If someone close to you is struggling to manage the details of their daily life, you are likely to want to know what you can do to help them and protect them. Helping and protecting vulnerable adults involves a great deal of discretion. It is loving and kind to desire safety and security for the person you care about as they navigate everyday life. Since the person for whom you are concerned is an adult, you do not want to risk overstepping boundaries and taking away more of their autonomy than is necessary to keep them reasonably safe. When you approach the dilemma of protecting an adult from harm with an attitude of respect for their independence, you may want to suggest the least restrictive means of securing help and support that are available to them before you consider more restrictive options like guardianship or conservatorship.
For example, a home health aide, a service animal, a visiting nurse, a grocery delivery service, or some other type of service provider may be all the person needs to continue living in their home and going about their business as usual. With the help of the person for whom you are concerned, talk about what their needs are. Help them do some research to determine whether their needs could be met through a combination of one or more services that are available to them, such as electronic bill payment, public transportation, and the like.
In addition to helping your friend or relative secure services that will enable them to live independently while remaining safe, you may want to encourage them to plan for the possibility that a higher level of decision-making help may become necessary at some point. It’s a good idea for any adult to have a health care directive and a financial power of attorney, so that the management of their health and finances can be attended to immediately if they become incapacitated.
Planning ahead by working with an attorney to create a power of attorney and a health care directive ensures that the people (agents) whom the individual creating those documents wants handling their affairs will be able to handle them. In contrast, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not executed those documents, a guardian may need to be appointed for them. In that situation, the person the court appoints may not be who the person would have chosen to fill that role. Also, there’s a critical difference between an agent and a guardian that affects the safety and security of the adult who is in need of help. An agent appointed in appointed by a power of attorney or health care directive can serve immediately upon the event of incapacitation, but a guardian does not get selected until after incapacitation, and the guardianship proceeding takes time.
If you would like to create a power of attorney, health care directive, or other estate planning document, it’s time to schedule an initial consultation with Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber. Please call our office at (316) 265-7802, or contact us through our website.