Need help with critical family situation
February 13, 2008 6:59 PM   Subscribe

A family very close to me is having an incredible crisis. Because of my relationship with them, I have to participate and help if possible. It starts with a 40 marriage gone horribly awry.

The Dad has been calling the police on the Mom because her "lover" has been shooting at him and trying to kill him. The problem with that is, the "lover" doesn't exist. The Mom was arrested when the Dad appeared to have been scratched. She is now essentially homeless and has no access to any funds. She's been totally cut off.

I've known these folks for many years, and it seems that maybe the Dad is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's. He's a PhD and will have nothing to do with that notion. And I think Alzheimer's because there is confusion, distrust, delusion, fear, panic and deep depression.

I know that there is no way to intervene unless he hurts himself or someone else (physically).

So, does the Mom have any legal course of action to take?

Has anyone had any similar experiences?

This is pretty dire and there has been talk of suicide from both of them.

Sorry if this is convoluted, but I'm stressed and may not be thinking clearly. I would appreciate ANY advice.
posted by snsranch to Human Relations (14 answers total)
OK, a few questions:

- Where is the Mom staying now, and how long has she been out of her own home?

- You say "Mom" and "Dad" - where are the kids?

I think it's likely that the Mom can at least get some assets, but what does she want, ideally (besides her husband sane and loving again)?

Do you think it's likely that the Dad could be declared incompetent?

Are they both retired, or both working? How old are they?

Did you mean "a 40-year marriage"?
posted by amtho at 7:14 PM on February 13, 2008

40 year marriage. The kids are in town and trying to be supportive to both. She's staying with a son. He's still working and she has been a stay at home mom forever. I don't really think that he can be declared incompetent exactly. He has a very high profile job that he is really good at, but his personal life is a shambles.
posted by snsranch at 7:20 PM on February 13, 2008

Lawyer. Mom needs one. Immediately. The lawyer will be able to tell her what her rights are regarding the marital home and assets, what if any ability she may have to force Dad to seek treatment against his will, and how best to prevent situations involving the police from recurring. Do not take legal advice from strangers on the internet.
posted by decathecting at 7:23 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

It might be a good idea to document -- as in, at least write down what's remembered -- as much as possible (plus it will give Mom something to do, if it's not too painful). If he's seriously imagining things that are not happening, then there's a chance -- probably a small chance -- that he could be a danger to himself and/or others. Of course, he probably isn't, but just saying.

A lawyer may want this kind of information too, and could probably give instructions about what to include, etc., but starting now when events are relatively fresh will probably be helpful.
posted by amtho at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2008

Yes. She needs to see a lawyer tomorrow (on Valentines Day, ugh -- sorry about that).
posted by winston at 7:29 PM on February 13, 2008

Hey, thanks folks. She's pretty good about documenting stuff, but he's even taken the hard drive out of her computer. She does have other docs, but that's another example of how this is really disturbing.

I think the kids and I will be able to put enough cash together for a retainer.

Thanks again.
posted by snsranch at 7:38 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of Alzheimers' nastier tricks--and it's like many mental illnesses that way--is that the sufferer often doesn't know they have it and can't be convinced of it. This can be interspersed with terrible moments of insight, where they do realize there is something profoundly wrong with them. If they're up to it they'll try to take steps to moderate their condition, but it'll fade and they'll repudiate the whole idea later.

Can one of the kids offer Mom a place to stay? You seem to be on speaking terms with Dad - can you pack up a bag for her? Get a list of Mom's medications and where they are in the house. Alternatively, if you can take her to see her doctor and get replacement scripts.

In fact, do take her to see her doctor, no matter what, and speak to the doctor about her husband's mental health situation. We can't really advise you as to exactly what to do about it. If it's involuntary committal, that process will involve doctors, lawyers, police, and probably a government department. If it's appointment of an adult guardian or something, that's different again. It will vary state to state and even city to city. However her doctor or local social workers will know the basics of it. It shouldn't be necessary for him to actually hurt someone for something to be done. It should be sufficient for there to be a reasonable threat of that possibility, which (from what you've said) it seems there is.

Looking after them is a family responsibility; you may consider them to be family, but blood relatives will have recourses here that you don't. So here's what I'd want you to do, if this was my folks: (1) Ensure they're both housed, and fed, and being looked after, or looked in on, pretty much all day. If he's alone in the house and actually does have Alzheimers there's a decent chance some time soon he'll be in an agitated state, looking for Mom, who will seem to have suddenly disappeared, not even taken her clothes. Don't be surprised if he doesn't remember why she's not there, and don't go to any great lengths to remind him. Emphasise that she is safe and with friends or relatives. (2) Enlist the aid of any relatives you get hold of and who Mom trusts. Also friends, neighbors, etc. Even someone to stay with them for a couple hours will help. Someone to talk to Dad, or watch TV with him even. (3) Help Mom get to a doctor, to get advice as to what to do. (4) Help Mom get to a lawyer, to get advice as to what to do. If Mom was charged with anything have the lawyer talk to the police. (5) Keep checking in on Dad. (6) Try to arrange for neither to be left alone. Exactly what that involves, may require some creative thinking, depending on how soon you can get help with this. (7) Help implement whatever solutions the doctor, lawyer and the family come up with.

Hopefully the family will step up to it as soon as they can, but until then, just do your best to do the above.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:48 PM on February 13, 2008

If the police have records of a bunch of loony calls, isn't that enough evidence to support the fact he is sort of losing his mind? Tales of shots fired are usually investigated. The police may have enough of those records to Baker Act him. Also...someone accusing someone else of an affair-- is it possible it is a smokescreen for his own affair?
posted by 45moore45 at 8:09 PM on February 13, 2008

Thank you very much for helping me get my head on straight with this. You guys are good, and I appreciate it.
posted by snsranch at 9:17 PM on February 13, 2008

Realistically, she's going to need to get him admitted and have him declared incompetent. Yes, she's going to need to talk to a lawyer.

Likely, if his behavior is really bizarre, you'll want to have him involuntarily committed. From there, if he is admitted, she'll have an easier time (with the help of a lawyer) of getting control of the family's finances.

Please mention the state/city - someone here may know of some resources.
posted by filmgeek at 10:56 PM on February 13, 2008

I strongly agree on taking legal action immediately. This study backs up my personal experience: victims of Alzheimers rapidly lose their ability to handle money. The mother needs to secure her assets as quickly as possible.
posted by loosemouth at 2:35 AM on February 14, 2008

They don't need a lawyer, at least not as a first step. Call the state office on aging or Adult Protective Services - these agencies are in place to help in situations just like this one. They will help the wife and children learn how to proceed, find resources, etc.

My Aunt is a social worker for APS - she handles these types of cases all the time, with the primary goals of protecting the rights of the elderly person (the husband in this case - possibly the wife, too) and of helping the families do whatever is necessary to help that person (whether it be declaring incompetence, legal help or whatever).
posted by LadyBonita at 8:50 AM on February 14, 2008

The fact that he'd remove her hard drive might be an important part of the documentation (you don't mention why he did that but I'm assuming it was to deny her access to the information on it).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:06 AM on February 14, 2008

The family has spoken with a social worker but her hands were tied because all outward appearance seems to be normal. It's very difficult to work with and yea, we/they are definitely looking for a win/win situation for all involved.

It could be detrimental if I gave the location.

The hard drive was taken to 1) find proof of infidelity and 2) to control Mom-no e-mail, research etc.

I can't express my appreciation enough here. Thanks, folks.

Hopefully, the legal process will get them on the right track.
posted by snsranch at 5:09 PM on February 14, 2008

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