Are there any laws that would prevent someone who needs 24 hour care to live independently?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 16, 2016
Jedinyt1 asked...

Hello, My mom is 62 and and lives in a skilled nursing facility because of severe COPD and lung damage. She is on continuous oxygen and can't even take a shower by herself. She has expressed she wants to live on her own and has pushed so hard it is straining our relationship. I am afraid she will fall(she has fallen numerous times @ night while going to the restroom) and/or hurt herself. Is there any law in California that prevents a person who needs 24 hour care, from living on their own? She can't even cook herself a meal and I wouldn't want her to forget her oxygen hose is on her face while trying to turn the stove on. Please advise. Thank you!

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

I'm not in CA but I do not think there is any law that expressly prevents a competent, healthy person from living independently. However, Adult Protective Services would probably step in fairly quickly to move your mother to a safe environment.

The key here is your expression, "she wants to live on her own". Many people prefer to live independently. Some people want to hang glide. What we WANT to do is often not what we actually are capable of doing. Can you see allowing your mother to hang glide because she wants to?

My point is that there is a difference between what we want and what we need. Your mother needs to be in a place where she has assistance with the tasks of living, whether she wants to be there or not.

I think the issue that is troubling you is not the legal situation but rather the conflict between you and your mother on this. Try to handle it as if your mother was repeatedly asking to go hang gliding. If she was doing that, you would not enter into a discussion with her about the safety and logistics of hang gliding. After the first time or tow that she brought it up, you'd close it down by either leaving the room or changing the subject, right? Do the same thing here.

It is very possible to refuse a request and still reassure and empathize. I think that you wish your mother could live independently. This is something you and your mother can agree on: you both wish that her health would allow her to live in a less restrictive environment. You both grieve for what has been lost. Try to let her know that you are not her adversary, you are not the one preventing from living on her own. You are her advocate, one who cares about her, and wants her to have the best quality of life that her health will allow.

Next time she says she wants to live on her own, tell her that you agree; you would like for her to live on her own, too. Then ask what SHE can do to make the current place a happier one for her, and you will help her achieve that goal.