My grandmother has always been a battle axe, but now it's working against her. Efforts to convince her of the need, and tips or tools to help her remember that she needs to keep up on her hygiene and cleanliness have not been successful. Hired help to provide her meals or clean her house are met with refusal at best, violence at the worst. Its been like this for about 5 years and now her mental and physical health have declined so much that her home must be hazardous to her health, let alone anyone else unfortunate enough to have to go inside.

My sister, who has been away and hasn't seen the gradual decline was in for quite a shock. She now is accusing my father (my grandmother's son) of criminal neglect. He is the only family member who lives in the state with my grandmother, but as far as I know holds no legal authority to force my grandmother to accept others into her home to clean and maintain it, and as far as I know he hasn't been legally designated as her caregiver. To be sure, my father is aware of the situation, and the situation could certainly be seen as harmful to my grandmother, so it could meet some of the definition of elderly neglect, but he hasn't the time, money or ability to do much about it other than what my grandmother allows. Is this really a case of criminal neglect by a caregiver?

Can you be saddled as a caregiver without knowing the ramifications, without accepting the responsibility, and against the will of the recipient of the care, simply because you tried and failed to help, or because your positionin the family puts you closest to the person in a deplorable situation? It seems to me at this point that my father would need some legal framework to gain the authority his mother and allow him to force the hygiene, cleaning and maintenance needed to get her back to healthy and decent living conditions before he could be accused of neglect.

Web searches on this topic have not been helpful. Prior to your site they were all dead ends with lawyers promoting cases against nursing homes or definitions of neglect and hardships of caregivers without explanation of how one becomes legally responsible (willingly or unwillingly) in a situation where the recipient actively refuses care. Your site seems helpful however, could you point me in the right direction or reccomend better search phrases to get to the process or circumstances by which someone becomes responsible and what powers they can wield to act to ensure the welfare of their ward?

Find Care & Housing
These issues are all up to state law. Look in Findlaw for your state and plug in "elder neglect." That said, I have never heard of a case where someone who was not a live-in caregiver was found guilty of neglect, and even that only happens when something serious happens, usually the disabled person dies of malnutrition or some easily preventable illness. I doubt your sister would have any standing to file a complaint in any event or that the authorities would open an investigation based on her complaints.

Why don't you suggest to your sister that if she wants to be helpful, she should file for guardianship of your grandmother? This strikes me as your type of situation where somebody points the finger wanting somebody else to take responsibility, while taking no responsibility themselves.
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to CarlaCB
AlvaDeer Oct 18, 2019
Amen on this idea with Sister.
You say your father "lives in the state" with her, so apparently not in her house. If he has not been legally named as his mother's PoA, or her guardian, he has no power to do anything. if her living conditions are bad, or she is a danger to herself or others, anyone can call social services and report her as a vulnerable adult. Your family can pursue legal guardianship over her if it can be proven that she is cognitively incapacitated and you want to spend the considerable time and money to do so. Then that guardian could force her to do whatever is in her best interest. Guardianship process varies from state to state.

Otherwise, the county can start dealing with her and they might pursue guardianship. This would be mean that the family would have very little to no say in what happens to her. They would choose a facility for her and take control of her assets, if she has any, and not reveal anything to you from that point on. But, she would be cared for and not degrading in her house by herself. I hope this gives you some clarity.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Geaton777

I have no knowledge of law...sorry but a sister who 'self neglects' due to intellectial disability, mental illness & stroke.

As told to me by numerous Doctors, she has the right to live as she chooses. This includes choosing not to bathe, unhygiene environment, unhealthy diet & risky behaviour. May also include not taking prescribed medication. One Doctor called it "the right to rot".

All people have this right who are deemed to have capacity to decide. It is assumed that everyone has capacity unless proved otherwise. If proved otherwise, a guardian needs to be appointed. The guardian could be held accoutable for neglect (would be laws surrounding this).

Would your Grandmother go see her Doctor & agree to a cognitive evaluation? (I'm guessing he77 no).

After a fall, I informed the hospital of my sister's precarious home situation. It is ok at present (just) & she did return home alone - this time. But Social Workers have a file now. Each admission gets closer to not being safe to discharge home.

Unfortunately many on this website are *awaiting the fall* or other medical crises that will be the game changer. Your Dad may be awaiting this too.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Beatty

No, your father is not criminally liable for your Grandmother's choices to refuse care, treatment, evaluation, help or placement.
More importantly he nor anyone else cannot be MADE to assume care of your grandmother. Given her tendencies, I in fact would recommend that he not do so.

