We can’t even grow older anymore and live in dignity. Too many older persons are put under conservatorship, and have their human rights stripped away. Great concern is expressed for their welfare, particularly when they happen to have money.
I know a man named Jim. Four and a half years ago, he was put him under conservatorship because he was a binge drinker. A professional conservator was hired. It was conservatorship of the estate, the money, that was established. No conservatorship of the person was created because about a year before that he had given his girlfriend, Beth, power of attorney over his health in case he ever became incapacitated. At the time, he was competent to make that decision.
He was given medications by his doctor, some for dementia, others to pacify him. He refused to take them, which is his right. He has a history of being anti-drugs, except for alcohol. Were his attitudes honored? No.
Since he wouldn’t take them, the drugs are put in his food. Some are antipsychotic medications like Seroquel, which the FDA does not approve for patients with dementia. The FDA gives its most dire “black box” warning for these drugs, which have serious side effects and can significantly shorten an older person’s life. (For more information go to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform at canhr.org).
Jim’s had a hard time. It’s documented that in late February he was on given some medications (opiates) intended for another patient by mistake. As a result, he became comatose, and did a stretch at Cottage Hospital. Three months later, he had a serious fall, and landed back in the hospital again. Could the medications have led to his falling and a decline in health?
Despite the conservator of the estate having no legal authority over Jim’s health, the conservator has told hospital representatives and other parties otherwise, and has filed in court to remove Jim’s girlfriend from being power of attorney. Beth feels the side effects from the drugs are having a serious adverse effect on Jim, and she advocates for a more holistic approach, including getting a second opinion from a local doctor who does chelation therapy, which can be highly effective for patients with dementia (there are some doctors who don’t like pharmaceuticals, and natural remedies like chelation can’t hurt).
Why is Beth being targeted, and accused of interfering with his medications? When my mother refused to take the anti-dementia medications prescribed for her, I was said to be doing medical meddling, and accused of undue influence over my mom. But I knew she didn’t have dementia, and made life miserable enough for the conservators that they resigned. After that she was declared to be capable by the Public Guardian’s office, and regained her rights.
Beth truly cares about Jim, and is helping him for free. The conservator, attorneys, and court investigator are feeding off Jim’s estate, charging huge fees. But now that they’ve sold his property, and used up most of his assets, there’s only enough money left to maintain him for about six more months. What will they do then? Perhaps Jim will die before the money runs out.
Editor's Note: We have changed the names of people referred to in this letter, and make no claim as to the accuracy of its assertions, which we have not independently verified except for the part about the author's mother.