Sometimes as parents age there can be issues with their cognitive functioning which are so pervasive that they are no longer able to fully or adequately care for themselves.  This leaves adult children in the unenviable position of having to reverse roles with their parent and take on responsibility for their personal care decisions.  In some cases, the parent may be in such a state that the most appropriate choice is for the child to become their guardian.  Here are some considerations about becoming your parent’s guardian:

Michigan Daughter becomes Legal Guardian of Her Mother

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship describes the legal relationship between a court-appointed guardian and a legally incapacitated person.  A person is considered to be incapacitated when they cannot make informed decisions because they do not understand or they can’t communicate their wishes.  The guardian will be appointed by the court in order to make decisions regarding the person’s care such as where they live, medical services, life care, and other day-to-day issues.  The guardian’s role does not encompass financial decisions, however, as those kinds of choices are made by a conservator.

Deciding to Seek Guardianship

For some, knowing that your parent needs significant care will be apparent.  It may be that they have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia which has advanced to the point that they can no longer care for themselves or remain safe without supervision.  There can also be circumstances which are concerning but not as severe.  For instance, memory lapses and the inability to manage routine daily tasks may be issues. Although these problems may appear minor, a person with this type of decreasing mental acuity could forget they left the stove on or where they are when alone and away from home.  If symptoms such as this are presenting themselves, it may be time to consider seeking guardianship of your parent.

The Guardianship Process

In order to ask for guardianship, you will need to file a petition with the probate court in which you will include facts which support your claim that guardianship of your parent is necessary.  Most courts will then appoint a “guardian ad litem” to investigate your claims and provide a report with recommendations to the court.  Your parent will be informed that they can contest the guardianship and have an attorney appointed to represent them.  They will also be given an opportunity to name a person they would prefer to have as their guardian.   The court will then conduct a hearing during which evidence of the need for a guardian will be presented and then decide if guardianship is necessary.

The decision to file for guardianship of a parent is often difficult to make.  Ideally, families will be able to work out an arrangement which allows the children to provide care and support of their parent without resorting to a formal guardianship.  However, depending on the situation there may not be a better option.  To make the best choices for your loved one, it is important to be informed about guardianship as well as its alternatives. Our office has experienced attorneys who understand and can provide you with the counsel you need to help make decisions regarding your parent’s future. Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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