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Can Social Services Remove An Elderly Person From A Home?

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Perhaps your senior parents or elderly family members haven’t been prioritizing their own care lately. You may have tried to help them, but they refused. In the meantime, their home and personal care continues to decline. You worry that social services could come by and remove your aging parent from their home. Is this likely?

Social services cannot remove an elderly person from their home unless someone in a guardianship capacity (such as you or another adult child in the family) permits it. As a guardian, you wouldn’t have to involve social services at all to put your senior into assisted living or a nursing home.

In this guide, we’ll talk about what happens if you call social services for an elderly household member and what social workers can and cannot do, so keep reading.

Can Social Services Put My Mother In A Home?

Social services include programs that prioritize wellbeing. Although most people think of social services as being for children only (such as child protective services), adult services exist as well. 

So what if you’re in a scenario like we described in the intro where your senior mother is not caring for herself but will not accept anyone else doing it either? Her physical state and her home is in disarray from top to bottom, and you’re sure the neighbors see it.

Even if your neighbors called social services, your mother would not be forced against her will out of her own home and into a nursing home or assisted living facility except in the rarest of circumstances.

That’s just not how it works. Rather, social services for an older person can provide many other beneficial services that we’ll talk about later.

Rest assured, your mother has legal rights and can still make her own choices. The only way that anyone could force a senior into assisted living or a nursing home would be if they were their legal guardian.

We’ve discussed what it takes to obtain guardianship over a senior on the blog before, but here’s a little recap.

To obtain legal guardianship, you have to go to court and get your senior parent officially declared incompetent. Then you’d have to apply for guardianship, and approval can take a long time. You often have to spend a fair deal of money as well. 

Plus, if anyone else in your family wants to be the guardian or doesn’t approve of you being the guardian, it drags out the process (and the expenses) even further.

For some adult children, it may be worth it to be an official guardian for their senior parents, but for many others, it’s not necessary. 

What Happens When You Call Social Services For The Elderly?

Let’s go back to that scenario from before where a concerned neighbor decides to call a local adult protective services agency or another form of social services for the elderly. What happens?

An adult protective services representative is going to come to the house to investigate. 

During the investigation, the representative will gauge the mental capacity of your senior parent or loved one. They’re also looking for signs of financial exploitation, self-neglect, neglect from a caretaker, or signs of physical abuse. 

The protective investigation will require the adult protective services representative to speak to others in the senior’s life, including you, any other adult children, and the senior’s spouse or partner. 

The representative will also comb through the records from bank accounts, the senior’s medical care records, and other documents.

If adult protective services determines that a senior is being abused or mistreated, they might offer financial assistance, legal assistance, housing assistance, or mental health treatments, as well as possibly home-delivered meals or personal care.

We want to reiterate that an adult protective services representative cannot force a senior out of their home and into assisted living, a care facility, or a nursing home.  

How Does A Social Worker Help The Elderly?

Geriatric social workers or gerontological social workers are trained professionals who can help the elderly in their homes, residential healthcare facilities, long-term facilities, community health clinics, and hospitals.

Here are some services they can provide.

Introduces A Senior (And Their Immediate Family) To Treatment Programs

If a senior admits that they can’t take care of themselves anymore, then a geriatric social worker can share information on the multitude of programs a senior can take advantage of.

These include such services as day treatment programs, in-home care, or outpatient or inpatient treatment programs.

All along, the geriatric social worker will be in touch with the senior’s immediate family ,such as their partner or spouse (or your other parent) as well as adult children such as yourself and your siblings. 

Together, you can come up with a treatment plan that’s best suited for your senior parent or loved one at this stage of their life.

Aging Support

Whether it’s for a senior parent or another family member, this is probably your first time as an adult child administering any kind of elder care. A geriatric social worker can act as the liaison you need, providing information on aging support.

You can learn more about what kind of care a senior is supposed to receive at their age and their level of health and then implement a care plan.

Provides Therapy And Counseling Resources

Between the isolation, the decline in their physical health, their reduced ability to do everything things, and their realization of their own mortality, depression can easily grip the elderly. 

A geriatric service worker can introduce your senior parent or loved one to therapy and counseling resources. The senior can utilize these resources to talk through their pains, frustrations, and struggles. 

After all, taking care of one’s mental and emotional health is important at any age! 

What Is Included In A Needs Assessment?

As part of their services, a geriatric service worker or another member of social services may recommend a geriatric assessment for your senior parent or loved one. 

A geriatric assessment is also known as a needs assessment. According to American Family Physician or AAFP, the purpose of a geriatric assessment is “to evaluate an older person’s functional ability, physical health, cognition and mental health, and socioenvironmental circumstances.”

Usually, a geriatric needs assessment is only suggested by a geriatric service worker when the service worker perceives that a senior might have a problem. Doing an assessment doesn’t guarantee the presence of a problem, nor does it necessarily mean the senior needs treatment.

