For an adult child, one of the most heart wrenching things you will ever have to go through is watching your parent’s mental and physical health deteriorate. The strong and wise parent who taught you everything you know and protected you when you were a child has become vulnerable and incapable of caring for himself/herself. This can be emotionally traumatic for an adult child; however, there are also practical ramifications of this deterioration process. At some point, you may need to step in and become your parent’s legal guardian. While the decision to pursue guardianship is never easy to make, consider the following five signs that it is time to consider adult guardianship:
- Loss of memory. All of us suffer a certain degree of memory loss or deterioration as we get older; however, if you have noticed that your parent cannot remember common things, such as a child’s name, the city he/she lives in, or the name of his/her doctor, this may be a sign that your parent is suffering from dementia. This is particularly true if the memory loss appears to be consistent and/or getting worse.
- Unpaid bills or excessive spending. Have you noticed bills laying around that have not even been opened? Have the utilities been shut off for non-payment at your parent’s house? Are you noticing collection letters among the mail? If any of these are true, and you are certain that your parent has the financial means to pay his/her bills, it could be a sign that your parent is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of age related dementia. Along with looking for signs of unpaid bills, you should also be on the lookout for excessive spending. If your parent appears to be buying things he/she doesn’t need, for example, or giving people money without good cause. This can also be a sign of dementia.
- Excessive and unexplained injuries. I can be normal for an elderly individual to suffer more injuries than he/she previously suffered simply because the body becomes for fragile with age. If, however, your parent seems to have a new injury every time you see his/her and cannot offer and explanation for the excessive injuries, or worse cannot remember how they came about, it could be a forbearer to dementia.
- Questionable decisions. This one is a bit vague; however, it is one of those “I know it when I see it” situations. If your otherwise frugal mother starts spending money every week on new clothes or if your normally careful father suddenly trades in his relatively new, and sensible sedan for a corvette, it could be a sign that dementia is setting in and worthy of an investigation.
- Change in appearance. Unless your parent has never been much on hygiene, a deterioration in personal hygiene is a very common sign of dementia. While it does become more difficult to attend to personal hygiene as we age, most people make an effort. I you notice that the effort is no longer there, it could be a sign. Likewise, if you notice a sudden, and noticeable, weight loss or other change in psychical appearance it may be time to worry.
Petitioning for Adult Guardianship
All of these signs may be pointing toward Alzheimer’s or another age related medical condition that may be causing your parent to not function well. If so, it may be time for you to step in and petition for guardianship. Although it will be difficult to make that decision because it feels like, you are taking away your parent’s freedom and autonomy, keep in mind that failing to step in could result in serious harm befalling your parent or your parent becoming the victim of those who prey on the elderly.
If you have additional questions about petitioning for adult guardianship in the State of North Carolina, contact the experienced North Carolina estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.