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Author Topic: When to seek a welfare check for far away elderly relative?  (Read 5573 times)

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When to seek a welfare check for far away elderly relative?
« on: March 05, 2013, 05:58:52 PM »
I guess this is a spin off of the thread about seeking help in tracking down possibly missing relatives who are travelling abroad:

When is it both polite and reasonable to ask for help in doing a 'welfare check" on an elderly relative who lives alone, far away (especially when the relative does not want to be checked on)?

I am thinking specifically of my elderly mother, who has since passed away.  She slowly drifted into early Alzheimer's over a period of years before we really realized what all was happening.

Background: My mother gradually grew more confused, but she clung to her life in her own home.  (I don't blame her; it must have been frightening for her - although she refused to discuss her confusion.) She was getting unsteady on her feet and did have several falls inside her home.  In each case she was able to telephone for help in getting to the E.R. - except for one winter day when she fell outdoors, in the snow.  Thank goodness a neighbor happened to look out a window and see her lying there that time!  She did have a medical alert radio button on a pendant, but she would forget to wear it most days.)

(Yes, we eventually were able to do a long drawn-out intervention, with the help of physicians, nurses, and social workers in her hometown and get professional help for her with her sort-of consent.  In the meantime, though, she vigorously resisted most help we tried to get for her.  In the particular US state and county where she lived we could not "force" her to get help against her will - trust me on this one, please.  I had an overzealous social worker there order me to force my mother to accept help - when I challenged the social worker to tell me exactly how one "forces" an unwilling adult to accept help in a county where the lone judge refuses to order help for anyone with Alzheimer's who can still carry on a conversation... the social worker learned I was right and apologized to me.)

Scenarios for my question:  As my mother began to get confused (we realize now, with 20-20 hindsight) she got to where she would call either me or one other relative who lived in her home town just about every morning.  That was fine.  We were worried about her.  We didn't mind her calls, and we would call her if she hadn't called us first just about every day.

Well, what is polite to do when you cannot reach the elderly relative over a period of a whole day?

A.) In one case, after not reaching her all day, (just getting a busy signal), I didn't know if she had fallen or had just forgotten to hang up the phone, so I called her relative who lived in the same town to check on her at about 10:00 P.M..  He knocked on her door, she was fine and had just failed to hang up her phone correctly.  She thanked him for checking on her, but then she telephoned me and ripped me up one side and down the other for humiliating her.  She was livid about me interfering.  I refused to accept her criticism and told her I was going to continue to care about her and check on her, especially if she didn't answer her phone for a whole day.

B.) Another time, the same thing happened - a busy signal literally all day - but the relative who lived in her town was away on vacation.  I ended up calling the non-emergency number for her local police to ask them to stop by her house for a welfare check.  Same outcome: she was polite to the police officer but she was furious with me over the telephone for having dared to have a policeman check up on her.

The question is what is polite and reasonable to do in such situations.  I'll look forward to others' points of view.


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Re: When to seek a welfare check for far away elderly relative?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2013, 06:05:19 PM »
When you've exhausted all other options and you have a genuine concern for safety (i.e. they have a history of falls). In all your examples you sound fine. People with dementia have broken brains, no point in feeling guilty over doing the right thing to protect them.

I do think if you are taking responsibility for checking in on someone, common sense dictates you should have a few back up people to call before you resort to calling the police. My MIL helps handle my GMIL's care, but when she and GFIL went to Florida MIL only had a single number to reach them at - a cell phone. No # for her doctors down there, or neighbors, or anyone. When the cellphone got misplaced she had to resort to a police welfare check. They were fine, just lost the phone and then the battery died. I understand why she did it, but it is much more practical to enlist someone like a neighbor in advance to help out in these situations.


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Re: When to seek a welfare check for far away elderly relative?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2013, 08:58:19 PM »
This is a safety/ legal issue, not etiquette.
Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

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