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Caregiver or Guardian

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As a geriatric care manager, I have the chance to work with all manner of caregivers and the elders or others with special needs for whom they care.  Sometimes a caregiver becomes significantly more than the person who may help a loved one with shopping, cleaning or other personal needs.  There are occasions when that individual becomes sufficiently frail or mentally compromised that they need the support and control of a guardian.

I recently spoke with an attorney, Gordon Gault, who specializes in trusts, wills and probate among other legal areas.  We talked about what a guardianship means and when it is appropriate as well as how it comes about.  Gordon first explained that a guardian is substantially different from just a caregiver in that a guardian must be appointed by a circuit court judge.  That appointed guardian is then able to act on behalf of the individual who is either under the age of 18 or is deemed disabled in some other way. 

How can a guardian be useful?  I have talked about elder abuse and fraud in another blog posting.  A guardian can be appointed when it is concluded that the individual is giving away money or other assets to individuals who may be manipulating to their own ends.  This appointment is intended to protect the individual and only happens after a court hearing complete with a physicians’ or other professionals’ opinions being weighed. 

I have talked about powers of attorney for health care and for finances in an earlier blog posting, but a guardianship clearly takes this up a notch.  But it is important to recognize that not only must a judge be convinced that the individual in question is unable to take care of themselves, but that judge also will oversee the guardian’s activities.  As you can see, a guardianship pretty much takes control of an individual’s affairs, but this whole process does not all have to be left to attorneys.  Gordon highly recommends that anyone who has a family member growing incompetent, get the powers of attorney signed as a first step.  Anyone over age 60, he says, should sign these POA papers so that they can be available should a need arise.  And later if you have to get a guardian appointed, you may be able to do it on your own if it is just the individual and their care.  If it is an estate worth more than a couple thousand dollars, according to Gordon, you will need an attorney for the paperwork.

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to Gordon Gault using this link.  Gordon is a Chicago-based attorney.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.,geriatric care manager Chicago,geriatric care Chicago

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