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Legal Rights

Our mother is very, very stubborn and insists she can take care of herself and go home after leaving the rehab nursing home she is currently in. All of her doctors, say she CANNOT live alone. She is also a person who will not let someone live with her in her condo. This came up within the last month and she says no one can make her do something she doesn't want to do. "I have a mind of my own", she says. Now the doctors have said this is absolutely necessary. She needs to be safe, eat properly and take her medications as needed, but is in no physical or mental condition to do any of the above. She was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's or acute dementia. I have legal power of attorney and want to know what rights we have? Can we MAKE her move to a place she doesn't want to go? Please help.

Sue in California

Dear Sue,

When someone is diagnosed with acute dementia or Alzheimer's, it is very difficult for everyone involved to hear, comprehend, and then act. Your mother may be embarrassed, confused, and/or disoriented, and may be processing a host of other feelings, sensations and thoughts that she cannot even articulate. This sometimes is manifested as anger, frustration, or stubbornness. Each person reacts differently.

This is a time for patience, clear thinking, and keeping your mother safe, since she may not be capable of acting in her own best interest. If the doctors say she cannot be alone any longer, then make arrangements to keep her safe, fed, bathed, clothed, and properly medicated. Support systems need to be put in place.

Your family must also make sure that your mother is not taken advantage of physically, emotionally, or financially. This is a huge responsibility, and this is why we have legal power of attorney and other legal systems in place. Families, friends, and/or the legal system will protect your mother now. I recommend that you consult an elder care lawyer to find out how to proceed so that your mother's rights are taken into account each step of the way.

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