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Can a caregiver be sued for negligence?

My wife and I currently care for my mother in law, a 56 year old woman with late stage MS. She was recently hospitalized for Dyhedration and an overall weak condition. We do our best to care for her, assist her in daily living activities, feed her, provide her with fresh water on a continual basis, and encourage her to exercise and do her PE, however she can be very noncompliant. Often she walks down stairs or outside while we are away (something both my wife and I, and the doctors have told her is very unsafe), and though she sits with ice water in front of her 24hours a day she does not drink enough as going to the bathroom is difficult for her. My wife and I live with her but we are not her legal guardians and do not have power of attorney. I am worried, however, that someone might sue us for negligence is something were to happen to her. Could this happen?
Status: Open    Jun 16, 2015 - 08:27 AM

Caregiving, Elder Law

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Expert Answers

Feb 02, 2016 - 09:55 AM

It is technically possible to be sued for negligence or wrongful death should something happen to her. However, those able to bring such a suit would be family (her next of kin, including your wife). Even though there is no way to guarantee no litigation, there are some things you could do to minimize the risk. For example, keep the rest of the family informed about what you are doing, her care and let them know that you might need their assistance. It would be especially important to share this information with any guardian or agent.


Jul 30, 2015 - 10:02 PM

It might be a good idea to contact your local department of health or adult protective services to assist you with the answer to this. They will be familiar with the guidelines in your state. Adult Protective Services might also be able to assist you with resources to help her better understand the definition of 'self neglect' if she doesn't suffer from memory loss. Contacting APS directly also helps them understand what you ARE attempting to do and what she is neglecting to do, to cover yourself.
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