How can I protect myself from my mother's threats to call adult protective services on me?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 20, 2016
Sicilianboy1 asked...

I am the caregiver for my mom. Her physical health has been deteriorating over the past 6 months and has been hospitalized four times now. Her mental health is also deteriorating and she has memory loss and is quite combative, frustrated, depressed, and aggressive/offensive with me at times when I encourage her to get out of bed, walk, personal hygiene, eating, etc. She has now threatened me with Adult Protective Services because I am trying to take over her life. What can I do to protect myself from these unfounded and scary threats?

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

I have two answers to your question. Firstly, your mother needs to be seen immediately by her physician (or neurologist/psychiatrist) to evaluate the change in her mental status. It is important to determine whether her changes are reversible (delirium) or irreversible (dementia). Perhaps her memory loss and behavior changes relate to her medical problems and are treatable. Often mental status changes can result from physical conditions like diabetes, uncontrollable high blood pressure or even a urinary tract infection. Once you can resolve this, you can address her aggressive behaviors.

If her delusions that you are abusing her are due to dementia, that is also treatable. You could begin to monitor when these comments are made and try to determine what precipitates the behavior. Are you touching her? Is she confused about what you are trying to do? Is she in pain? Is there someone else who could give her the direct care? If she doesn't perceive your help as just that, you need to accompany her to her doctor to discuss this and receive advice. She may continue to say these statements but at least you will have involved other professionals as witnesses. It is anticipated she will behave the same in front of others as she does with you alone.