My husband and I applied for guardianship. First, we explained to her that we would use this only for practical purposes, like being able to locate her if she became ill away from home (without guardianship, a hospital won’t tell you if your relative is a patient!), and to be able to share her thick collection of medical records with new providers if necessary. This saves her from having to keep track of it all and to sign releases with every new clinician or agency (like psychiatrist, social worker, Vocational Rehab, her SSI application, and so on).
We take care of her finances, too, so we explained that guardianship would let her Dad complete her tax forms and organize her other money-related chores–which she realizes she can’t do herself.
After obtaining her agreement, we hired an attorney to represent us in probate court. A guardian at litem visited our home and spoke to her at length in private. She comes across as entirely normal in person, so it was a darned good thing she’d already agreed, and stuck to her guns so to speak.
We also obtained a neuropsychological evaluation, which showed a number of deficiencies–things like executive function (making good decisions, planning a course of action, and carrying out plans), memory, and math. We took the report to court. By then she’d also met criteria for SSI (a HUGE struggle that took years) and Medicaid due to her disability–all points in our favor.
Also, by then we’d had her blood tested for a genetic disorder–VCFS (a chromosome 22q11.2 deletion). That came back positive, which proved her condition was permanent. This is one of the most prevalent genetic conditions, second only to Down Syndrome, yet it’s rarely tested for except in babies who have specific heart disorders and mental retardation–our daughter had neither symptoms but several others! About half the kids with VCFS grow up to develop a psychotic disorder… You might Google this condition and see if enough symptoms match to persuade a doc to order the test.
In court, the judge warned her that she’d lose her right to vote (in our state). I said we’d all fight to change that law. (The judge shook his head, but a few months later we did fight–and we won.) Our attorney had to use some careful language to avoid insulting her during the proceedings, so he said “idiot savant” with the French pronunciation (id-ee-oh savant) to get across the fact that she seems wise in many ways, yet she’s incapable of managing her own affairs.
We won. The attorney approached us once a year for three years to see if we wanted to end guardianship, since she was doing well, but we pointed out that her underlying condition hadn’t changed–without the medication she’d quickly relapse! He doesn’t ask that anymore.
We’re careful never to misuse guardianship, as this could make her choose to contest it herself. We don’t try to push her in any way; we just keep her hooked up to services and can communicate with her providers. Guardianship has worked very well for us for nearly 20 years now. In fact, it didn’t get lifted even after she married, since she prefers to have us managing her finances (her husband also has some disabilities).
Her sister has agreed to take over the guardianship when we become disabled or die.