As your parents and other loved ones get older, they can experience health changes that can make it much more difficult for them to care for themselves. You may start to notice changes such as slower reaction times while driving, instability when walking or standing, or occasional forgetfulness. Over time, these issues can worsen to the point that you become concerned about your elderly loved one’s safety. Before their symptoms get worse, you will want to find out what you can do to assist them. Can I help an elderly family member who can no longer care for himself or herself?
Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke, Dementia, or Alzheimer’s
If your loved one is showing signs of cognitive impairment, they may be suffering from a stroke, dementia, or Alzheimer’s Disease. These conditions can cause disorganized thinking, forgetfulness, and emotional volatility. Have you noticed that your loved one is neglecting their hygiene? Have they stopped taking their medications? Are they getting notices for not paying their bills on time? Do they have unexplained mood swings? Does your loved one get lost easily? These are all possible signs that your elderly loved one may have had a stroke or that they have dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. If you have these concerns, you should take your loved one to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
Taking Action to Protect Your Elderly Loved One
When a person has a cognitive impairment, their functioning can decline at a rapid pace. However, it may not be evident right away that your elderly parent or loved one is having problems. Concerned friends and family often learn about a loved one’s condition when it becomes clear that they are struggling to take care of themselves or manage their money. If you believe your elderly parent or loved one is no longer able to take care of their physical needs or attend to their financial affairs, you may need to take protective action quickly. Fortunately, there are legal steps you can take so that a California court can appoint another adult to look out for your loved one’s health and financial interests.
Filing a California Conservatorship Case
In California, when someone is concerned that a elderly loved one can no longer care for themselves, they can file a conservatorship case with the probate court. The proper county for the commencement of a conservatorship proceeding for a California resident is either of the following:
- The county in which the proposed conservatee resides; or
- Such other county as may be in the best interests of the proposed conservatee.
What are the Types of California Conservatorships?
There are two types of California conservatorships: 1) conservatorship of the person and 2) conservatorship of the estate. Depending on the circumstances, your elderly loved one may need one or both types of conservatorships. After the conservatorship case is filed, the court may appoint a temporary conservator to serve while the case is pending and then ultimately appoint a permanent conservator of the person or of the estate or both.
Conservatorship of the Person
- When a person’s impairment interferes with their ability to attend to their physical needs, a concerned loved one can request that they be appointed a conservator of the person. The conservator of the person will be responsible for making decisions regarding the individual’s health care and where they live and for ensuring that they have adequate transportation, clothing, and food. The conservator of the person will also be charged with seeing that the conservatee’s recreational needs are met.
- If your elderly loved one is not attending to their hygiene, nutrition, or medical care, they may need a conservator of the person to make certain that their personal care and health needs are met.
Conservatorship of the Estate
- A conservator of the estate can be requested when an individual is no longer capable of taking care of their finances. This conservator will manage the conservatee’s bank accounts, pay their bills, and receive money owed to the conservatee on their behalf. This individual will also take control of the conservatee’s assets and make a budget showing what the conservatee can afford. A conservator of the estate can also responsibly invest the conservatee’s money. The conservator has a duty to safeguard the individual’s assets and make financial decisions that are in the conservatee’s best interest.
- When a person’s dementia or other cognitive impairment places them at risk of suffering significant financial consequences, they may need a conservator of the estate.
When an elderly loved one has suffered a stroke or has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, they will usually require both types of conservatorships. Often the same conservator will serve in both roles. However, there can be situations where having separate conservators is better for the conservatee.
Who Can Request a California Conservatorship?
California law allows various people to file for a conservatorship, such as the individual’s spouse, a concerned friend or relative, someone from a state agency or public service organization, or a private, professional fiduciary. The proposed conservatee can also file for their own conservatorship.
Preparing a conservatorship petition and gathering the evidence needed to support the request can be complicated. If the proposed conservatee contests the conservatorship, their case can become even more complex. Your loved one’s health and well-being are important, and you want to make sure that everything is done right so that the court will have what it needs to take protective action.
Having a California conservatorship attorney is vital to ensuring that your elderly loved one gets the help they need. By working with an experienced conservatorship attorney, you will have the assistance of someone who is familiar with the conservatorship process and can prepare the necessary documents for the case. Your counsel will also know the types of evidence to gather to provide the court with an accurate picture of your concerns regarding your elderly loved one.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California conservatorship attorneys who can help you navigate every stage of your conservatorship case and help protect your elderly loved one. Please contact us online or by phone to set up a free consultation today.