing home or hire a home nurse. We make sure that he has a family member with him as often as we can throughout the day, especially while we’re gone at work. But we all still have to sleep. I love my husband dearly, and his father as well, and want to stand by their sides through this sh**storm, but am also not looking to end up in jail.



Thank you for adding more information.

Your father in law lives in your home, with you and your husband. So assuming he hasn't always lived with you, but moved in with you once he started to need care, your husband (first) and you (second) did accept responsibility for your FIL's welfare.

Now that he is wandering he poses a risk to himself and to others. You are aware of that risk. You are trying -

By the way, when I say "you" I mean you collectively as a family, not you yourself as an individual -

- to reduce the risk by having someone with him as much as possible.

But it's not enough, is it? You remain aware that he not only could go but actually has gone outside, unaccompanied, into dangerous situations.

You need to contact your local social services and ask for help. Set aside your fear of prosecution and concentrate on the much likelier and more present problem that your FIL is at risk of harm and needs more support than his family can provide. And also set aside your worry that the family cannot afford to pay for a nursing home - you're not required to. Your FIL will be assessed on his own merit, and if he cannot afford to pay for a safe environment then he will be entitled to financial assistance.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Countrymouse

HaresisDea, when it comes to a love one wandering at night, that can be a difficult situation. Alzheimer's/Dementia is such a complex illness.

I remember reading where if you place a black throw rug in front of a door at night, a person with dementia will think it is a hole and will be afraid to step in front of the door to open it. No guarantee that this would work but could be worth a try to place such throw rugs at each exterior door.

Each State has this wonderful program called Medicaid [which is different from Medicare]. Call your State Medicaid office to see if your father-in-law can apply and be accepted by Medicaid. See what programs are available. With Medicaid your father-in-law can enter a nursing home and Medicaid will pay for everything. Your father-in-law may need to pay what he can such as using his social security and his pension if he has one.

How does your husband feel about having his Dad reside in a nursing home? I know for you this situation has become extremely stressful for you. There are times when our love ones need a higher level of care.
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Reply to freqflyer

There's another option and that's just to pose the question to the local police force, followed by their suggestions on how to address wander management issues. They may have some really good suggestions for you.
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Reply to GardenArtist

60 Minutes just did an excellent piece about living with Alzheimer's that I urge you and your husband to watch: "For better or worse: Living with Alzheimer's".

Imagine for a moment that a family of four is driving home and the driver swerves to avoid hitting your FIL because he wandered into the road.

There comes a point where you and your husband will no longer be able to keep up with your FIL's needs. You need sleep. You need rest. You cannot be vigilant 24/7. Get your FIL qualified for Medicaid and find a nursing home. He's already a danger to himself and it's only a matter of time before he becomes a danger to someone else.
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

I would assume that sooner or later, he will scare a neighbor or person driving by enough that they will complain about his wandering.
He will walk in front of a car, trip and fall, etc.
Exhibit some behavior that would require a responsible stranger to take action.
The assumption would be that he needs greater care than he is getting.
What would have to happen before you took action?
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Reply to 97yroldmom

We cross posted - you go on to say this:

"It’s just that it’s his dad, so it’s his decision what we do with him."

Yes, and no. Your FIL is primarily your husband's concern - no one cares about him more, after all, I'm sure. But protection of vulnerable adults is everyone's responsibility. Do not sit on your hands just because your husband is finding it hard to make very difficult decisions. Get professional help and advice.
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Reply to Countrymouse

We can’t possibly answer a question like this, even with pages of details. There are many sides to every story. You need to get an attorney.
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Reply to Ahmijoy

I think there is a possibility of being charged with criminal negligence only if there actually IS negligence. The key to protecting yourself (and your FIL) is to take steps to keep him from wandering such as alarms at the door, a baby monitor to listen for him getting up at night, a GPS tracker (some police depts provide this), and most of all ensuring that he is supervised at all times. But why are you worried the one, where is your husband in this scenario?
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Reply to cwillie

HaresisDea, kudos to you and your husband for trying to take care of your FIL's needs. You've already gotten some good advice. Here's my analysis of your situation and question: For whatever reason, your FIL's behavior puts himself and possible others at risk and this is known by you and your husband. You and your husband apparently believe that FIL's condition warrants him having more in-home help or being in a care facility, but don't think he can afford that. And you aren't able to have someone with him all of the hours that are needed, e.g.while you sleep. In my opinion, yes, there could be liability consequences if you and your husband are not sufficiently active in resolving the known risk problems.  Although I doubt that you'd "end up in jail," unless you were maliciously negligent, a civil suit could possibly be filed by another family member or anyone who is harmed by your FIL's activities.

It's important, as others suggested, that you and your husband seek help. Call your state's office on aging and/or senior services hotline today to start the process of getting help. And, if FIL, is a war veteran, call or visit the local Veterans Administration social services office. And don't forget, as previously suggested, to also call your state's Medicaid office.  Meanwhile, the physical aids already mentioned might help, e.g. baby monitors, door alarms, black rugs in front of doors, etc.
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Reply to bicycler

Moms door had a round knob. I used baby knob guard. It just goes around and around. You can open it he can't. My cousin put dead bolts that can be looked with a key from the inside. Once my uncle passed, he took them off because it's a fire hazard. Call ur local Police station and ask if they have ankle bracelets where they monitor his movements.
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Reply to JoAnn29

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