It is commonly said that our parents change our diapers in our infancy, and then we must change theirs in their dotage. The point of this phrase is not to imply that you have a literal responsibility for bathroom care for your aging loved ones so much as it is that children often grow to assume many of the same responsibilities over their parents that their parents once had over them. It is the circle of life and an opportunity to repay the love and care of your parents with service to them as they age.
Knowing when it is time to assert yourself and start fulfilling those duties can be quite difficult, especially if your parent wants to remain independent for as long as possible. It can be hard to know when to start taking action to protect your loved one from themselves. The warning signs of dementia, in particular, can start slowly, while your loved one is still cognizant and present enough to feel offended at your desire to help them.
However, taking action sooner rather than later may be important, as those experiencing the cognitive decline correlated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may make questionable legal and financial decisions that leave them very vulnerable.
Connecticut lets you seek conservatorship
Not everyone has heard the term “conservator”, but most people are familiar with the concept of a guardian. Under Connecticut law, guardianship involves minor children or those with exceptionally low IQs. Adults with intellectual disabilities may require a guardian to act in their best interest and manage their affairs.
Older adults, even those experiencing significant cognitive decline, may not meet the criteria for conservatorship. However, they likely meet the criteria for guardianship. Guardianship differs from conservatorship only in that it applies to someone with a higher IQ who the courts now view as incompetent or incapable of managing their own affairs.
If your loved one has medical or cognitive issues that prevent them from caring from themselves and managing their own household, you can ask the probate courts to appoint you as a conservator to act on their behalf.
Seeking conservatorship puts you in a position of fiduciary duty
If you choose to step up and seek a conservatorship over a parent or aging loved one experiencing the early signs of dementia or cognitive decline, you will likely have to make important financial and medical decisions on their behalf. When you do so, the decisions you make must always be in the best interest of your loved one, not necessarily what is easiest, best or most convenient for you.
Conservatorship can help you access bank accounts to pay bills on behalf of your loved one or approve medical care that could extend their life or improve their overall quality of life. Conservatorship should not be an opportunity to take advantage of someone, but rather to protect them when they wind up in a vulnerable position as a result of aging.