Guardianship is a process when the court appoints a person to look after another who can no longer care for himself or herself. This process is frequent in situations where elderly adults cannot make decisions due to a health issue such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
If you are the adult child of an elderly parent, there are some common signs that your parent may require a legal guardian.
1. When your parent refuses necessary care
Sometimes elderly adults refuse care that they actually need. For example, early-stage dementia patients may resist signing a power of attorney even though inevitably they will lose the ability to make decisions on their own behalf. If your parent is refusing to take the steps necessary to protect his or her own well-being, you can petition the court to establish a legal guardianship.
2. When there is no power of attorney in place
A health care power of attorney allows you to make decisions about your elderly parent's medical care. A guardianship also gives the legal guardian powers of decision-making over health care matters. An important difference is that the court assigns a legal guardian while people appoint their own power of attorney when they are still able to make these types of decisions. If your parent is already at a stage where he or she is unable to appoint a power of attorney, but you need to make decisions on his or her behalf, this is a case where you can turn to the court for assistance.
3. When you need to sell certain assets or property
You may need to sell assets in order to help your parent cover the costs of care or to become eligible for Medicaid. Depending on your state's laws, you may not be able to take this step without a legal guardianship. A financial power of attorney may grant certain permissions in terms of property management and distribution. However, if the financial power of attorney does not allow you to, or, if your elderly parent does not have a financial power of attorney in place and is no longer able to make decisions on his or her own behalf, you may need to seek a guardianship.