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What is a conservator?

If your parent is getting older and you are starting to notice signs of memory problems or dementia, you are likely also starting to worry about his or her future. What will happen if he or she becomes incapacitated? Who will make necessary financial and medical decisions?

In these situations, it can be very helpful to know what a conservator is and what conservatorship means, as this information can make it easier to know what to expect in the coming months and years.

Understanding conservatorship

Conservatorship is a legal process that gives someone (the conservator) authority to make medical, legal and financial decisions for someone else (the conservatee) who is no longer capable of making such decisions for themselves.

People suffering from dementia often have conservators to make decisions like where they will receive care and which type of care they will receive. These are very important decisions that can affect a person's quality of life and life expectancy, so it is crucial to take conservatorship seriously.

Disputes that can arise

Unfortunately, disputes can arise regarding conservatorship. This is particularly true in cases where a parent suffers from dementia and his or her loved ones are at odds over care and finances.

For instance, 84-year-old comedian Tim Conway is reportedly battling dementia. Currently, his wife is managing his care needs and finances, but one of his daughters is requesting that she be named conservator. She argues that the wife (not the daughter's mother) is trying to make changes to Conway's medical care that would be detrimental to his well-being.

If a court approves her request, Conway's daughter would be legal authorized to manage his medical treatments and other critical matters. 

These types of disputes are unfortunately not uncommon. Parents, partners and children don't always agree on what is best for someone suffering from dementia; there are different financial, logistical and personal priorities that affect people's decisions. As such, going to court to secure a conservatorship could be the best way to ensure a responsible person is in a position to act on behalf of someone else.

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