The Guardian for Personal Needs

If you are your ward’s Guardian for Personal Needs, the judge has given you the power and duty to make personal decisions for your ward in just those areas the judge decided your ward needs.  And because the law says that wards must be given as much physical freedom and freedom of choice as possible, you are required to involve your ward as much as possible when decisions must be made. Examples of such personal decisions are generally those most people make for themselves in ordinary life.

Example:  Guardian for Personal Needs

John Barnes is a retired merchant marine who lives alone in a small walk-up apartment in Brooklyn.  John is known to many neighbors on his block because he is always willing to do small chores for them.  Lately the neighbors have noticed that John is not looking well, his clothes are dirty, and he has lost a lot of weight. Recently John was hospitalized when he broke his hip falling on the icy street in front of his apartment.  At the hospital the doctors found him confused and suffering from malnutrition.  John was sent to a nursing home to learn to walk again. The staff there felt that he should not go home again because he was too frail to live alone.  The nursing home applied to have a guardian appointed for John.  At the hearing the judge found John to be frail but also noticed that he very much wanted to go back home again—he hated to be in the nursing home.  At the hearing John agreed that he would accept a guardian to help him and that he would accept home care to make it possible for him to live alone.  His next door neighbor, Harry, was appointed Guardian for Personal Needs to help John live at home, to obtain homecare for him, and to make sure that John goes for regular doctor visits and obtains the medications he needs.  The judge found that John is still able to take care of his financial affairs and did not give Harry the power for Property Management.

The Order and Judgment will give you directions about your duties as Guardian for Personal Needs.  For example, the judge may have given you power to make all of the decisions listed below, or just some of them:

  • Where your ward will live 
  • Whether your ward must have home care
  • Who will provide personal care or housekeeping assistance
  • Whether or not your ward may have a driver’s license or travel
  • What social environment and social life your ward may have
  • What, if any, education or training your ward may have
  • What sort of medical care decisions you may make for your ward

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Limitations of Personal Needs for Guardians

  • Guardians are always limited in what they are allowed to do by the Order and Judgment. Below are examples of things guardians may not do without court approval.
  • Take away any powers or rights from the ward that the judge has not approved beforehand
  • Move the ward to another home or a nursing home. In the order this will be called changing the place of abode of the IP.
  • Involuntarily committing the IP to a mental health or substance abuse facility or forced treatment with psychiatric medications, with out an order from the Mental Hygiene Court
  • Revoke a will, health care proxy, living will, power of attorney, or other contract that the ward made before a Guardian was appointed
  • Obtain a divorce on behalf of the ward
NOTE: In general, guardians with medical decision-making power have the right to make routine and some major health care decisions for their wards (such as agreeing to surgery). Under the Family Health Care Decision Act of 2010, Guardians are now able to make end of life decisions.

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Can I ask the Judge to change the Order and Judgment?
Yes, if you believe that a change is needed and have a good reason, you can always ask the judge for a change. For instance, if you think that your ward must be moved to another residence or facility, or needs other services and interventions that are not listed in the original Order and Judgment, you should discuss this with your lawyer or you may write the judge yourself or call the judges law clerk. You should explain why you are asking for the changes - the judge must approve them before you can make the changes.

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Detailed Task of Personal Needs Guardians

  • Visit your ward at least four times per year. Best practice is monthly visits.
  • Develop, implement and monitor a care plan
  • Keep a list of all medications and dosages
  • Make sure that all benefits and entitlements have been obtained and the required authorization continues
  • Maintain a list of all health care professionals and their contact information
  • Keep a log of all visits to health care professional

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