It’s strange how quickly the tables can turn. You go through most of your life with your parents taking care of you and then one day you turn around and discover that they are no longer able to care for themselves and desperately need you to step up.
In most cases, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative cognitive disorders are the reason you’ll have to learn how to gain guardianship of your parents. As soon as they are no longer able to handle their finances, appointments and personal care, it’s time for you to step in.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided that your elderly parent should be in an assisted care facility or if they’re staying in your house so you can personally handle their care, you should go through the proper channels and become their legal guardian.
The simplest way to understand how legal guardianship works is that once it has been obtained, you basically have the same sort of rights over your parents as they had over you when you were a minor. It allows you to take over responsibility for their financial situation, medical care and living situation. It will likely be far more time-consuming and emotionally draining than you expect so have a self-care plan in place for the days when you feel overwhelmed.
No one likes to strip a person of their freedom, even though there are times when it is necessary. That’s why gaining guardianship over a parent can be complicated. If possible, it’s best to start the process long before your parent shows signs of cognitive deterioration. The best way to do this is by signing legal documents, such as living wills, that keep you involved in medical decisions. Another important step is arranging for your name to be placed on some of your parent’s bank accounts so that you can track their spending and continue to pay bills once they do develop Alzheimer’s.
Once it becomes clear that your parent really can’t make decisions for themselves, you’ll want to start the legal process of assuming guardianship. This is a complicated and time-consuming process. One of the first steps is submitting to an extensive background check that the court will use to determine that you’re not going to abuse the situation.
While you’re waiting for the background check to be completed, you need to start gathering up documentation in the form of doctor’s reports and eyewitness accounts that prove your parent can no longer care for themselves. A court psychologist will also examine your parent’s case.
It isn’t enough to simply show the court that your parent isn’t able to care for themselves. You also have to prove that you’re up to the task of serving as their legal guardian. The way you do this is by presenting the court with a care plan that shows you not only understand your parent’s health problems, but also have a plan in place to ensure they get the care they need and that you’re going to use your access to their finances in a responsible manner.
If the court likes what you’ve presented, they’ll grant you guardianship.