It can be devastating when mom goes from the familiar advice-giver, former Girl Scout leader and master gardener to someone new who clearly needs your help and guidance. Family members often need to step in when they discover mom or dad is getting on in years and can no longer cook, isn’t paying bills or opening mail or is no longer able to do things that used to give them pleasure and satisfaction.
According to Maryland’s Department of Aging (MDoA), if an elderly parent needs someone to take responsibility for their well-being and to maintain their property, a guardian may be called for. In the MDoA’s publication, Guardianship and Its Alternatives: A Handbook on Maryland Law, they advise that because this is a complicated multi-step legal process, assistance from an experienced attorney is essential.
The need for a guardian is determined legally based on a person’s disability, physical or mental, to care for themselves. A guardian can be appointed to care for the person, made guardian of the property or both.
Everyone is different and different levels of guardianship are called for. One person may need a guardian to assume care of their property, because filling out forms and keeping track of transactions has become too complicated. Another may need someone to make most of the simple, everyday decisions for him or her, such as what they will wear, what groceries to buy, when to see the doctor. A person may be perfectly capable of telling the judge who they would like to take care of these matters for them, for example, but incapable of doing so themselves.
Either way, guardianship is a profound change for the person concerned, and must be undertaken with care. The MCoA advises that guardianship should be used only if a less-restrictive method isn’t workable.