It's a reality of life: you watch your parents age, and as they do so, they become less able to do things on their own. If your parent is also dealing with dementia or Alzheimer's, it can be heartbreaking to watch. Not only is their physical ability declining as they age, but their cognitive functioning is becoming less and less strong. You worry about keeping him or her safe, and wonder if a nursing home with 24-hour care would be the best for his or her health.
Some parents can be stubborn and refuse to go to a nursing home, especially if they are at the point of incapacitation, when they don't understand the decision at all. It may be helpful to have a conversation with their doctor to fully understand their medical state, and then decide what is best for them. If you need to begin making their health care, personal and financial decisions for them, an attorney can help you set up a conservatorship.
A conservatorship is set up when an adult is unable to take care of him or herself or their own finances. A court can appoint you or another family member as the conservator, which is the person who manages your parent's living arrangements, medical needs and decisions, personal care and other things like financial decisions.
Where can I start if I am interested in setting up a conservatorship for my parent?
Your parent's doctor can evaluate his or her ability based on age, disability or disease such as Alzheimer's. A geriatric psychiatrist may also need to give an opinion. The report from the doctor or doctors can be submitted to the judge handling the conservatorship case, on a form called a "capacity declaration." The declaration includes the doctor's opinion on your parent's lack of physical ability or mental capacity. Sometimes, a judge does not need a doctor's report in order to see that your parent has lost his or her capacity.
A probate or estate planning attorney can help you find out what other initial steps to take to get the ball rolling in doing what's best for your parent. Although it can be difficult to think of your parent's declining abilities, there is hope for you to be able to give them the best scenario for their care and living arrangements.
What are the benefits of setting up a conservatorship?
Because your parent has lost his or her capacity to perform basic life functions or manage his or her care or finances, there are many advantages to them in having you become their conservator. In addition to helping you get them into a safe and caring nursing home, other benefits are:
- Improving the quality of life for your parent
- Doing what's best for your parent's personal affairs
- Staying on top of your parent's finances so there are no negative financial consequences due to their incapacitation
- Protecting your parent's assets and estate
- Protect your parent against elder abuse
Putting your parent in a nursing home can be one of the toughest decisions you make, even though you know it is what is best for them and their health. Retaining an attorney who is skilled in the area of conservatorships can make the process much less stressful, so you can focus on you and your parent's health and happiness.