Can the state force an elderly alcoholic into a facility?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My grandfather is 86 years old and was living on his own since after my uncle passed away this past January. My family (myself, husband and 2 teenage daughters)then moved in with him to help take care of him since he is an alcoholic and cannot drive. He also falls daily and urinates wherever he is at and leaves it. My grandfather degrades women and says they are only good for one thing (inappropriate so I don't want to say it. He believes they belong cooking and cleaning and not heard because they are too stupid. Needless to say, dealing with him is very difficult. His home was becoming run down so my husband did over $20,000 in construction to his home, per his request, for free. I cook, clean, do yard work, wash his clothes,and give him his medications as well as anything else he needs. He gets drunk daily which makes him even more appreciating and demanding. We never hear "thank you", all we hear is a bark on what he wants done next. No one will touch any dishes he has touched because of his poor hygiene and disgusting habits. He will eat and drink out of containers so that no one else will eat or drink it even if he knows he didn't pay for it.The list goes on and on!! He believes he is still able to take care of himself and he doesn't need help from anyone yet. My question is - If we were to move out and no one else was around to help him get groceries or bring him to the doctor, would the state step in and force him into a facility? If no family or friends are willing to help take care of him, what will or can happen to him? The reason I ask this is because we have tried talking to him and asking him to be a little nicer and to respect others that are trying to help him. But he just says he has his own money and house so he can do as he pleases. No other family member has been to visit in over 3 months and they all live locally. I am at my wits end!! He even talks to my kids poorly. I have been told that if he is not properly cared for and he is not able to care for himself that the state can make him move to a facility. Is this true? If so, where can I find out more information? I have looked into adult protective services but they only talk about neglect and abuse which is not the case for him. Please help with information.

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.

Your grandfather has an ideal situation. Lucky man! As long as he gets to have his way about everything, he has no reason to adjust his behavior. Since he has been drinking for years, he probably cannot withdraw from the alcohol without physical symptoms that can be better managed in a hospital setting. You did not ask about that, so I will not say more except that you should not look for him to stop drinking at this point.

For your sanity and the safety of your family, moving out of his house is best. As he says, it is his house and his money. Once you are in your own home, he will no longer be a benefactor and he will know that you are not dependent on him for anything. This will change the relationship.

In Texas, Adult Protective Services (APS) will generally step in to prevent actual harm. If a case worker is called in, he will assess your grandfather's situation for danger. If the case worker believes that he can no longer live there safely, or that he is not able to make competent decisions, then he can be relocated to a safer environment. If the worker find that he is competent or can manage his needs independently, your grandfather may remain where he is.

In reality, your grandfather will be much better off living in a facility. He will have meals, clean clothes, shopping, housecleaning, and other basic services. These will be provided by someone he cannot bully as he does you. He will have an environment that is not filthy and live around people who perhaps have a healthier attitude. It may be the best thing that can happen for him.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Been sober for 28 years, but I'm only 58 years old. However, I have MS, PTSD, diabetes, and in chronic pain. I am a very grateful alcoholic, and wouldn't trade my sobriety for anything. My kids have all grown up with a sober, single mom in a wheelchair. We lived in Sisters, OR, where I had a Safe House for Abused kids from alcoholic parents. They painted my wheelchair ramp the yellow brick road. And although my sobriety has been far from easy, it has had more moments of true clarity, true love, truth in general, and freedom to feel my own feelings no matter if they hurt or are joyful. With all that said, an 86 year old alcoholic may be in the 4th stages, and as they say, constitutionally incapable of being honest with himself. If he admits he wants help, I think you should go for it. Otherwise, I would let him live out his life exactly the way he wants to.