When a senior is unable to administer their own personal affairs, and they do not have a family member or close relative who is willing or able to be their guardian, a private guardian service may be appointed by the court to take on that role.
When is a Guardian Necessary?
A guardian is necessary when a person is unable communicate his or her decisions regarding their health, incapable to manage his or her finances, and other personal affairs. There are several things that may cause a senior to be mentally incapacitated including diseases such as alzheimer’s, dementia, or other health problems like Lou Gehrig’s, which prevents a person’s ability to effectively communicate.
What is a Private Guardian?
In the case that a family member or significant other is not willing or capable to be a guardian, a private (or public) guardian may be appointed by the Court. The guardian has the right to make personal and healthcare decisions either based on past preferences or on behalf of the incapacitated person (also called a ward or protected person).
Depending on the ward’s state, a guardian may only have limited guardianship. Limited guardianship is often used when a person is still able to communicate and retain some capacity. This form of guardianship can be tailored by the Court based on the capacity of the ward.
If the senior is entirely incapacitated, full (plenary) guardianship is necessary, allowing the guardian to make all decisions for the ward.
What are the Duties of a Private Guardian?
Once appointed, a private guardian is able to make all decisions regarding the ward’s healthcare, wellbeing, and personal finances. Examples of some of their duties include:
- The ward’s living situation
- Medical care
- Sale and purchase of assets
- Legal matters
- Paying bills
- Release of confidential information
Signs of a Good Guardian:
Putting your loved one’s health, wellness, assets, and affairs in the hands of someone else is not a decision to take lightly. Here are some good qualities to look for in a guardian:
- Knowledgeable of elderly law, finance, health, and other essential topics
- Good listener and communicator
- Compassionate and kind
As the family of a loved one entering senior living, it is important to consider what guardianship is and how it works. Should you ever be in the situation where you need to become the guardian of your loved one, or your loved one requires the services of a private guardian, it is best to be prepared and know the facts. This will ensure your loved one is safe, healthy, happy, and in the care of someone you trust.