There are critical ongoing discussions regarding the care of the elderly in the news on an almost daily basis. There are many good reasons why this is such a hot-button topic. Still, the two most important issues revolve around the facts that many elderly are preyed upon or abused by caregivers and that the elderly population continues to rise as baby boomers head into their retirement years.
There is no doubt that the aged will need help as they grow physically and mentally infirm. But while caregivers can feed them, dress them and provide them with assistance in daily activities, an attorney or loved one will often look after the older adult using power of attorney or guardianship.
Guardianship may be necessary
Power of attorney is a document that enables a person to become the agent for the elderly principal. The agent can oversee financial matters in an elderly person’s estate or make important decisions regarding medical care. These are useful legal tools, but guardianship takes that care further.
A parent for the elderly
The needs of an elderly person will vary, but a guardian essentially becomes a parent to the elderly or incapacitated (referred to as a ward). Examples of a guardian’s significant life decisions and responsibilities include:
- Determining where the elderly person will live
- Identifying the best course of medical care
- Arranging for social contact and recreational activities
- Buying household items, food and personal items
- Managing finances
A loss of rights
Amidst the extensive paperwork and courtroom hearings, individuals will sign away many rights in a guardianship petition (if it is voluntary), but it can also be involuntary if the courts determine that the ward is unable to care for themselves because of mental disorders, addiction or other issues.
A lot of power and responsibility
Caring for a ward takes a lot of time and effort, and it gives the guardian extensive control over the ward’s life. Ideally, they take these responsibilities seriously, but this kind of power can leave other loved ones to wonder if the guardian always has their ward’s best interests in mind.
Those with questions or concerns about guardianship should talk with an estate law attorney who understands the guardian’s role and can handle disputes in court if there are concerns about the well-being of the ward.