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What's my liability if my parent gets hurt or dies in their home that I live in?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 20, 2014
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Caring.com User - Barbara Kate Repa
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Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in...
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The scenario you paint raises a number of interesting issues and questions.

While there is no such thing as a foolproof system for ferreting out erroneous complaints, there are a See also:
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number of protections for caregivers who are acting in good faith to provide the care that an elderly parent needs.

There are, however, strict laws against elder abuse in every state--passed for the loftiest reason: the need to keep vulnerable older people safe and protected. Those laws"”which may be invoked by any person"”protect against a wide range of wrongful behavior, including neglect and abandonment.

To safeguard against such charges, or from into caretaking that may not be the best fit for a parent's needs, it may be necessary to plan ahead. While it's true that it is often difficult to secure stopgap homecare aides on short notice, there should be alternatives for those who need to be away frequently for hours at a time from a parent who cannot be left unattended.

It's best to secure a number of possibilities to fill in the gaps"”and while emergency response systems can be a help in monitoring, they are usually no substitute for human ears and eyes. Trustworthy friends and neighbors may be willing to give a few hours respite to caregivers when needed, as well as volunteers from community or church groups. And there are also a growing number of homecare services that now provide this form of temporary care on-call when needed. Most communities also provide adult daycare and adult day healthcare services; consult the listings under "adult care ”or contact the local area office on aging at www.n4a.org/about-n4a/?fa=aaa-title-VI for local resources.

The local Adult Protective Services office can also be of great help. Caregivers in need of respite or stopgap custodial care can consult the office for local sources of help. And those who feel they may be wrongfully accused of neglecting or mistreating an elderly parent should also be able to get confidential advice and counsel.

And those who feel they are wrongfully accused of elderly abuse or neglect should also consider hiring an experienced elder law attorney for help"”both for damage control and to help gather and prepare the evidence they may need to refute the charges.

Finally, while there are examples all around of publications that regularly ignore the rules of ethics, it would be unethical indeed for any newspaper to publish stories of unsubstantiated charges. In the rare case where this did occur, it would again be advisable to secure the services of an experienced attorney for help.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Attorney Repa--

Thank you for your response. And I appreciate your suggestions.

An adult child, however, may have no intention of DEcreasing hours of commitment, to the care of an elder parent, once he, or she, as an adult child, discovers the actual parameters of legal liability.

It seems to me that regardless of how conscientious, or irresponsible, a caregiver is, or can be, that any caregiver ought to discover what his or her rights are. That's why I asked the question.

But I still do not know what that liability is:

If an elder parent is competent to call for help, in case of trouble, does that absolve, or does it not absolve, the adult child of criminal responsibility--if the elder parent falls ill, to the point where he, or she, becomes disabled or dies?

Perhaps this is a gray area of the law that has not been effectively tested.

I would be most appreciative to discover the answer.

Thanks much.

 

SanzSP answered...

Well, I have my mom for a number of weeks now. Usually she is with my sister. I have secured an aide for her from 11a till 7p. I leave for work at 10a and the aide comes at 11a. Mom sleeps till then. If she were to get up, that would be a problem, but she ALMOST never does that. She is somewhat infirm, has Alzheimer's, is 86, etc. I also take the phone off the hook to prevent phone solicitors from waking her. Then the aide arrives. So far, so good.

Here's the thing: NO ONE can deliver better care than my sister and I. NO ONE. I go to yoga on Saturday mornings, and I return, get her up, put the phone back on the hook, etc. Do I worry some? YES. System is not foolproof. The aide is okay, but like so many of these people, she is dense.

But let me tell you something. I had my dad in a nursing home, with 24 hour care, and they killed him. Albeit he was dying, but they pushed him over the edge with their indifferent care. Many of the aides are angry, indifferent, and often racist; that is, they hate white men. Nothing stressed me out more than having him there. Also, he fell a lot, and they took no responsibility for that. They just called me to advise me--sometimes up to five times a day!!!!! And if I complained, they said that they cannot restrain him. Essentially, theirs is a good game. CYA is what many of these nursing homes do, day and night.

If someone were to bring charges against me for an hour or so that my mother is left in bed unsupervised, I think that we should ALL bring charges against the mediocre care and downright dangerous and crimimal care our elderly get in nursing homes and in urban hospitals throughout this country.

 

 
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