Deciding when a parent needs a guardian is never an easy decision to make. If you fail to step in, however, your parent could be physically injured or financially victimized by unscrupulous individuals who prey on the elderly. For these reasons, it is best to be proactive if you suspect that a parent’s physical or mental health has deteriorated to the point where a guardian may be needed.
The average American lives much longer now than was the case a century ago. Living longer, however, doesn’t mean that the natural aging process stops altogether. On the contrary, it often means that the elderly spend years in a long-term care facility at the end of their lives. Frequently, it also means living with Alzheimer’s or another age related dementia disease. Watching a parent succumb to the physical and mental deterioration that frequently accompanies the aging process is never easy. As a child, it is normal not to want to take away your parent’s freedom and independence by stepping in and seeking guardianship. If, however, you see signs that your parent cannot safely live alone and/or handle his/her affairs without help, stepping in and becoming a guardian is the best option. Some common signs that a guardian may be needed include:
- Your parent forgets things on a regular basis
- Bills are not being paid
- Utilities are shut off for non-payment
- Medicine isn’t taken as prescribed
- Appointments are missed
- You see bruises or other signs of frequent falls
- You parent does not appear to be bathing regularly
- The house is not clean
- Your parent appears unkempt
- Your parent appears moody or depressed
- Rapid or unusual weight loss
- Missing/unaccounted for funds
Any of these could be a sign that your parent is no longer able to care for himself/herself without help. Not only is your parent at risk for a serious accident or health related problem, but your parent could also become the victim of fraud or outright theft. Unsavory people look for elderly individuals who are vulnerable to prey on, meaning your parent could lose a substantial amount of money if you don’t step in and take control.
Don’t think of guardianship as taking away your parent’s freedom. Think of guardianship as protecting your parent just as your parent protected you when you were younger. Talk to your estate planning attorney about the guardianship process if you are concerned that a guardian is needed.