Five Signs You May Need to Set Up a Guardianship for Your Aging Parents

By 2030, everyone in the baby boomer generation will be age 65 or older. Some demographic experts have called this the “gray tsunami.” Nearly 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65 in the United States. Over 73 million baby boomers are facing the challenges that come with aging, and many of their adult children are navigating the world of caring for their aging loved ones. 

If you are an adult child to an aging parent, your role may start to reverse. The parents that you have depended on for help all of your life may begin to rely on you for help. In some cases, it is wise to create a legal guardianship for your aging parents. We have listed five common signs that you need to set up a guardianship for your aging parents below. 

Your Parents Refuse to Sign a Power of Attorney Document

Creating a guardianship is a serious step that is not usually necessary until you have tried other legal options to help care for your aging parents. If your parents will agree to sign a durable power of attorney, it will allow you to access your loved one’s bank account and make financial decisions on their behalf. Using a durable power of attorney is much less invasive and time-consuming than creating a guardianship.

Unfortunately, as parents age, they sometimes become less cooperative. Sometimes aging individuals refuse to sign any type of estate planning document, even after they have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. When this happens, it becomes difficult to help your parents manage their finances. Simple activities such as paying for electricity becomes difficult. 

If your parent still refuses to set up a guardianship, you may need to set up a guardianship and request that the court appoints you as the guardian. Once you become the guardian, you will be able to make sure all of your parents’ bills are paid and that their finances are managed in an effective way. You will also have the legal tools to be able to make sure their personal care is satisfactorily handled. 

Your Parents Need to Sell Their Home to Pay Expenses

What if your parents need to enter a nursing home, but they cannot afford to do so? Or, what if they need to move in with you because they are no longer able to safely live alone? At some point, you will need to sell their home. Selling one’s home can be extremely difficult, especially for aging parents. If they refuse to sell their home, and even if they have signed a power attorney, there may still be instances when you need a guardianship to be able to sell the real property. The laws in each state are different regarding whether your power of attorney enables you to sell your loved one’s home. If your state does not have such a rule, you will need to set up a guardianship before you are able to sell your parents’ other investments, including their real property. 

Your Parents Need Extensive Medical Intervention

The first step in helping your parents make medical decisions to protect their health is to help them create a medical power of attorney. These are sometimes called health care proxy agreements. Your parents can appoint you to act as their attorney in fact when it comes to administering drugs, such as antipsychotic medications. If your parents cannot consent to medical treatment due to mental incompetence, you will often need more than just a health care proxy. You will need a guardianship. 

You and Your Parents are Disagreeing Regarding Moving into a Nursing Home

One of the most common types of arguments and contentions between adult children and their aging parents happens around moving into a nursing home. It is extremely difficult to give up one’s independence and move into an assisted care facility. Some consider doing so to be the “beginning of the end.” On the other hand, as adult children, it can be excruciating to watch your parents become unable to care for themselves or to slip and fall, or fail to take their medicine, feed, or clean themselves regularly. 

Your Parents are Struggling With Making Decisions

It can be difficult to watch your parents, who used to be decisive and in command of themselves slowly become unable to make a decision. Or, perhaps your parents have always struggled with indecisiveness, and this trait has become worse over time. In either scenario, a lack of ability to make decisions can be extremely dangerous, especially for medically fragile individuals. 

If you petition the court for a guardianship, but the court finds that your parent does still have the ability to make decisions, the court may grant a limited guardianship. This will allow your parent to still have some control over his or her life in terms of making decisions but will limit their authority. For example, if your parent refuses to make a decision to move out of their home due to inability to live alone, the court could grant you the authority to make decisions regarding living arrangements.

Contact Our Guardianship Lawyers

At CommonWealth Elder Law, we understand how challenging issues related to guardianship and aging adults can become. If you need to discuss guardianship, we are here to help. We will review your case and guide you as to the best legal option for you and your aging parents. The guardianship process can be costly and difficult, but it is worth it in many cases. The sooner you speak to an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney, the better. Contact our Virginia law form as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.