Conservatorship can be a contentious topic and, for the most part, I’ve always leaned toward not conserving someone unless it is absolutely necessary and now, I want to buy a “Free Britney” t-shirt. Brittney Spears is currently being hospitalized in a facility in Los Angeles. People are being tight lipped on the details but, it makes me think about the whole conservatorship process, and I wanted to share some insight that I’ve gleaned over the years.
I work with a lot of families that struggle getting conservatorships in place for their loved ones and, to be honest, I often have to explain to my clients that it’s more or less kinda a crap shoot. When a person is hospitalized on a 5150, they are more or less at the hands of an attending to decipher if they are gravely disabled in order to initiate the conservatorship process. But, some hospitals can be more of rotating doors versus others might tend to conserve, so, it just depends on that particular hospital which, quite frankly, really isn’t fair. I often tell parents that such and such hospital has a reputation to conserve more so than others, and they will do what they can to admit their loved ones in that particular hospital but, when a Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT) gets called and shows up, they’ll take that person to the closest hospital so really, often times, depending on the circumstances, you don’t have a say in where the person gets admitted.
This process can be very frustrating, especially when you have a loved one that goes in and out of the system. However, there are some basic things you can do to advocate for your son or daughter to be conserved once they are put on a hold.
First and foremost: document document document everything. It is crucial to have a paper trail that documents a loved ones behavior, and lists their hospitalizations so when they are admitted you can have something to give the Doctor to provide a more detailed background and description of their condition. When this information is submitted to the hospital, it makes it harder for a Doctor to just release a patient so, having something written down always helps apply pressure for a Doctor to put someone on a temporary conservatorship, and potentially extend it to a full blown conservatorship. But, if your loved one keeps getting discharged cause they don’t make “criteria” the best thing is to have something in writing to advocate for a higher level of care.
I also recommend showing face, literally. Make an appointment with the psychiatric social worker to discuss the treatment plan, and try and coordinate a face-to-face meeting with that person and with the Doctor. Yes, Doctors are busy and some are more responsive to family members than others but, being present to advocate for your loved one makes a difference. And, the best way to get ahold of the social worker and find out what’s going on is to go through the nursing station. I always say nurses are the backbone to any hospital so, utilize them as needed. Nurses hold a lot of power, and they can connect you to whoever is assigned to that patient so when you contact the hospital ask them to put you through to the nursing station in the psych ward.
Once you start to build a relationship with the treatment team, you are able to better work the system, and do what you think is best for your loved one. So two simple tips are document everything, and build relationships. This may seem like a no brainer but, you’d be surprised of how many family members miss this in their efforts to advocate for conservatorship. Hence, should you struggle with getting your loved one proper mental health treatment, start there.