Home Alone part 2

cearbhaillJanuary 8, 2009

Regarding this thread that addresses liability in leaving a loved one "home alone"...

Am I to seriously understand that I cannot go to the grocery store for 30 minutes?

My MIL is 88, very frail, in terrible health, and basically stays in her room glued to CNN except for shuffling to the bathroom with a walker. She is 100% in her right mind, believe me- sharper than I am and never misses a thing.

If I tell her to sit in the chair and not move until I get back, can I still not go shopping without running the risk of being held liable if she does something stupid?

If it was up to her she'd still be living alone and I watch her 24/7 out of concern and kindness to my husband, but if this is indeed the case, I quit. I didn't give up the income of my job to sit here poor all day just to be held legally liable and even prosecuted for an accident caused by her sneaking out of her chair when I am not looking.

There is no one else to watch her and zero money to hire anyone. By the time the husband gets home at night my shopping window is long gone- I am not going grocery shopping at night.

Jeez- what about yard work?

Walking the dogs?

May I take a shower, please?

I am in Kentucky.

And feeling very cranky over this.

At least I know what not to say to the EMT's next time.

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Let's put it this way....Is there someone who would complain if she were hurt due to your not being there? Another relative? Would the neighbors say...."oh yes, she leaves her alone a lot. Sometimes for hours"

It's a tricky thing. You couldn't keep her from falling if you were there, but there are too many creeps in this world that would delight in demanding punishment if it happened while you were out. That's what it's all about. You're gambling that if she did fall and was hurt while you were out, that no one would complain or accuse you of neglect.

Unless your husband works seven days a week, he should be able to be there some during the day on the weekends so you can get groceries and do other things.

As far as walking the dog, taking a shower, etc. you do exactly as you would do with a small child. You don't walk the dog, you shower at night when you husband is at home, and you take her outside in a chair when you go out to garden. It can be done. It's not a happy way to live, but it's possible.

I don't mean to sound harsh, because I know exactly how you feel. I would too. In fact, I would not be willing to take on such a burden. But, since she's there, you will be the one to take the blame if anything happens. It probably won't. Whether or not you want to take the chance is up to you.

But look at it this way, at her age and with her poor health, she can't last for years and years. Is your husband the type that would blame you if something happened? That would be a hard thing to live with.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:13AM
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I feel your pain and I also live in Kentucky. I quit my job and am now home as a full time caregiver for my MIL. We couldn't afford to hire someone to stay with her and living in a rural area, we just don't have the options for daycare. It was a hard decision to leave my job and my income. She has mild dementia and her mobility is awful.
We were almost scared to try to hire someone cause she tries to give everything away and will call every 800 number and give out any personal information she can remember. We were worried about what type of person we would let in our home. We were so scared she would fall, set fire to something or get hurt. We would be blamed, and lived in fear that someone would accuse us of elderly abuse or something. My husband and I had many discussions about our limited options. The bottom line was if she was going to continue to live with us and not in a home somewhere, we were going to have to live with that decision and make concessions.(which amounted to me staying home to care for her) The loss of income is killing us and our savings are gone due to this decision. There simply is no one else in the family that's willing to take this on. It's great that your MIL's mind is still sharp.
I have to plan my trips around her, my husband is great about staying with her and my daughter is wonderful about sitting with her. When I have to go, because of her dementia, I just take her with me, I have no other choice. Believe me, people remember us where ever we go. People at the bank, walmart and other shops are very nice to us, and will go out of their way to be helpful. I have had total strangers approach me to tell me what an "angel" I am for being so kind. Yes, it's a great deal of work to get her out and I feel like either screaming or taking a nap when I get her home--but she loves to get out with people.
I certainly know how you feel, and I miss being able to just cut and run when I need to. But thats not gonna happen at this phase in my life. She honestly can't help the shape she's in, we just try to make the best of the situation. I wish you much luck.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 11:16AM
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Try Faith In Action. Hopefully they have someone that can come in to sit with her while you run errands.


