An elder law attorney can provide help in choosing a healthcare proxy and in creating a power of attorney so you have a trusted friend or family member who can make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to act of your own accord. Making plans in advance for who will serve as your agent in case of incapacity is important because your agent could end up making life-and-death medical decisions on your behalf.
Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where people do not make an incapacity plan. The court may end up appointing a guardian in these circumstances. Frank & Kraft can also help families of people who have become incapacitated to go to court and have a guardian named so a trusted, responsible person can be given the authority to act after incapacity.
Sometimes, however, there is no family member or loved one to appoint. When this happens, the court is supposed to appoint a guardian anyway. The problem, as NRP explained, is that many states provide limited funding for guardianship services and vulnerable people end up being left in limbo without a guardian to look out for their interests. To address this issue, NPR indicates that a group of advocates in Indiana are forming an “army of guardians.”
Advocates Form an Army of Guardians
According to NPR there are around 1.3 million adult guardianship situations throughout the United States. Some of those involve volunteer guardians. These volunteer guardians can do things like visit the person who they are serving as guardian for, help them get medications and other equipment, go with them to doctor’s visits, and otherwise advocate for them.
Within Indiana, there is a unique volunteer guardianship program to try to ensure that vulnerable people always have a guardian, despite the fact that there is generally insufficient funding for guardians in the state. Volunteer guardians can also help to protect seniors from exploitation within the paid public guardianship system. When the states pay people to serve as guardian, sometimes this leads to a situation where the guardians don’t really have the best interests of their ward’s at heart and are just in it for the paycheck.
Indiana’s volunteer guardianship program is called the Center for At-Risk elders. It is a small not-for-profit organization with several dozen volunteers that serve as the legal guardians for around 150 different people. The program was born when its founder got the idea at St. Margaret Mercy Hospital in Lake County, Indiana around 15 years ago. The founder was finding many instances where people in the hospital did not have anyone who could consent to them being placed in a nursing home care facility.
The Center for At-Risk Elders trains recruits trusted volunteers and provides them with training. It also manages its volunteer guardians to ensure they are up-to-the-task and appropriately providing help to the people whose interests they’re supposed to be looking out for.
The program has been successful, and state lawmakers who responded favorably to the initial pilot program created by Center for At-Risk Elders subsequently passed laws to allow for similar programs in other counties as well.
Getting Help from an Elder Law Attorney
Because having a guardian to look after your interests and manage your affairs is so important if you become incapacitated, you should reach out to an elder law attorney now so you can make an incapacity plan that includes choosing who will make your decisions for you. Frank & Kraft will assist you in understanding and implementing the right legal tools to name a trusted agent so your fate is never left to chance and so you are never left without someone close to you looking out for your interests.
To find out more about how a compassionate and knowledgeable member of our legal team can help you to make an incapacity plan, join us for a free seminar. You can also give us a call at 317-684-1100 or contact us online today to get your personal incapacity plan underway.