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Hi. I’m new to the forum and in desperate need of advice and guidance. I have reason to believe that my stepmother has criminally neglected my elderly father and mentally disabled half-brother. My father has been ill for quite some time, in and out of ICU repeatedly over the past year for various severe medical conditions. His wife “works” out of the country in places like Bermuda and Cayman Islands, and more often than not (per her social media posts) she can be found drinking and partying while away—she is away more than she is home. The last time he was in ICU, she refused to board a plane home to be by his side.


While she is on the islands, it is left to my mentally disabled brother to care for my father. While he does what he can, my brother cannot drive and can barely take care of himself let alone a very sick elderly person. He receives no assistance from my other half-brothers, and my sister and I live too far away. He does not have a regular medically-trained caregiver coming to the home to assist in his care.


A few days ago my father collapsed and his heart stopped. My brother had to perform chest compressions until the paramedics arrived which thankfully kept my father alive. As per usual, my stepmother was in Bermuda “working.” My father is now again in the ICU and may have suffered brain damage. He is currently unresponsive and on a ventilator, has stage 4 kidney failure, low blood count, pneumonia, and MRSA from old wounds that have not healed properly. They are not sure if he will pull through and, if he does, he will need round-the-clock care. When I spoke to the ICU nurse, she said that he was “filthy” when he arrived at the hospital, had obviously not taken care of himself, and had not been proactive in keeping up with medical treatment and medications.


My stepmother has not shown any interest in providing or assisting in my father’s care. Prior to the latest hospitalization, she had contacted myself and other family members claiming that she and my brothers couldn’t take anymore and that she wants to put him in a home. She has complained that he has become a “burden” and, according to one family member, has stated that she “wishes he would die.” During his previous stay in ICU, she claimed that she could not leave Bermuda. My mentally disabled brother was left alone with no food and no transportation as my other brothers refused to help him, and I had to have groceries delivered to their home so he could eat. My sister traveled long-distance to check in on our father at the hospital since no one else would (I was unable as I was readying for another long-distance trip to provide assistance to my mother and stepfather for another medical emergency). My stepmother did not arrive home until after my father was released, and she left to go back to Bermuda soon after.


In the time between the previous ICU stay and the current one, my stepmother has been away most of the time. My mentally disabled brother has tried his best to care for our dad, but he is very limited on the care he can provide due to his own disability. I feel that this is a clear case of neglect by my stepmother—of both my father and my brother. Even worse, she called me today and said that I should come say goodbye as she is prepared to sign papers to take my father off life support despite the doctors and nurses saying that they won’t know anything for at least a week. I want very much to report her for neglect, but I am worried that doing so will cause her to remove me from my father’s emergency contacts and limit my access to information on his condition. To make matters worse, she has repeatedly contacted my elderly aunts (who I am responsible for their care) in an attempt to solicit money and telling them that their brother is going to die. This has become very stressful for them and has made it hard for me as I am trying to keep them calm.


To put it mildly, I’m very concerned for all involved. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Update: GOOD NEWS!

Yesterday I was able to speak to my father’s social worker/case manager at the hospital. She was very helpful and apparently they have also been concerned since he was admitted about the lack of care he was receiving at home and the fact that my brother was ever placed in this position in the first place. Overall, I ended the call feeling relieved that I have someone on our side at the hospital. The nurses have also been wonderful and very helpful. I was also assured that my stepmother cannot take me off the list as an emergency contact.

The SW did say that it would be a good idea for me and one of my aunts to fly down in the next week or so to get a firsthand account of things—I agree. Thank you for all the advice you provided. It really helped!
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I know the focus of your post as been on your dad, but what about your brother? Is he the son of your step mother? How old is he? Can he work? What resources are available to him? Does he have a social worker?

If Step-mother is his mother, then she perhaps can be compelled to provide for his care. But it sounds like she would just up and move to the Caribbean and leave him for good.
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kimber845 Nov 1, 2018
He’s also part of the equation. He’s 22 and receives SSD. As far as I’m aware, he doesn’t have a job and can’t drive a car. We’re not 100% certain of the extent of his disabilities because my dad and stepmother have never been clear on that. I’m not even sure if he’s been evaluated except for whatever was required for disability benefits.

My aunts and I have discussed the possibility of me petitioning for guardianship if it’s deemed he can’t take care of himself, but there are a lot of hurdles with that. I’m almost positive she would eventually get tired of taking care of him.

