Case Management or Guardianship: Which Will it Be?

Case Management or Professional Guardianship may prove to be invaluable resources in your future. There is very little in life that prepares us for the business of aging. As adults, we may be involved in the healthcare decisions of our own parents and maybe those of a spouse’s parents. That doesn’t exactly provide us with a depth of experience or knowledge.

Many adult children go into those decision-making situations for parents with no knowledge or experience. They take the situation as it comes and rely on the opinions of just-as-qualified others. In the United States, over 80% of healthcare decision-makers for families are women. Unfortunately, many of those women feel uninformed.

Allow yourself to be open to help and resources when caring for elderly parents or family members. Educating yourself on the services that are available in your area is one of the best ways you can help yourself prepare. There may be a time when you are called upon to make difficult decisions. Wherever you live, there are experts in the field of senior services available and no one should navigate senior living alone.

Woman in Window

How Do I Know if My Elderly Parents Need Help?

Some adult children live close to aging parents, but many live in other states and visit as their schedule allows. Even if you visit your parents regularly, it may be difficult to see the signs indicating that they need more help at home. Often the areas where they need the most help can be hidden.

Signs Elderly Parents Need More Support

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Medication misuse
  • Unpaid bills
  • Changes in mood
  • Physical frailty

Despite regular visits from adult children, some elderly parents do not share that they have difficulty paying the bills or that they struggle to keep up with medications. This is normal behavior and the adult child needs to be present and observant. However, there is not always an adult child who is willing or able to be available to the extent needed.

Can I Get Help Taking Care of Elderly Parents?

This is an incredibly brave question to consider, and the answer is a resounding yes! Taking care of an aging family member can be incredibly exhausting, time-consuming, and emotionally overwhelming. The measure of a child’s devotion isn't whether they provide the care themselves, but that the best possible care is provided. And that can include asking for help.

How Can I Help My Elderly Parents?

Conversation is key when creating an aging plan for elderly parents. Discuss financial matters openly and execute advanced directives such as a Durable Power of Attorney. This allows the family to outline expectations and clearly define goals. Take the time and make the effort to have these discussions today to help avoid ongoing issues in the future.

Who Can Help Me with My Elderly Parents?

There are two invaluable options to help you with the care and oversight of your elderly parents. If your parents are capable of decision-making or you have a durable power of attorney giving you decision-making authority, you can hire the services of a professional case manager. If they are no longer capable of making decisions and did not execute advance directives, you may have to pursue guardianship to put care systems in place.

Elderly man on bench

Two Options to Help with Care

Case Management


Case Management

Professional Case Management is available for the over-whelmed senior or family member who needs assistance navigating the matters of aging. Often considered a “surrogate member” of the family, a case manager is hired to oversee as little or as much as the senior and their family wishes.  Case managers (or care managers) can assist with tasks such as bill paying or accompanying to medical appointments, helping the senior stay as independent as possible.

A case manager can talk with the senior and their family to establish a plan to engage proper resources to support the senior’s health, safety, and well-being. Whether the family member lives far away or just down the street, the professional case manager keeps everyone informed and involved. Additionally, a qualified case manager has the experience and knowledge that comes from assisting hundreds of seniors. They have resolved many unique challenges.


Guardianship occurs when a senior is no longer able to make decisions for themselves and did not appoint a decision-maker while they had the capacity to do so. Also, this applies to someone who does not have any available family or anyone willing or able to step up and provide support. A guardian is appointed by the court. Though the court prefers to appoint a family member, a professional guardian will be appointed if no one else is available.

There are ways to protect your elderly parents from guardianship. If you are an adult child involved in your parents’ care and financial affairs, encourage them to designate in writing a durable power of attorney. This will allow you to continue to work on their behalf. Many seniors don’t want to have the conversation because they believe it compromises their independence. However, it ensures their independence by allowing you to continue to follow their wishes even after they cannot communicate.

Guardianship is Not a Horrible Outcome

Occasionally, seniors are incredibly stubborn and refuse to assign power of attorney to anyone. In those cases, the court is left to make that decision. In other situations, family members are unable to get along and have family discord. Therefore, a judge appoints a neutral, professional guardian to work with the family in carrying out the wishes of the senior individual. As much as the media wants you to believe all guardians have bad intentions, often these professionals step up when the family has stepped out.

Ways to Avoid Court-Appointed Guardianship

  • Create and fund a living trust
  • Establish a valid Health Care Surrogate
  • Establish a Durable Power of Attorney (including all Florida superpowers)
  • Designate a pre-need guardian

Man and Woman on Boardwalk

Care Managers and Guardians can be invaluable members of your senior living team. It is impossible to put a price on the knowledge and experience that a qualified care manager or professional guardian bring to the table.

Is it possible to have both? Absolutely. As a family member, if you have been appointed as guardian of your aging parent, you may feel overwhelmed. You can hire the services of a case manager to help you locate the resources you need. Also, professional guardians can offer their services to family guardians to help navigate guardianship.

There are many service providers available to help make senior living a less daunting journey. Care Managers and Guardians are a Resource We Love because their commitment to others is seemingly boundless. Read more about Case Managers and Guardianship in the Legal and Financial Section of our Blog.

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