To those who haven’t witnessed it first-hand, guardianship may sound like a heroic assignment in which bigger, stronger, more seasoned protectors keep individuals unable to fend for themselves out of harm’s way.  But the reality is far less ideal.

More and more cases are being assigned to professional guardians because round-the-clock responsibility for another individual’s life is often more than a family member or well-intentioned friend can bear.  We’re just seeing the earliest waves of a mounting tsunami that could send enormous numbers of individuals unnecessarily into guardianship and place unbearable stress on even the most willing and able professionals.

NGA Standards
The National Guardianship Association’s (NGA) standards and certification process ensure that professionals who take on guardianship responsibilities do so with both commitment and competence and that they’re suited to tackle the most important aspect of these cases—preserving the dignity and quality of life of the ward.

But while a certified professional guardian has demonstrated the skills and commitment necessary to take on the profound obligation of seeing to a ward’s welfare, his capacity to do so isn’t limitless.  In fact, the NGA states in its Standards of Practice that “the guardian shall limit each caseload to a size that allows the guardian to accurately and adequately support and protect the person, that allows a minimum of one visit per month with each person, and that allows regular contact with all service providers.”

In a healthy arrangement, a guardian should:
  • Evaluate and act on each situation on a case-by-case basis, carefully considering those whose lives hangs in the balance as individuals.
  • Be ready, willing and able to care about the ward, including demonstrating an understanding of the responsibilities that accompany the guardian’s role. Those responsibilities often range from things as straightforward as deciding where the ward will live to more complex and potentially overwhelming issues, such as deciding whether cancer care should continue or life support should end.
  • Avoid over-burdening himself with too many cases, by aligning with a qualified third-party source of professional guardianship.  Such partners should put the needs and stated desires of the ward above all else and be able to remain objective in making decisions that affect the ward’s estate and quality of life.
  • Have a succession plan in place, so that the death or departure of an individual or business won’t leave the ward unattended, whether for a short period while a new guardian is assigned or for a longer period if the situation goes undetected.  (Continue Reading)