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How to Get Guardianship of a Parent With Dementia

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
6 minute readLast updated February 26, 2024

Seeing your parents transition from being independent to needing daily care can be difficult. It’s even harder when they can’t look after themselves anymore because of cognitive issues and refuse help. In such cases, you can get guardianship to make important financial and health care decisions for them. The process of gaining guardianship is legal, and it’s designed to respect your parent’s rights and dignity while making sure they’re safe and well cared for. Guardianship is about protecting them when they can’t make safe decisions independently any longer.

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Making sense of guardianship

If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, there might come a time when you notice they can no longer make safe or sensible decisions. This is especially challenging if they refuse the help they need. In such situations, you may need to consider legal guardianship.
Guardianship allows you to make decisions for your loved one with Alzheimer’s and ensure legal protection. This includes managing their health care, living arrangements, and finances. It’s a necessary step if they are unable to understand or sign legal documents, like a power of attorney, due to their cognitive condition.
To get guardianship, you’ll need to go through a court process. A judge will evaluate your case and grant you the authority to make decisions on behalf of your loved one. This process is crucial to ensure they are safe and receive the care they need.

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When guardianship for adults with dementia is necessary

When caring for your aging parent who lives alone and faces safety challenges, it’s important to recognize and address the risks they may encounter. Some of these risks and challenges include the following:
  1. Safety hazards at home: Perhaps your parent recently forgot to turn off the stove. You might respond by making the kitchen safer, such as unplugging appliances, but this could lead to them not eating properly and relying on snacks like crackers and soda instead.
  2. Refusing help: You try to arrange meal deliveries, but your parent refuses them. This resistance to accepting help is common in seniors who value their independence.
  3. Wandering and confusion: If your parent experiences sundown syndrome, they may wander outside at unsafe hours, possibly searching for locations that no longer exist. This can be both confusing and dangerous for them.
  4. Vulnerability to scams: If they’ve lost money to email scammers, this indicates they’re vulnerable to exploitation.
  5. Messy home environment: Finally, if their home is becoming increasingly cluttered or unkempt, this can greatly increase the risk of accidents like tripping and falling.
In scenarios where your parent consistently refuses assistance and their living situation becomes dangerous, it’s important to consider more proactive steps. Seeking legal guardianship may be a necessary action. Guardianship allows you to make crucial decisions regarding their care and safety, ensuring they live in a secure and supportive environment.

Authorities of guardians

Guardians have the same sort of authority that parents have over their children when they’re minors. With guardianship, you can ensure your loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia are:
  • In a safe and dignified living situation
  • Protected from financial exploitation
  • Able to receive necessary care

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How to get guardianship of a parent with dementia

In the U.S., there are court proceedings to ensure legal protection for a loved one with dementia. Family members who seek guardianship must prove that they can be competent guardians and provide evidence that their relatives with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are incapacitated.
The specific laws and procedures for obtaining guardianship of parents with dementia vary between states, but the application process typically goes as follows:
  1. Consult with an elder law attorney.
  2. Obtain a medical evaluation confirming a dementia diagnosis.
  3. File a petition for guardianship in court.
  4. Notify family members and the affected individual.
  5. Attend the court hearing.
  6. Await the court’s decision on the guardianship appointment.
  7. Assume guardian responsibilities if appointed.
  8. Comply with any court reviews or modifications of the guardianship.

What the guardianship process looks like

Determining whether someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is competent is usually the easy part. Court psychologists typically make that determination before the hearing, although the petition can present additional evidence at the hearing.
Most of the court proceedings establish that the petitioner is an appropriate guardian. The court scrutinizes the guardian’s actions, including the management of the individual’s personal financial affairs and decisions regarding medical treatments and long-term care. Some states even require a potential guardian to take a court-approved class to learn about their responsibilities.
If you’re seeking guardianship, you will be required to demonstrate that a care plan is in place and will make appropriate use of your parent’s funds. If the court agrees that you would make an appropriate guardian and that the senior is genuinely incapacitated, guardianship is granted.
Once conservatorship for elderly parents with dementia is obtained, you can provide your loved one with the care they need. In many cases, alternative senior living options, such as nursing homes or memory care facilities, can provide the best environment for them as they age. If you feel that your parent would be safest and most comfortable at one of these facilities, our Senior Care Advisors can help you determine the best option for your unique situation, all at no cost to you.


Meet the Author
OurParents Staff

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