As your parents age, you may notice some changes. Perhaps, the power was shut off the last time you visited your mother, and you question if her memory is still what it once was. Maybe you find yourself wondering when your father last bathed himself.
It can be difficult to worry about the well-being of your parents, especially if they are trying to downplay their challenges. However, if you think something serious may be occurring, it may be appropriate to step in to protect your parent. One possible way to protect your mom or dad is by seeking guardianship.
If a court names you the guardian of a parent, you would become the substitute decision-maker for your parent. If you are awarded guardianship of the person, you may make decisions regarding medical treatment, social services and residential placement, among others. If you are awarded guardianship of the estate, you may make decisions regarding your parent’s financial matters.
Is guardianship truly necessary?
Guardianship of the person may be necessary if your parent cannot make or communicate responsible decisions regarding personal care. Guardianship of the estate may be necessary if your parent cannot make or communicate responsible decisions regarding finances.
If you are not sure if guardianship in needed, consider the following questions:
- Does my parent understand when a decision must be made?
- Does my parent understand the available options when making a decision?
- Does he or she understand the potential consequences of each option?
- Can my parent inform the appropriate people once a decision is reached?
Are there any alternatives to guardianship?
However, seeking guardianship should be a last resort because it involves taking away your parent’s control of personal care or finances. Once this is done, it can be extremely difficult to undo. You may consider implementing guardianship alternatives before taking such extreme measures.
Possible alternatives to guardianship can include:
- Financial counseling
- Living trusts
- In-home support programs
- Powers of attorney
- Living wills
Keep in mind that most legal documents cannot be signed by someone who is incompetent. This means that some possible alternatives to guardianship must be created before the need for guardianship exists.
No child wants to witness the decline of a parent. However, the roles of parents and children often reverse over time. If your parent cannot make or communicate good decisions, seeking guardianship may be the most appropriate path forward.