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Guardianship: when it is needed and how to establish it

Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a difficult process. In addition to the emotional work of caring for your parent, Alzheimer’s patients sometimes can be stubborn and refuse care. There may come a point where it becomes unrealistic for your parent to adequately care for themselves.

In these cases, if your parent does not already have a power of attorney, establishing guardianship can help you provide care for your parent, and safeguard them from financial missteps.

Powers of attorney vs. guardianship

With respect to health care, both guardians and power of attorney agents effectively have the same power and responsibility—namely to make medical decisions for someone who can no longer care for themselves. However, the main difference between to the two relates to how they are set up.

A power of attorney is freely given by an individual. This means that your parent must be the one to give you authority to manage their affairs if they become incapacitated.

Guardianship, on the other hand, is granted by the court. In this case, you would have to request that a judge grant you the power to act as a guardian for your parent. In guardianship cases, the person receiving care has no say in the matter.

Because a power of attorney document can’t be signed if your parent is not mentally able to sign over their rights, establishing guardianship is the best way to ensure that your parent receives proper care if they do not have an existing power of attorney agreement.

What can a guardian do?

Guardianship allows you to:

  • Ensure that your parent receives proper care
  • Ensure that your parent does not fall victim to financial scams
  • Make living arrangements for your parent’s best interest

How to obtain guardianship

You can obtain guardianship through a court process. The courts will evaluate your proposal based on the mental capacity of your parent to make informed decisions for themselves and your capacity for handling their affairs in a trustworthy manner.

If your parent does not have an established plan for their affairs, obtaining guardianship is the best option to make sure that you can protect their well-being.

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