Aging may be a privilege denied to many, but not many people like to admit they’re enjoying that privilege. For plenty of people, part of the aging process is becoming subject to a conservatorship. If you have a loved one who is becoming unable to care for themselves, you may wonder: is it time to set up an elderly conservatorship?

The conversation may be awkward, but an elderly conservatorship could be a major help to your loved one. Many an incapacitated person or elderly person is kept happier and healthier with the aid of a conservatorship. This article covers what a conservatorship is and the top six reasons why the answer to the question “is it time to set up an elderly conservatorship?” might just be “yes.”

What Is a Conservatorship?

Before we get into the meat of this article, let’s cover this basic question: what is a conservatorship? This key concept is essential as you decide how to best care for your loved one.

In California, a conservatorship is a legal arrangement meant to protect someone who can’t make decisions for themselves. There are quite a few reasons why someone may not be able to make their own decisions; a disabled person with a lowered mental capacity, vulnerable adults, an elderly individual, or someone suffering from a short-term issue like drug abuse may all qualify.

In these cases, the court may appoint a conservator to make decisions for the conservator (individual who needs help). This person has durable power to make specific decisions for incapacitated individuals under their care.

What Is an Elderly Conservatorship?

elderly conservatorship

An elderly conservatorship is simply a conservatorship for an elderly individual who needs assistance managing their affairs. For elderly adults, the conservator is often one of their adult children. Adult children responsible for a parent’s care is often the most cost-effective option. However, if such a person is not available, a court-appointed conservator from the registry of conservators may be selected.

An elderly conservatorship can entail everything from arranging nursing home care or community living to enacting an advance health care directive and making health care decisions and financial decisions. It all depends on what type of conservatorship the competent adult pursues for elderly adults under their care. We’ll get into the specifics of that in the next section.

Why Do I Keep Hearing about Elderly Guardianships?

Elderly guardianships and elderly conservatorships: are these two terms just synonyms? Or are legal guardians or a court-appointed guardian one of the common alternatives for conservatorships? Nope!

In California, guardianships are reserved for minors. A similar arrangement for an adult who needs assistance is called a conservatorship. So if you’ve been wondering about the elderly guardianship process or appointing a public guardian or professional guardian for an elderly person, you’re barking down the wrong tree. What you really need to research is a conservatorship.

Types of Conservatorship

Not all conservatorships are alike. Professional conservators, Adult Protective Services, and others in the industry will quickly tell you that conservatorships vary in both duration and type. Let’s take a look at some of the common versions here.

Note that we don’t cover conservatorships that are unusual for elderly individuals here. If you need information on a limited conservatorship, Murphy conservatorships, LPS conservatorships, click the hyperlinks to read our articles on those specific arrangements for an incapacitated adult.

Temporary Conservatorships and Permanent Conservatorships

This is pretty straightforward. If you only need a conservatorship for a short period of time (say, if someone is in an accident but are recovering), a temporary conservatorship may be in order. However, if someone needs long-term assistance with daily life, a permanent conservatorship is a better choice.

Conservatorship of the Person vs. Conservatorship of the Estate

elderly conservatorship

The distinction between a conservatorship of the person and a conservatorship of the estate has to do with what the conservator has control over. Here’s a quick breakdown:

A conservatorship of the person pertains to the personal needs and daily living arrangements of incapacitated or disabled adults. A conservator of the person must make responsible decisions about housing, food, clothing, medical care, medical planning, leisure, and other related matters. This can include setting the elderly person up in an assisted living facility, long-term care facility, or other form of community living conducive to providing care.

On the other hand, a conservatorship of the estate primarily involves the financial state of the elderly person. In cases like this, a competent adult handles decisions like bills, income from social security or other sources, estate asset diversification, financial transactions, and other related issues.

6 Signs It’s Time to Set Up an Elderly Conservatorship

elderly conservatorship

So, how can you determine if it’s time to set up an elderly conservatorship for your loved one? There are some clear signs that it may be time to take this step for senior citizens.

To make this section more personal, we’re going to be using a fictional man named Steve and his elderly mother, Georgia. Georgia’s husband passed away some time ago, and she lives alone with her poodle, Rex.

