Since starting in this field in 2004, our Principal has served as the guardian and conservator (sometimes called “guardian of the estate”) for dozens of incapacitated individuals, advocating for the highest quality of service through the least restrictive means possible to uphold their welfare and best interest through their last days. Many of the relationships formed with our wards span many years of service to them. Some guardianships are short-term situations.
A guardianship (of the person or the estate) may be only temporary until a priority individual is located to act on behalf of the incapacitated person. Guardianships can also be short-term until an ill person’s decision making capacity is restored. Guardians can be appointed in emergency situations, for example when a person needs admission to hospice but has nobody to consent to hospice care and make end-of-life decisions for them. Guardianships can also be limited and tailored to allow the individual to retain full decision-making authority over those aspects of life they are capable of handling without assistance. Sometimes, a less intrusive conservatorship (“guardian of the estate”), even a limited conservatorship, is all that is needed.
Our wards have a guardian who has extensive experience serving elderly individuals suffering from dementia and other aging-related disorders, developmentally delayed adults, and individuals suffering from serious mental illness. They have a dedicated personal advocate with experience producing positive outcomes for wards with unique needs and challenging behaviors. Their quality of life is enhanced, challenging behaviors are eliminated by identifying the underlying cause of the symptom, and the use of psychotropic medications is reduced.
Contrary to common perceptions, a guardianship does not mean all of the protected individual’s rights are taken away. Licensed fiduciaries are mandated by a strict code of conduct to involve protected people in the decision-making process to the greatest degree they are able to participate. Respect is paid to their preferences, religious and cultural traditions, lifestyle choices, and feelings in helping to them arrive at decisions that serve their best interest. Even in instances where a ward lacks insight into their own limitations, we do all we can to involve them in the process and negotiate compromises.
If the individual cannot participate in the decision-making process, their advocate will do everything possible to learn what decisions they would have made had they been able to participate. This is accomplished by interviewing friends and relatives, reviewing estate planning documents and advance directives, and applying ethical principles. Ultimately, decisions are made in the client’s best interest with as little intrusion into their lives as possible.
Communication and involvement with friends, family, and social contacts is a key factor in successful outcomes. Clients are encouraged to continue involvement in positive relationships, social clubs, support groups, hobbies, and churches. One of our clients, through our shared persistence in seeing that she got to church on Sundays, was even responsible for an assisted living community implementing a program to take all capable residents to church in the community’s van twice monthly!
Our wards receive the same quality care, compassion, and respect as our own family. When making difficult care decisions, the guiding question is always, “What if this was my loved one?”