Had this been me, had this been MY mother, I would have called Adult Protective Services and reported that my mother was, in my own assessment in so far as I could MAKE any assessment, not mentally well and living in dangerous circumstances. Then it would have been up to APS to open a case file on her. They would almost certainly have reported back to your father that she was unsafe, needed evaluation, and that he should "apply for guardianship". If this were to occur I would REFUSE TO APPLY for GUARDIANSHIP. That would mean that APS would go to the Courts and a guardian would be appointed. This person would then be responsible to get grandma evaluated and safely placed, to empty and dispose of her home, to evaluate her assets and sell them for the cost of her care, then apply to medicaid when assets are gone. Your father nor anyone else would be able to handle Grandmother's care nor her assets.
This would mean that your father and other family members would have NO SAY in what happens as to Grandma as they have "washed their hands of it". To my mind easier than trying to deal with grandma. Not everyone is up to being a guardian for another unwilling and ill person. I am not. I know my limitations.
But in short, your father is not criminally liable, and what he says to any asking is that "I offered my help to my mother and she would not allow me to help her; I have not known what to do with her or about her. They will tell him that he should have called Adult Protective Services. He can reply "thank you for letting me know that".
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to AlvaDeer

After much confusion on this thread I still believe that IF you never were the guardian, never did live with a person, never had the person live with you, never were POA or caregiver for a person, do not have any proof a person is adjudged incompetent, that you cannot be help criminally liable for not caring for a person who is refusing your care. If all the aforementioned are in fact A FACT, I might place money on it.
However, many here feel your father could be prosecuted. So ask a lawyer. It's the safest way. And I would love to know what he or she says.
As to Sister, I suggest she assume POA and guardianship of Grandma. It sounds they may be a match.
Again. No one has judged this woman incompetent.
This woman has refused all care.
No one has POA for this woman. No one lives with this woman.
This woman lives with no one. No one has guardianship for this woman.
This woman is free to make her own choices and decisions unless APS says that she is NOT. In which case I highly suggest court guardianship for her, and wish the court much luck ongoing.
As I wish you. Sure do hope you will update us.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to AlvaDeer
PowerOf3 Oct 29, 2019
I’d say you nailed it Alva. I see nothing but someone saying “he lives closer and isn’t caring for her” I cannot imagine he be liable for anything whatsoever.
I read so many times, about the struggles so many have with family members who refuse to have in home help, refuse to move to an in care facility, refuse to do any of their ADLs, etc and they are always told, get poa or worse, guardianship...then they can force the person to get help......but even if someone, anyone, including the state, has guardianship, how would they physically handle getting the person out of the house, make the person take a shower, any of the things that the family has been trying, sometimes for years, to get them to do.
just so easy to say, get guardianship then you can force the person into question is how do you physically do this?..
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to cherokeegrrl54
disgustedtoo Oct 21, 2019
You can't. Even with POA you cannot force someone to do anything.

When mom developed dementia and was living alone, we tried bringing in help, more a sanity/med check, just 1 hr/day and within a short time she refused to let them in. Plan B was to have her move. Brothers suggested moving in with them. Nope. AL - paugh wouldn't live in one of those places (BTW, AL was in her plans before dementia kicked in!) Our EC attorney told us we can't force her to move, despite having all the POAs in the world. He suggested guardianship. The facility we choose said they wouldn't accept her then. Great. We had to resort to some "trickery" to facilitate the move.

But, as you say, even if you have ALL the power in the world, how does that get the person to move or comply with anything? IF it doesn't involve dementia, but facility care is needed for other reasons, you *might* be able to reason with the person and/or show the paperwork saying it has to happen per the law, but with dementia???

I also stress to others when they suggest getting POA (if it isn't already too late) that this doesn't change anything. It is better to have it, for other reasons, but it doesn't give you absolute power over anyone. The staff at mom's MC facility even told me that ALL the residents still have rights, including the right to refuse whatever it is they need or should be doing (taking meds, a bath/shower, medical treatment, etc.) They just have to keep at it to find a way to coax the person into doing whatever it is that is needed.

So, unless you are part of the SkyWalker family, you can't 'Use the Force.'
I don't know why you couldn't call APS (adult protective services) and tell them that your grandma is living in deplorable conditions and is no longer able to care for herself, nor will she allow anyone else to intervene.  Explain how your dad has attempted without success.  They will send someone out to assess the situation.  Be prepared that she may become a ward of the state and placed in a nursing home.

If your dad had your grandma in his house and was allowing her to not be kept up...bathed, fed...whatever, then he could be liable, but since she is living on her own, I don't know how they can hold anyone else responsible.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Jamesj
dads1caregiver Oct 21, 2019
You are right that you can call APS. But, family members need to be ready to take responsibility or give up the responsibility of their loved one. If responsibility is given up, they may never get to see the person again. Some states cut off ALL rights to even visit or see loved one, if they are put in an assisted home.
No, there is no legal responsibility here. If you are concerned about your Grandmother you should call APS. They will do a welfare check and find possible solutions to help your Grandma.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to mstrbill

Michigan has recently initiated a task force against elder exploitation and abuse but I cannot find any cases where seemingly innocent people were wrongly prosecuted. The article Tacy mentions is about charges that resulted from a Genesee County (Flint) task force assigned to crack down on elder abuse. The task force was formed in 2007. The article mentioned 4-5 cases and leaves out a lot of detail.

