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Thank you for your question. What can you tell me about your parents' mental abilities. Are either of them mentally impaired in any way? Are they suffering from dementia, for example?
My mom has serious memory and sometimes behavioral issues, my stepfather, I have no idea. Neither one will talk to me about their doctors or what they say to them, so I have no idea what diagnosis they have received. My stepfather has told me on many occasions that my mother "lies to the doctors".
Thank you. Please allow me to explain how the law works in California.
The general rule is that an adult is allowed to receive or not receive whatever care or assistance he or she cares to receive. If someone wants to have in-home assistance, they are free to receive it. If they want to go without, it is their choice to do so. Adults generally can't have care or assistance forced upon them. So when you tell me that you are concerned for your parents, you are right to feel concerned, but it would generally be their decision whether to have help. However, if someone is incapable of making those decisions for herself or himself, there is a legal mechanism called a conservatorship. There are two types of conservatorships--there is conservatorship of the estate, and conservatorship of the person. Conservatorship of the estate gives another responsible adult authority to handle financial matters of the person being helped (the conservatee). Conservatorship of the person gives another responsible adult authority to make legal decisions, such as care, living arrangements, medical decisions, etc. A conservatorship for an adult is essentially the same as a guardianship for a child.
So the question is really one of whether the adult is capable of making their own legal decisions. If there is no diagnosis but there is nonetheless reason to believe that an adult is suffering from mental illness or defect that significantly impairs their ability to make their own legal decisions, the conservatorship process can be started and a medical examination can be ordered as a part of that action.
if a psychiatric examination is more appropriate, that could be performed as well.
They will not agree to that.
It really wouldn't matter if they agreed to it. They could be locked in a room with a psychiatrist for an evaluation. The uncooperativeness would just be part of the information collected for the assessment.
How do I go about that? Without kidnapping them :)
Well, I do discourage kidnapping :-)
I guess what I want to know is what is my legal responsibility if these measures fail?
If you've made the decision that a conservatorship is necessary, I should start by saying that you really need to seriously consider using an attorney to assist if you expect it to be contested. However, anyone pursuing a conservatorship on their own would typically start by contacting the probate division of the Superior Court in the county where the proposed conservatees reside and asking for a conservatorship petition packet.
Well, regardless of whether the measures fail, children are generally not responsible for the wellbeing of their parents unless under a court's order to provide or care for them in some way.
Can I get in trouble if I do nothing?
Do you have any particular reason that you would be in trouble for doing nothing? Normally, there's no obligation.
*I meant to ask "do you have any particular reason to believe that you would be in trouble for doing nothing?"
Not really, just fearful that something will happen to one of them before I can get them to accept any help.
I understand. But they're adults and no matter how much you love them, the law will generally not force them to receive help if they're capable of understanding their decision to not receive it.
Ok thank you. You have been very helpful in helping me know where to go from here.
It was my pleasure. I wish you best.