What to do when your parents can no longer make decisions.

Published: November 6, 2018

By: Regina Congrove; Case Manager; BSW, MSW


We have all heard about our  “golden” years and hopefully imagine ourselves growing old “gracefully”- and for some this may become a reality.  But for others, aging can be quite difficult.  As children, it is difficult to witness our parent’s ability to make good decisions decline.  And as parents, we want to remain that strong, independent hero that our children look up to, making it difficult to ask our children for help with making good decisions.

Thankfully, there are now several options available to children and their parents who may need help making decisions that are in the parent’s best interest.

  • Representative Payee: If your parents are having a difficult time managing their Social Security benefits and are making the decision to not pay to have their basic needs met (food, shelter, clothing, etc.), consider becoming their Representative Payee. This will allow you to gain control over your parent’s finances to make certain all basic needs are fulfilled.
  • Power of Attorney/Healthcare Representative: There are a few different types of POA so make sure to research which is the best fit. Becoming your parent's POA/HCR will allow you to make decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated either physically and/or mentally and not be able to make those decisions on their own. It is important to note that the parent must still have mental capacity and competency to appoint someone as their POA/HCR.
  • Guardianship: This should be the last option and is the most restrictive option. Becoming someone’s guardian is a huge responsibility and requires a court to grant guardianship for a person that has become mentally incapacitated. The guardian becomes responsible for the entire care of the person, making certain the individual has all basic needs met and are free from the risk of any harm and/or exploitation.

It is so important to have a clear understanding of what is best for you and your family and when to ask for help!! Taking on any of these roles can potentially put a strain on family relationships and dynamics. For caregivers, this can result in a great deal of stress and for the parents, it can contribute to resentment towards their children. Sometimes it is best to just focus on maintaining those family relationships and to reach out to agencies/professionals for help with the rest.   Learn more about Families First's Older and Challenged Adult program if you believe your parent may need additional help.


*There are several Elder Law attorneys that assist with POA/HCR and Guardianship throughout the state of Indiana.