Have you tried to get the medicaid waiver? They help with aides, home makers, etc.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 11:18AM
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Agnespuffin is right. If something happens to her while you're out of the house, there could be someone who would complain -- other relatives, neighbors, who knows? It's not an unrealistic scenario. An acquaintance of mine has had to deal with complaining neighbors who don't think her mother should be left alone. The neighbors got social services involved and eventually the whole situation went to court. There are very real liability issues involved when you move an elderly loved one into your home.

As DD50 suggested, look into government or charitable agencies that can give you some relief. I understand how frustrating this is for you. But you don't want to risk your own future financial well being via lawsuits, etc. Better safe than sorry.

And, yes, if you call EMTs and give out information that the emergency happened while you were out of the house, you could be opening up a whole can of worms for yourself. And even if you kept silent about the situation, if your MIL is a sharp as you say she is, there's no guarantee that she wouldn't inadvertently let it slip that she was, indeed, "home alone."

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 2:20PM
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Well, no- there is no one who would complain. DH is far more over the whole situation than I am and thinks I should get out even more. He is in constant amazement that I do what I do to begin with.
The neighbors would likely never say a word- oddly, each next door neighbor also has a live in elderly parent, and they work full time jobs and leave them all day.

As far as taking her with me outside - she won't go. She refuses to get more than 10 feet from a television. I do have a baby monitor with me when I do yard work, but I am not giving up my dog walking time as that is the only exercise I get and it is all that is keeping me sane.

I do understand what everyone is saying, but it doesn't mean I like it. She is not a child, she is a rational adult who I allow to live in my home because she has no other option and she is my husbands mother. I will be having conversations with a few family members over this in the coming week to see what everyone thinks. Unless I hear full support from everyone I am going to start looking at options for her.

I will not be calling strangers to come into my home. I have dogs and cats whose safety (as regards open doors) I do not trust to anyone.
Anyone. Not an option.
Do I put them first?
You bet. They're pretty much all I have.
If I had to round everyone up and crate them for these little excursions, just no. She can just stay in her chair for 30 freaking minutes.

I wish I'd never read about this.
(I'm not this nasty, really. But I do enough already.)

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 7:06AM
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I can see where you are coming from. It's a bad situation for you.

But, your original post seemed to be saying that you didn't think you should liable, and yeah, you would be. It's not fair. I agree with you 100%.

I would start looking for a place for her even before starting to talk to the family. You don't want to move her out in an emergency. Get her on a waiting list. The next time she needs to go to the hospital, there may not be a bed available in a suitable home.

I even understand about the pets. Sometimes they are the only thing that makes our lives worthwhile.

However, talking about it with people that understand can be a big help sometimes. Come and let it all hang out. Sometimes our advice is the pits, but at least, some of us know what you are going through and can at least try to cheer you up a little.

This is one situation where there is no happy solution.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 10:08AM
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Hi cearbhaill,

I am the original poster in the first thread.

I have a few questions for you. If there were a fire or emergency, would she know how to and then could she get out of the house safely? Does she have a Life Alert or such type button to call in an emergency? These things MAY affect your ability to feel freer to leave for a SHORT time. In some cases that might be enough. If she can get out safely in an emergency and notify someone of her need for help, or could call someone if she fell, it MAY give you a bit of leeway. If she is so frail that she can't, then the courts could see it as abandonment. If I am totally off base, someone correct me. As we all know, the chances are slim that there would be a major emergency, but the liability still hangs over your head.

I know my aunt who had suffered a stoke had help come in everyday, as well as her sons doing things for her. She had a Lifeline button and was home alone. I do believe that it is when they come into home, your care and your responsibility, that things change.

