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When should you establish a guardianship for an older loved one?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Caring for aging family members can be both a rewarding and challenging responsibility. As our loved ones grow older, there may come a time when they need assistance managing their affairs and making important decisions.

Establishing a guardianship is a significant step toward ensuring their well-being. The question might remain, though, as to when is the right time to take this step.

Recognizing the need

The need to establish a guardianship for an older loved one typically arises when they are no longer able to make sound decisions regarding their finances, healthcare or daily activities. Signs that may indicate the need for guardianship include:

  • Difficulty managing finances or paying bills on time.
  • Forgetting to take medication or attend medical appointments.
  • Neglecting personal hygiene or living in unsafe conditions.
  • Showing signs of confusion, memory loss or cognitive decline.

These factors not only lead to confusion and serious mistakes for your loved one but they might also make them vulnerable to financial exploitation. Having a guardianship in place can help protect them from malicious intent.

Assessing capacity

Before establishing a guardianship, take the time to assess your loved one’s capacity to make decisions independently. Consider their ability to understand information, weigh options and communicate their preferences effectively. Consulting with medical professionals, such as doctors or psychologists, can help determine whether guardianship is necessary.

Exploring alternatives

It is best to only consider guardianship when less restrictive alternatives are not feasible or effective. You might instead consider a power of attorney, which grants authority to a trusted individual to make decisions on behalf of an older adult. Advance care directives and supported decision-making arrangements can also ensure that the family has a role in helping a loved one make important decisions ahead of time.

The Special Committee of Aging reports that there are over 1.3 million adult guardianships in the United States. Establishing a guardianship for a loved one with a disability is a common and viable course of action and one that can greatly improve their quality of life.