Should I become Guardian of my parent?

September 18, 2013

The first time many of us heard of guardianship was probably in elementary school when
we had to get permission slips signed by our parent or guardian. As parents age we may be faced
with the question of making choices for them if they are in a position of not being able to make
decisions for themselves. There are many emotional, financial and legal issues to consider when
you are deciding to become a guardian of your parent and it is never an easy choice.

Families can unite in the decision to seek guardianship and discuss the goals they hope to
achieve by seeking guardianship. The first decision is to determine who is best suited to be the
legal guardian of a parent who is no longer competent to make decisions. The guardian should
be someone who is able to make decisions about what needs to be done to protect mom or dad’s
health and finances. The guardian needs to be able to gather financial, legal and
healthcare information to determine what is in the best interest of the person under guardianship.
The guardian should also be able to communicate with the parent to the extent possible about the
decisions that are being made as well as inform the rest of the family. Family dynamics and
even geography will play a role in these decisions. It is also helpful to consider if one member
of the family has greater knowledge of the parent’s limitations, needs and financial situation.

There are some questions to ask to determine the goals of guardianship and whether it is
necessary. Does your parent need medical care that he or she is not receiving? Is he or she able
to live alone? Is your parent making decisions which are harmful to their health or finances? It
is important to remember that the court will only appoint a guardian if someone is not able to
make decisions to care for themselves physically and financially. Illnesses such as dementia can
affect memory and judgment and if you are able to communicate with your parent’s doctor they
may be able to give insight into their decision making ability and whether guardianship is
necessary. The decision to seek guardianship and making the choices that will follow are
difficult and have important implications. Guardians who have the support of other family
members and who are able to communicate with siblings and other family members about the
decisions they are making create a better environment for an elderly parent who is likely
confused and scared. Communication will also maintain family harmony through a parent’s
illness and after a parent passes away. It is important to seek guardianship if there is a crisis
situation but guardianship can also be about making decisions that will avert a crisis, keep a
parent as healthy and comfortable as possible when they are unable to care for themselves and
help your family get through a stressful situation with a sense of security when much is