Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of adulthood is watching a beloved parent grow older and lose the ability to care for themselves. When an elder loses their comprehension due to an injury or illness, it can interfere with their ability to make rational, important decisions regarding their health, finances or other meaningful areas.

Sometimes, legal guardianship for a parent becomes necessary when their safety or quality of life are at risk. Here are three reasons why petitioning for guardianship of an elder parent might make sense:

1. They lack a power of attorney

Suppose your parent hasn’t already prepared a power of attorney and is no longer capable of managing their own financial or medical affairs. In that case, this may be an instance where you would need to file for guardianship. A power of attorney is a legal document in which an elder can appoint a trusted person who will handle their wealth and assets or make critical medical decisions, depending on the powers they choose to award them. Without these documents in place, you’ll need to petition for guardianship to help them if they become incapacitated.

2. They require medical intervention

Sometimes, there are certain instances in which you will have to petition for guardianship to make medical decisions on your parent’s behalf. For example, if your parent is incapacitated and unable to comprehend a medical treatment or medication, you will often need to apply for guardianship to make these choices. Alternatively, if your parent can no longer live alone safely but refuse to go to a long-term care facility, you may need to seek guardianship to admit them.

3. Their decision-making is questionable in some areas

In New Jersey, there are two types of guardianship: guardian of the person and guardian of the property. While the guardian of the person manages all care planning and non-financial decisions, the guardian of property manages a person’s finances. You can petition for both guardianship of the person and their property or appoint a different person for each area. In some cases, a limited guardianship may be a more appropriate option if your parent still can make their own care decisions but need help with their financial affairs.

If your parent can no longer make meaningful decisions on their own, a guardianship might be the best option to give you both peace of mind. Applying for guardianship is often a last resort, but it can help protect your parent’s interests and well-being when necessary.