Legal guardianship for dementia – worth thousands of dollars?

The troublemaker I adore

My mother has been declared legally “incompetent” in our state, permanently, and I’ve been assigned as her guardian.  I was advised to do this due to her unpredictable behaviors, reactions, and requests, several of which meant that she ended up with court dates.  many. 

Our state is one of the most protective of the rights of the elderly and mentally ill, so anytime Mom would say she wanted to leave her facility or asserted any other rights, the law needed to respond and give her fair representation.  As you might be thinking, that’s both good and makes things really sticky.  

It’s wonderful for keeping people out of scary scenarios where unethical relatives or institutions are taking advantage of helpless people and not honoring their wishes.  It’s terrifying for a well-meaning caregiver whose mother has hallucinations that she’s being hurt by a mob, and the daughter is at the middle of the drug ring (yeah, that’s me).

Mom would go back and forth between her lucid, loving and delusional, frightened states.  At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was the meds or the diseases, or both.  Now that her dopamine drugs have been cut in half, I feel quite confident saying it was 90% due to overmedication. 

She’s fine now, and $2,417 poorer! for all we went through with lawyers and court during her last hospitalization to get the guardianship in place.  I was really naive about how much it would end up costing, especially because the lawyer appointed by the state to represent her was part of the county services. 

When she’d been in court for protective placement previously due to her unintentionally hurting a caregiver, the county and her insurance had footed the bill, so I assumed…. all wrongly.

Because I had voluntarily begun the guardianship process, this time she needed to pay the lawyer appointed by the government this time, for every little thing he did, not to mention the lawyer who’d initiated the process with me.  I wasn’t notified about the fees, but then again, I didn’t ask.  That’s so unlike me. 

I think I was feeling so sad and mortified about the things my mother was doing to herself and to me, that she would never ever do in her right mind.  I put myself passively at the mercy of the court, wanting to close my eyes and make it all end.

Maybe it was worth it, because there’s always some chance that Mom might have some recurrence of those behaviors, even though she’s been very stable psychologically since her drugs were reduced.  I don’t regret taking care of myself and her by getting the guardianship in place, saving us both from the possible stress of endless court dates and who knows how many changes of residence that she could keep initiating with her protests.

I thought I’d write a little hint of my experience here- especially regarding the costs, to alert other caregivers.  In our case, I think it was worth it, and I’d guess that most people who look into the process have their good reasons.  Please note that Mom’s case was exceptionally expensive because she fought it long and hard, each time stalling the process and requiring more paperwork and lawyer visits.  It could have been much worse, but thanks to the county social worker, who told Mom how much it would cost to keep fighting it, she surrendered. 

I didn’t feel that I, personally, should ethically talk to Mom about the high cost of her refusals at the time, in case she got paranoid and thought I was trying to threaten or intimidate her.  (I was doing a lot of emotional tiptoeing in the days when she was convinced I was running around at night with a gang of outlaws.)  If only I could stay up that late!

So now, the perfectly ironic reality is that my “incompetent” mother, Carol Jean,  is calm, loving, and appreciative of everything I’m doing for her.  She still demands more than I can fix in each visit, but she’s lucid enough that I feel really lucky.

So whether guardianship was worth it or not is kind of a moot point right now.  She’ll be running out of money within a year or two, and I feel sad that it cost her so much, but the bottom line is that I did what I needed to do in the moment to keep her as stable and safe as I knew how.


This entry was posted in advocacy, caregiver stress, support, and respite, family issues, legal issues, memory care and residential options, parkinson's and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Legal guardianship for dementia – worth thousands of dollars?

  1. momsbrain says:

    I know it’s a lot of money, but it sounds like it is probably worth it if it saves heartache and more court down the road. I didn’t have to go that route – but I do recall getting a durable power of attorney pretty much in the nick of time, before Mom was no longer competent to grant that to me. And then when I applied for Medicaid on her behalf, I recall feeling just a little bit like the state trusts absolutely no applicant, not even a daughter applying for her mother with Alzheimer’s who needed to move to a nursing home. We have to be comforted, I guess, by knowing we ARE doing the right thing. Take care-

    • Megan says:

      Thanks Emily,

      I thought I had posted a reply to your comment a few weeks ago via email, but I see it didn’t show up here. Have to work on my blog tech skills!

      You’re right. It was totally worth the money. Every week Mom has a little freak out and says she wants to go “home”. And although she hasn’t escalated to her previous level of trying to escape, if I hadn’t gotten protection in place I’d be constantly worried about the next step and not having the papers in place to help direct her housing, which means she would end up back in the psychiatric hospital.

      Interesting you mentioned Medicaid application. That’s the next unknown for me and a source of underlying stress because I’ve heard so much bad stuff about it and don’t have a lot of clear facts on hand. That’ll be my next legal hurdle, but for now, taking a break from that stuff!

      Take care,

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