Can my sister put my mother away in a nursing home without asking the rest of the children?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Can my sister put my mother away in a nursing home and keep her hidden from the rest of the children?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a 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 almost doesn't matter what is legal in your situation.

It is unclear how or why your sister took the action she did -- apparently, without discussing it with other members of the family, first. She might have been legally authorized to do so by being appointed to act as your mother's guardian or conservator, for example.

Your biggest problem may be dealing with what sounds to be a huge underlying family feud. Any way you all can sit down and talk about what's really going on -- perhaps with the help of a family mediator? Most communities offer free or low-cost family mediation services -- and they may be worth a try so that you all can figure out how to go forward in some at least semi-peaceful way for the rest of your mother's life.

If mediation doesn't seem practical or possible, consider talking with the ombudsperson or family representative at the nursing home where your mother is currently living. Most such individuals are well versed in handling caregiving problems that are laced with family dynamics.

Any way you proceed to handle the problem, you will need to focus in on what you want to solve and how you can help make matters best for your mother. Do you fear that your mother is receiving substandard care? Do you fret that your sister has taken over too many of your mother's decisions? Do you just want a schedule you can follow to visit or communicate with your mother when your meddlesome sister won't be around? The answers will help shape your solution.