Can I be held legally responsible for damages to my Mother's house or injuries that may happen to my Mother in my absence?

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I have been caring for my mother and father for the last 6 yrs. I was staying off and on at their home the 1st 4 years. My father passed away almost 2 yrs ago and permanately moved in at that time to care for my mother. She was diagnosed with dementia 3 yrs ago and will be 90 yrs old next month. I cannot go into all the details of what I do everyday for her but she keeps me very busy. She has had stove/oven fires. And all day, every day is a scavenger hunt for things she has misplaced. She has to be reminded to take her pills. She cannot follow any directions and has no reasoning skills at all. She no longer handles her finances. All of this and mom thinks she just is a little forgetful and nothing else is wrong. My problem. I have been here at moms now for almost 2 yrs. 24/7. No one can come and stay with mom if I leave. My sister has offered to have mom go to her house for a few days to give me a break. Mom refuses to go. Says she wants to stay at her house and sleep in her bed. But complains all the time she wants to go to see her son 1200 miles away for vacation. No matter what I say, she will not go togive me a break. Question: If I leave mom alone, which she wants, can I be held legally responsible if she burns the house down or injures herself while I'm gone?

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I agree that you have every right for a break, but that it's best to hire someone to come in. If you have volunteers in your community such as HomewithDad mentioned, that's ideal.

If not, in-home care agencies offer varying hours. I'd start with having someone come a few hours a day while you are there before you take your trip. Then take your break and keep the help if you/she can afford it. You shouldn't be on duty 24/7 for years at a time.
Good luck,
Carol
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The fact pattern you described is familiar. I typed in a search of agingcare.com for "elder neglect" and the top article is on self neglect:
https://www.agingcare.com/News/The-Hidden-Dangers-of-Elder-Self-Neglect-146760.htm

Your question about legal responsibility is important. Can a family member simply walk away from someone whom they have cared for? There may be many theories of liability. Rather than write about all the bad things that could be imagined, I'd like to mention some of the resources and approaches that you could look to, for help with these difficult and frustrating circumstances.

Have you called on the Area Agency on Aging, ASAP (Aging Services Access Point) or town senior center? There may be many resources for care and assistance available to you. These agencies should provide you with approaches that can work.

Alzheimer's Association offers support groups and training for caregivers.

If you need legal authority to protect your mother's finances and health, a Conservatorship and/or Guardianship petition can bring the needs into focus and provide you, or an objective professional Guardian, with the authority to manage care and finances. There may be a charitable organization that provides guardianship services in your area.

The ASAP and/or an elder law attorney can help you identify home care reimbursement and payment programs that may be available through Medicaid, state agencies or the VA if you mother or father are veterans.

There's no denying the difficulty of the situation, but finding help to serve your mother's best interests is an accomplishment that is worth the effort.
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Your mom may want to be left alone but she is no longer able to make those kinds of decisions on her own. You could potentially be held liable if you left her alone and there was an accident in your absence especially since you are aware of previous mishaps.

I don't blame you for needing a break. You definitely need one. But before you take one you must line up in-home care for your mom or arrange for her to go to a facility while you take respite care.
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If you have an electric stove it needs to be put on and shut off at the breaker box every time you use it. She could start a fire while you are in the bathroom or sleeping. This almost happened to our family when a loved one got up in the middle of the night and left a burner on for several hours while 3 family members were sleeping including me. Thankfully no one got hurt in our case. You cannot leave your mom alone at all and you need to take steps to make everything safe for her when you are in the home but not within visual contact with her. A time will come, if it hasn't already, where you will not be able to keep her safe with just one person with her all the time.
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Dear Reverseroles, it is because she is desperate probably even to get in groceries much less get a hair cut or go to the dentist herself. and to Moms2nddaughter, take her to your sisters for a few days and d*mn that she wants to sleep in her own bed. That's as selfish as it gets on her part. When she gets there, she will have a good time and the break will be good for both of you.
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I will tell you for free what an excellent psychologist told me: "You ask permission too much." At every suggestion, every change, I got negative feedback from Mom and it had me tied up in knots, not knowing what to do.

It's not just your mother's memory that is the problem, it's her judgment, her ability to evaluate a situation and make a reasonable decision. You have to do that for her now, and that includes deciding when she needs to go somewhere else so you can get a break. Take her to your sister's "for a visit"; you don't have to specify the length, but a short trip the first time (say a weekend) especially if your sister doesn't truly know what she is getting into. Your mother can sleep in someone else's bed for a couple of nights: you have been sleeping in someone else's bed for years now. Your turn for some time off. Please remember, she cannot judge your needs anymore. Just as you make the decisions for her care, you must also make the decisions for your care.
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With no reasoning skills, as you describe, I would be afraid to leave her alone for any length of time. The number of things that could go wrong are endless. I would fear liability, plus harm to her and others.

Rarely do dementia patients admit they are not able to take care of themselves and insist on round the clock supervision. In their mind, they're fine. That's when they have to be taken care of as you would a child who isn't capable of looking out for themselves.

Getting her to accept the care is the key. There are many ways to do that, ranging from insistence to persuasion. I would certainly halt her cooking ability, even if I had to disable the stove or pull the circuit breaker.
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You can't leave her alone - that is an absolute. She is quite clearly at risk. I am in UK so things MAY be different there - BUT you are entitled to a break. You have a lifespan care act that may enable you to access respite - Im not to sure how it works but you might want to look up The Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006

If you can access it you can usually - and it is usually not a given force your Mum into respite care for one reason and one reason alone. If you don't have a break then you are going to have a breakdown...at this point it will all be taken out of your hands and your Mum would be put into care possibly permanently.

So to put her into care for a week or two while you have a much needed break is realistic and you must have agencies or possibly grant agencies/charities that would enable this.

If you rang APS and said you were on holiday for a week they WOULD step in and then there is a risk that you would be prosecuted for neglect. However if you consult in advance to arrange the care and are insistent on it then you won't be leaving her alone. She might be stroppy as hell initially but she will forget soon enough - My mum hates going into care for a week but she goes because I HAVE to have a break - all my family know when I need one - I cry a lot at stupid things.
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Contact your local office for the aging and local hospice programs -- not because she needs hospice, but because they have lists of respite care options such as facilities or people who can stay with your mother while you are gone. I think, although I'm not positive, that even Medicare covers short periods of respite care. It will be well worth finding options because you cannot survive 24/7 care year after year. You must get periodic relief (more frequently than every two years) and there is help available. Your mother won't like it, but you are going to have to do it anyway for both your sakes. Good luck.
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Seek help
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