Geriatric Care - Court Appointed Guardian

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Mrs. Smith: Welcome to an MUSC Health Podcast. Welcome to Age to Age. I'm Sally Smith. Let's talk. Today, Mary Peters has joined us. Mary is a registered guardian, and she is appointed by the court to be the guardian of certain people that are incapacitated Mary I would love to know, and I'm sure our public would too, what exactly is the definition of an incapacitated person in the court?

Mrs. Peters: Well, guardianships and conservatorships are ways of giving an incapacitated person the ability to have someone manage their affairs when they are unable to do so, and a guardian is appointed to take care of that person's physical needs, health care, and wellbeing. A guardian may be appointed for a person that is an individual who is unable to even communicate responsible decisions. Family members can be appointed guardians, friends of family, really anyone that the court actually trusts, or decides that can be a guardian. They particularly like agencies like ours where we have a number of professionals, in that I have the registered guardian signification.

Mrs. Smith: Now, obviously, many times guardians take their position without having to go to court. In other words, my brother took care of my father. These were legal documents all set up, who could make decisions. Why would someone be given a guardianship in court? It's because they are incapacitated, is that correct?

Mrs. Peters: Right. The primary advantage of guardianship is that the guardian provides, or has been provided a legal authority to make physical care decisions on the ward's behalf. Your father might have had health care Power of Attorneys.

Mrs. Smith: Mary, you're telling us what the court would do as far as appointing a guardian, or appointing a conservator for financial issues, for someone who is an incapacitated person. You read me how the court defines an incapacitated person. Would you read that again for our listeners so we can hear what is meant by 'incapacitated person.”

Mrs. Peters: Well, let me tell you that, and then I'll tell you how that is determined. And an incapacitated person, and the one's we're dealing with are elderly people, means that any person who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness, disability, maybe they have chronic intoxication, and they lack sufficient understanding to take care of their affairs.

Mrs. Smith: That term would be what brought them to court, to need the court to make these decisions?

Mrs. Peters: Right. They may be brought by a person who works with elderly, who's name is Elizabeth Spencer, and she works for the city police department. And when she comes across someone who meets that definition, she brings them to court. Families who are fighting over money, or fighting over who's taking care of the person, and one person can do it better than the other, they bring people to guardianships.

Mrs. Smith: And so then how is it proven that someone is? I can see in some obvious cases, but in a family that was fighting...

Mrs. Peters: We've seen some big fights. The way that happens is once a suit is brought to the probate court, two people, two court visitors, are appointed. One is like a guardian ad litem, who just sort of follows the person, and takes care of them throughout the proceedings. The other person is a person who's usually a physician, who will make the determination of the incapacitation. We also send them to a person named Mark Wagner who is here in the neurology department, who does a number of tests to determine what level of incapacitation they are.

Mrs. Smith: And so once that is determined, and that is a fact, then

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