By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Those who have suffered the an injury or illness that leaves a loved one unable to care for his or herself know how difficult of a time it can be.  There are countless, thankless, nights of caregiving and a long list of things to be done for the loved one that never seems to end.  Taking on the responsibility of being a Guardian of a loved one who is incapacitated is a great task. There are many responsibilities, and many requirements of which caregivers are often unaware.

If you have a Limited Guardianship, you can only restrict the actions of the Ward in the ways the Court has specifically ordered.  So, you must review the Court’s order to know what rights the Ward has.

With a General Guardianship, there is more to worry about.

If you find yourself in the position of becoming Guardian of a loved one who cannot care for his or herself anymore, here are the 3 most important rights a Ward (incapacitated person) retains that you need to know about:

(1) To Participate As Much As Possible in Decision-making

This is the sweeping, overall purpose of the Guardianship statutes.  The legislature intended that all Wards be able to participate in making decisions that affect them as much as the Wards are able.  So, Guardians are encouraged to speak with the Wards and attempt to come to an agreement on decisions such as where to live, what to do with the Ward’s money, and who will provide medical care.  Of course, this is not always possible, but if the Ward is alert and can speak and communicate, the Guardian is expected to communicate with them.

(2) To Have Visitation (Or Not) with Whom They Please

Unless the Guardian can prove potential harm in Court, and get an Order from the Court denying visitation, a Guardian cannot stop a Ward from visiting with others.  Maybe you don’t like Uncle Joe and he stirs Mom up every time he visits, but you can’t stop him from visiting her just because you don’t like him or his actions.  You must have a good enough reason to get a Court order to deny visitation.

On the other hand, a Guardian also cannot force a Ward to visit those the Ward does not want to see.

(3) To Live in the Least Restrictive, Most Normal Setting Possible

A Ward who can care for his or herself, afford home care, and wants to stay at home, should be able to do so.  The law requires Guardians to provide the most normal home-life possible for a Ward, based on health, safety, and financial ability.

Being a Guardian and taking on all the financial and medical responsibilities of someone who can no longer do so his or herself can be a difficult and frustrating task.  There are professionals and support groups available to help.  Please be sure, if you are in this position, to research and reach out to those who can help you.