As we begin watching loved one’s age, it can be a very difficult and stressful time. You may begin noticing things that raise concerns or the safety and wellbeing of your aging loved one. However, your loved one may not be willing to accept the changes to their lifestyle or that there is any problem at all. It can be a very difficult time to know when to approach an elderly loved one on the matter of guardianship or additional alternatives if available. It is imperative, however, that you are aware of what the signs are that could demonstrate a loved one is in need of a guardianship. Guardianships can be lengthy and costly processes so knowing when to utilize it is key to saving everyone time, money, and stress.
So what do you look for in a loved one to determine if guardianship is right for you. Some of the signs are more obvious than others.
Change in Hygiene
Have you started to notice that your aging loved one is not able to properly bathe and keep themselves as groomed as they once did? Are you starting to notice their clothes are not being washed regularly? If so, this may be a sign that more help is needed for your loved one. It is important to point out that alternatives to guardianships must be explored before a full fledged guardianship is granted. So, the important question to ask yourself is how has this area of your loved one’s life declined and are they willing to discuss this issue with you in a rational way. Some people find that discussing some form of care facility or in home nursing care is met with great resistance by an aging loved one. If that is the case and they are truly unable to properly care for themselves, a guardianship may be the right option for you and your loved one.
Change in Finances
As our loved ones get older, it may begin to appear that they cannot adequately keep up with their finances. Do you go over to their home and discover unpaid bills, past due notices, or uncashed checks? If so, that may be a sign that your loved one is unable to adequately manage their finances. Have you noticed that they are unable to keep up with their home? Perhaps it is just too large for them. You believe it is in their best interest to sell the home, but they are reluctant to do so. Without a valid durable power of attorney on file, you are unable to assist with any of these issues. As will be discussed below, if your elderly loved one can no longer sign a durable power of attorney, a guardianship may be the best option in order to preserve your elderly loved one’s estate and ensure that they have enough money to properly care for themselves as they age.
Change in Mental Function
Have you begun noticing a rapid decline in your loved one’s mental state? Are they having trouble remembering day to day details and becoming more forgetful? If so, it may be time to start exploring guardianship as an option. The law allows anyone that still has mental capacity to sign documents that allow for others to make decisions regarding finances and medical treatment. However, if a person has reached the level of cognitive decline that they are considered incapacitated, these documents, and transfers of decision making power, are no longer an option. A guardianship allows for one to make these decisions and preserve the health and well-being of a loved one both personally and financially. Noticing when a loved one has reached a level of cognitive decline is imperative in knowing when to seek proper medical diagnosis for such a condition. A guardianship is a serious thing that requires a high level of proof. One such requirement is that they person has become incapacitated. Recognizing these early signs of decline will allow you to seek proper treatment and diagnosis early to save time during the guardianship process.
Level of Care Needed Is Beyond Scope of a Healthcare Proxy
What happens if you need to make healthcare decisions for your loved one that exceed your authority under a power of attorney? It is often the case that your loved one may need you to sign off on medications or procedures that are not covered under the power of attorney, but that must be done. For instance, what happens if your loved one needs antipsychotic medications and that is not covered under your decision making authority in the power of attorney that was granted to you? In this instance, a guardianship may be appropriate.
Change in Behavior
Have you noticed that your loved one is increasingly agitated or more irritable than normal? That may be a sign that he or she is experiencing severe health issues. For instance, aggression is a side effect of dementia. If you begin noticing that your loved one is displaying these behaviors it is time to start discussing the possibility of needing a guardianship.
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