Can I take legal action to move Mom?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 02, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

After my step-father died my mother, who has Alzheimer's, is in a nursing home. I live over 500 miles away, try to go see her as often as I can. Two times on separate visits I have found her legs torn and infected as well as swollen. As soon as I mentioned it, to the nurse at the home, she would start doctoring it. This last time, I found her with swollen legs, feet, rash on her behind, stinky, and starving. I took pictures and begged for help. My step-brother was automatically put down on the files as being in charge of her financial responsibility....so they will not talk to me. As far as I know, there is no power of attorney, So don't I have rights too?

I requested to have her transported to a home close to me, so I can check on her daily, My brother and sister said they don't feel that it's in my mom's best interest. Obviously, where she is is not in her best interest either.

The advisers at the home had agreed that she should be with family in her last days, but said that their hands are tied. I feel that my brother who is the only one that lives near her, has a lot of pride and is why he want let go. Just what is my rights as her child? I am afraid for her to be there much longer.


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It sounds as if you and your siblings have some honest negotiating to do about where your mom should ultimately stay and live. As difficult as it may be, try to continue to talk about it, with all of you in the same room or on the same phoneline while honoring the controlling thing: your mom's best interests.

There may be some compromises to make, but you owe it to her"”and secondarily, to yourselves"”to take another good hard look at how and where she will get the most fitting, affordable care. That may also involve some soul-searching on all your parts, as the solution doesn't seem clear.

What is crystal clear, however, is that while your mother is in the current facility, she is legally entitles to quality care. In some instances, this requires outsiders"”you, your siblings, perhaps all of you"”to be watchful, lobby on her behalf, and contact a series of authorities and regulatory agencies for help.

Contact the facility administrator. Before turning to outside sources for help, try to resolve your complaints within the nursing facility. It should have written policies readily available that explain how to file a complaint or grievance. Put complaints in writing to the facility administrator and ask for a written response -- giving him or her a fair chance to address your concerns.

Contact an ombudsman. Every nursing facility has an ombudsman -- a person outside the facility, not associated with the ownership -- who is available to investigate problems and endeavors to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, residents in residential care facilities. Contact the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center at www.ltcombudsman.org to find the appropriate local contact.

Contact an advocacy organization. If these steps don't help assure you that your mother is receiving quality care, a number of local organizations can offer you a seasoned and impartial assessment of whether your particular complaint needs action, along with specific help on how to get it. You should be able to find the best sources of local advocates through the nearest Agency on Aging at www.n4a.org or NNCNHR at www.nccnhr.org.

Contact the state regulatory agency. Finally, if you cannot resolve your problem through the above sources, consider filing a complaint with the state agency that enforces nursing home laws and regulations. Find it by doing a search of the name of the state in which the nursing home is located and "nursing home" and "licensing."