The world is changing fast, and the elderly are one of the most highly targeted population groups when it comes to those who try to manipulate them financially. Medical decisions are difficult as well. Particularly, with the advancement of medical science treatment options for various medical ailments that simply were not an option a few decades ago. For some seniors, the constant flooding of new information can be overwhelming, especially for those who suffer from a specific weakness or illness, including dementia. One way many families seek to protect aging parents who may be vulnerable, but not necessarily incompetent, is to seek a conservator for that parent.
Conservator vs. Guardian
Sometimes the terms conservator and adult guardian are used interchangeably, but there are different connotations that come with each of these terms. For an adult to need a guardian, it is implied that they are not able to actively comprehend and make decisions on their own behalf because they are no longer competent. Guardianships may also be awarded to those who have a permanent mental impairment, such as a person with a severe development disability. Both conservatorships and guardianships are frequently divided into someone who represents a person in financial matters and one that makes medical decisions. The same person can serve in both roles, or there can be a different person in charge for each, or it may be determined that the person needs either financial or healthcare oversight, but not both.
The role of a conservator is generally less powerful that that of a guardian. The court must approve a conservator, and periodically there are reviews that look at how the conservator is exercising their role in order to assure that they are truly acting in the conservatees best interest. The court sometimes appoints a relative, such as an adult child to act as a conservator, but they may also appoint a third-party to take on the task. Conservators are often paid a fee for their services, especially if it is a third-party. Relatives often do not request compensation, unless they have a financial need. The court also puts limits on how much power a conservator has over a situation. They may be barred from major decisions, such as buying or selling real estate or making decisions regarding life support.
When a conservator may be appropriate
The need for a conservator implies a weakness or vulnerability, rather than a complete incompetence. An illness or accident can sometimes leave a person in a situation where they are not strong enough to make decisions in their own best interest on a consistent basis. Someone in a coma, or who has suffered a head injury, or someone who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. A person who is vulnerable toward spending money without regards to budget or who has a gambling addiction may need to work with a conservator in order to protect them against aggressive salespeople, scam artists or prevent them from losing money gambling. Medically, they may need help understanding their condition, and making decisions as to whether or not certain medications and treatments are right for them. Generally, a person who has a conservator appointed is an active participant in the decision to make this appointment, and is agreeable to it. If they believe they no longer need the assistance in making these decisions, they can ask that the conservatorship be lifted. They may also complain to the court if they believe their conservator is abusing their power.
Making the choice to give another person power over your own personal affairs is never easy, but there are times that it is the right choice, and is truly what is needed to keep yourself or a loved one protected. If you believe that this may be an option, contact a qualified attorney at Kathryn T. Joseph & Associates, Inc. to review this and other options with you and help you make an informed decision that reflects you and your family's best interests.