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Can you force reluctant parents to move to a home?

One of the hardest parts of dealing with aging parents with dementia from Alzheimer's or other illnesses is ensuring their continued safety in their home environments. Sometimes everyone but the elderly parent — adult children, neighbors, doctors — agrees that the parent now needs a supervised living environment to remain safe.

But the parent vehemently refuses to address the issue. In fact, past efforts have always ended so badly that the kids hate to even bring it up again with their mom or dad.

What is the next step?

Clients often want to know how they can legally force their parents to move into assisted living facilities or nursing homes. And while it is indeed possible in some circumstances to obtain a conservatorship over elderly parents diagnosed with dementia, the process is frequently fraught turmoil and the outcome is never guaranteed.

However, one likely result of a court battle to establish conservatorship of an adult is fractured relationships within the family — between adult children and elderly parents, among siblings, even between the grandchildren and children of the senior at issue in the conservatorship.

Time may be on your side

Unless the situation is truly dire, it might be best to retreat for now and let events unfold. The reality is that dementia is a progressively fatal diagnosis. No one is suggesting that you let a parent live in squalor until he or she succumbs, however.

Your parent might need to experience some negative consequences of remaining in the home when health deteriorates to the point where he or she can no longer manage daily affairs. Having the utilities cut off for non-payment or a minor household emergency occur might provide mom or dad with the impetus to make a change for the better.

Sometimes you need to be proactive

At the very least, documenting an unfortunate incident can bolster your case for a conservatorship if all other entreaties are met with stony resistance. However, it must be stated that the California courts are very cognizant of a senior citizen's right to self-determination. If your parent is at least intermittently lucid, your petition for conservatorship could be denied.

If you decide to petition the courts for a conservatorship for an elderly parent and you have siblings, it is imperative that all be on the same page. Simply having a sibling take your parent's side that there is no need to change living arrangements can upset your apple cart.

Call a sibling meeting and have out-of-town siblings join via Skype or another video calling platform. Lay out your case calmly and be ready to answer their questions. You may want an elder law attorney who is familiar with your parent's circumstances to sit in on the call to offer guidance.

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