When a senior’s cognitive abilities begin to slip, it starts to affect their ability to maintain their independence and make meaningful decisions. Whether due to the onset of dementia or other related health issues, if you have a parent who can no longer make rational decisions regarding their finances, health care or other essential aspects of life, pursuing legal guardianship may be necessary to keep them safe and ensure their basic needs are met.

Guardianship comes into play when an elder faces mental incapacitation due to aging, illness or disability but doesn’t have a power of attorney or health care proxy in place. In some cases, you may need to seek guardianship even if your parent has these documents. Here are three signs it may be a good idea to petition for guardianship of an aging parent:

1. They need medical intervention beyond health care proxy

In some instances, you may need guardianship to protect your parent’s health – even if they have a health care proxy. You may find yourself in a position where you have to authorize the use of certain medications for your parent, or consent to treatment for them if they can no longer comprehend what is happening. You may need guardianship to make these decisions for them.

2. Disagreements over nursing home care

Few seniors are eager and willing to enter into a nursing home or care facility, but there are circumstances in which it becomes a necessity for their well-being. If your parent can no longer care for themselves but refuse to enter long-term care, you will likely need to petition for guardianship to admit them.

3. Decision-making is only partially compromised

If your parent is capable of maintaining control over some regions of their life but require assistance with others, you may consider asking for limited guardianship for them. The court can allow your parent to retain control over certain assets and decisions if they are deemed able while giving you authority over the assets they need help with.

The bottom line

Unfortunately, reversing roles with an aging parent and taking over as their legal guardian isn’t always avoidable. However, if they still have the mental capacity, consider helping your parent set up an estate plan today to avoid the costly and time-consuming guardianship process.