What Is Guardianship?What is Guardianship

When we think of legal guardians, we tend to think of kids who need someone other than their parents to step in and take care of them. It’s hard for adults to imagine potentially needing that same level of care, but some families are finding that appointing a legal guardian over an aging loved one can be an important move to protect them.

Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are in a vulnerable position – and one that becomes ever more precarious as the illness becomes more serious. They’re easy targets for scam artists and, even without the manipulation of someone else, can be prone to making bad decisions about their money and health.

What is a Guardianship?

When a senior reaches the point where family members are concerned about their ability to take care of themselves and their property, the family can step in and ask the court to a appoint a legal guardian. The guardian then has the power to make decisions about the senior’s property and health care.

The decision to appoint a legal guardian for an adult should not be taken lightly. It involves taking away many of the senior’s rights and handing them over to someone else. If the legal guardian isn’t someone trustworthy with the senior’s best interests at heart, that’s a scary proposition. But if a senior has truly reached the point where they’ll put themselves at risk if someone else doesn’t step in, the choice is an important one to make.

Can I Choose My Future Legal Guardian?

If you’re a senior who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s and are concerned about having your rights taken away and handed to someone you don’t trust, you can take proactive measures to avoid it. Talk to a lawyer about your concerns and make it clear who you do trust. They can set up advance directives that clarify who should be given power of attorney, named your health care proxy, or be named your pre-need guardian so the court knows who to look to in the case that you do become incapacitated.

You do need to make sure that the person you name is willing to take on the job, or the court will find someone else (possibly a stranger). So talk to those close to you before your illness progresses and have a clear plan in place for the worst-case scenario.

How Do I Become Appointed Guardian for a Loved One in Need?

If your loved one has progressed to the state where you’re concerned they may be a risk to themselves, you can go to court to ask them to appoint a legal guardian. This isn’t an easy process – especially if there’s disagreement within your family as to who should be named the legal guardian – so you need to be sure it’s necessary before embarking on it. The first step is to talk to a lawyer. They can help take you through the process.

If you do become the legal guardian for your loved one, take special care to do what you think they would have wanted in their lucid days. It’s a big responsibility to take on and you don’t want to take advantage of it.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

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