• Kitty Edwards

Legal Guardianship


For 20 years Deborah has cared for her adult son Joshua, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). During this time, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare was sufficient to give Deb the power to make decisions, choose medical treatments and arrange for living situations for Joshua. But last year Joshua’s medical condition worsened.


The treatment for his seizure disorder caused by MS got more complicated. The medical director at his nursing facility was resistant to following the medication protocol established by Joshua’s neurologist. When Deb questioned this decision, she got push back.


Because Deb’s job requires travel overseas it is impossible for her to micromanage the day-to-day medications. All of this made it necessary for Deb to go to court and ask to be assigned Joshua’s guardian. She knew that the medical director would not refuse the request of a court appointed guardian. Asking for guardianship was not an easy decision.

Deb was worried. What if she did not qualify? What if Joshua resisted? What if she invested a lot of money and didn’t succeed? Deb knew that being Joshua’s guardian would give her more authority than the standard Power of Attorney, thus allowing him to receive care that would better support his overall well-being. Plus, unlike a Durable Power of Attorney, a guardianship can be transferred to another person if Deb herself were to become incapacitated.

The process of obtaining a guardianship requires the preparation of legal documents, credit reports, investigative interviews, medical examinations and evaluations. Deb felt challenged and found it difficult to stay hopeful. She had to release her fear about the outcome. She had to trust the wisdom of her lawyer, the investigators and the judge. And she had to avoid pressuring Joshua into it.


She had to find the courage to step forward while letting go at the same time. For support Deb developed a ritual of establishing sacred space to help keep her focused as she was filling out all the legal and financial forms. She opened it again before each legal meeting adding in a prayer to open her heart and to ask for the best possible outcome for Joshua. After many months, Deb was declared Joshua’s guardian.


Sacred Space Ritual

As a caregiver it’s important to know how to open sacred space for yourself.



Tips on the ‘Whats’ of Legal Guardianship

Preparing the necessary legal documents is essential when caring for a loved one.


Obtaining a power of attorney for medical and financial matters will address most issues. However, there are times when more involvement is necessary and legal guardianship becomes the better option.


What is a legal guardian? A legal guardian is a person who, as granted by the court, oversees the safety and well-being of another person. Responsibilities usually include making financial, legal and medical decisions on their behalf that are in their best interest.


What are the signs guardianship is necessary? A person might be putting themselves in physical danger through actions like leaving on the stove or wandering out alone. They might be putting themselves at financial risk by forgetting to pay bills or making irrational purchases. Other signs could be forgetting or refusing self-care activities like bathing or eating. When a loved one is no longer able to make informed decisions about daily aspects of their life, legal guardianship is necessary.


What are the steps to become a guardian?


While it varies by state, in most jurisdictions a petition needs to be filed with the local family court. Documentation showing the need for a legal guardian, as well as a detailed care plan from the person seeking guardianship, are required. You can also expect your loved one to get a physical and psychiatric evaluation. While the necessary forms and steps may be found online, this process can be complicated and lengthy. Choosing an Elder Law Lawyer can be helpful in navigating these steps as they specialize in issues affecting seniors and their families. Creating your own sacred space can help with focus and with being present along the way.


Resources

National Guardianship Association


Adult Guardianship


The National Academy for Elder Law Attorneys


Insight Timer App – Sacred Space




© 2020 Conscious Caregiving. A presentation of The Living & Dying Consciously Project