My 85 year-old mother has early stage Alzheimer's. My 88 year-old stepfather is very hard to deal with. He has three adult children of his own, so my sister and I are not interested in being responsible for him. However, his children have shown no interest in helping him.

We have looked into a court-appointed guardian or conservator, but were told that a judge would be unlikely to grant one since he has children.

Does anyone know just how this all works? What should we do? What do we do if the judge will not appoint somebody? We may soon need to move them into an assisted living facility. Our mother may be resistant and he may very well be too. We do not want to be responsible for him, but we can't just move her and leave him in the house. Any suggestions?


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Guardianship is a state-by-state proceeding. However, as a National Certified Guardian I am able to provide some general help.

To start a guardianship, someone has to "petition" the Court stating that the "alleged incapacitated person" (AIP) is unable to handle his or her affairs. The Petitioner can be anyone -- a family member, friend, adult protective services, physician, etc. -- with awareness that the AIP is a danger to himself or others. The prospective petitioner would contact an experienced guardianship attorney who would file the required papers with the court. These papers must include a discussion of why there is no "less restrictive alternative" than guardianship. In other words, does the AIP have a durable power of attorney document? If so, where is the person who was appointed to step up, and is he or she prepared to serve in the role they were appointed to? Assuming there is not evidence of a less restrictive alternative, the court will then appoint an attorney to represent the interests of the AIP and an examining committee, generally composed of three qualified professionals, each of whom will meet with the AIP and review the situation and provide the court with a written report. There will then be a hearing to determine if the AIP does or does not need a guardian and to further consider whether there is a less restrictive alternative.

I hope this is helpful.

-- Sheri Samotin, NCG, PDMM, CPC, MBA
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i have no experience with this but have read alot about it, enough to offer thoughts. from what i understand the process of guardianship can be expensive. so, when people recommend seeing an attoreney and more, who will pay for this. I hope your step father has his own assets to cover these expenses. 2nd if appointed a guardian it is possible that said person will not work with you to keep your mom with her husband. Framnkly, i would get their "of no interest" in writing so they cant come back to you later for holding their father hostage or moving him without their consent etc.. a brief succint letter t his children explaining or providing an overiew of the situation seems appropriate to me. I would send certifiied so you have proof that you communicated this. ask for their reponse wwithin a particular time frame such as 72 hours (tell them it is criticle to determine these matters) otherwise you could end up dealing with people who simply never reply and you are sitting there holding the bag. then, you will have proof of your attempts to "notify"
be very very careful as you could end up using your out of pocket dollars..
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One of his children should be his guardian, but if he needs help,
and they are not doing anything about it, you can start with a social worker.
Your situation will be complicated because his wife is your mother.
If he is not taking care of his wife...if your mother falls into not having many assets, owning her own home is not one of them, bank accts are, she can get a low cost free lawyer. If your mother is on the verge of incompetency, any documentation you get now, could be thrown out of court.

If what you want is guardianship, you can apply, but if another family member objects, it can get messy, and the court will appoint a guardian, with a family member as their caretaker.

In our case we were her care givers before she was declared. They gave themselves POA and had the power to sell her house and throw her into a nursing home. She had a son living her building and took care of his father, before he died, and was now taking care of his mother. In her words, she wanted to be carried out of her house, like her husband. She in early stages of Alz./Dementia, a generation 1 immigrant looked to her children, to interpret English and help with financial decisions, all her life, but with the Alz. they zoned in on the money aspect and treated her caretakers, like crap, expecting them to pay for food and medicine on top of rent. Her meds were expensive namenda, exelon, and advair prices make you fall into the donut hole, very quickly.

Sometimes the siblings are incompetent/dysfunctional, as early sibling rivalry gives way toa terrible unleashed monster, when face with/ dealing with a parent who can no longer take care of themselves.

Even though losing family control of the spending of the money and the bank charges for holding the money, (from the sale of her house) our situation is working much better and she looks better than she did when she was in the assisted living. We get an allowance, that the guardian approves to take care of her, for her expenses, such as food, meds, shelter, glasses, clothes, her electricity and it was better help, than we were receiving from the POA's or other family members. Of course I am in IL, I do not know how different it may be from where you are.
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I have found that the court clerks are very helpful in giving suggestiions, etc. when you have a loved one, disabled to be concerned about.
I would start with a call to them.
Otherwise, you could find the nearest 'Healthy Aging' , they are nationwide & offer this type of resources.
Have you spoke with an elder law atty. as they usually offer a first free consult.
Our local Judge in CT gives periodic free lectures on this topic.
Hope this helps.
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North Carolina has a very screwed up process for guardianships. NC gives Clerks of Superior court judicial authorities and in doing so, they can determine that someone is incompetent and determine who is the guardain. Threy do this OVER the paperwork the elderly person prepared years in advance. It is disgusting. This may be someone with a high school education.
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