Here are the components of a geriatric needs assessment.

Functional Ability

According to the AAFP, “functional status refers to a person’s ability to perform tasks that are required for living.” 

The assessment will review two functional ability areas, a senior’s instrumental areas of daily living or IADL and their activities of daily living or ADL.

For example, ADL activities encompass their ability for self-care and tending to their basic needs. This includes things such as going to the bathroom (and being able to hold it in until an appropriate time), getting in and out of bed or a chair, bathing oneself, dressing oneself, and eating.

IADL activities are for independent living, such as using a phone, managing one’s finances, taking medications, cooking or doing other meal prep, and keeping a tidy house.

An older adult’s needs assessment will review the following areas to determine how well a senior can do them. If they can perform these ADL and IADL activities independently, then they gain a point. For every activity they require dependence, they lose a point.

  • Can take food from the plate and put it into their mouth on their own
  • Urinates and/or defecates at a time of their choosing only
  • Can get into and out of a bed or chair without assistance but can use mechanical transfer aids
  • Can use a toilet and clean themselves afterward without assistance
  • Can take clothes from the drawers and/or closets and dress themselves, including fasteners, but could need help tying their shoes
  • Can bathe themselves except for certain hard-to-reach areas such as the genitals, the back, or a “disabled extremity”

Physical Health

The next part of the geriatric assessment is reviewing the senior’s physical health. 

According to the AAFP data, this area “incorporates all facets of a conventional medical history, including main problem, current illness, past and current medical problems, family and social history, demographic data, and a review of systems.”

Here are the health areas the assessment will include:

  • Neurologic health
  • Skin health
  • Skeletal and muscular health
  • Extremities health
  • Rectal, genital, and gastrointestinal health
  • Abdomen health
  • Breast health
  • Pulmonary health
  • Cardiac health
  • Neck health
  • Throat and mouth health
  • Ear health
  • Eye health
  • General health

Nutrition

The next part of the geriatric assessment is a nutritional review. This part of the review has four separate parts or components.

The first is a nutritional history that uses a nutritional health checklist the senior completes. The second component is a record of their food intake within the past 24 hours, which is also provided by the senior.

The third component is a physical exam checking for signs of overeating or nutrition deficiencies. Finally, the last part of the assessment includes laboratory tests if needed. 

Dementia

Another component of a geriatric needs assessment is a test for possible dementia risk. The test is a mini cognitive assessment and does not replace or supersede a health examination done by a primary care physician or other specialists. 

When To Call Adult Protective Services

Perhaps you’ve entrusted your senior to a live-in caretaker. You carefully vetted this person before hiring them in good faith, but you’re not so sure your senior parent or loved one is being treated as they should. 

The following signs should give you reasonable cause to think the person may be a victim of elder abuse. Thus, it’s worth calling adult protective services (or a long-term care ombudsman if your senior is residing in a care facility).

  • Whenever you ask your senior parent or loved one a question while the caretaker is in the room, the caretaker jumps in to answer the question before your senior can.
  • The caretaker requires more money than they should based on the income research you did.
  • Other friends and family are not allowed to visit the senior while the caretaker isn’t there.
  • Your senior is in poor health and has diseases or infections that they never did before.
  • Your senior suddenly has a lot of purchases or withdrawals in their financial records that they can’t remember nor explain.
  • Your senior is in more debt than they ever have been but can’t explain why.
  • The appearance of your senior has changed, such as showing up in clothing they clearly have been wearing for a while, a lack of hygiene, and/or weight loss.
  • Your senior has withdrawn from activities and/or people that they usually enjoy.
  • You’ve noticed physical signs of abuse such as welts, friction marks, burns, and other injuries. 

In addition to adult protective services, it is also in the best interests of the senior if you contact law enforcement if you spot signs of abuse – particularly if you think your loved one is in immediate danger. We also strongly recommend that you seek legal advice when you report abuse.

When you call law enforcement with a report of abuse, they will typically open an investigation, in conjunction with social services.

The first step in the investigation is to interview the senior to get additional information about what has happened. They will also try to identify any witnesses who may have seen or heard any alleged abuse.

Once the interviews are complete, the law enforcement officer will compile all of the evidence and write a report.

The report will then be reviewed by a prosecutor, who will decide whether or not to press criminal charges against the abuser.

If charges are pressed, the case will go to trial, and the elder will be asked to testify about what happened. This can be a very difficult experience for elders, but it is important for older people to remember that they are not alone and that there are people who can help victims of abuse through this process.

Conclusion 

Social services cannot remove an elderly person from a home, but they can provide many other services. Thus, whether you’re worried about the senior in your life or you want to know what your options are, you can rely on social services to help you find the answers. 

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