Why Conservatorship? Because it can Salvage – or Save – a Life

Conservators are just the safety net – if you should slip or fall.

Hey, I don’t know Britney Spears. I don’t know her family. I can’t say whether she should be “freed” from her conservatorship prison or not (#freeBritney). Not my business, frankly.

But I can tell you how it works for us – and why .

I can tell you how my son, who just a few mere months ago may have appeared perfectly capable of handling his own affairs, was making some big mistakes-and is now desperately in need of his conservator (me)  to salvage the life he’d so enthusiastically worked to build – before Covid-19 stole his job, his purpose, his sanity.

In the last two days I have:

  • Been able to get basic information as to how he is doing in the hospital (not well). Without conservatorship, I’d never have that information – or even know where he is. I couldn’t bring him a couple of T-shirts to change into. I wouldn’t know if my kid is safe.
  • Contacted his bank (where he’d opened a secret account) to deposit money to cover his overdraft – for now.
  • Kept his Medicare and Medicaid premiums paid.
  • Looked into re-applying for social security should he refuse treatment and remain “gravely disabled” – which, right now, he is. Anti-med people? Don’t judge until you see how he is right now. And compare how he was just weeks ago.
  • Called the finance company to see if his vehicle lease can be put on hold or something – to avoid the car being repossessed and his credit rating shot.
  • Discovered that he’d been covering up a bad financial decision, resulting in lease payments of two expensive cars at once. He’d hidden that from us for awhile, and then it had taken us months to get him to return one of the vehicles. While he’d been employed, he’s covered both payments somehow.
  • Paid his credit card minimum (plus a bit) – so this credit rating, too, won’t be shot .
  • Contacted unemployment to explain why he can’t file right now – without revealing his illness details (but can’t get anyone on the phone)

This is what conservators do. We catch them when they fall. We let go as much as we can (believe me, the last thing I want is to have to manage my son’s life AT ALL – he is 38 years old – but this illness just totally sucks and steals much of his logic, even when it’s managed by medication) – but if I don’t step in now, my son will not be able to get back the life he created while taking the meds he doesn’t think he needs.

Thank goodness I don’t have to explain anything to his employers. Thank goodness he didn’t exhibit these symptoms while at work, in front of customers. His good reputation is still intact – if he ever agrees to treatment again, and has another chance to get his life back.

Ben is back in the hospital where he was 17 years ago, right after his first breakdown. Ironically, he has the same care team he had then – a social worker and psychiatrist who both remember him, and remember me. This is where I’d first applied for conservatorship of person and estate. This place (called “West Hills” in my book) is filled with flashback scenes for me – visiting Ben, watching him pace the halls and fill notebook after notebook of nonsensical writings; the place where he lauded the value of medication after it helped his brain stop spinning, the pieces of his roiling thoughts falling (mostly) back into place. This is also where he ran from me, after a day in outpatient, because it was time for his meds.

And the flashbacks are all too real again – because right now it’s as if the past 9 years have never happened. Will he come back to life again? Will he work again, drive his hard-earned car again? I don’t know. I don’t even know where he will live, because it won’t be with us if he isn’t agreeing to treatment.

So we live this – once again – one day at a time, and help keep his “managed by treatment” life alive and waiting for him if he ever comes back to us again. For now.

It’s what a good conservator can do. Out of love, pure love. We are the net under the tightrope, should they fall off. We don’t want power. We don’t want to steal their money, or their freedom. We are the salvage team.

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