Your father always has been the doer in the family, the one who took care of everyone else’s needs before his own. But as he’s getting older, you’re noticing that the things he used to do routinely, like going to the doctor or taking his medicine or handling his own hygiene, just aren’t getting done. 

Then it might be time to pursue guardianship, also called a conservatorship, by petitioning the Pennsylvania court.

If you and your family members decide that a guardianship is necessary, the court must agree that Dad is in such a physical or mental condition that he can’t make decisions for himself. 

Even if Dad already has a living will and a financial power of attorney, it might not go far enough. For instance, there could be certain health issues that a health care directive doesn’t cover. Or, you might need to transfer Dad to a nursing home, and he doesn’t have any papers authorizing you to do so, and he doesn’t want to go willingly.

To set up the guardianship, you might file legal papers. A judge then will hold a hearing. In this case, Dad will have a chance to appear before the judge to contest the potential guardianship, and family members also will have a chance to speak in support of or against the filing.

The judge will review Dad’s medical condition, cognitive functioning, everyday functioning, values and preferences, and risk.

In the decision, the judge could give full or limited guardianship, or decline it entirely. Limited guardianship could address certain areas only, such as a guardian’s right to figure out living arrangements and make choices about who can live with or visit Dad.

Before filing paperwork, it would be wise to consult with an experienced attorney to discuss the options available to you and your family.