You don’t know exactly when it happened, but you’ve somehow switched roles with your mom or dad. Most of the time, you now feel more like the parent – coaxing them to take care of their bills and making sure that they’re eating right.
At what point, however, do you need to take formal action and ask the court for guardianship? You hate to take away your parent’s independence, but you also don’t want them to come to any kind of harm. How do you know if now is the time to act? Here are some suggestions:
Have a family meeting
Unless you’re in the unfortunate situation of being totally on your own with this, you may not have to make the decision all by yourself.
Talk to your siblings and your parent’s other close relatives and ask if you can all get together to discuss the situation. Perspectives outside your own can help you more clearly see what’s needed.
Ask a doctor
It’s also okay to ask your parent to have an evaluation by a doctor to see just how well they are functioning.
See if your parent will agree to let you go with them to their next visit with their primary care physician and ask about a consultation with a neuropsychologist or another doctor who specializes in aging. They may be able to relieve your fears – or confirm your feelings that it’s time to act.
Look for signs of abuse or neglect
You may associate elder abuse and neglect with care facilities, but vulnerable seniors can fall victim to abuse and neglect even in their own homes.
If your mom or dad is suddenly running out of money every month, for example, you may find that they’re paying scam “bills” or donating everything they have to fake charities. Your parent may even fall victim to “self-neglect,” which is when someone is no longer capable of basic tasks, like making sure they’re clean, preparing their own food and other essential daily tasks.
If you think that guardianship of your parent is something that you need to pursue, it may be time to learn more about how the process works.