Guardianship For Elders

  In some cases, nursing homes are using guardianship to take control over their patients.

Preparing for aging parents is tough financially, emotionally, and in some cases can include a sustained legal battle. A recent article highlights the Palermo’s and the tactic being used by their nursing home to pursue guardianship to protect their financial interest.

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is where one party seeks court approval and authority over the legal rights and decision-making of someone else. This may occur where an individual needs authority to care for a spouse, child, or another family member because age, sickness, or other conditions have left them unable to care for themselves.

If pre-planning has not been undertaken, a court-ordered guardianship would be required to authorize the needed care.

Guardianship by Nursing Home Providers

With Mrs. Palermo, her nursing home filed a guardianship petition, asking the court to give them authority over her. If granted to a nursing home, guardianship could give them full power over their clients, increased leverage, and a better ability to secure payments.

The primary concern for these petitions is driven =not by the welfare and needs of the individual but rather the financial concerns of the facility.

Guardianship in Arizona

Under Arizona statute (ARS 14-5311), there is a priority for appointment in Guardianship proceedings.

Arizona statute favors close relatives, such as spouses, adult children, and parents. While the family members may have higher priority, nursing home facilities may still pursue guardianship as a means of leverage or gaining access to assets that could be used to pay bills. As the NYT article pointed out, as soon as payments were made the nursing home withdrew its guardianship petition.

Simply dealing with the threat of a petition, even when inappropriate, may create legal costs, headaches, and familial stress. This quote resonates:

“I’m trapped in a web of people and lawyers that will exhaust my 50 years of sacrifices and savings,” he wrote. “Please, dear God, grant me strength and wisdom to take care of my wife.”


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