What Are the Signs That an Adult Might Need a Guardian?

What Are the Signs That an Adult Might Need a Guardian?

No one wants to realize that a loved adult can no longer safely care for themselves. It’s a heartbreaking, stressful situation that can cause grief and anxiety. There can also be denial: Maybe we’re just imagining things, or maybe this is just the normal aging process, nothing to worry about.

While some things are part of that aging process, such as an increased inability to remember specific words or names, other symptoms are more problematic. They should be investigated by a medical professional who can determine if these are just part of routine aging or indicate that more assistance is needed. Here’s what to watch for broken out into three different categories:

Financial Issues

One sign is something often missed by others, especially if they’re not involved in the day-to-day life of the adult in question, and that’s financial issues. It may take the form of their inability to manage their finances, which can lead to missed rent or mortgage payments, or they’re beginning to bounce checks.

But there are other signs, including a decline in the physical quality of life. Suppose they seem unable to afford things they’ve previously afforded (vacations, new or newer vehicles, medical care). In that case, it might be time to look for a financial care guardian to help them before they lose their home or other significant crisis.

Mental and Emotional Issues

Most people experience some mild forgetfulness as they age. But if someone you know is showing more pronounced forgetfulness, especially if it’s interfering with their quality of life or ability to live safely, that’s a sign that shouldn’t be ignored. Examples include forgetting to take medications or missing doctor appointments, getting lost in places they previously knew well, or failing to eat and not dressing appropriately when going out (for example, wearing heavy clothing on a dangerously hot day).

Even if their memory doesn’t seem to be a problem, signs of depression, anxiety, and confusion are warning signs that should be attended to as well.

Physical Issues

Some physical issues can be related to mental and emotional problems. You might not notice the adult not eating enough, but you see them lose weight. Or they may not care for themselves as they once did, which might be tied to depression or memory loss. Examples include not keeping themselves or their home clean, or food rotting in the refrigerator.

Other physical symptoms include a declining ability to handle movement in their daily life, whether it’s getting from one room to another or up and down stairs. They may run into things or stumble more often, showing signs of bruising more frequently.

How Do the Courts Define Someone as Needing Guardianship?

In Texas, an adult who cannot provide for their own food, clothing, or shelter, and/or cannot care for their physical health or manage their finances could be considered a candidate for guardianship.

There are two types of guardians. A “guardian of the person” handles personal matters, whether housing or medical. A “guardian of the estate” handles finances. One person can do both.

Does Finding a Guardian for an Adult Involve Going Through the Courts?

Yes. This is not something to undertake lightly, as the courts take it very seriously. That’s because when someone is appointed a guardian, the person needing the guardianship will lose some of their human rights, something not done without care. It’s also why having an attorney who understands and is experienced in this field is recommended.

The process begins with filing an application with the court. Then a judge will have a hearing and, if the judge deems it necessary, they’ll appoint a guardian. However, this is usually the last resort people take when helping adults who are no longer fully competent to help themselves. Before a judge is willing to take away the person’s rights, they’re likely going to want to identify might what other remedies exist.

Some of those options include having family members or other trusted people help the adult manage the situations that have become difficult for them, whether that’s keeping their home clean, making sure they eat properly, or taking them to doctor appointments and ensuring medication schedules are followed. If there isn’t a close family member available, there may be services through county programs or Medicaid.

Once those options are off the table, the judge is more likely to consider appointing a guardian.

What is Required to Become a Guardian?

In Texas, guardians must be either a family member or a non-relative appointed by the court. In order to officially become a guardian, that person must complete an online certification course, take and file a required oath, provide a required bond, and have that bond filed with the clerk and approved by the judge.

What if I Think a Loved Adult Might Need a Guardian?

Call us at 832-422-7333 for a free, in-depth, no-obligation discovery call. Our focus is on special needs and guardianship law, so we have experience and knowledge that could benefit you. We understand how stressful this situation can be, and we want to help guide you through it to identify the best outcomes for you and the adult in question, so you both can move forward with your lives with a sense of safety and protection.

Guardianship for adults is a complicated process that benefits from having professional assistance. We want the best for you and the adult who may need a guardian. Let us help you learn what’s possible and what’s needed to make this process a success.

Author Bio

Kevin Piwowarski Shields

Kevin Shields

Kevin Shields is a Founding Member and Special Education Lawyer at Shields Law Firm, representing children and families in special needs matters throughout Texas. Before becoming a lawyer, Kevin worked as a general education teacher and fought for increased inclusion time for his students receiving services. He advocated for his students by calling out providers who missed sessions and was often the dissenting voice at the IEP table.

Kevin obtained his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law School and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. He is admitted to practice law in Texas, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and holds memberships in the State Bar of Texas, focusing on School Law, Juvenile Law, and Child Protection Law. He is also a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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