How Long is Too Long?

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My father is diabetic and suffers from dementia, and my mother is unable to walk and suffers from dementia as well. I've been caring for them for the last four years and I have a full-time job. During the time I'm at work, I have people paid to come in and care for them, but after that, it's only me during the evenings and weekends. From time to time on Saturday or Sunday, I have to go out to run errands which may take up to two hours, whether it's shopping or getting take-out, or something else. I usually do this when they're sleeping (which they do a lot). My question is, would leaving them while they're in bed for a few hours constitute abuse or neglect?

Answers 1 to 10 of 11
Jonesv24, I was hoping someone would answer your question because I'm in a similar situation. I'm sole caretaker for my 87 year-old mother and am unable to leave the house except for thirty minutes twice a week when her bath nurse comes, and sometimes another thirty minutes IF the case nurse comes.

My mother doesn't have dementia, doesn't wander off, and can get around with a walker, but the nurses have told me never to leave her alone—to call their office and have them send someone out if I have to leave for any reason. She's experienced no decline since being put on hospice three months ago, and in fact has improved as far as general well-being and mobility. She often asks why I can't go get her something from the store, or some to eat that she's craving, as I have in the past.

Although I'd never leave her alone if I thought she was in danger, it seems to me that the private hospice organization wants to keep in control. I'd like to know if I'm legally bound to never leave alone, even though she seldom needs my help during the day. The reason I'm wondering is because I need to have some legal documents notarized this week, and I find I'm having to jump through hoops trying to arrange it. The bath nurse is always impatiently waiting by the door if I'm gone to the grocery store for more than 22 minutes (I've timed myself with a stopwatch). And the case nurse frequently fails to show up for her once-a-week, thirty minute visit.

I'd also like to know if I'm legally responsible for abuse or neglect even though there doesn't seem to be any more danger involved than one would expect in the course of everyday life. The private hospice organization we're using keeps telling my mother she can cancel hospice at any time, which seems to mean that her condition isn't critical. I'm confused about this legal aspect of caretaking. Anyone know?
I don't know about your hospice organization but the one that takes care of mine has a volunteer coordinator to help get someone out to care for my mom if I need relief. I just need to call with enough time for them to arrange. They like a week's notice. Do you have friends or family that have asked what they can do? This is the time. Tell them that it would help if they could stay with mom so you can get out to do an errand. If they say they can go for you tell them that the opportunity to get away for a while would be part of the help and would be appreciated. If they are uncomfortable then accept their offer. I hope this helps.
Top Answer
Before I started to stay overnight with my folks, they each wore a Lifeline necklace so that if they needed help, all they had to do was press the button. I was wondering if you asked your parents how they felt about you going to the store while they're sleeping. Is either parent able to use the phone to call you if they needed to?

I don't know what the legal responsibilities are but the moral responsibilities, I would think, would be to have a back-up plan in case they wake up and need something.

Paula, there are notaries who come to the house so you may want to Google traveling notaries. My parents are homebound and we have had a notary come to the house more than once.

Hope you both get the answers you're looking for.
Thanks mrsribit, and Carol72156 for the suggestion. I have looked into getting a mobile notary to come out, but was hoping to avoid the minimum $60 travel charge as opposed to just $10 for going out myself to find a regular notary. I may just have to deal with the travel charge. My mother is vehemently opposed to having anyone come in while I'm out. It's taken three months for her to accept the bath lady and the case nurse, and that took some doing in itself. I've told her that if I don't get those thirty minute breaks, we don't get any groceries.

I guess the real issue is the frustration in knowing you can't do something so simple as to run a short errand without making complex arrangements in advance. It's so tempting to think that if the elder is asleep, you could just run out for a few minutes. But then I think, what if the car breaks down, or there's a power failure, or an earthquake (we live in California). Even if I took the chance, the resultant anxiety probably wouldn't be worth it. :(
I often have the same problem. Once had a very ill pet and the aide had taken the day off (Sat) If they are bed bound or could cause themselves harm (set fire, etc) I would be worried. Do you have anyone who could watch them by Skype video (it's free)? I never leave for more than 1/2 hour and only to get essentials, like a prescription that can't wait until the next aide day and I tell a family member in another state to check for my leaving and return emails or if longer set them up to talk to them on the phone or watch them on Skype. But I still fear getting stuck in traffic, an accident, etc . It is a bad situation to have to be in when your family member is not mobile and you have no help. Can you do any work from home so you have time to do errands while the aide is there? What about using a couple of hours of family leave time to get things done? My family member is bed bound, but alert and can use a phone, has an alert system but not sure how if an emergency came up she could handle it. Do you qualify from any extra help from your state since you are taking care of them at home in lieu of nursing home placement?
Only if your parents doctors have certified that your mother and father needs
24 hour care. But if something would go wrong while they are home alone
and the doctors have certified 24 hour care it could be viewed by an health
care professional or office on aging as neglect. Called their doctors and
fine out this information asap. Be Strong. I know it is not easy.

It would probably be in your best interest to contact an elderly law attorney in
your state. Sometimes the first initial consultation is free. By the way, do you
have the power of attorney for your mother?
lillyvalley123, I don't have POA because my mother won't sign anything. The hospice provides a social worker, but she gave up early on since my mother wouldn't discuss anything. We have a DNR order, because she absolutely doesn't want to go back to the hospital, EVER. But I think she gets a perverse satisfaction from imagining the resultant chaos from refusing to deal with any paperwork. Fortunately my siblings are a reasonable and agreeable bunch, but in the long run everything will probably be way more expensive and complicated than necessary. What can you do? It's her life and her right, and she knows what she's doing. Probably.

Anyway, I solved the immediate problem of getting the documents notarized by running out while the bath nurse was here yesterday. Bath Nurse, looked peeved as usual, but I was only gone for 25 minutes, so she'll just have to deal. Right now I'm deciding to take one day at a time. Leaving my mother alone is so worrisome that it would most likely cancel out any benefit.

Although I hadn't thought about using Skype video. My brother could possibly help out there since he works from home. Great suggestion, 2much2cover!
How does anyone bathe and dress another adult in 22 minutes?
No, they absolutely CANNOT be left alone.

When Mobility issues, Alzheimer's, Dementia or other Health or Medication related situations that would affect judgment and mobility of an individual are in play, they CANNOT be left by themselves.

By law, the yardstick test they advise is that "an individual has to be able to quickly exit a building under their own power in case of a fire" to be able to be left on their own.

What I would suggest is that if you have the room, you may consider a Live-in Caregiver so you have all the down-time you need to do what you need to do, or if you have to have a Live-out, work out arrangements with the individuals you have during the week for them to come in for a few hours when you need to be out and about during the weekend - or ask a friend, Church Member, etc., to sit with your parents till you get back in.

I highly recommend Live-in caregivers! My family could not have done as much as we could for our Grandparents while attending to our own families and careers without these incredible individuals!

We also found that we saved more in caregiver pays by having live-ins, and we did not have to worry about no-shows as we did when we had live-out caregivers, as all we had to monitor was shift changes between 5 weekday and weekend live-in shift hand-overs, we even had caregivers that worked 24/7 with a couple of days off a month as it fit their needs for housing, and savings.

Keep us posted! All the best!

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