My mother-in-law has been having delusions for years and no one will help, what can I do?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 26, 2016
Jane f asked...

I have an 85 yr old MIL that has been having delusions for many years. At one time she was having olfactory hallucinations as well. We got a letter in the mail today from her, and she is ranting about the neighbor picking her deadbolt locks and also climbing in her laundry room window and steal everything from vegetables to towels! Over 4 years ago my husband and I were "shunned" by his brothers because we felt she needed serious help. His brother that is durable power of atty denies she needs help. She has hit parked cars (over 5 yrs ago), and went on going in a parking lot. Totally unaware until police told her. SHE STILL DRIVES! I sent a dangerous driver form to DMV, called her doctor, the police, and DPOA...all to no avail. This letter today states the neighbor took a loan out in her name 5 years ago (house next door is a rental and a different tenant than 5 yrs ago), missed payments and the bank contacted her! She apparently took out a loan AGAIN for home shopping and medical scams to pay the debts, then forgot! She also goes on to say the neighbor stole her checkbook, wrote checks, then brought the checkbook back! But she was smart enough to stop payment on the checks...oh dear. I spoke to the police department today without giving names and asked about issues such as what we are dealing with. This is a town of over 100,000 people, AND THE OFFICER TOLD ME HER NAME!!!! So they are aware of her. I called Division of Aging today and reported AGAIN, for the second time in about 5 yrs. They did nothing the first time even though she was "smelling" carbon monoxide in her home, our homes, cars etc. She was so paranoid she got a new furnace, and chimney flue (only to have flue done 2 more times in as many months...another rip off). I called that company and told them to not touch it again. She refused to run the heat and used her oven off and on for heat! This was February, winter time in Missouri! Division of aging did nothing. What else can we do to help her when my brother in law is durable power of atty and refuses to act at all. She also falls, is diabetic, and even required arm surgery for a severe fall in the last several yrs. Had a quad bypass in last 5 yrs. Claims she isn't diabetic, doctor is in a conspiracy! HELP!!!!

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear In Need of Help:

I'm sorry to read of the many challenges facing your mother-in-law and how upset you are by all her problems.

It sounds as if we're dealing with a women who has Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. Because you do not have Power of Attorney, you cannot force your MIL to go to a doctor, a facility, give up driving or do much else, as she is still legally regarded as a competent adult.

You can, however, try to get her to allow you to see a "friend" of yours who can help her figure out who's been coming into her home and stealing. If she'll agree to do that, take her to a qualified neurologist who can provide an accurate diagnosis of her cognitive illness. Be sure you document in writing everything you can about her behavior and the actions taken to help her, and provide that information to the doctor. It's a "white lie" scenario, but for a good reason, and therefore very appropriate.

Assuming the doctor returns a diagnosis of dementia or other cognitive impairment, you can ask him/her to give you a prescription or call the State for a Driver's License evaluation test, which many states have available specifically to help rule out drivers with recent experiences such as those of your mother. Have her tested for driving skills, and if she is at all as you describe when behind the wheel, the State will pull her driver's license.

Once you have a solid diagnosis, the brother with the POA may be more receptive to abandon his denial and step in to begin providing his mother with the medical and home help she needs. What may be even more appropriate at this point in her life is relocation to a facility specifically for dementia residents.

At the very least, suggest that the POA have mom assessed by a neurologist to confirm or rule out any problems, just to be on the safe side. You may have to be a bit coy to get him to agree, but if you go about it from the perspective that ""¦he's probably right, but why not be certain that you're wrong and have her checked?" you have a chance at getting the outcome you desire.

Legally, other than having your mother taken into protective custody by the police under a request for a Baker Act if she is a danger to herself or others - which could also result in a confirmed diagnosis of dementia - you don't have a lot of solid ground to stand upon without her consent.

The best possible outcome is to convince the POA that it's time to protect mom from herself and give her the best possible medical care needed based upon a complete evaluation and a plan of treatment and care that will assure her of a good quality of life in her remaining years.

It seems to me to be a clear cut situation that needs attention because the patient is no longer capable of rational thinking. But apparently some family members can't face the reality that mom may no longer be able to live on her own, drive or make clear, rational decisions for herself.

Your first step is to be sure your MIL is protected and safe. Your second step is to try to get her to a neurologist for a complete assessment and work-up either with or without the consent and support of the POA family member. Good luck. For the sake of your MIL, I hope you succeed.

Community Answers

David c answered...

My mother is very similar. My brother and I had to gain full plenary guardianship. The court sent three professionals out to the house and they evaluated Mom, and now we have full control of her life and finances.

We placed her in an ALF and she is doing much better. It is a painful thing to do, but really the whole family is doing much better. Sometimes the children need to step in and become the parents.

You will need to pay for two attorneys but it is worth it. Find one that specializes in guardianship law and is familiar with the issues and how to handle them.

I pray you will find the strength to do it. It is a difficult and painful thing to do.