Establishing Guardianship for a Parent
Caring for aging parents can be a stressful experience. When a parent is suffering from a condition that causes dementia, matters become even more complicated both personally and legally. When parents can no longer make decisions for themselves, they need someone trustworthy to do it for them. Establishing a guardian to make decisions when necessary can be an emotional experience for your parent but may ultimately be the best way to care for them. However, the process can be complicated and you should know a few things in advance.
It may seem ironic, but it is actually much more difficult to obtain guardianship over a parent after their condition has progressed. If your parent has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another condition in which you can expect a decrease in mental capacity, it is imperative to begin the guardianship process early. The law does its best to uphold the rights of adult citizens. For this reason and because of the complexities involved in applying for and receiving guardianship, it is vital to arrange for guardianship before the disease progresses and while your parents themselves can participate in the process.
The first step, which should be taken before dementia progresses, is to appoint a substitute decision maker who can act on a parent’s behalf. This is a private process, which means that your parent can, as a consenting adult, sign off on it and this decision is usually accepted by the court. On the other hand, a later guardianship process requires petitioning the court and relies on a very strict set of criteria in order to declare somebody incompetent.
The courts are reluctant to grant guardianship or declare an adult incompetent without extensive proof that mental capacity is diminished. To protect your parents later, start this process now. Talk to a lawyer who can guide you through the steps, file the proper papers and be your partner in this difficult process.