When an Elderly Parent Refuses Care

Legal Minute with Cooley Shrair

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (Mass Appeal) –  Who do you do when an elderly parent refuses or is unwilling to admit they need assistance? Attorney Susan Mielnikowski from the Law Offices of Cooley Shrair in Springfield shared more.

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Who do you do when an elderly parent refuses or is unwilling to admit they need assistance?
If you suspect a parent is failing, or unable to manage their affairs, the first step would be to determine if they have previously executed a Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy. If so, you should obtain originals of those documents, review them to see what is needed to activate them, and begin using them. If they have not previously executed these documents, the only way you can act on someone’s behalf is by filing a Petition for Conservatorship or Guardianship with the Probate Court. Conservatorship will grant the power to act on your parent’s behalf for legal and financial matters, and can be broad or limited in scope. Guardianship will grant the power to act on behalf of their person, for medical decisions and personal decisions. Often times, a petition for both Conservatorship and Guardianship are filed at the same time.

What will you need to file with the Court?
This is often the most difficult part, because the Court will require a Medical Certificate, showing an examination date within thirty (30) days of the filing, certifying that the person is unable to act for themselves. If your parent or family member refuses to visit a doctor to be examined, it is possible to get a Court order, but preferable to have them submit to an exam voluntarily.

Do you have to inform the person that you are seeking guardianship?
Yes. Upon filing, the Court will require notice of the Petition to the person under a disability. Upon receiving notice of the Petition, your parent will have an opportunity to appear before the Court to oppose the Petition. They can hire their own counsel, submit competing Medical information or otherwise present evidence to the Court to oppose the Petition. The Court will schedule a hearing, with the goal of determining whether, in fact, your parent or family member is unable to act and also to determine what powers to act on their behalf are appropriate. This can be a very difficult process with a parent who is opposing the Petition, and may not be successful if your parent is able to prove their ability to act on their own. I strongly urge you to exhaust all options and resources within your family to resolve any concerns before filing a Petition with the Court.

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