Are you the family caregiver for a developmentally disabled loved one? Were you aware that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? This month is to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion for children, adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities, and to celebrate the unique strengths and vital contributions of these individuals.
Right now, as the parent of a developmentally disabled child, you have the legal right to make all medical and financial decisions for your minor child. These decisions are often delegated by you to a caregiver who you have hired. Nevertheless, you, as the parent, have the final say and should closely supervise the caregiver.
With that said, did you know that once a developmentally disabled child attains age 18 a parent no longer has the legal right to delegate these duties to the child’s caregiver. This is why it is best for the parent of a developmentally disabled child who has recently attained age 18 to request the circuit court to appoint the parent as the guardian advocate for the child. The court appointed parent can then legally delegate to the caregiver those rights that can be overseen and legally supervised by the parent.
So what exactly does having a developmental disorder mean? It means having a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, or Prader-Willi syndrome; that manifests before the age of 18; and that constitutes a substantial handicap that can reasonably be expected to continue indefinitely. With this information a circuit court may appoint a guardian advocate, without an adjudication of incapacity, for a person with developmental disabilities, if the person lacks the decision making ability to do some, but not all, of the decision making tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property or if the person has voluntarily petitioned for the appointment of a guardian advocate.
Now, if the person with a developmental disability has executed an advance directive or durable power of attorney, the circuit judge must consider and find whether the documents will sufficiently address the needs of the person with a developmental disability for whom the guardian advocate is sought. However, a guardian advocate may not be appointed if the court finds that the advance directive or durable power of attorney provides an alternative to the appointment of a guardian advocate which will sufficiently address the needs of the person with a developmental disability.
Be aware that if an advance directive exists, the court shall specify in its order and letters of guardian advocacy what authority, if any, the guardian advocate shall exercise over the person’s health care surrogate. Also, the court upon its own motion, may, with notice to the health care surrogate, modify or revoke the authority of the health care surrogate to make health care decisions for the person with a developmental disability. Also, if any durable power of attorney exists, the circuit judge shall specify in its order and letters of guardian advocacy what powers of the agent, if any, are suspended and granted to the guardian advocate.
Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers. We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.