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How To Obtain Guardianship of a Parent with Dementia in PA


It is very common for aging parents in the Reading-Berks County area to want to live independently in their own homes, pursue their favorite hobbies and activities, and maintain routines of grocery shopping, worship, and medical appointments. Inevitably, a point comes when the senior can no longer live safely on his or her own. Sometimes, this is a physical limitation or issue, but more challenging to detect are mental and cognitive declines brought about by early dementia. The answer may be adult guardianship.

As families step in to address the situation, memory impairment may continue to progress and the aging person may need help with activities of daily living as well as with managing their financial and legal affairs. An adult child will need to become the power of attorney or the guardian for the senior. It is preferable to have these relationships in place while the individual is of sound mind, but circumstances do not always allow for it.

When we think of guardianship, we often imagine a child (the ward) moving into the care of a friend or family member (the guardian). But the process can also be used to obtain legal rights over elderly or aging adults who are losing their mental and physical capacities. Another option, preferred by Pennsylvania law when possible, is power of attorney (POA). POA is not as restrictive as guardianship, which requires the individual to be qualified as “incapacitated.” In that case, the individual loses the personal liberty to make decisions regarding finances and other major personal affairs.

The initial step to establishing guardianship is to persuade the patient to submit to a medical evaluation to attest to the patient’s mental and physical state. If the patient is unwilling, a court can order the patient to undergo the evaluation.

The person applying for guardianship must file an application in the Court of Common Pleas. Counsel and hearings will be involved, notices will be given to the appropriate parties, and annual reports on the individual’s personal and financial status.

Guardianships can be challenging for all parties concerned. Having competent, qualified, experienced counsel by your side makes perfect sense, and in the Berks County area, attorney Scott C. Painter is ready to serve you during the process. (Read our related article, “What Is Legal Guardianship for Adults?”).

The law office of elder law attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is located in Wyomissing (outside of Reading, PA, in Berks County,) and offers trusted legal services in the areas of elder law, including nursing home planning, trust and estate services, and veterans benefits. Scott C. Painter is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), and he is also a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

If you have an issue or question, we encourage you to call us. With legal matters, time is of the essence. Call us for a consultation at 610-378-5140. The $300 consultation fee is waived if Attorney Painter is retained to perform services.