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As our parents become older, one of the most noticeable changes is their inability to think as clearly as they once did. Unfortunately, in some cases it becomes so severe that they are unable to make important decisions on things such as their health and medical treatment. If your parent is unable to handle matters himself or herself, you may need to consider guardianship. Just as with a child, you can act as your adult parent’s legal guardian.

Petitioning for guardianship is a serious matter and involves taking legal action. If a judge finds that your parent is incapacitated, he or she may appoint you as guardian to make personal and health care decisions for your parent. In guardianship proceedings, “incapacitated” means that the parent is incapable of meeting their health, care, safety, or therapeutic needs without the assistance or protection of another person. An incapacitated person may be a person who has a physical or mental problem that prevents them from taking care of their basic needs and they are in danger of substantial harm.

The legal guardian makes everyday decisions about how the parent lives. These decisions include decisions about health and medical treatment, where the person lives, and their social activities. It is the guardian’s responsibility to act in the best interest of the parent. This can be a difficult subject to discuss among your family. While you may believe that your parent lacks the mental capacity they once had, they may not feel this way. They may feel extremely dependent and vulnerable because they can no longer handle their own lives. This can cause turmoil between a parent and adult child and can go as far as the elderly parent appointing an attorney to object the guardianship. In other circumstances, if there are multiple children involved, there may be a dispute as to who will become mom or dad’s legal guardian.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

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