As your parents get older, they probably need help with tasks they used to handle with no problem. If you have come to assist your loved ones with important duties, you probably think of yourself as a caregiver. You may wonder if Pennsylvania law considers caregivers to be guardians.
It is possible your parents may need more assistance to live their lives safely and securely. However, being a caregiver does not make you a guardian in the eyes of the law.
The duties of a caregiver
Caregivers can be almost anyone who helps out an elderly person. Duties can involve assisting bathing or other personal care needs or cleaning or cooking meals if the person cannot safely use a stove. An elderly relative who has memory lapses might require help sorting documents and mail as well as paying bills. Some caregivers administer medicine.
While these duties are important, they do not qualify you as a legal guardian. In order to be a guardian, you must be appointed by a court.
The duties of a guardian
As a guardian, you can do more than just provide your parents with general assistance. You can actually make decisions on their behalf. This is important if your parents suffer from dementia or have become incapacitated due to an illness or injury.
Guardianships can take different forms. You may have the authority to make financial decisions for your parents as guardian of the estate. Or, you may have authority to make medical and placement decisions as guardian of the person. You may find less restrictive options such as a durable financial power of attorney or a health care directive to help your loved ones. It is better for your parents to plan ahead by having these documents prepared, so they can decide from whom they want to receive help rather than leaving this choice up to a court.