Sadly, it’s not uncommon for an elderly person to eventually reach the point where they can’t think clearly, rationalize, or make important decisions on their own. Once a senior becomes incapacitated, if they don’t have a durable power-of-attorney (POA) their adult children must find other ways to ensure their loved one’s continued health and wellbeing.
If you’re currently caring for an aging parent without a POA who may also be incapacitated, another option you have for overseeing their ongoing care is to become their legal guardian.
How to Become a Legal Guardian
You can apply for a guardianship, or conservatorship, if your parent hasn’t appointed a POA a to make medical, living arrangement and financial decisions for them, but it appears that they are no longer able to make those decisions on their own behalf. If you feel being mom or dad’s legal guardian is in their best interests, you will first need to petition a court of law to have your parent (the “ward”) declared legally incompetent based on evidence that’s heard by a judge.
After reviewing the evidence and your qualifications to serve as a guardian, the judge may then rule that your loved one is incompetent, and transfer responsibilities for managing their affairs over to you as a court-appointed guardian. Keep in mind that being named as a legal guardian can be a lengthy, emotional and potentially expensive process if all living relatives are not in agreement, so make sure to gain the approval of all family members beforehand.
In addition, any existing wills, advanced directives or other legal documents that your parent already has prepared can be considered as evidence before the judge makes their final decision.
Once you’ve been appointed as your parent’s legal guardian, you may be granted the authority to perform these responsibilities on their behalf:
- Making living arrangement decisions
- Monitoring their current residence
- Paying their bills and otherwise managing their financial affairs, including bank accounts and investments, while keeping detailed records of all income and expenditures
- Overseeing their real estate holdings and other tangible properties
- Releasing their confidential personal information
- Serving as a “representative payee”
- Providing consent for medical treatments
- Making end-of-life decisions for medical care, funeral arrangements, etc.
- Authorizing and scheduling non-medical services, like counseling
- Ensuring their independence in the least-restrictive manner
- Reporting to the court periodically about their guardianship status
Split Guardianships and Reporting Requirements
A judge may grant a guardian broad or limited authority once he or she has decided what’s necessary after reviewing all the evidence. It’s not uncommon for the court to split up guardianship responsibilities amongst several parties. For example, your parent’s long-time attorney might continue to manage their real estate holdings and legal documents, while you are granted authority to oversee their medical care and living arrangements.
In general, the court will require the reporting of the ward’s financial status at regular intervals or whenever an important financial decision is made. As a guardian, it’s also imperative to only make decisions for your parent within the areas authorized by the court, and to also first seek you parent’s input before making-a-decision on their behalf whenever that’s possible.
Caring for an Incapacitated Parent
Once your parent is incapacitated, even the most-simple daily activities, like eating, bathing, dressing and taking their medications can become challenging. At that point, and if they still want to continue living at home, you may want to consider hiring a professional in-home caregiver to ensure mom or dad’s ongoing safety and comfort. Find a home care agency that’s licensed, insured and that can also provide around-the-clock care if that becomes necessary.
Family Trusted Home Care for Seniors in Manatee County
Serving as a caregiver for an incapacitated elderly loved one is highly rewarding, but it can also be stressful and exhausting. When you need some assistance, call First In Care. As a fully licensed and insured home care agency, our highly trained and carefully screened caregivers use a unique and individualized approach to keep aging in place seniors safe and comfortable right where they want to be.
Our senior care services range from light housework, personal hygiene, meals, medication reminders, transportation and companionship, to more intensive 24-hour care if that’s needed. And, all our family trusted amenities can be individually combined in an affordable package when and where you need them! To learn more about First In Care, or to schedule a FREE, in-home assessment for a senior in Manatee County, FL, today, please visit: www.firstincare.com.