DO I NEED A GUARDIAN FOR MY FAMILY MEMBER WHO HAS DOWN SYNDROME?
One of the critical issues facing parents, siblings or other concerned family members of an adult who has Down syndrome is how to best assist and protect him or her when it comes to making legal, financial and medical decisions. Just because an individual has Down syndrome does not mean that he or she lacks the mental capacity to make and communicate appropriate decisions.
There are several alternatives to guardianship which can be considered. The individual may have sufficient mental capacity to adequately make decisions and protect himself. If so, then he or she should consider signing Durable Powers of Attorney so someone can step in and assist if the mental capacity is ever lost. This is no different than for any other adult.
Not sure if guardianship is right for your family? National Council on Disability published a helpful report called Beyond Guardianship: Alternatives That Promote Greater Self-Determination for People With Disabilities. Read the report here.
However, if a person does not have sufficient mental capacity to be able to make and communicate appropriate decisions such that he or she may be taken advantage of or not be able to manage his or her affairs, then guardianship should be considered. This is a court proceeding where it must be proven that the person lacks sufficient mental capacity and needs the appointment of a guardian to make personal decisions (such as medical and housing) and a conservator if there are sufficient assets to manage.
View a helpful Guardianship Booklet which outlines the various support options along with the application process.
Adults with Down syndrome are now reaching old age on a regular basis and are commonly living into their 50s, 60s and 70s. In order to enjoy all the wonderful aspects of a longer life, it is important to be proactive and learn about the issues that may lie ahead.
View helpful information regarding the specific issues reagrding aging here.