There has been a lot of talk about the ills that can befall incapacitated individuals under Arizona probate law when hospitals work with fiduciaries and law firms to obtain a suitable level of care on those individuals’ behalf. And while there are no doubt grim examples where vulnerable adults have been taken advantage of, there are also many untold examples where discharge planners have worked with other professionals to obtain positive outcomes. Further, it is oftentimes the case that hospital discharge planners have no choice but to seek professional guidance and obtain the court’s permission to obtain care for incapacitated patients.
Why, you might ask, would a hospital discharge planner need to work with other professionals to obtain care for an incapacitated patient? Take for example the elderly hospital patient with no family members and no powers of attorney, and who is ready to be discharged but has not recovered the capacity to care for him or herself personally. Hospital beds are limited, not to mention costly, and to figure out placement issues with as little delay possible, it only makes sense for discharge planners to seek professional help.
Fortunately, the Arizona Probate Code allows for guardianships and conservatorships that protect incapacitated hospital patients in these types of scenarios. The hospital discharge planner may turn to an Arizona probate lawyer for guidance, who can suggest ways of obtaining public assistance to pay for care in a long-term care facility. Or, it may be necessary for the planner to contact a fiduciary who can petition the court for an emergency guardianship and conservatorship, and then make placement decisions for the patient under the court’s supervision.
Of course this is not a perfect system, and there is almost always potential for abuse in imperfect systems. But, more often than not, hospital patients in these situations benefit from the insight obtained by the group process, and these professionals most times have patients’ best interest in mind. Further, we are likely to see even more protections given to patients, as the legislature is likely to make changes to Arizona probate law in the upcoming session.