Geriatric Care - What is the Role of a Guardian?

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Mrs. Smith: Welcome to Age to Age. I'm Sally Smith. Let's talk. We have Mary Peters with us today, who is a Professional Guardian that is listed as a Registered Guardian, that's right, RG. So you've been awarded a guardianship, or you are somebody's guardian. What do you do? Does that mean you're in charge of them and all facets of their life, twenty-four hours a day? Tell us what it means when you are someone's guardian.

Mrs. Peters: The guardian who must be appointed by the probate court is responsible for the health and wellbeing of that person twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Oftentimes, this person has come to this court and been declared incapacitated, because they don't have anyone to take care of them, because they have lost their memory. They're already in bad shape, and so guardians are appointed to take care of them and make sure that they get the care that they need.

Mrs. Smith: Well that's unbelievable, the level of commitment. So that means not just in health issues, but in every way. In other words, if they need to sell the car, or they need to have a legal document, or they need to move, or anything. You as the guardian are the person that actually makes those decisions as though you were them.

Mrs. Peters: Well, we're jumping ahead a little bit, but actually the conservator is usually the one that handles the property, the money, and so on.

Mrs. Smith: Oh, yes.

Mrs. Peters: But during the proceedings, which is pretty much the hearing to determine that the person is incapacitated, and I'll tell you what the definition is in just a minute, there are seven rights that the judge may take away from you or allow you to have. And they are things like ability to marry, their ability to vote, the ability to sell or buy their property, the ability to have a driver's license. For example we had a gentleman, he really didn't need a guardian. He had no memory impairment, he could live well by himself, but he was giving his money away, to the point where he wouldn't have any left for his care. So the judge appointed a conservator, which is oftentimes a person in a bank, a bank that they're already using. And the conservator manages the money so they don't give it away.

Mrs. Smith: So if you're the guardian, you're dealing with all these issues. And if they were to get in a car and drive even though you were the guardian, and they somehow got out and got the car keys and left, and ran over a couple of people, would you be held legally responsible for that?

Mrs. Peters: I guess it would depend on the circumstances. Probably not if the person was an impulsive person, and we were negligent in doing our job. For example, if someone could not have a driver's license, we would immediately after the court proceedings, take the car away and sell it for the conservator. Guardians work very closely with the conservator because, for example, the person might really need to be put in a nursing home. They might be that incapacitated. So we will work with the conservator and we'll say how much money do they have? Can they afford this nursing home? Will they be private pay, will we have to put them on Medicaid? You know, what will happen? So we work very closely with the conservator.

Mrs. Smith: What happens if one of these people really does not have a conservator because they really don't have any finances? Who would pay for the guardian services to take full responsibility for them? I mean, who would pay for their care? What happens in those cases where it's completely on the public?

Mrs. Peters: We have done a number of pro bono cases, and if we have someone who runs out of money, it is my policy that we con

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