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When should a decision to declare someone incompetent, when they are partially or fully incoherent?
I have an uncle who is lucid about 30% of the time. He is currently in a skilled nursing facility and has been determined to be in need of constant care, something his family and extended family cannot provide. Involved members of the family wait until he is lucid to ask him what he wants the family to do on his behalf rather than begin the process of declaring him legally incompetent. His desire is to return home upon discharge, but he lives alone and is at risk of self harm and falling, his immediate family is considering this option which could prove deadly for him. Any suggestions?
The family members should consider discussing your uncle's wish to return home versus the reality of his situation with the nursing home social worker and your uncle's physician. Make sure they share the fact that the family would be unable to provide the care your uncle would need if he returns home.
This is a difficult question. There are several options depending on where you live. I would suggest contacting your local Area Agency on Aging or Department of Human Services as well as the social worker at the nursing facility. Adult foster homes, board and care homes and adult day care may be acceptable options.
Seeking guardianship will allow a family member or representative to make decisions for you uncle if a court deems him unable to make decisions on his own. It is possible to honor your uncles wishes, include him in decisions and be prepared for a time when he is unable to participate in any way.
Hi flacoinohio. This is a tough subject. As a mother of a handicapped adult daughter (25), I had to declare her as incompetent and become her legal guardian. She has lived in a nursing/rest home for 4 years. Though she is coherent and able to make small decisions such as what to wear and eat, she still needs assistance in other things... especially when it comes to medical care. I decided to take over her guardianship during the first year of her living in the rest home as she was unable to make good decisions or care for herself without assistance.
As far as your uncle, you said that "he lives alone and is at risk of self harm and falling" and that "he is in need of constant care." If your uncle is unable to make mental decisions for himself, he can be declared incompetent and someone can become his legal guardian. However, he has many rights if he is still mentally capable of making major life decisions.
I don't know where you live, but many states and counties will provide medical assistance in the homes of the elderly and handicapped. Medicaid and Medicare will pay for this in many cases. Even local charities and churches may volunteer to take him grocery shopping or go shopping for him if his family is unwilling. There are even services (sometimes with his city or county) that will provide medical transportation. Are these options available for your uncle?
I find this focus a little unnerving. If he has coherent lucid times do not waste them on this nonsense. Concentrate on what he wants, talk with him about how he wants it to go. Forget about incompetence, get the appropriate documents that gives power to make decisions for him. Power of Attorney, and a Living Will and Physicians Directives ---- He signs these and agrees to them. You do not need to go and declare him incompetent. If he has lucid moments and you do that to him, that is horrible.
If the home situation is dangerous for him yet he insists,,,, think long and hard with him. It very well may be a rational choice that he would rather face possible earlier death by accident or whatnot than live longer like the folks in homes where dimentia takes their brains long before their bodies get to final resting. Because a man makes a choice to live shorter happier, that does not make him incompetent.
You need to have a professional judge his level of competency, because it does not turn off and on like a light switch. Depending on those findings, you may have to petition the courts to have him declared incompetent and in turn a person will be appointed to handle his financial affairs and to see that he gets the necessary treatment. That person will be required to report to the court on some type of regular basis to determine that the patient is receiving the proper care and that his or her finances are being handled in a proper manner. This goes back to another question about wills. Everyone should have someone listed as having power of attorney who could act on your behalf if necessary.
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