Can I force Dad to go into a nursing home?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Can I make my father go into a nursing home if he doesn't want to go and he is mentally okay and I have no power of attorney.

Expert Answer

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

The question about whether you can force your parent to move to a nursing home if he doesn't want to go can get complicated. If you have no power of attorney, and he is not mentally incapacitated, you can't force him. If he is a danger to himself or others, there may be some exceptions. Sometimes the county's adult protective services, part of the social services in the county where you live can get involved if the danger is reported. However, if he is mentally clear, he doesn't have to let the social worker or investigator in the door. The best route to take may be to consult with his physician. Again, your parent can refuse medical care. If there is trust with any physician who has treated your parent, I would try making contact with the doctor, either in person or in writing, and spell out all your concerns. The physician may be able to persuade your parent to make the move. However, the law does not allow us to force anyone into a nursing home unless the person is a danger to himself, as determined by a physician, or a danger to others. If the doctor says he is a danger to himself, the doctor can sign the necessary paperwork to support the case for a guardianship. Guardianship is an expensive last resort and should only be considered if no other option exists. A guardian may have complete control over the elder and can decide where he will live, and can force him to live wherever the guardian decides is best.