It’s about time.
Over the past few months, conservatorships (often referred to as guardianships), have finally been put into the spotlight… and not for good reasons. The first large scale public glimpse into the the abuse of many conservatorships was through the Netflix film I Care A Lot in February 2021. That film, which was likely inspired by the documentary The Guardians, focuses directly on the unjust treatment of elders throughout our country, albeit in a very Hollywood-esque, over-the-top manner.
But of course, one of the most widely documented stories of the second half of 2021 has been Britney Spears’ battle to be freed of her own conservatorship that she has been a prisoner to since 2008.
While it might not be the ideal way to get things done, it’s encouraging to see that the #FreeBritney movement has drawn the attention of some major politicians in Washington who are now looking deeper into the multitude of issues that have been caused by conservatorships over the past several decades. This, after all, isn’t a Britney Spears problem, it’s an everyone problem.
Older adults have been victims of conservatorships for years, often being put into guardianships under the ruse of helping them live out their later years with protection, where in actuality many are completely losing their rights, being pulled away from their families in entirety, losing any and all control over their health, finances, and living conditions.
Britney Spears likely had no idea how much help she was doing for the community as a whole through her own battle for control of her life, but now that a pair of forward thinking Congresspeople have taken notice, there may be hope for all of our grandmothers and grandfathers.
The FREE Act Will Take On Conservatorships
On July 20, 2021, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace and Democrat Congressman Charlie Crist introduced the bipartisan “Free Britney Act” which is meant to restore the rights of roughly 1.3 million Americans currently under conservatorship and change the way that these guardianships are managed in the future.
Per Congresswoman Mace, “Britney Spears’ conservatorship is a nightmare. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone. Conservatorships undoubtedly protect countless vulnerable Americans from abuse, but the case of Britney Spears reveals a darker side to a system meant to protect people.”
She continues, “To see a woman like Britney Spears have her most basic rights permanently stripped away from here under the guise of ‘protection’ should be illegal.”
This is all so incredible, and sadly true. Just think, if this can happen right in front of the public eye to one of the biggest pop stars in modern history, just imagine what is happening behind closed doors in our own neighborhoods.
Congressman Crist states, “Abusive conservatorships can be an unending nightmare, and tragically we don’t know how many people are being held captive against their will under the broken guardianship system. We do know, however, that we need federal safeguards to protect persons under guardianship from abuse and exploitation.”
Politically speaking, this seems to be one of the few issues that politicians can shake hands on across the aisle at the moment. The FREE Act was pushed forward by representatives from across political boundaries, and there seems to be universal solidarity on the topic.
Everyone from Kimberly Guilfoyle to Vice to USA Today have been coming on board to promote the need for conservatorship reform. USA Today’s article states “Emotionally gut-wrenching family separation is real, isolation of incompetent adults is real, and economic exploitation by court-appointed fiduciaries is also prevalent,” while Guilfoyle touts “In some cases, sons and daughters are prohibited from visiting their own parents in assisted living facilities. In other cases, court-appointed guardians charge exorbitant fees for mundane tasks such as opening the mail and paying routine bills, gradually depleting their ward’s assets until nothing is left to pass on to children and grandchildren.”
It’s promising to see politicians and pundits agree on much of anything these days, and it goes to show how important this issue is, how universally broken the system appears to have become, and how it affects us all, no matter where we are from or how much money we have in the bank.
The team at WayWiser has been dedicated to helping people maintain their independence and dignity as they age since inception and having these issues thrust into the limelight, even if as a bi-product of a pop star’s personal struggle, is a momentous step in our journey to help older adults and their families.
If you’re currently a caregiver for a loved one, or expecting a loved one to need care soon, you can use our Caregiving Guide to help light the pathway, keeping your family members independent and safe from potentially harmful court ordered conservatorships as they age.