The Impact of Being a Geriatric Care Giver

Family StressIf you think you are saving by caring for your loved one…think again. Below are some statistics that show the huge impacts to the individual care giver, not just in health but financially as well. There is also stress put on the family that can divide even the strongest of families. In turn, most people don’t want to have to be taken care of by a loved one. Feelings of guilt and regret, regardless of fault, can make one feel like a burden.

Navigating the system is also becoming increasingly difficult. An Advocate can help save your family from personal and financial ruin and reduce the stress that this process creates, providing you the time to spend with your loved ones, worry free…

As professionally certified guardians, we care for personal and financial matters, protecting individual rights and safety. We ensure that the life/care plan we build is consistent with the individual’s strengths, needs and choices.

Six reasons why being the care giver is not always the best option

  1. 23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.
    Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009
  2. Stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.
    Drs. Janice-Kiecolt Glaser and Ronald Glaser, “Chronic stress and age-related increases in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6. “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 30, 2003.
  3. Nearly three quarters (72%) of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves. 63% of caregivers report having poor eating habits than non-caregivers and 58% indicate worse exercise habits than before caregiving responsibilities.
    Evercare Study of Caregivers in Decline: A Close-Up Look at Health Risks of Caring for a Loved One. National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. 2006.
  4. American businesses can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to employees’ need to care for loved ones 50 years of age and older.
    MetLife Caregiving Cost Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. MetLife Mature Market Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving Business. July 2006
  5. Women who are family caregivers are 2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
    Study conducted by researchers at Rice University and data compiled from the Health and Retirement Study funded by the National Institute of Aging and conducted by the University of Michigan, 1992-2004
  6. Caregiving families (families in which one member has a disability) have median incomes that are more than 15% lower than non-caregiving families. In every state and DC the poverty rate is higher among families with members with a disability than among families without.
    Disability and American Families: 2000, Census 2000 Special Reports, July 2005.

What is a Plenary Guardian?

Plenary Guardianship for aging adult with dementia.Jim was becoming increasingly confused and estranged, and his actions were unpredictable. One day his wife asked him to put the kettle on for a cup of tea; he replied ‘yes’. When his wife came back into the kitchen a short while later, he was just standing there staring at the kettle as if it were a foreign object. It seemed he had lost interest in life, his financial affairs were in disarray, and he could no longer find the words to communicate it. He had forgotten how to drive, read, or perform any normal daily tasks, to the point where he was unable to dress himself in the morning. His aging and unwell wife was finding it impossible to manage his dementia and their estate any longer, and he clearly could not care for himself. Jim’s wife took him to the doctor and her worst fears were realized – the doctor declared him incapable of making decisions for himself. It was time to consider plenary guardianship, as Jim was not competent to enter into a Power of Attorney, the document in which a competent person grants authority to another individual to act on his/her behalf. See Dementia and Guardianship

Plenary guardianship is when the court finds an individual incapable of caring for themselves, and therefore gives a legal guardian rights over and responsibilities towards that individual or “ward”. Plenary guardianship must be appointed by the court. This kind of petition would include the name of the person in need of guardianship, their date of birth and address, and a report by a doctor stating the physical and mental incapability of the person. See What is the Difference between Guardianship and Power of Attorney?

Types of Guardianship

Other less restrictive types of guardianship do exist and the court will decide which is suitable for the individual in question. Illinois law permits several different types of adult guardianship:

Limited Guardianship

A limited guardianship permits the guardian to make some, but not all, decisions for the person under the guardianship.

Guardian of the Person and Guardian of the Estate

There are different types of plenary guardianship – it may be as to the person (personal care, education, and medical services) or as to the estate (financial affairs and property) or as to both.

Temporary Guardianship

In emergencies, the court may appoint a temporary guardian for up to 60 days to protect a person with special needs’ interests.

Successor Guardianship

A successor guardian takes over the guardianship when the initially appointed guardian no longer can serve.

Testamentary Guardianship

Parents of children with special needs use testamentary guardianships to protect their children who are living under guardianships in case of the parent’s death.

Duties of the Plenary Guardian

A Plenary Guardian has legal rights by the court to make all decisions for the person that is found to be incompetent. It is important to note that this is a legal appointment, not a medical appointment. The medical report presented to the court is only part of what a judge will consider in making a decision for a potential ward. Once someone is under guardianship they will not be able to engage in certain activities. This is including, but not limited to, their estate. While someone is under the care of a guardian they may not:

  • Determine residence
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Make end-of-life decisions
  • Possess a driver’s license
  • Manage, buy, or sell property
  • Own or possess a firearm or weapon
  • Contract or file lawsuits
  • Marry
  • Vote

The plenary guardian is responsible for managing the needs of that person. If proper housing needs to be secured, it is the responsibility of the guardian. If medical needs have to be addressed, it is the responsibility of the guardian. The guardian is also to manage the client’s financial and insurance needs, including applying for Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security if necessary. Some additional things a plenary guardian can be responsible for include the following:

  • Determine and monitor residence
  • Consent to and monitor medical treatment
  • Consent and monitor non-medical services such as education and counseling
  • Consent and release of confidential information
  • Make end-of-life decisions
  • Act as representative payee
  • Maximize independence in least restrictive manner
  • Report to the court about the guardianship status at least annually
  • Marshall and protect assets
  • Obtain appraisals of property
  • Protect property and assets from loss
  • Receive income for the estate
  • Make appropriate disbursements
  • Obtain court approval prior to selling any asset
  • Report to the court or estate status

Plenary Guardian Requirements

It is required by Illinois law that a plenary guardian be 18 years or older without a felony and capable of the responsibility. It also states that you cannot be in service to the ward other than to provide guardianship services and that there may not be any debt owed to you by the ward. These simple requirements come with much responsibility. Often a well-intended family member is willing to take on this role without fully understanding the magnitude of what they are getting into. Knowing all there is to know to help someone in need of a guardian is challenging. The impact of being the caregiver can be tremendous. See Recognizing the Signs of Caregiver Burnout

If you find yourself in this situation, we suggest you sit down with a good estate and probate attorney experienced in these matters to learn what is involved before you decide to take it on. If you have already accepted an appointment then your attorney might be able to help you manage and understand the requirements.

As advocates and professional guardians we can help you put a plan in place that is easy to follow and maintain. You don’t have be in this alone. With professional expertise you will have the support you need to be the best guardian for your loved one and know you are making the right decisions.

If you have any questions regarding guardianship, please post them below so we can raise awareness and help others who might be facing similar issues.