Perhaps you recently noticed that your mom has been forgetting to cook meals for herself, or maybe the power at your dad’s house was shut off the last time you visited him. Maybe you are not even sure what you noticed, but you worry about your parent’s ability to make good decisions.

As an adult child, it can be difficult when you begin to notice that a parent is struggling, and sometimes when a parent cannot make good choices, it is necessary to step up and seek guardianship. However, guardianship takes away many of your parent’s rights, so you should only seek guardianship as a last resort.

How to determine if a parent needs a guardian

If you are not sure if your parent can make responsible decisions, consider the following questions:

  • Can my parent understand the decision that needs to be made?
  • Can my parent understand the available options and the possible consequences of those options?
  • Can my parent inform the appropriate people once a decision is made?

Guardianship of the person may be appropriate if your parent can no longer make responsible decisions about personal care. This may include decisions about where to live, how and where to seek medical care, and how to purchase food or clothing.

Guardianship of the estate may be appropriate if your parent can no longer make responsible financial decisions. This may include decisions about paying bills or managing money.

Consider if an alternative is more appropriate

Because the guardianship process involves taking away your parent’s rights, alternatives to guardianship should be used whenever possible. Some alternatives to guardianship include:

  • Living wills
  • Powers of attorney
  • Financial counseling
  • In-home support programs
  • Health care surrogates

Keep in mind that if your parent must sign a legal document, he or she is usually required to be of sound mind. This means that it is often necessary to acquire guardianship alternatives, like powers of attorney, before your parent experiences impaired decision-making abilities. Also, in some cases only a limited or temporary guardianship is necessary.

Seeking guardianship for a parent can be difficult. However, seeking guardianship can be necessary to protect your parent’s health and quality of life.