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Defining the players

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It is important to understand the various players in a case involving an incapacitated person. Among the positions a New Mexico District Court judge appoints:

Guardian Ad Litem

The court appoints an attorney to represent the person alleged to be incapacitated. They are present at court proceedings to speak on behalf of the potential ward and inform the court as to what they believe is in the potential ward’s best interest.

a00_jd_00nov_guardian_players_yellobluCourt Visitor

This person is usually a social worker or for-profit care manager who evaluates the potential ward, determines what they are capable of doing and what daily activities they need help with. They present their findings about family dynamics to the court and make a recommendation on whether a permanent guardian should be appointed.

Qualified Health Care Professional

A physician, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist or a neuropsychologist is assigned to determine the level of mental and physical impairment and make a report to the court. In New Mexico, such a report is routinely ordered even if the elder has already been determined to have dementia.

Permanent Guardian

This person is appointed after an initial 60- to 90-day assessment to make decisions about a ward’s medical care, where they will live, what kind of care they will receive and who will provide that care. After hiring in-home caregivers, the guardian often relies on their firsthand reports about conditions in the home, especially family relationships with the ward. A guardian can be a for-profit corporation or an individual, such as a family member.

Conservator

This appointee can be a bank, corporation or an individual. The conservator handles all of the ward’s finances. They pay the monthly bills, maintain the ward’s home and property, manage the estate investments and make decisions about what the ward’s future care needs might be, ensuring there are enough assets in place to pay for that care. The conservator, working with the guardian, can also hire companies to provide services for the ward.

Caregiver

This position is determined by the guardian, who hires the necessary number of staff to provide the ward with in-home care. Caregivers are assigned to wide-ranging tasks, from providing simple companionship and light meal preparation to constant bedside monitoring with responsibility for dispensing medicines. They are usually provided by a company, which bonds the employees and conducts background checks.

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