In part 1 of this post, we talked about the importance for the guardian of a vulnerable adult of developing a relationship with an attorney for information, guidance and legal services. Today, we share other thoughts that might help a Colorado guardian enhance the life of their ward.
Visit your loved one
If the protected person lives in a group home, nursing home, other facility or even independently with support, dropping in for regular visits will help you understand their needs and monitor quality of care. Make some of those visits unannounced so staff cannot prepare for your presence. You can take note of any issues with hygiene, care of property, maintenance and housekeeping, diet and others. Always be alert for any signs of neglect or abuse. Talk to staff about how the ward is doing and their activities.
Develop a network and ask for help
You can meet your responsibilities as a guardian better with support from others. If the ward has friends or relatives, try to facilitate visits, correspondence, phone calls or video chats. Talk to them about their observations of how your loved one is doing. Get their ideas for how the ward’s life might be enriched.
Look for organizations that support guardians. For example, we have written about Sibling Tree, Colorado’s chapter of the Sibling Leadership Network for siblings of those with special needs. Other nonprofits or even government agencies may provide the information or support that you need.
If you find the guardianship is causing high stress or generating more than you can handle, consider whether a co-guardian could be helpful or other relatives of the ward might be able and willing to visit or take the ward out, for example. Do not hesitate to speak with a counselor about your challenges. Taking care of yourself makes you a better guardian.
Work with the social worker
Guardianship provides protections for an incapacitated person, who will normally also be eligible for a social worker or case manager. A social worker can be the key to accessing benefits and services. Develop a professional and open relationship with your loved one’s social worker and be honest about the extent of the ward’s needs so that they can help you meet them. If they do not have a social worker, get one.
Let the ward’s preferences guide you
Colorado law requires that the ward’s wishes guide their guardian’s decision-making on their behalf. If they can communicate with you about their preferences, talk to them about important issues and get their input. Even if someone has an intellectual impairment or limited communication, they still may be able to guide your efforts.
For example, if the ward is a member of your immediate family, think back on how they may have expressed what they like and do not like in the past. Do those preferences shed light on future planning? Talk to their staff, doctors, family and friends about their perspectives.
Learn about the person’s condition and about services to support them
Read about their medical conditions from reliable, respected sources. Seek out organizations that support people with those impairments. Talk to the social worker and treating physicians. The better you understand the person’s needs and how they may experience life, the more meaningful and helpful your actions on their behalf are likely to be.