Guardianship Doesn't Prevent Bad Things From Happening

Remember, having a guardianship doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. 

There are many “what if...?” questions asked by families. For instance I have often heard, “Shouldn’t I become my son’s guardian, just in case?”

If someone with a disability is in an accident, circumstances are not any different than they are for the rest of us. If a person is injured in a car crash, and is taken unconscious to the hospital emergency room, medical personnel are legally empowered to take any action necessary to save life or limb, regardless of the person’s inability to consent. If the situation is not an emergency, but is nonetheless urgent, medical personnel typically ask next of kin for treatment permission, regardless of whether or not the person had a disability before the accident or urgent situation.

What if a written or verbal authorization is legally required for medical treatment and someone is not able to give one, and there is no medical power of attorney in place? In such cases, a temporary guardian can be immediately appointed at any hour by the local judge on-call, and the judge can grant the temporary guardian only the power to sign the medical authorization. The procedure is the same whether or not a person has a disability, and a judge’s order can be very narrowly defined so as to achieve authorization for needed treatment that lasts only until the person her/himself can resume exercising their own power of consent.

1.      Supports Available to All of Us

A.     Family and Friends

B.     Circles of Support

C.     Releases of Information; Advocacy Authorizations; Appointment of Personal Representative


2.      Scheduled Checks and Alerts-Generic Community Assistance

A.     Postal service checks

B.     Unpaid utility bills/meter reader observations

C.     Telephone reassurance programs


3.      Generic and Disability Supports

A.     Food and prescription drug deliveries

B.     Meals on Wheels

C.     Home visitors and “Pets on Wheels”

D.    Service animals

E.     Transportation to medical and other appointments

F.     Personal Assistance/Home Health Services

G.    Home sharing/roommate

H.    Home and Community-based Services (HCBS) or other Medicaid Waiver


4.      Legal Assistance Requested and/or Authorized by the Person

A.     Advance Directives/Protective Medical Decisions Document (PMDD)/Living Will

B.     Surrogate decision making/Health Care Proxy

C.     Durable Powers of Attorney


5.      Assistance with Finances

A.     Banking services

B.     Joint ownership of bank accounts, or two-signature checks

C.     Authorization of a specific banking transaction

D.    Living and/or other Trusts (Amenities Trusts/OBRA Trusts)

E.     Representative Payee (appointed by Social Security for SSI/SSDI benefits)

F.     Conservatorship


6.      Assistance Where We Live

A.     Case Management/Supports Coordination

B.     Senior Care/Adult Day Care

C.     Respite Care programs

D.    Continuing Care Retirement Communities

E.     Assisted Living facilities

F.     Group/Foster Care Homes