A guardianship can ensure that a loved one gets proper health care

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2021 | Elder Law |

Many adult children seek guardianship of their elderly parents. Courts generally allow these to be set up in instances where it’s clear that the parent is no longer able to make decisions that are in their best interests.

One situation that may warrant petitioning the court to set up a guardianship is if your parent can no longer consent to medical care or has rejected potentially life-saving treatments that doctors have recommended. It’s important to know what your medical authority would be if you successfully convinced a judge to allow you to establish a guardianship.

What medical situations may warrant a guardian stepping in to make a decision?

There are various medical situations that may warrant you petitioning the court to allow you to serve as a guardian over an elderly parent, which would make them your ward. For example, an elderly parent may have dementia or have experienced other recent cognitive declines that have made them unable to consent to receive medical care.

They may have rejected receiving potentially life-saving medical care, such as chemotherapy for early-stage cancer. You generally need to show proof of your loved one’s medical diagnosis for the court to consider establishing a guardianship.

What responsibilities does an incapacitated individual’s guardian have?

New Jersey guardians have authority to make medical decisions on behalf of their ward. However, they must consider the following points when doing so:

  • The severity of the condition and whether it warrants treatment
  • Time constraints for making decisions
  • What the incapacitated person would want to happen
  • Available treatment options and alternatives to them, as well as the risks and benefits of each
  • Whether it’s necessary to get a second opinion

You should find out if your parent drafted a health care directive prior to their incapacitation spelling out their wishes regarding the medical care they wanted to receive in such instances.

It’s also important for you to determine if they gave anyone health care power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf if they were in an incapacitated state. If you find that this legal document exists, then you’ll want to take time to understand where your responsibilities, as they relate to making medical decisions on your ward’s behalf, begin and end.