Texas’ court appointment of guardianship may be ready for change

Sometimes the best intentions start out to be noble, but then somehow they get twisted and turn out doing more harm than good. That’s what advocates that are pushing for reform of the Adult Guardianship System in Texas have discovered. The program allows the state to have a guardian appointed for elder individuals who find themselves a ward of the state because they are unable to care for themselves.

One advocate is using what happened to a friend as an example of how the program may sometimes do more harm than good. Her friend, who was an 85-year-old woman, found herself an unwilling ward of the state after she passed out in a restaurant. After being taken to the hospital, it was determined that she was unable to care for herself. She was forced, against her will, to go into a nursing home and was given a legal guardian by the court. Then her home and possessions were put up for sale — no doubt a decision she would not have made, and may not have even known about. The woman died shortly thereafter. Friends and family are thinking that the guardianship did her more harm than good.

In Texas, there are about 46,000 individuals who have guardians assigned to them. More than 4,500 petitions for adult guardianship were filed between Sept. 2011 and Aug. 2012. Advocates are hoping to decrease these numbers, making guardianship a last option for elderly people. They are in favor of supported decision-making for the elderly as long as they can still make some decisions for themselves.

Like the 85-year-old woman, there are others who have had to fight to get their rights back after being put under guardianship. It will take an attorney, but they can fight to regain their independence.

The best option, however, is for people to plan their own guardianship before they become completely unable to care for themselves. By creating a will, a person can choose someone they trust to carry out their desires and intentions. This way, there is no possibility of a stranger making decisions for them that may not be in their best interests.

Source: National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, “Advocates Push for Reform of Adult Guardianship System in Texas” No author given, Jun. 26, 2014