Anyway, I plan to mention all of these concerns if I hear back from my father’s caseworker. Though I’m not sure if I will because the nurse I spoke to today kept noting that my stepmother is the one who makes decisions...not sure if she meant in general or on who gets to speak to the caseworker. I definitely do not want my brother to get in trouble for my dad’s lack of care, and I plan to make that crystal clear. He’s done his best given the circumstances. His mother should have never put that on him in the first place.
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Talk to the social worker but I would also find an elder law attorney to get guardianship and conservatorship for brother. You may need a lawyer to obtain dad's medical records to convince the courts of brother being at risk. Does dad's will include brother or will things go through probate? You should find out now before step mom cleans out everything
I am sorry about your dad.
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kimber845 Nov 1, 2018
Thank you. 💜 As far as I know, my dad doesn’t have a will. At least according to my stepmother, and right now we don’t trust her to be honest with us about anything. I’m in contact with a friend who is a lawyer and he is asking around to see if he can find a good attorney who works with cases like this.

I’m really not all that interested in my dad’s assets except where it pertains to making sure my brother receives proper care (and my dad as well if he makes it through this). They are both on SSD and have been the only ones paying the household bills—my stepmother, according to my dad, refuses to contribute even though she has a steady job and income. I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking into his finances, but I know that he has very little if anything. My aunt started paying their mortgage at some point because they almost lost their house.
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The hospital should have a social worker who could be of help. The neglect should have been noted when your dad was brought in and that will help.
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kimber845 Nov 1, 2018
I actually didn’t think of that. I’m hoping to speak to the same nurse I spoke to yesterday who told me about how dirty he was when he came in. Since I’m on the emergency contact list, maybe I can find out if they did contact SS. Thanks for the suggestion. 💜
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Did the hospital happen to file a report when they saw that your dad was unwashed and had been neglected? You may not have to file a report if his condition was noted in his chart when he arrived at the hospital. I urge you to contact a social worker at the hospital to discuss this. I'm a little surprised a social worker hasn't reached out to you already with your dad in the condition he's in.

I don't know how old your dad is but I'm assuming he's elderly. An elderly person on a vent who has kidney failure and possible brain damage is not likely to resume any semblance of a normal life--if he is even able to come off the vent at all.

At this point concentrate on your dad's daily care in ICU. Try not to concern yourself with what your stepmother may or may not do if your dad comes off the vent. He may not be able to come off of it. Spare yourself the anxiety of your stepmother's behavior at this point and wait and see what happens with your dad. Make contact with a social worker (you can do it by phone). It might take some wrangling to track down a social worker. I'd begin with the nurse. Contact the nurse taking care of your dad at the time you call the hospital. Don't go into a long, drawn out family history, just express to the nurse that you need a social worker and can the nurse assist you in finding one. Once you are put in touch with a social worker express your concerns. Again, don't bring the social worker down the path of a detailed family history. Tell the SW why you are concerned and ask if there's anything that can be done at this point. Let the SW ask questions if clarification is needed.

I think you need an ally and I think a social worker would be a good one to have.
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kimber845 Nov 1, 2018
Thanks for all the advice. I’m not sure if the hospital has reached out to one or not. My hope is that they have, but they never notified me about it. The nurse I spoke to yesterday seemed concerned, but she also seemed to think it was just my dad not caring for himself—which is technically right, but he also doesn’t have sufficient help and hasn’t had the capacity to care for himself in a while from what I’ve learned.

The biggest hurdle is that I live over 1000 miles away. Due to my husband’s job, we can’t move closer at the moment and I also have to consider my aunts who I am responsible for taking care of as they age. It’s also a complicated situation where my stepmother is concerned which has made it even more difficult to get information. I’m actually surprised that she allowed me to be placed on his emergency contact list.

My dad is 70. His health has been failing for quite some time, so I’m under no illusion that he’ll come out of this—at least not without needing to be placed in a nursing home, which I do support because he would at least get adequate care. The other major concern is my brother (his caretaker). I don’t want him to suffer further abuse/neglect and I know that this situation and the huge responsibility he’s been tasked with have taken a toll on his mental health.

I definitely need an advocate that’s local and who can help me navigate this mess. I’ve already reached out to a friend who is an attorney to see if he knows of anyone that handles cases of adult/elderly abuse and neglect. I also have a few friends in the medical field (nurses and a full-time caregiver) who may be able to guide me through some of the more technical aspects. It’s just so hard being so far away and not having the ability to monitor things firsthand. We really didn’t know how bad the situation was until he was admitted this week.
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