The most ambiguous case was about a man who had neglected his elderly mother to the point where she had wasted to 63 pounds and her body was covered with fecal matter and bed sores. In that case, it wasn't clear to me from what I read whether the son was intending abuse or whether he was mentally ill himself and just overwhelmed with the care, but the mother died. He was charged with manslaughter, served less than a year, and was recently arrested on a new charges because he was acting as a live in caregiver for his cousin and their home was found in filth with rodents, maggots, etc.

The other cases are clear cut cases of financial exploitation or criminal neglect by people who agreed to be caregivers.

Below is a link to the 17 year old's story from Michigan. The brothers were self-proclaimed caregivers to the grand-dad and were arrested after getting into a fist fight over their grandpa's pain drugs on their front yard, and had not administered his insulin in over a week. The police were concerned because the elderly man was delirious. In this case, the brothers were neglecting the old man. I can see how it was too much for them and wonder who thought it was ok to dump that responsibility on such young people. But it's not like the police showed up because some busybody called APS.

Elder abuse laws are written to prevent/punish the physical abuse and financial exploitation of the elderly. Neglect and abandonment laws tend to be more ambiguous but usually have three components: a person accepting responsibility for a vulnerable person's care, then either failing to administer food, meds, etc. or leaving that person, and failing to provide a contingency. In most states, intent is specified and typically charges are brought against facilities and paid caregivers, rarely family caregivers although some states are more aggressive apparently than others.

The situation the original poster described is not considered neglect in most states. The OP should check laws in her own state to be clear. There is a potential for the laws to be enforced carelessly so it's good to be vigilant. But it's also important to read the laws and not alarm people who are already stressed.

Link to article below. I recommend searching the names of those charged because there are more detailed articles elsewhere describing the accusations.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to anonymous326422
mstrbill Oct 20, 2019
Thank you, helpful information.
See 2 more replies
Alva, I'm glad you always are correct in what you think. I said Michigan not any other state, you have no idea how it is here with agressive prosecution of elder abuse. Copied from newspaper online:

Randy D. Brooks and his brother Travis were accused of allowing their 69-year-old grandfather to live in filth and ignoring his needs as a diabetic in June 2009.
They both were charged with second degree elder abuse, a four-year felony. Randy Brooks, who was 17 at the time, also was charged with three counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer during the investigation.
Investigators said the home was full of used adult diapers and trash and the two young men were responsible for the man’s care.
Travis Brooks pleaded guilty to fourth-degree vulnerable adult abuse, a one-year misdemeanor and was released from jail. He was sentenced to 100 days in jail, the time he already had served since his arrest.
“My life hasn’t been right since then,” Travis Brooks said. “I couldn’t get a job anywhere.”
The elder abuse charge was dropped against Randy Brooks, and he pleaded guilty to one of the resisting counts and was sentenced to 15 days in jail with credit for time served.
Randy Brooks said his grandfather simply refused to take his medication. He said his grandfather would have violent outbursts when he and his brother tried to give him the medication.
“I was 17,” he said. “I did everything I could.”
The Brooks brothers said they were not the registered caregivers to their grandfather but tried as hard as they could to care for them. They said they lived with him sparingly over the years, but were not living with him at the time they were arrested.
Their grandfather died in September 2009. Randy Brooks said he believes his grandfather would have survived longer under their care.
“I wake up everyday hating myself because I can’t see my grandfather,” said Randy Brooks. “He helped raise me.”

People can and do get charged and even if they are innocent, it ruins their lives. Just an FYI, most charges dont stick but it is alot of out of pocket money wasted.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to tacy022
CarlaCB Oct 20, 2019
Wow, Tacy! I was skeptical as AlvaDeer was, but I went and looked at some Michigan cases, including the one you mentioned, and it does seem really bad. Those people clearly have a crusade going on, to prosecute any case that looks like neglect as elder abuse. I was especially jarred by the case of the son whose mother died of malnutrition and bedsores, who wasn't even living with her but was deemed to be "her only caregiver and responsible for meeting her needs." Just wow!

That case highlights the difficulties faces by some caregivers, when a senior won't comply with medications or hygiene, refuses to see a doctor, and resists any offers to help. There was a similar case in Florida a few years back, but in that case the family members were staying with their mother trying to help her recover from surgery. Truly, no good deed goes unpunished! What a horrible situation!
See 9 more replies
See All Answers

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter