Online Program

California conservatorship: A system in crisis

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Linda Kincaid, MPH, Coalition for Elder & Dependent Adult Rights, Saratoga, CA
Robert Fettgather, PhD, Mission College, CA
Best practices in elder care necessarily focus on maintaining optimal levels of physical, cognitive and psychosocial functioning. Best practices also require that elders' civil rights be respected, and that denial of rights be promptly corrected through procedural and legal safeguards.

California's court system provides little oversight of the conservatorship (guardianship) system. Courts presume that conservators are true guardians, granting them deference and foregoing justice. Thus, elders are routinely placed in conservatorship without due process. Conservators routinely remove elders from their homes without cause, confine and isolate elders from their loved ones, and plunder elders' hard earned savings.

California leads the nation in social services agencies assigned welfare of elders. However, agencies such as Adult Protective Services, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and Community Care Licensing routinely fail to provide mandated services. Conservators unlawfully exercise absolute power over their conservatees. State officials at the highest levels sanction rampant abuse

The public health community can address the gap between best practices and performance as it relates to conservatorship. • Define best practices in conservatorship, • Improve competencies of conservators, • Improve competencies of social service agencies.

California's Elder Abuse Act and Probate Code could serve as models for the nation. Case studies juxtapose the darker side of California's conservatorship system, a system in crisis that permits wanton abuse of vulnerable elders. The contrast will call on the public health community to close the gap between policy and practice. Lessons learned in California can apply to the nation.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Program planning
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify rights of all elders. List rights of residents in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing facilities. List rights of conservatees/wards of the court. Discuss the balance between “least restrictive environment” and a safe environment for individuals with dementia.

Keyword(s): Elderly, Human Rights

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Linda Kincaid obtained her Master of Public Health from UC Berkeley. She has been a chemical safety consultant to high tech companies in Silicon Valley since 1990. She was a Certified Industrial Hygienist from 2006-2010, when her mother became a victim of abuse. Linda is now an active advocate of elders’ rights. She is the California Advocacy Liaison for the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.