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Gaining guardianship of a parent with Alzheimer's disease

When your parent gets a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, you may both be shocked, saddened and frightened of the future. After the initial shock has worn off, you may be able to sit down with your parent to talk about what you will be able to do for him or her when he or she can no longer make logical decisions regarding things like health care, finances or even personal hygiene.

Discussing the possibility of becoming a guardian to your mom or dad while they're still able to think clearly might be a wise idea. Guardianship can be a blessing at a time when your parent is no longer able to make legal decisions or sign documents pertaining to his or her estate because of mental incapacity.

When a guardianship kicks in

When your parent is living alone, and many things in his or her environment are unsafe and he or she won't agree to help, it may be time to petition the courts for guardianship. People who have Alzheimer's can suffer disorientation, and even the most mundane tasks can become grueling for them. They're at risk for harming themselves by falling or by wandering away and not knowing how to get home. They could also fall prey to telephone scammers looking to take advantage of them financially.

What you can do as a guardian

It's kind of a role reversal. As a child, your parents have authority of you. As a guardian for your parent, you now have authority over him or her. As a guardian, you'll be able to ensure your loved one, who can no longer make rational decision because of diseases such as Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, will be:

  • Living in a safe place and leading a dignified life
  • Not facing exploitation financially
  • Getting care from a qualified, long-term caregiver
  • Getting any necessary health care

The how behind granting guardianship

Any court proceeding involving the granting of a guardianship will never be taken lightly. Courts want to ensure the guardianship won't be abused. As a petitioner, you will have to show the court that your parent is incapacitated and prove that you will be a competent guardian to him or her.

Usually, a court-appointed psychologist will already have made the determination your parent isn't fit to make decisions for him or herself. The major part of the court hearing will be to determine if you would make an appropriate guardian.

A Pennsylvania attorney who specializes in elder care may be able to help you by answering your questions about guardianship. An attorney's guidance could make it easier for you to make prudent decisions as you plan to care for your parent who has Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

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