What Have Other Adults Learned About Alternatives to Guardianship?
A Parent's Story -
Parents do not need to become guardians of their adult children in order to stay involved.
"Our daughter, Lisa, has a developmental disability and is turning 18 next month. We have been told if we don't get guardianship we will no longer be a part of her planning team. This terrifies us. After we learned what guardianship was we decided as a family not to pursue it. We did not want Lisa to lose all of her rights just so we could stay at the table."
Alternatives: Statement of Consent
"Lisa wrote and signed a Statement of Consent which allows us (her parents) to remain involved in her care planning. This signed statement is now part of Lisa's case file and Person-Centered Plan. According to this statement, Lisa's father and I can be contacted about anything related to Lisa's health and/or services. It also states that her father and I will be invited to every team meeting regarding Lisa's care."
Mike's Story -
I don't need a guardian just because I'm disabled in some way.
"I have a serious medical condition that sometimes leaves me barely conscious and in a hospital for weeks. When I am in the hospital, my bills go unpaid, and I am unable to make decisions about my health care. A nurse told my family they should get guardianship over me so they can pay my bills and manage my medical care when I am sick. That sounded ridiculous to me since I am fully competent most of the time. I figured there had to be a better option."
Alternative: Power of Attorney
"After reviewing the alternatives, I had a long talk with my Uncle Andy about my medical needs. I asked my uncle to become my Power of Attorney. This means my uncle can make decisions in my best interest and handle my medical care during those times when my illness worsens and I go into the hospital. As my Power of Attorney, my Uncle can also manage my bills while I'm in the hospital. When I am healthy, I am in charge of my health care and money."
Gale's Story -
I don't need a guardian just because I'm old.
"I'm going to be 75 next month. Recently, I lost my best friend and roommate who used to do most of my cooking and cleaning. I can't move around my home like I used to but I refuse to go to a nursing home. My daughter wanted guardianship of me because I have trouble cooking meals and taking care of my apartment. I told her she needed to find some better solutions."
Alternatives: Advance Planning, Community Services
"I had no idea there was so much help out there in my own community. Now, I get Meals on Wheels delivered by a friendly man, and a volunteer from an Area Agency on Aging stops by once a week to help me with my bills.
My great granddaughter will stay with me while she attends college. This way I'll have someone around at night. She'll also help keep the place clean. Her youthfulness will lift my spirits too."
I started planning ahead for my future. I created a Will with my attorney and named my daughter as my Power of Attorney. This means that in the event something happens to me my daughter will be able to make decisions on my behalf."
Tony's Story -
I don't need a guardian just because I made one bad decision.
"I have a mental illness I have been able to control most of my life. Last year, I decided I didn't need my meds anymore and stopped taking them. One night my wife and I got into an argument and, before I knew it, I threw a chair through a window and the police were at our door. As I sit in jail, serving time for the havoc I wreaked during my short period without my medication, my family is trying to get guardianship of me. They think guardianship will make me take my meds. They have no faith in me, and I feel helpless. I'm willing to take my meds but I won't take them if my family forces me."
Alternative: Mediation, Mental Health Advance Directive
"A case worker from mental health services suggested my family and I go to Mediation and that I fill out a Mental Health Advance Directive. This is a document that allows me to make choices about my future mental health treatment in the event that my illness makes me unable to make decisions.
At mediation, my family and I sat around a table and talked about our concerns. The mediator made sure everyone spoke up and was listened to. Mediation helped all of us get our feelings out in a safe, neutral setting. I used the experience to express my wishes for my treatment. The whole experience brought my family and I closer together. In the end my family decided that guardianship was not the best solution. They realized guardianship would only push me away.
I decided to fill out a Mental Health Advance Directive, which communicates my wishes to my family members and providers. I named my sister as my health agent to carry out my treatment wishes in the event there is a crisis."
John's Story -
I need limited residential guardianship because I cannot make informed decisions about where I live.
"I have a developmental disability and live in an apartment by myself with limited support. My neighbors come to my apartment to borrow food but never pay me back. They always seem to show up on the first of the month when I get my check and food stamps.
I want friends so I never say no to them. I have also had minor fires in my apartment due to my limited cooking skills. My parents want to become my guardian due to the lack of safety in my home and the exploitation by my friends."
Alternative: Limited Residential Guardianship
"After my parents and I discussed their concern for my safety and my friends' exploitation of me, we discussed the alternatives to full guardianship. We decided that Limited Residential Guardianship would meet my needs. My parents can make decisions about where I live, but I can still make all other decisions, including who I want to be friends with."
Frank's Story -
As my dementia gets worse, I need someone to manage my finances and take care of my home. I can still make decisions about my medical care and where I live.
"I am 93 years old. Recently, I began to show signs of dementia. Three months ago my wife Bertha broke her hip and moved into a nursing home. Two weeks later, I was hospitalized due to dehydration and acute delirium. When I got out of the hospital, I agreed to a nursing home placement if I could be with my wife.
I've lived in the nursing home for two month now. I have a hard time remembering to pay my bills. Credit card and disconnect notices are piling up, and the roof of our family house is leaking. My doctor said my confusion and forgetfulness will only get worse in the future because of my dementia. My doctor suggested my grandson petition for conservatorship of me. This would give my grandson the power to manage my finances and take care of my home."
"My grandson was eager to support me. He and I sat down with my doctor to discuss our options. My doctor and I both agreed that, while I am no longer able to manage my finances, I still understand my medical needs and can make informed decisions in many areas of my life.
My grandson agreed to be my conservator. I was relieved. He will now make all decisions about my property and finances. I trust that he will act in my best interest. I still have the right to make decisions about my health care and where I live. Perhaps in the future, I will need help in these areas of my life, but I did not want to give up my right to make these choices prematurely. Next week, my daughter and grandson will visit me and we will have an advanced planning discussion in order to put a plan in place for my future."
Jennifer's Story -
I need limited medical guardianship because I cannot make informed decisions about my healthcare. I also need assistance paying bills.
"I am a young woman with a serious physical health condition that seems to be getting worse each year. I have a hard time getting out of bed each morning and struggle to pay my bills.
As my illness worsens, I don't have the energy to listen to doctors' recommendations and make complex decisions about my health care. In addition, I'm falling behind on my bills."
Alternative: Limited Medical Guardianship, Representative Payeeship
"I sat down with my sister, who has helped me manage my illness in the past. I asked her to become my Limited Medical Guardian. I trust her to make decisions about my medical care. From now on, while my sister may ask me for my opinion about various health care options and medical treatments, she will ultimately make all the final decisions about what health care I receive.
It felt like a lot to ask my sister to take on paying my bills in addition to making decisions about my health care. After discussing my bill paying concerns with a local Social Security representative, I learned that my town has a Representative Payee program. This means that, for a small monthly fee, I can line-up a clerk to pay all of my major bills using funds from my monthly Social Security check. I was very relieved to hear this. Now my bills will get paid. Plus, I will still have control over money I earn myself."