Looking after Mum from a distance...
October 24, 2006 6:21 PM   Subscribe

My aunt called me to say that my Mum is sending off money from the UK to scam artists in Canada. Plus she's left pans on the stove (alight) several times recently, and gone out. Plus she locks herself out incessantly...

I live in the US and for medical reasons cannot travel to the UK at the moment.

Mum lives in an apartment, a block of about 12 others, I guess.

We think she should move into some form of sheltered accomodation. She's about 60 and is compos mentis, but terribly scatter-brained and consequently forgetful. She's also quite naive about other people's intentions.

We've tried broaching the topic of sheltered accomodation, but she insists that she's fine. But she's failing to manage her finances, and risks burning the apartment block down.

I can't travel to see her at present for a few weeks at least, for medical reasons, and anyway I don't know what options there are and who to contact.

What professionals, services, etc. in the UK can I contact, and what types of options are there to get her into sheltered accomodation, given her wishes are not aligned with everyone else's perception of her needs.

Not sure if this is law & government or human relations. Probably both.

Again, for those who speed-read, my Mum is in the UK, and I am in the US, so UK-specific advice is what I really need, please, O MeFites.
posted by blue_wardrobe to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some of the things you mentioned suggest senile dementia. Is there any way you can convince her to see a doctor (prefereably with someone you know and trust so they can tell the doc your fears)? If the doc suggests she move into some sort of sheltered accomodation she might take it more seriously.

Good luck with this, I feel for you.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:23 PM on October 24, 2006

People do have a right to get old and forgetful in their own homes. If she's creating fire danger, she might ought to make arrangements to leave a key with a couple neighbors, and to put up a loud smoke alarm in her kitchen. For her own sake, she might want to have a few other sets of keys made, and wear one set as a necklace, so she can't leave the house without a key to get back inside.

Small accomodations for small problems. Moving someone to sheltered accomodation is a big step, that definitely represents a loss of independence. If medically necessary, you may have to, but at 60, she potentially has many, many years left, and if it were you, you wouldn't want a minder for the next 20 years, either.
posted by paulsc at 6:31 PM on October 24, 2006

Maybe you should relax a bit. Your aunt, after all, is not likely to be reporting from an objective stance. Talk to someone else who knows your Mum if you can.

I see my mother and my sister once a year at best. Between my visits each one does her best to convince me that the other is teetering on the brink when, all the while, they’re both better off than I am.
posted by Huplescat at 7:16 PM on October 24, 2006

One other fact: in relation to the possibility of senile dementia -- she had a car crash with head injuries about 20 years ago that caused some of this forgetfulness and general lack of concentration power. Thus, there is a general deficit which is not always apparent to outsiders, but dreadfully apparent to us in the family.

The trouble with the small accomodations for small problems is that the neighbors are all fed up looking after spare keys, etc.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 7:19 PM on October 24, 2006

Had similar problems w/ my Mum whose in Ireland (I'm also in the US). We were able to get a visiting nurse to see her weekly and make sure she was taking her medication. This was part of Eire's local health services and as she's over 65 it was government services that we didn't have to pay for (thanks be to God otherwise I'd be bankrupt).

The UK may have something similar, maybe looking here will help:
NHS Services in your area

But, if she has a GP, I'd suggest contacting the GP first. Else, if you can get a hold of the local social worker for the elderly or for mental issues and ask them for their help and opinions and have her evaluated. She may not be as bad as your Aunt thinks she is.

If you can't find any contacts, try phoning the local hospital and ask them whom you can phone, they should be able to point U in the right direction.

If all else fails message me. I've a friend whose husband is a social worker in London who may know where to start.

posted by zaphod at 8:28 PM on October 24, 2006

"One other fact: ..."

That, of course, changes matters. If you feel, independently of your aunt, through talking with her by phone, or reading letters she sends, that there is a recent significant change in capacity, you may be justified in pursuing a full evaluation. But even in the UK, unless you can make the case that she is a danger to herself or others, I don't think you can compel her to make a change in her living arrangements, if she doesn't want to do so. Maybe it's enough for now to see if you can get her to see a doctor, and explore changes to any medications she may be taking, or other medical interventions that may improve her mental function. How practical this is as a course of action will depend upon much that I as a stranger can't know. But I have recently taken care of aged parents, and now take care of my adult mentally ill brother, so I have some appreciation of the issues you face.

There's a further barrier to medication and treatment of people with mental deficits living alone, in that if they are easily confused, the first thing that happens is that they don't take meds, or take them on the wrong schedule, and that leads to greater mental deficits, or poor control of other conditions. If you suspect that she is already in such a confused condition that this would regularly occur, then that could fall under the definition of conditions where she does represent a danger to herself. But at that point, you would generally be talking about someone being appointed as her guardian, and being responsible for arranging her care, and if she is not clearly scatterbrained on the day of her competency hearing, she might easily prevail. People are allowed to spend their money in daft ways, and to live badly, if that's what they want, and they are otherwise competent.

But your problem is, you can't be there to check any of this. Unless someone you trust, such as your aunt, is willing to step up, you're in a pickle, as far as I can see, because you aren't able to participate directly. This is a problem, and frankly, you'll be much less persuasive on the end of a telephone line, than you would be in person. I know this, because I went through some of the same things with my father, a couple of years before he died. I argued with him about a number of things over the phone, for weeks, and got nowhere. But when I moved to be with him and my mother, and became actively involved in their care, they went along with what I suggested, because they had faith I understood their problems and wishes. That's human, and nearly universal, across all cultures, and I suppose you well understand that, and would do that if or when you were able.

But until you are able, you can only suggest by telephone what should be done, and hope she will do it, until such time as you are prepared to involve authorities, and accept the turmoil that may result from forcing her to be declared unfit to manage her own life. If that time is now, you must support your aunt, as the closest relative on the spot, or failing that, hire an attorney to act in your stead, in forcing the issue before the courts where she lives, if the kind of visiting nurse services mentioned by zaphod aren't readily arranged. If you are willing and able to serve as her guardian, you would be empowered to deal directly with the service bureaucracy on her behalf, but without such legal authority, you may not even have a right to full medical information about her, if she doesn't want you to have it.

Best you work to persuade her to help you put in place powers of attorney, and medical care directives, if she will, voluntarily. It's so much easier and less expensive to do this. But if you must fight her to help her, then that is going a longer, harder mile by far.
posted by paulsc at 10:39 PM on October 24, 2006

My Nana's getting on a bit and although mentally seems all there, she's not able to jump about as she used to. She's considering a retirement village; they're recently new to the UK but apparently fairly common in the states. a couple of ones in the UK are Richmond Villages and Denham Garden Village. They offer a range of care, from flats where they just sort out your gardening and bills for you through to what most people think about when we talk about care homes, close-care assistance.

There is an article on Slate about the American versions of these places; they seem quite pleasant environments to me. Having said all this, they cost a lot- your Mum might need to own her flat and sell it to buy this one, I would assume.
posted by flameproof at 4:47 AM on October 25, 2006

I would suggest as a first port of call you telephone your mother's GP and discuss your concerns - they should be able to point you in the right direction for accessing Social Services help. Failing which charities such as Age Concern will be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by prentiz at 6:05 AM on October 25, 2006

« Older I (heart) Huitzilopochtli!   |   why won't my recorded TV shows show up on my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.