Guardianship and Conservatorship

A guardian or conservator is appointed by the court to support individuals deemed unable to care for themselves or act in their own best interest. The court uses the term "incapacitated" to describe persons requiring a guardian or a conservator. Incapacity may occur due to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, a developmental disability, or a brain injury. A guardian oversees health care needs. A conservator oversees financial matters. Guardians and conservators may be family members or professionals.

Powers of Attorney/Personal Representative

A power of an attorney is an individual appointed to manage healthcare (medical power of attorney) and/or finances (financial power of attorney). Individuals interested in making sure they have an advocate in the event they become unable to act for themselves, appoint a power of attorney. A power of attorney may either be a family member or a professional who will execute directions and wishes relative to health and financial matters. A power of attorney may also act on behalf of an individual who for health or other reasons is no longer able to make healthcare decisions or manage financial matters. In many cases a power of attorney is also appointed the personal representative of the estate since they likely would have knowledge of personal and financial matters prior to the death of the individual.

Care Navigator/Case Manager

This is a broad category of services that includes oversight of healthcare matters and advocacy, oversight and coordination of daily needs. The best description would be a professional who advocates (similar to a spouse or adult child if time and expertise existed) on behalf of an individual experiencing challenges with caregiving, health declines and day to day needs. The situation might be a chronic health diagnosis or terminal disease, difficulty managing and maintaining a home or the need to move to a retirement or care community. In many situations, family and friends are unable to provide ongoing support or lack the expertise in areas requiring advocacy and coordination.

What background or expertise should I seek when interviewing an individual for these types of support?

Professionals should have advanced education or certification that supports their role in any of these categories. Longevity in the industry is an indication that the company or person you appoint has stability and experience to provide the needed services. Individuals who participate in public education or those who have personal experience in any of these areas possess added credibility.

Is there a fee for these types of services?

Professionals do charge a fee. Visit company websites to investigate whether fees are posted. Some professionals have hourly or by the project fees. Make a personal appointment to discuss your situation with the professional you are considering. Ask how the person you are considering is paid. Many industries, in addition to charging fees to clients, provide cash and other incentives to businesses that refer clients for many types of services. Make sure the person you are working with is working for you and not for an incentive provided by a business they recommend.

Source: Pamela D. Wilson, The Care Navigator.