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How can I get emergency guardianship of my adult son who has a mental illness?

18 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2015
Bitzygal asked...

Our son is young adult with schizophrenia. He suffers severe delusions and has been hospitalized numerous times in the past year.Would a guardianship help me help preserve his rights when he disagrees with taking harsh drugs? What are the risks and benefits of guardianship in such a case?


Caring.com User - Barbara Kate Repa
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37% helpful
Barbara Kate Repa answered...

As noted below, there are advantages and disadvantages to setting up a conservatorship, but in your son’s case, it might provide the best protection against medical treatment that you feel See also:
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may be overzealous.

The advantages include that a guardianship:

  • Lets family members know that someone is making decisions
  • Gives clear legal authority to deal with third parties, and
  • Provides a process to have a judge approve major decisions.

The disadvantages of a guardianship include that it is:

  • Costly to set up, requiring a lawyer, legal papers, and a court hearing
  • Time-consuming, including extensive ongoing paperwork
  • Can be humiliating for a parent who is still somewhat capable, and
  • Can be emotionally difficult if family members disagree about who should be conservator.

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38% helpful
daisym answered...

Two years ago I had to make the difficult decision to act on the behalf of a loved one for their safety mainly and their health. We went through a family lawyer and I was able to become guardian. This has proven to be the most beneficial decision for the family. I must emphasize, though, how important it is to maintain contact with the caretakers if the person is in a residential setting and always take a proactive initiative. Do not assume you will always be informed unless you are known to his/her caretaking community. There are many people on many shifts at the facilities doing a job that is very difficult on a daily basis. Most other residents where my sibling lives are not looked in on by their family members at all. Good luck. Do not give up. This condition lasts their lifetime and yours. For your own health you will know what is best. Mental health disease robs us of the future our loved ones may have had but we must help to protect their future for the sake of their future health and safety, ours and others. It was a very difficult choice but the best one in our case. I did this after my parents were deceased which was also very difficult emotionally for everyone but had to be done so that they did not become wards of the state. You as parents can do this and name someone to carry out your responsibility so that in the event of your death their care is continued to their best interest. Maybe their treatment can be temporary. But that answer will still take time to find out. My prayers for your decision.


56% helpful
daisym answered...

Dear Bitzygal: In response to your question-will you be able to get help when the loved one refuses medicines-in our case I was. Keep an open dialogue with caretakers, social workers or other therapists or even observant family and friends involved with helping you care for this person so that you can foresee this happening... You may need to call 911 to transport the individual to hospital but because you have guardianship, you can make that decision. They may still refuse while in the hospital but in the proper care and under supervision the situation can be assessed so that the next appropriate procedures can be set in motion. It is a most difficult type of tough love...they won't like you but your love for them has to be your motivator to preserve their quality of life as well as yours. The alternative is not anything I like to consider. While my parents were alive, they really did not have any control over the choices that were made for the person that was ill merely by being the parents. A person with a different type of illness-cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc., may also choose to refuse medicine, and we see this be to be unhealthy, too. These illnesses do not result, however, in outcomes which have the potential to cause disastrous harm to themselves or other people, which, thankfully our family has avoided. Be vigilant and thoughtful. Worrying 24 hours is not a solution, though. My prayer life and my family are also very supportive.


73% helpful
Loveallpeople answered...

Unfortunately drugs ARE the answer. I got guardianship of my schizophrenic brother after suffering for years of med noncompliance and it changed life for the whole family. I did it by myself without a lawyer. The system is broken and will mostly not help you and when it comes to this save yourself the years it will waste and get guardianship now! I wish we had done it 30 years ago. The hardest part for me was getting the medical certificate from "professionals" treating him. No one wants to stick their neck out and its messed up. Do whatever it takes including lying if/when you have to. He needs to be on disability immediately! He should be associated with the dept of mental health, have a social worker and a prescriber, in home care if he lives on his own and stable housing. I started with the basics before getting guardianship. Clean house, clean clothes and food in the pantry. Get him used to having you around and do what you have to to take care of him. Lawyers will charge you tons and most likely not be successful. You have the right to represent yourself and when the court people got frustrated or surly I would remind them of that fact. Temporary guardianship can be obtained during a crisis and that's the time to do it. During or right after a hospitalization go for temporary guardianship. It can then become permanent. Don't ask for a big guardianship - ask to be able to get services, health care info etc.. If your son is like my brother he can't take care of himself in his condition. It's absolutely crazy to expect someone with such a sever mental illness to do so..good luck and I'm here to tell you things get soooo much better when you have a team in place - a saftey net to hold him close and keep him safe. Now my bro has a DMH worker, a day program 3 days a week and a ride there and back. He has disability, housing, food stamps, a free cell phone, a visiting nurse who comes every night to make sure he takes medicine and check on him, a great doctor and a therapist! Do it now and save yourself years of worry and emergency calls and the stress that all that puts on you and your family....good luck - time for tiger mode!


33% helpful
_dex1e_ answered...

Hello Anonymous Caregiver,

My mom found your response above to be very encouraging. You gave her hope for our youngest sibling who is currently on his second 5250 hold since March.

