When some of my sons turned eighteen years old, I applied for conservatorship for them. All of them were still living at home and for various reasons were, and still are, unable to make some decisions on their own. I met with a lawyer to help with the paperwork and was investigated by the court before being appointed with limited conservatorship for my sons. The court does periodic reviews to make certain their needs are being met or whether changes need to be made.
Today I continue to be responsible to make certain these sons have appropriate living conditions, adult programs to attend, recreational and leisure activities, financial stability, and medical care. As conservator, I normally attend their annual meetings with the regional center social worker, day program, and group home staff. During these meetings, goals are reviewed, concerns are made known, decisions are made about their medical care and treatment, and end of life concerns are discussed.
Often I am contacted to sign forms for medical treatments, and so it was this week when I received an email requesting I sign forms and send a copy of my Letter of Conservatorship for one specific son. He was scheduled to have in-hospital dental care that required permission from me as his conservator for the treatment plan. I had no problem acknowledging he needed the dental work done in a hospital setting, but, this being a last minute request, I became paranoid about the time constraint. I had previously scheduled appointments for my sons still living at home. I managed to sign papers, copy other information needed and find a place to fax the papers in time so the dental treatment could be done on schedule.
Other times, I have been awakened during the night to be informed one of my sons has been taken to the emergency room. Then, I get another message I need to give verbal approval for whatever treatment is being considered. I’ve called doctors through the relay phone system using my TTY to give verbal consent. It’s a time-consuming process because there needs to be a second person from the medical staff on the line to witness the phone call. If at all possible, I go directly to whichever hospital my son has been admitted to and sign the papers in person. Since most of them live in a community I am not all that familiar with, I tend to get lost or not take the most direct route. A couple times we’ve had some scary medical events, but the guys fight off the infections or whatever and return to their group homes.
Recently, I have been considering the need to end my conservatorship duties for most of these sons, especially those who no longer live at home. Three have lived in care homes located locally for several years. Their needs continue to be met by others (although maybe not as I would do), but they have thrived where they are living. There are a few things I need to finalize before ending my responsibilities as conservator and I’d like to do this while I am still in a fairly good state of mind.
Once again I am working with a lawyer to find the best, legal way to go about terminating conservatorship. Because I am a limited conservator there are special rules for ending limited conservatorships.
*The limited conservator dies, (not my plan yet), or
*The limited conservatee dies, (not my plan either), or
*A general conservator is appointed, or
*A judge ends the limited conservatorship
I am not considering asking any of the more capable siblings to take over for me. I am looking into a specific agency that handles special needs trusts and conservatorships. However, my sons do not have trust funds and financially can’t afford to pay for such services. I do like what I have learned about this one agency. Of course, there are government agencies that provide a “public guardian.” However, the public guardian may have so many cases that it’s hard for them to give the conservatees the attention they may require or get to know them personally. This personal attention is necessary to help a conservator make the best decisions about the conservatee.
In California, people with developmental disabilities have rights to services they need. State services are provided by regional centers that are nonprofit corporations with contracts with the California Department of Developmental Services to serve people in specific geographical areas. If an adult with developmental disabilities does not have a conservator, the regional center will be assigned to make decisions for the developmentally-disabled adult. This is how it is for one of my sons. He seems to be doing well, but, sadly, I have never met his service coordinator. I understand the regional center workers have heavy caseloads, but I may need to consider this option for several of my sons.
I feel I have done a fair job of being conservator for my sons. At times, I think there might be better pull to have some services provided for my sons if they were under an agency that focuses primarily on conservatorships, especially in locating care homes to take over what I do today. I’m definitely in need of cutting back my workload as I age, but I certainly don’t plan to do that by dying, which would comply with one of the criteria listed for limited conservatorships.
What do other people do in this situation? Are you a conservator for an adult with a disability? Please share your thoughts and experiences here with us to help us all navigate this new territory.