As our loved ones age, they may start having trouble making decisions independently, maintaining regular hygiene, properly managing finances, and remembering to take necessary medications. Under such circumstances, the court may find it necessary to appoint a guardian to protect the interests of an elderly loved one.
If you are considering seeking guardianship for your aging parent, it is important to know what to expect. The role of a guardian is paramount because of the legal responsibility to advocate for the aging parent's care.
This role often requires high integrity, empathy, and a lot of patience. As we age, our health can begin to deteriorate, and the symptoms may worsen as the years go by.
What is Guardianship?
A guardian is a person who has the legal authority or has been appointed by the court to take care of personal affairs, manage assets, and make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated senior. To name an agent, you must demonstrate that you have the legal authority to act on behalf of your senior parent.
This means you must get notarized or written documentation from your parents showing that you're their agent. It can also be a good idea to consult with a lawyer about the guardianship filings in Indiana.
Different states have varying guardianship processes and requirements. In Indiana, the following parties can petition a court to appoint a guardian:
- The senior person
- A close relative or a friend of the elderly person
- A spouse of the elderly person
- A state or government agency
In most cases, the guardianship process can be complex and time-consuming since it can be challenging for aging individuals to relinquish control over their lives and accept that they have to be cared for by someone else. In Indiana, the process involves the following procedures:
- Hire an attorney: It is recommended to retain a lawyer familiar with Indiana's guardianship law. An attorney can help you with the necessary paperwork and provide legal advice and guidance through the entire process.
- Obtain a Physician's Report: If the older adult is incapacitated, you may need to collect a Physician's statement to verify that the person cannot independently make important personal and financial decisions.
- File a Petition for Guardianship: Next, you should file a petition with the court and provide notice to the incapacitated person, family members, close relatives, and others entitled to such information under the law.
- Investigations: The court investigator will then launch an investigation to determine whether guardianship is necessary.
- Court Hearing: During the court hearing, the presiding judge will review the petition and listen to and evaluate the statements before establishing whether your elderly parent is incapacitated. The judge will grant the guardianship petition if the evidence presented is sufficient. Upon appointment, the judge will issue the Letters of Guardianship, allowing the guardian to act on behalf of the senior.
How Guardianship Can Help
If you're appointed as a guardian, you assume specific roles and responsibilities to your elderly family member. However, it may not be easy to know when to take up this role or when to step back.
Finding the right time to talk to your parents about their needs and wishes is the first step. And this best time is well before their health begins to deteriorate. Naming a guardian for your loved one may strain relationships and even cause emotional trauma to your elderly parents, by having the conversation before health issues arise can provide a way to collaboratively tackle the challenges of aging together.
As a guardian, you may also face disagreements with siblings and other family members about your parents’ care. Disagreements can occur regarding the level of care provided and costs, even when you know help is needed for the elderly parent's protection and safety. Financial matters can also be a sensitive subject when caring for the elderly.
Fortunately, when a guardian is designated, a conservative is also designated to help manage money and assets. Therefore, when appointed as a guardian, you assume total decision-making power. However, this does not mean you can do whatever you desire. Rather, you will use set decision-making standards. An essential part of the decision-making is the substituted judgment concept, which requires the guardian to make decisions as if the senior parent was deciding for themselves.
The duties of a guardian may include managing routine care at home or in a care facility. A guardian may also handle communication with medical experts regarding care needs. Over all, the guardian's role involves managing in-home caregivers, advocating with healthcare professionals, placing an elderly parent in a care home, and coordinating prescription medications with the physician, pharmacies, and the insurance company.
When Should You File For Guardianship?
An obvious scenario when you might want to file a petition for guardianship of your elderly parent will be if their health declines or they start to struggle with making decisions for themselves. You may also consider petitioning for guardianship if your parents decline support through a caregiving facility.
If your elderly parent cannot manage their health, care, property, or finances, it makes sense to file for guardianship. Other circumstances under which you may consider filing for guardianship is when your elderly parent does not have a power of attorney, an agent, or another person mandated by law to make decisions on behalf of your parent.
Contact Our Experienced Indianapolis Guardianship Attorneys
The roles and responsibilities of a guardian are significant when it comes to caring for their elderly parent. Whether you are filing for guardianship for yourself or an elderly parent, you should work with a lawyer specializing in elder law.
Our legal team at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law is ready to help you with your guardianship petition. To speak with our Indianapolis guardianship attorneys, please call our office at (317) 492-9569 for a consultation.