Advocating for your rights is a key to maintaining independent and quality care throughout your life. Being able to speak for yourself and make your own decisions should not end when you enter a nursing home, and should not be affected by old age. Often, as individuals age, their ability to make sound decisions deteriorates and family, friends, and others need to help make decisions regarding medical care, finances, and more. However, there are many different ways, beyond a conservatorship, that don’t strip older Americans of their rights.
The Problem with Conservatorships
In a recent case, we dealt with some conservatorship issues. The main problem with conservatorships is, in short, that they can easily become positions of abuse. Having that much power over someone’s life and decisions can place a family member or friend in the position of having complete and unchecked control over every aspect of the conservatee’s life. This strips the individual of all rights to make their own decisions, and can lead to neglect, abuse, isolation, and more. Overall, while conservatorship might be necessary for some cases, it is a slippery slope for others and is easily wrongfully granted.
5 Conservatorship Alternatives
If you are responsible for the care of another, but do not want a conservatorship that could wrongfully restrict your loved one’s rights, there are alternatives. It is a good idea to discuss these options with your loved ones as much as possible and come to a decision on what would be best for everyone involved.
Put simply, supported decision-making is the practice of choosing select individuals who act as consultants. An individual would have a close circle of people specially chosen to guide them when it comes to any major decisions. No one person, besides the individual in question, would be making the ultimate decision. Instead, the person in need of care would be given lots of options, loving support, advice, and guidance as they continue to make their own decisions.
Medical Power of Attorney
A more familiar option is to choose someone as your medical power of attorney. This person would have more advanced decision-making power when it comes to medical decisions specifically. A medical power of attorney would not have any influence in other areas of decision-making, making this a great option for someone who has a lot of medical concerns they may not understand, but who wants to maintain independence in other areas.
Another great way to maintain control over what happens if you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions is to establish an advanced directive. While unpleasant to think about before you need it, advanced directives override any other decisions or opinions from others and ensure that your wishes are carried out even if you aren’t able to voice them in the moment.
A representative payee is a person assigned to manage specific types of payments received by an individual. Payments could include Social Security or veterans benefits. If an individual is unable to manage these payments and money received, the organizations issuing the payments can assign a representative payee to receive and manage these monies. They would have access to these payments and accounts only and no other financial control.
While not an ideal situation, guardianship can be an option. A limited guardianship must be issued by a judge who transfers some rights to a guardian for an individual. These limited guardianships should be tailored to specific needs and not be sweeping declarations of control.
To learn about a few more options, read the National Center on Elder Abuse fact sheet.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (877-460-1187) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.