What Rights Do We Have to Protect Mom With Dementia From Her Friend That Puts Her in Danger?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
Sawd2531 asked...

My MIL has dementia (68) and is in an assisted living home. My husband has DPOA/POA over her. Three months ago a gentlemen moved in and they have "become a couple". We have had issues with them leaving the home going to bars and drinking he still drives and checked himself in the home. We have more one than once been called to the home because they both are drunk. My MIL also has history of strokes and brain anurism. We would love for her to have a friend as long as they are safe. They are not being safe at all driving while drinking and he uses a wheelchair while in the home. We have seen her doctor and had her dementia state updated and was able to stop her from leaving the home with him and only with family and staff. He has now given the manager of the place a letter stating she would like her son removed as DPOA/POA and that he become, he is moving out as of August 31. What power does my husband have. Our fear is that he will try and remove her from the home and take her with him. We are at the ends of our ropes, as we are also young and trying to raise our own children. She isn't making good choices at all. We love her and only want her to be safe. What should our next steps be. Do we have any rights? Can we stop this? We are from SC.

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.

This is a thorny one"”and I do applaud you open-mindedness in supporting your mother-in-law's choice of companions. But it is also wise to be concerned about her safety, and you need to act quickly if her new friend is really moving out soon.

The best and possible next steps to take depend on your mother-in-law's actual legal mental capacity. If the POAs have already gone into effect, which usually requires a diagnosis of mental incompetence from a doctor or two, then she would no longer be considered able to change that document to name a new agent, and your husband would remain. As an added protection, it may become necessary to have your husband or some other responsible person named as your mother-in-law's conservator, which would give that person some stronger legal rights to indicate how and where she should live.

If she is still mentally competent, then the truth is she is free to move if she wants.

Since you want her to be as safe as possible at the facility, it might be wise to involve someone there in the situation. A good choice to begin might be the facility's ombudsman, an independent third party assigned by state law to deal with handling concerns of residents and their families. You should be able to find contact information for the ombudsman posted on the walls of the facility"”or through the national website at www.ltcombudsman.org.

You might also call the local Area on Aging, which you can find through Caring's website at www.caring.com/local/area-agency-on-aging, and explain that you'd like a confidential consultation about the situation with a local resource. Depending on what's available in the area, that may range from a geriatric social worker to an elder care lawyer.

Your best solution is likely to come from a creative resource willing to act in your mother-in-law's best interests, which trickily include both her safety and her right to associate with those she wants to see"”and you may have to work with a few different people to achieve that.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

The children still have a legal right to ask for Guardianship for their mother in Probate Court, whereas her life decisions could put her in danger. The court would have her evaluated, and maybe even assign a Guardian Ad Litum, and eventual Guardianship to children. If she is not making decisions that keep her out of danger, the court would and should intervene. Furthermore under the State laws it is still too, Senior Abuse and could be reported to Health and Human Services. Abuse is abuse.