Is it time to protect an aging loved one with a guardianship?

Aging is an unforgiving process. Even the healthiest person will eventually experience a decline in his or her physical ability. In many cases, mental faculties also begin to decline in advanced age. Medical conditions, like Alzheimer's disease, can speed up and worsen the degeneration of aging. Some people may no longer be able to stay safe while providing care for themselves or living alone. They may not be able to dress, cook, bathe or keep themselves safe alone.

Family members eventually need to step in to provide care for those who are ailing. Dementia, memory loss and similar issues can leave someone unable to care for themselves and unable to recognize those limitations. If your loved one requires constant help and protection, it may be time to seek guardianship over your loved one.

What is guardianship of an adult?

Texas law allows other people to seek guardianship over those with compromised or declining mental faculties. Those who simply cannot make medical and financial decisions any more require outside help and support. The person who assumes legal decision-making responsibility for the incapacitated individual is called a guardian, while the person receiving care is the ward. A guardian has responsibilities to their ward. They assume control of the ward's assets, which allows the guardian to pay taxes, bills and other living expenses.

Guardians can decide what medical treatments wards receive, where they live and who may visit them. In order to assume that role and authority, however, the guardian has to go through a protracted and complex legal process. Part of it will involve demonstrating incapacitation of the ward to the courts. This must include a statement from a medical doctor. Family members receive preference as guardians, but the courts can also appoint a non-related professional to the role.

Seeking guardianship can be emotionally and legally complex

It is hard to explain to someone you love that he or she can no longer manage alone. This discussion can become complicated and may cause damage to the underlying relationship between the guardian and the ward. The ward may see it as a loss of his or her freedoms and rights, instead of as an attempt to ensure proper care and protection.

Even if your ward does not oppose the guardianship, other members of your family may. You should prepare for challenges from other people, including siblings or extended family members. Although it's easy to get carried away with emotion during a protracted court process, you should try to remain calm and focus on the needs of your loved one as much as possible. Doing so helps ensure you make the right decision. While assuming guardianship of a loved one isn't easy, sometimes it is the right thing to do.

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