It is common for adult children to have concerns as their parents age. Maybe you noticed your mother is not remembering to pay her bills on time. Maybe your father recently had a health scare. Whatever sparked your concern may have left you wondering how you can help your elderly parent better manage his or her day to day tasks.

One option to help your parent may be to seek guardianship. A guardianship, which is established by a court of law, would allow you as the guardian to protect your parent, who would be your ward. However, guardianship would also take away many of your parent’s rights, so it is important to make sure the guardianship is completely necessary.

What responsibilities would I have as a guardian?

Different type of guardianships are awarded in different situations. You could be appointed as the guardian of the person or of the estate or both. You could also be awarded full or limited responsibilities or just be awarded temporary guardianship.

If a court appoints you as your parent’s guardian, the court will decide what responsibilities you have or do not have. In some cases, a ward may still be able to complete some tasks on his or her own, but may need a guardian for help in other areas.

However, some responsibilities that can be associated with guardianship, include:

  • Using your parent’s money to pay his or her bills
  • Making decisions about your parent’s assets
  • Maintaining your parent’s assets
  • Determining what medical treatment your parent will receive
  • Ensuring your parent’s living needs are met
  • Deciding where your parent will live

Although having you as a guardian can help your parent in many ways, you may not be able to prevent your parent from making bad choices, and you may not use force to make your parent do something. You will not have to personally supervise your parent all the time, but you cannot use your position as guardian to put your parent in a mental health facility.

In many cases, you will be required to ask the court’s permission before taking actions. You will also be responsible for submitting regular reports to the court.

How can I determine if guardianship is necessary?

It can sometimes be difficult to determine when guardianship is the best option. If your parent is unable to make his or her own decisions or is unable to provide for himself or herself, it may be appropriate. However, guardianship should only be considered as a last resort, so it is best to first consider if there are any less restrictive options that might meet your parent’s need instead of guardianship.

Some alternatives to consider may include Medicaid waiver programs, Medicaid entitlement programs or local services, such as meal delivery, transportation services and money management programs. Your parent may also be able to receive appropriate help while living in an assisted living facility or nursing facility.

Documents such as a living will, medical power of attorney, durable power of attorney or supported decision-making agreement are also good alternatives to consider. However, if your parent is legally incompetent, he or she will not be able to sign legal documents.

You may be surprised to find the perfect solution after taking the time to examine alternatives that maintain your parent’s rights and independence. However, if you have examined all possible alternatives and guardianship still makes the most sense, it is probably the right choice for the situation.