My father is an alcoholic. He is depressed and possibly suicidal. I have power of attorney. Can I hospitalize him against his will? - AgingCare.com

My father is an alcoholic. He is depressed and possibly suicidal. I have power of attorney. Can I hospitalize him against his will?

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He has been an alcoholic for many years. He's 71. His 2nd wife divorced him last year for refusing to stop drinking. He now lives near me and I am his only family near. He lives alone needs me to do his laundry, grocery shop, clean house, care for yard, etc. When he walks (he lost his license) to store, all he buys is alcohol, no food, and his rarely eats. Poor diet, no exercise, just sits and watched tv and drinks. Can I put him in a care facility or hospitalize him against his will for his own good?

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Your situation sounds a lot like mine. My parents became "later-in-life" alcoholics for a variety of reasons (it was not that way when I was a kid). Anyway, it devolved into a nasty co-dependent situation with each of them being hospitalized, etc. over the last 5 years. I have found that the various doctors may (or may not) try at first to help, but then give up when the patient continues the self-destructive behavior. My dad was seeing a neurologist that was significantly helping him, but then relapsed into drinking and the neurologist sent him a letter saying he would no longer treat him.

Emergency room doctors' eyes glaze over. They've seen it before. We've received referrals to various help centers but parents always refused to go.  The alcoholic is patched up at the emergency room for a couple of days of drying out and then sent on their way.

Well, dad now has dementia and has been in a memory care facility for a year.

Mom lives alone down the street from me and continues to drink.  I am her only family member or friend at this point.  About 2 months ago, I took mom to the family doctor for a check up. She mentioned that she had contemplated suicide (this is something she has mentioned for nearly a decade and I no longer take it seriously). This triggered the doctor to refer her to a voluntary inpatient program at a "senior mental health" ward. She was there for 10 days and it's my understanding that most of the patients were there for alcohol problems.

She came out fresh and renewed and began seeing a psychiatrist, attending AA meetings and also going to a physical therapist. The years of sitting and drinking, not eating "real" food have made her weak and wobbily.

She had a good run for a month but has recently "fired" her psychiatrist (after one visit she says it's of no good). She has stopped AA meetings (they are all "losers" who drink a lot more than her). Now again she is drinking and sitting all day. Too weak and wobbily to go to physical therapy. Talking of suicide again and says she plans to drink herself to death. That's going to take a long time.

She is fully aware that she is risking the liklihood of becoming wheelchair bound or wrecking her car, or whatever. She says there is nothing left to live for.

What I've learned over the last decade with this situation is yes, it's purposefully self destructive at this point and I've detached (to the best of my ability). It's not likely your dad will be forced to go anywhere unless he threatens or attempts suicide, does something illegal, or becomes fully incompetent.

My mom is aware she may become a bag lady on the street someday, and truly doesn't care.
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Reply to Upstream
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Thank you for your reply. I thought as much, but wanted to hear from others to be sure. I appreciate you taking time to reply.
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Reply to Tawnam
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Unless he is a danger to others or himself, you can't have him hospitalized against his will, even if it's for his own good, as you stated. A psych hold is not indefinite, either - if he were hospitalized because he became suicidal or had some sort of psychotic break and threatened to harm those around him, he could be held for a period of time for evaluation, but again, that's not indefinite.

Unfortunately, the law doesn't exist that protects us against our own demons. Your dad is an alcoholic, and unless he accepts help (like an inpatient treatment program) to recover from his alcoholism, he will never get better. This sounds harsh, but it's also possible that he is unconsciously trying to do himself in. If asked, he would probably say he's not, but his actions say otherwise. Deep in his mind, he may be thinking, "I'm 71. I'm alone. I don't care anymore." Does he take any sort of joy in anything at all anymore, or is he just as you said, sitting in front of the tv and drinking all day?

I wish we had a better solution for you. If he is not incapacitated and is capable of walking to the store to buy alcohol, there's no way a care facility will accept him, because he doesn't require care - and they definitely won't take him against his will. An assisted living facility might accept him if he needs that sort of living arrangement, but his alcoholism will be a serious problem. If he's completely mentally competent and has no other issues other than age and alcoholism, your hands are kind of tied - unless he is willing to accept treatment.
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Reply to AnonymousMember
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It is my understanding that it is very difficult to have someone hospitalized for lack of capacity, unless two doctors sign off stating that he lacks capacity to care for himself.

You can however put him in a care facility, if he agrees to go and he is approved for entry financially.

If he passes out drunk, you can call 911 to bring him to emergency and they can evaluate him.
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