By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010  Q: I am taking my first vacation since being widowed and will be staying alone at several locations. Do you have any hotel safety tips?

A: Crime never takes a holiday, so always be aware of safety at home or away.

Ask for a room near the elevator rather than down an isolated hallway. Don’t accept a room with only a single lock or without a peephole. While in your room, always use the deadbolt or chain lock.

Never open your door without knowing who is on the other side. If it is someone claiming to work at the hotel, call to verify that an employee has been sent to your room. If it is an unexpected delivery, ask that it be left at the front desk.

Protect your valuables. Use the hotel safe; don’t leave valuables unattended in your room or carry them with you.

Never reveal that your room is unoccupied. In public areas, don’t display your room key or give out your room number. Also, don’t show large amounts of cash or an overstuffed wallet. Keep small bills in your pocket to pay for incidentals.

Get to know your surroundings. Ask if there are any areas you should avoid. When returning to your hotel, especially at night, always use the main entrance.

You also need to protect yourself in case of fire. When you check into your room, take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with fire exits and their proximity to your room.

Q: My cousin’s friends are hinting that she needs a conservator. Who decides if and when a conservatorship is needed?

A: I’m sure the concerns of your cousin’s friends are well-intended; however, a conservatorship is only one way to ensure that someone will be responsible for taking care of an incapacitated adult and usually considered only as a last resort. While the purpose of a conservatorship is to protect, it also restricts and can be costly as well as time-consuming.

A conservatorship must be formally established and ended by a court of law. The person seeking appointment as conservator must file legal papers and the court will schedule a formal hearing. Requirements are strict and the paperwork is technical.

At the hearing, the court hears evidence that proves or disproves the claim that the person can’t make his or her own decisions. Friends and family can testify, and a physician will report on the subject’s mental and/or physical condition. Based on information provided, the court will make a decision.

If the conservatorship is approved, the conservator assumes the responsibilities as defined by the court for caring for the incapacitated party. This obligation lasts until the incapacitated party dies or the court formally releases the conservator of the responsibilities.

Conservatorship is to be avoided if possible. If it is unavoidable, consider hiring an experienced attorney to guide you through the process.


n Financial Self-Defense for Seniors and Soon-to-Be Seniors, a panel presentation, will be 9-11:30 a.m. Friday at Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Learn to protect and empower yourself from scams and frauds. Refreshments will be served. For information and reservations, call 381-2744.

n In November, look for a Medicare Changes for 2011 seminar close to you. All seniors should attend at least one of these seminars to understand the changes that will occur and any adjustments they will need to make in their healthcare coverage. For information, call HICAP at 477-7310 or the advocates at 495-6250.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; call 495-6250 or e-mail (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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