Approximately 80% of older adults suffer daily from some type of chronic disease. At some point, they need an adult guardian to take care of them. Here’s what you need to know about guardianship.
What is Guardianship?
An adult guardian helps make critical health care and financial decisions when an older adult is no longer able to make these decisions on their own. These decisions can include things like being unable to keep up with daily hygiene, forgetting to take medications, or not paying bills properly. The guardian is able to step in and be responsible for those tasks getting done.
A durable power of attorney or advance directive gives the guardian the right to speak for the older adult. If someone becomes unable to care for themselves but doesn’t have a power of attorney document in place, the court can be petitioned to assign a healthcare advocate to make medical decisions, manage finances, and provide housing and daily necessities.
How Is Guardianship Established?
To establish guardianship, the court must be petitioned to assign one during guardianship hearings. Guardians can be family members, patient care advocate providers, and social service agencies. During the hearing, the person who wishes to become the guardian must prove that the older person can’t manage their health and finances safely.
Types of Guardianship
There are two types of guardianship a court can grant. Limited guardianships allow the caring guardian to control only one aspect of the older person’s life they can no longer manage. For example, the older person may be able to make financial decisions but needs help from a guardian to manage their medical needs. An unlimited guardianship takes away all the legal power of a person to make decisions for themselves in all aspects of their life and hands it to someone else.
Alternatives To Guardianship
The process of becoming a guardian can take an extensive amount of time and can be incredibly expensive. There are other alternatives, depending on the situation. For example, an older person can assign someone to manage their finances through a living trust. An older person who receives government benefits can assign a Representative Payee to manage that income.
Deciding on when and how an adult guardian is needed can be an emotional and challenging task. It’s important to research all your options carefully before making any decisions. If you do consider guardianship, get help from a licensed attorney who specializes in elder care planning.