Many Maryland residents know the gravity of a situation involving adult guardianship and mental illness. This type of arrangement can prove beneficial for an adult who cannot completely care for themselves; however, finding the right person for this challenging role can be difficult. Because one situation can be different from the next, a relationship that can mesh while providing utmost care for the individual in need is a crucial part of the process.
An article from Kaiser Health News highlighted the story of two Harlem sisters in a unique situation. One sister has suffered from schizophrenia for decades, and the other has stepped up to the plate as her legal guardian. Although Ruby Wilson, 54, lives in an assisted living facility in North Carolina, Jean, her sister in Maryland, is nevertheless her primary guardian and caretaker. The job has certainly had its ups and downs, but the Wilson sisters are not alone: according to Kaiser, roughly 8.4 million Americans are caretakers to adult family and friends with mental illness. Most commonly, caretakers look over their parents, spouses or siblings.
While each state contains laws on adult guardianship, not all arrangements end up benefiting the individual in need. Next Avenue recognizes the stress many people experience when faced with the overwhelming task of caring for a loved one with mental obstacles, yet many unfortunate situations involve abusive guardians. Placing this responsibility into the wrong hands can be a scary step, as a court's declaring an "incapacitated person" can transform an individual's choices regarding living space and spending money. In response to the unsettling stories of abusive guardianships, Next Avenue shares that guardianship laws are slowly changing. Some states now require background checks on potential guardians, more closely examine health care decision-making and oversee other aspects of a guardianship to ensure individuals with mental illness and disabilities receive the quality care they need and deserve.