1. My Loved One Has Suffered a Debilitating Injury

Georgia is in general good mental and physical heath. One day, Rex spots a squirrel while out on a walk. The excited dog yanks too hard on the leash, and Georgia topples over, breaking her leg. The doctor reports that Georgia will need several months of physical therapy and recovery time to get back on her feet.

Georgia may be eligible for a temporary conservatorship on an emergency basis in this case. She may not need help permanently, but she can’t get around with her broken leg. By applying for a temporary conservatorship, Steve can ensure he has the legal authority to help his mom. He might:

  • Apply for a conservatorship of the estate so he can go to the bank, pick up payments, and otherwise manage Georgia’s financial affairs
  • Apply for a conservatorship of the person so he can help his mom with her medical care and physical and emotional needs (housing, food, clothing, and the like).

2. My Loved One Is Falling for Elder Scams

Georgia is starting to lose her ability to discern the difference between legitimate financial decisions and scams. She falls victim to a phone scammer posing as a bill collector, and Steve has to jump in and clean up the mess.

In this case, Steve may attempt to file for a conservatorship of the estate so he can control Georgia’s financial matters. By assuming fiduciary duty for Georgia’s affairs, he can screen her payments and make sure she doesn’t wind up suffering more financial abuse or having to fight a legal battle to recover funds.

3. My Loved One Can No Longer Perform Basic Chores

As Georgia grows older, she finds basic tasks more and more difficult. While she is relatively healthy, she now finds it too difficult to drive. She cannot easily go to the grocery store, clean her home, cook for herself, or perform other basic tasks.

If Steve files for a conservatorship of the person, he has the legal power to handle Georgia’s personal care decisions. He can help her make arrangements to live in a retirement community where she can receive more support. He can also keep her in her current home while arranging services to care for her dietary needs, clothing, home maintenance, and more.

4. My Loved One Is in Danger when Left Alone

Georgia is starting to become more and more forgetful. One day, she leaves the stove on, starting a small fire in her kitchen. A few weeks later, she nearly electrocutes herself after leaving her hair dryer plugged in on the side of the sink. Georgia insists that she is fine living on her own, but Steve is seriously concerned for her physical health

In this case, Steve may choose to pursue a conservatorship of the person so he can move Georgia to a safer location. While Georgia may not be happy with the decision, if Steve acquires power of attorney for her, he can override her and help keep her safe.

5. My Loved One Has Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Another Disorder Affecting Cognitive Ability

Unfortunately, Georgia’s doctor diagnoses her with early stage dementia during a routine checkup. Georgia and Steve are aware that dementia has a dramatic effect on elderly adults and their ability to make medical decisions. Therefore, before her condition worsens, Georgia and Steve enter the legal process of filing for a conservatorship.

When Georgia becomes more forgetful, Steve is able to use his position as conservator to fulfill a duty of care for his mother. He can make informed decisions about her personal affairs and health care. Furthermore, Steve makes sure Georgia is as comfortable as possible and protected from elder abuse.

6. My Loved One Requires Frequent or Constant Medical Care

In this scenario, Georgia does not have dementia. Instead, let’s say her injury after Rex went for the squirrel never properly healed.

Georgia did not respond well to physical therapy and is soon bedridden. As a disabled person, she needs round-the-clock care to handle her condition and sleeps for long periods because of her medication.

Steve and Georgia, after careful planning, decide the best way to handle responsible decisions about her care is to appoint Steve as her conservator. Steve can then use his broad authority to make decisions regarding Georgia’s care, physical heath, and medical planning.

Get Help with Your Conservatorship with A People’s Choice

If you’ve determined your loved one could benefit from a conservatorship, you’ve come to the right place! Setting up a conservatorship is a legal process that involves filing a lot of paperwork with your county courthouse. It’s imperative that you fill out the right forms completely and accurately to avoid delays in the process.

A People’s Choice is a legal document preparation service. Legal document preparation is one of the common alternatives to hiring a pricey conservatorship lawyer. We can help you complete the legal paperwork for this civil matter at a fraction of the cost of a law firm. Contact us today to get started so you can provide your loved one with the best support possible.