As adults get older, many of them are not able to make decisions for themselves due to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, a stroke, an accident or some other serious medical condition. If someone is no longer able to make important decisions for themselves, a judge will appoint a “guardian” to make those decisions. Those decisions have the legal backing of the court. The court will determine disability if two physicians have determined, in writing, that a person is unable to make or communicate responsible decisions, the person is in need of protection, or there are no less restrictive measures to allow for decision making.
If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that an individual is incapable of making or communicating decisions regarding his or her life, the court will appoint a guardian who will have the same rights and duties as a parent does over a minor child. The guardian has a duty to provide care and comfort for the individual, including looking after medical, social, recreational and friendship needs. The guardian of the person may file an annual report describing the disabled person’s circumstances over the past year.
If you are interested in obtaining a guardian of a person, contact an experienced attorney who can help you. An attorney must file a petition with the court and provide evidence from physicians, family or friends that the individual is in need of a guardian. A guardian should be guided by the two standards of decision-making identified in the law. The first, substituted consent, which involves making a decision based on the individual’s wishes, as you know them. It is important for the guardian to use substituted consent.
At times, older persons have discussed their feelings regarding medical treatment with family and friends and the guardian should support that view when making a decision. The second, best interest, is to use the best interest when the guardian is not aware of the individual’s wishes. It’s best to contact an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process.