I decided that I would not insert myself in the process. However, when my brother visits, he hears the messages and contacts the woman from Adult Protective Services (APS).
The woman from APS shares that she has tried to meet with the parents and visited the community several times. On one visit she came when my mom was running the weekly bridge game and my mom shooed her away. My brother confirms a day and time he knows my parents will be in their apartment.
The woman from APS asks my brother two questions:
Is he afraid my parents will walk into the lake?
Does he worry my parents will set the kitchen on fire?
He answers “No” to both questions.
My brother hears back from the woman who shares that she is closing the case on my parents. She remarks that she can see the family is engaged and while my parents obviously are struggling, they don’t pose an immediate threat of harm to themselves or others.
Two weeks later, I get a call from Adult Protective Services. I am asked the same questions. She confirms that she is not concerned to warrant any immediate follow-up visits with my parents. Predicted.
What I have since witnessed and learned is that Adult Protective Services will only act if the actions of the individual do pose a threat to themselves or others. Most of the employees are overwhelmed with cases. Everyone will be better off if you can resolve the situation. If they do find that your loved one is a harm to themselves or others and there is no legal powers in place, you will be facing court proceedings to initiate a petition for guardianship and conservatorship. These are both invasive, expensive and may result in someone being appointed by the court to act in these roles.
Several weeks ago the retirement community scheduled a meeting with my parents. We all sat down and the staff shared their concerns about some things they have seen in my parent’s behavior. My parents refute each claim and dismiss each fact. At one point, my dad turns to me and asks if I have seen the things they are saying. I tell him “Yes”.
My parents are living in the “independent” section of the retirement community. The staff asks them if they plan on moving into the “assisted” section or getting some help if they want to stay in the “independent” section. My parents are appalled by this suggestion.
The meeting ends and the director of the retirement community asks me to stay for a brief conversation. They ask if we are going to pursue guardianship.
My siblings and I were just short of filing the papers when we realized that having the legal right won’t make our parents any more agreeable to the changes that will need to be made. We agreed we would try some other options first — pursing this legal option will be our last resort. My parents will understand what is going on and we hope to figure out other ways to achieve the same ends.
When the social worker mentions that the hospital was prepared to call Adult Protective Services (APS) because they were so concerned about my parents, it initially sends a chill up my spine.
We are trying to help my parents, we know they want to stay independent, but they are unable to do so safely anymore. Now they are getting themselves into situations where others are recognizing their state.
I ask her what it means to have APS involved. Might this be a good lever to help my parents make a choice to get some assistance? She suggests I call and just ask them.
When I call APS, they ask if I want to file a report. No – I just have a few questions. I let her know I have two elderly parents and I’m concerned for their safety. How could APS help?
I’m told that they first and foremost respect an individual’s right to choose how they live. Their goal is to protect the elderly against fraud, abuse and neglect. In my parents’ case, it might qualify as self-neglect. However, she continues, they have every right to refuse assistance.
I was hoping this was an option since the only other one seems to be to wait around until something bad happens. This choice is not ours. Undeterred.