For older adults needing intensive and complete care, guardianship may be the best option. As opposed to Geriatric Care Management, where a family contracts with someone to assist them through the aging process, guardianship is a legal process. It is a deeply involved process which is generally the last resort option. Generally, when a person has become incapable of managing his or her financial or personal affairs, a court appointed guardian becomes responsible for the management of a client’s affairs.
Guardians can be any of the following:
A family member or friend
• Any resident of this state who is 18 years of age or older • A nonresident of the state may serve as guardian of a family member if they are: • Related by blood; a legally adopted child or adoptive parent, a spouse, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew of the person
A Professional Guardian
Public or Professional Guardians are needed when a person does not have the ability to pay for a guardian or there are no family members who are willing to take care of them. Professional guardians undergo a training process and are appointed by the court. Florida has 17 professional guardianship offices.
Guardian services are paid for by the client unless they cannot afford it, in which case the state supplements payment to the guardian.
WHAT DO GUARDIANS DO?
Guardians manage the following:
Medical Treatment: A guardian may manage personal, medical and mental health services for the person, including but not limited to, medical treatment, medications, and end-of-life decisions.
Health and Wellness: A guardian may consent to and monitor non-medical services such as counseling, education, service groups, or classes.
Confidential Information: A guardian may release and/ or obtain confidential information about the person.
Property Management: A guardian manages a person’s property including any financial transactions with said property, if approved through the courts. A guardian may also select residential living facilities for the ward, if necessary.
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY FAMILY MEMBER NEEDS A GUARDIAN?
Guardianship options are meant for those individuals who have a complete loss of capacity, and do not have a Power of Attorney or Health Care Surrogate already in place. Loss of capacity is a legal process determined by the court. However, there are warning signs that can assist a family when determining the capacity of their loved one. Any one sign may not be cause for alarm, but should a loved one have multiple signs or if signs are increasing or become more intense, a family should consider further investigation.