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Consequences of Conservatorship Inaction with Dementia Patients

Updated: May 8

therapist discussing a report with a client

An elderly man in Colorado was celebrating his 88th birthday with his family when a candle caused a nearby curtain to burst into flames. As his family fled in terror, Peter Richardville continued to eat his lunch as if nothing was happening. One of the family members who had left the house beforehand quickly went back inside to retrieve her purse. Thankfully, she saw Peter and was able to save him before the house was engulfed in flames less than two minutes later.

Another elderly man was found speeding along the wrong side of the interstate-eventually colliding with another car on the road. While the elderly man walked away with only minor injuries, the other driver unfortunately passed away.

A woman set a house on fire early one morning and was arrested after confessing to police that she set the house on fire herself. Thankfully, family members were able to stop the house from completely burning down before it was too late.

All three of these stories have a common denominator-every individual suffered from dementia, a condition characterized by the progressive or persistent loss of intellectual functioning. Today, we continue to see news stories such as the ones listed above about individuals who are struggling with dementia becoming a danger to not only themselves, but to others around them. Unfortunately, too many families today are faced with shame and guilt when it comes to even considering a conservaorship. In today's blog, we want to discuss the risk and consequences of inaction and discuss why having a conservator is important.

Risks and consequences

According to studies, by 2025, 110,000 adults in Alabama will be living with Alzheimer's disease-a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. In Alabama, there are also about 216,000 family members caring for a loved one suffering from dementia. Thirty-one percent of these family members provide 40 or more hours a week to loved ones and 60% have been providing this type of care to loved ones for over two years. Even one of our social workers at Lifecare Wellness, Krista Jordan, discusses how there are 76 million baby boomers coming of age right now. With this in mind, it is more important than ever to provide the services needed to help loved ones suffering from dementia.

As mentioned in a previous blog, some of the telltale signs that a loved one suffering from dementia is in need of additional help include increased cognitive decline, repetitive behavior, overpayment or non-payment of bills, inability to remember basic words, and much more. While other options such as increased family involvement, changes in treatment or medication can certainly help loved ones struggling with dementia, a conservatorship is a necessary option for those who do not show improvement.Unfortunately, some families struggle with guilt and shame when considering a conservatorship. But without a conservator, loved ones with dementia could face restrictive placement, lower quality of life, bankruptcy, harm to themselves or others, incarceration, diminished estates, repeat hospitalizations, and even early death due to their actions.

Why having a conservator is important

In today's society, the waters have been muddied on conservatorships due to the high-profile cases of Britney Spears and the athlete featured in "The Blind Side". And then you have other cases like other more recent cases, such as Jay Leno's wife and Wendy Williams, where the need and benefit was clear. But what exactly is a conservatorship and how can it help function as a safety net? As mentioned in a previous blog, a conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage the personal and financial affairs of an individual. In all cases, this individual has become incapacitated; a state where a person does not have the ability to make or communicate responsible decisions. A conservator can help this individual by creating a monthly budget, paying bills, paying for care, reporting finances to the court, and much more.

If the process seems daunting, but you want to learn more, LifeCare Wellness offers a pre-screening session that allows licensed practitioners to determine whether or not an individual qualifies for a conservatorship. If the individual does qualify for a conservatorship, LifeCare Wellness is staffed to guide families through every step of the process, and provide the assurance that their loved ones well-being will be safeguarded.

To learn more about conservatorship process, click here.

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