In our case, it has been a blessing to be able to come to a sense of peace about our restricted lifestyle. Mom will be 93 in May and she has been here 6 and a half years plus 3-4 years of going to her house 2-3 times a week before that. While her mind is failing and her legs and balance are weak, she is still pretty healthy. Whatever time God gives us to care for her, we will use. It is not an easy thing to do, but your own inner attitude makes a huge difference. When I am tired and don't always use the best tone of voice with Mom, I try to pretend that she is a "friend". You all know that sometimes it is much easier to be nice to a "friend" than a relative.

You mentioned that you are caring for her because of your concern and kindness to your husband. We really don't know each other well enough for me to say this, but it is said in love....If it is the case that you are doing it for your husband, then try to do it without resentment so that it is a gift to him and that he can see your love for him. It will overflow to your MIL and perhaps she will be more willing to go outside, walk the dog, or with you to the store, if she is able. We got a lightweight transport chair for Mom since she can't walk far. It enables me to take her almost anywhere with us.

As for scheduling errands, it is an absolute necessity to be organized and try to foresee needs so you can run errands on weekends, if that is an option. Do you have friends who could pick things up for you at the store while they are out? Do you have friends who can come for to visit YOU so you have a nice time in your home? At least it would be a mood lifter.

We do care about each other on the forum and hope we will be of help to you. As agnespuffin said, sometime the advice doesn't apply, won't work or you just don't like it. Never doubt that we care about your situation and YOU.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 10:53AM
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Have you looked into adult daycare? Even if it is only 1 or 2 days a week it will give you some "you" time.

I don't really like strangers coming in my house either but I dislike having to bath and change his diapers more. We all have tradeoffs in life. If it is to much for you then you have to change something.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 11:51AM
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Thank you everyone for your suggestions and comments.
I have some things to think about here.

I won't address each specific post (though I do appreciate them) as I just think I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning as I have been in a foul mood all day long. I've been taking it out on people in emails and in forum posts since the early am, and I certainly don't want to do that here, the one place where people understand.

I will revisit it on another day. Gonna go lose myself in some silly fiction.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 2:24PM
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Cearbhaill...We have all had days such as you describe. Hopefully you will have a new perspective tomorrow.
Take care,

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 5:23PM
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Don't sweat it--I certainly don't think ill thoughts about anything you said. When our situation fell in our laps I felt so dog gone trapped. I think I'm doing better with all of this--maybe I've just got use to it. But I still have times where I could just scream "This isn't fair! What about MY LIFE!"
I really love my dog too--sometimes I think she is the only one who understands me.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 5:55PM
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My situation is a little different as it's my husband I care for. Having people come over is not an answer to me. You need to get out and away at times before you scream. Plan a day, not hardly. They may not feel good, meds have been changed and need to see how they do, doctor's office is to call you, OR they get sick and you spend your time cleaning up after them.
Gardening is a way to relax. Taking MIL outside is not relaxing. You can't get involved in the gardening, you have to keep an eye on her.
If family can't help to where you can get out and just play in the dirt or go to the sale at Penney's, check with the church. I didn't know our church had a group that would sit and visit with "shutins" so the spouse could run errands or whatever. Talk to the pastor. It's probably someone you know and won't worry about them being there. Is there an old friend of hers that's doing well that could visit even if you have to pay her?
Just take a deep breath, step back and think of options. Then check them out as to what works best for all of you.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 6:06PM
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Responsibility goes for anyone in your care be it child, parent or husband. If your husband came down ill and wasn't able to get up and out of the house if it caught fire they would come after you for neglect.

Let me say to you, I can't take care of my father because of his problems, He drives the nurses at the home crazy demanding his medicine or complaining he needs to have a BM. It's always something with him.
He can't help it but it doesn't make it any easier. I had to take a break to get some thing's done for myself and on top of the holidays, then christmas day my DH broke a tooth, then both dogs came down sick.

I hope you can sit down with your husband and tell it's more than you can handle and place your MIL in a nursing home. It's ok to feel the way you do, we feel that way with our parents so we know it's 10 times harder when it's an in law.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 4:36AM
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