Navigating Bureaucracy as a Guardian

When my mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease in 2007, I had no idea how much paperwork, bureaucracy and frustration I had ahead of me.

When the person you are caring for is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it is important to get their “affairs in order.”

This typically begins with securing Power of Attorney or Guardianship, so that you can start making decisions regarding medical treatment, the estate and generally advocating on their behalf.

This is neither an easy process, nor a cheap one. There are ways to file the paperwork yourself, but this is lengthy and complicated.

First things first, you will need to decide who is going to be the legal guardian(s), including primary and secondary. Usually, you also select an alternate guardian in case the others are out of town or are otherwise incapacitated.

My brother and I decided to file the Application for Guardianship paperwork through a lawyer as in our opinion it was the most efficient and there was no time to spare. As we had made the application in Alberta, Canada, our application fell under The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act (formerly Dependent Adult Act).

It took a few months for the Court to approve the application, but once the Justice appointed us as her guardians, we assumed the responsibility to act and make decisions in such a way to serve the needs of our mother.

With the Guardianship in place, we are able to provide our input for any medical, social or residential decisions. However, in order for our decisions to be informed and reflect the needs and interests of our mother, we are expected to have regular contact with her and the people and agencies involved with her.

Unfortunately, in the past in Alberta, the Order was only valid for five years. Therefore, we were forced to go through the whole process again, including paying for the lawyer to file the paperwork with the court and having her attending physician complete a Capacity Assessment Report.

Luckily, the laws changed in Alberta in 2009 now  allowing for permanent legal guardianship, but that didn't come without its own set of hiccups. The type of information that the court now required was much more detailed than what was required in the previous application.

This time around, a Review Officer from The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee physically went to my mum's home to ensure she was in fact where we said she was. Once the Public Guardian/Trustee is satisfied with the application, it was sent to the courthouse for a final revision and approval by a judge. 

Now that we have this renewed and it in place, we can breathe a sigh of relief, except when it comes to dealing with anything related to money. That requires a Trusteeship to be in place, which I will address in a subsequent post.

If you have any questions about Guardianship and/or Trusteeship, please visit the Alzheimer Society of Canada