In most cases, the appointed guardian will be someone who already has a personal connection with the ward, including friends or family; however, any competent person may be appointed. Parents or siblings may have grown up taking care of an incapacitated minor, and continue to care for the person after the individual reaches legal adulthood. Adult children may become guardians of a parent who is diagnosed with mental or physical illness or disability. When a friend or family member is unable to care for the adult ward, an unrelated guardian or public or private institution may be appointed.
A guardian is able to make many decisions for the care of the ward. This could include managing daily living needs, such as nutrition, hygiene, and daily activities. It can also involve major health and mental health care decisions such as medical treatment, medications, surgeries, and physical therapy. A guardian may also be responsible for handling limited matters for the ward. However, in most situations where management of financial affairs of a ward is a necessary, a conservator will be appointed. The appointment and role of a conservator is beyond the scope of this article and will be addressed at a later date in a separate article.
The appointed guardian may be responsible for making some very tough decisions for the adult ward, and coordinating multiple aspects of the ward's daily life. Depending on the level of the ward's physical and mental disability, the guardian may have to manage all aspects of the ward's life. This could include regular medical check-ups, dentist visits, and decisions over one type of medical treatment versus another.
It is important the guardian understand the guardian's role in caring for the ward. The level of care should be consistent with the level of disability. Where appropriate, the guardian should discuss all decisions with the ward, and listen to the ward's response. If the ward's preference would not result in any harm, then the guardian may want to give deference to the ward's decision, even if it is not the same decision the guardian would make.
After a guardian is appointed, the guardian is required to submit reports to the court and family members of the ward. The first report will run from the first date of appointment, through nine months after the permanent appointment. After that, a report is due annually on the ending date of the first report. Guardianship reports include information on the ward's address, visits between guardian and ward, the ward's doctors and recent medical visits, any changes in condition, what benefits were received, and contact information.
In some cases, a guardian can be financially compensated for their services provided as guardian. If a guardian intends to seek compensation, a Notice of Compensation must be filed with the court with copies of the Notice sent to family members. The Notice will include the intended hourly pay rate, and why the guardian believes the pay rate is appropriate. After approval, the court may annually review the guardian's compensation.