I am an RN with 30 years of experience. I am the primary caregiver for my 83-year-old parents. My father is starting to decline and needs a peg-tube due to difficulty swallowing from Parkinson’s and Zenker’s diverticulum. I puree his food as instructed by his physician, but other family members refuse to do so. If he chokes or aspirates when I’m not there because someone else didn’t follow directions, am I legally liable?
Dear Nancy replies:
I’m sorry to hear of your father’s health problems and his need for this type of care. He is fortunate that you are an RN, and the care you provide is certainly necessary for his continued ability to be at home and to be alive.
It does sound as though there is some discord in the family, however, and it would be helpful to try and resolve this in a way that benefits your father and eases your concerns about his health in general and your liability in particular. Keep in mind that you are doing all that you can do at this point to follow the doctor’s orders. Should your other family members not follow the required feeding methods, any adverse event due to not following those orders will be their doing, not yours.
You indicated your father’s doctor has ordered his food be pureed. If you have not discussed with the doctor the fact that other family members refuse to do this, you should talk with him or her about this as soon as possible. The doctor may be able to intervene, even with a referral to a social service agency or home health agency that can help you with his feedings when you are not able to do so.
You may also want to consult with a nurse attorney or other attorney who practices elder law for specific advice about how to handle this situation. There is probably more going on with the family dynamics than just the refusal to puree your father’s food. The attorney can evaluate the family situation, do what is best for your father and provide you with factual information about your