She asked me to reach out and request for contact. I know you are probably very busy and don't want to go over telling your situation with your family member again, but my mom would like to find out what specific steps you took to get your brother the care he needs.

My brother's illness has drained our family savings and we no longer have the resources. Any information you can share will be heaven-sent.

Thank you, Dexie


disappointed mom answered...

Anonymous Caregiver, I also would like to know the steps you took to get there. I have an 18 yr old son who is severely delusional and the docs want to set him out to a homeless shelter. I cannot bring him home because I have an 11 yrs old daughter and his delusions are mostly sexual. so you understand why I cant bring him home but at the same time this is my son. does anyone have any suggestions?


33% helpful
desparate mom answered...

I too would like info on what steps you took to get guardianship I have struggled for 8 years with my 27 year old daughter who has schizophrenia she is refusing to take her medication AGAIN and I fear whats coming - I need to keep her safe. please any help would be appreciated.


daisym answered...

Five years since making the decision it was still the right one. Each year that goes by reassures me of that. Their health and safety as well as that of those around them makes it doubly correct. Prayers help us all but thank God daily for good medicine and trained and caring health care workers. Emotionally it is difficult but not caring for them this way would have been morally wrong of me. They realize it as well. We discuss it a lot. The caring professionals where they reside are reassuring and they are so under appreciated and greatly misunderstood by outsiders to the serious nature of mental health behaviors. There does not seem to be a cure but maintenance must be established. I could go into lots more detail but would rather protect some privacy. A lawyer will know the proper procedure to take to bring this issue to court. The person taken as a ward may be shown to be a harm to his health or others or unable to care for themselves.


influence answered...

Each state has different resources and it would be nice to be able to have a list of those resources, whether State or Private or Non-profit and their ratings. Today I paid to have a lawyer retained to obtain guardianship and it was very expensive. There are not many lawyers that do the guardianship. If I had known that I could do it myself I would cancel that check, but I already signed a contract.


Desperate Mother answered...

My daughter is 23 and bipolar, she just got out of the mental health hospital for the 2nd time in 5 weeks. I'm trying to save her from herself or hurting someone else in the process. The system sucks! I need to get her in a facility for more than 72 hours without her being able to sign herself out. Any information to help me do this is very much appreciated. Today she even hooked up with a guy she met in the mental unit at the hospital. I almost wish that she would get arrested so no one would bail her out.


Psych Doc answered...

I have to say I am very surprised to see a parent calling antipsychotics "harsh." Schizophrenia is the harshest thing I have ever seen. It is a terrible monster that invades the most precious organ... the seat of whom we ARE. I am a psychologist; I have worked in residential psychiatric settings for years and the biggest problem I have seen with medication is difficulties with compliance.

I have had many parents ask me how they can get their children to take their medication... I have only once had a patient express negative feelings about psychiatric meds... and that was because of religious beliefs that include refusal of all medical help.

Schizophrenia is a vile, ugly monster that robs a person of his own mind. I hate it. I hate to see young people disappear under this terrible thing. As of this date, medication is the best thing we have. It certainly isn't perfect, but it can be helpful. And we have good, solid research demonstrating a robust benefit to the brain from taking antipsychotic meds. Schizophrenic patients who do not take their meds suffer more neuronal loss. The brain of the schizophrenic literally loses mass over time. The medication is protective. It is very important to understand this. Antipsychotic medications reduce loss of brain mass.

Schizophrenia is a lifelong, progressive brain disease. It is the cruelest disease in existence. Medication is the best tool you have. Yes, some of the side effects are uncomfortable, but schizophrenia is much, much worse. And as your son has had many hospitalizations, that tells me he is very ill, indeed. Hospitalization is a lot more rare than it used to be.

I am so sorry you must carry this burden, Bitzygal, and if I had the power to lift the horrors of schizophrenia from your child and the burdens of it all from your shoulders, I should be so very glad to do so. My heart aches for you... I have seen the pain parents must endure more times than I care to think about. Sometimes the grief of the parents is more painful to me than witnessing the beautiful promise in a young person being strangled slowly from his mind by this monster. I am so very sorry you are going through this. But please do encourage him to take his meds.


tadly23 answered...

Dear Desperate Mother, I have the exact same problem with my mentally ill son. He just checked himself out of the hospital and is now homeless for the 4th or 5th time. And he has been in jail several times. Those were the times that I was at peace knowing he was safe, had a roof over his head and had 3 meals a day. Lets face it. It's our societies answer for housing the mentally ill since all the hospitals were closed down. I am 65 years old and I don't think getting guardianship at this point in my life is good for me. No one else in the family cares. He won't take his meds the minute he gets out of the hospital he will stop taking them.


elsuno answered...

I am 77 and considering getting guardianship over my 48 yr old paranoid schizophrenic daughter. I don't think I can handle her anymore. Who can take over??? She's in hosp. now but when they let her out, she'll be homeless. A very tired Mother,


tired in tulsa answered...

Guardianship of a mentally ill son. Have it. It only helps to have some say so.basically there is little to no long term help for mental illness that I have found. Just makes me responsible for a child who chooses too self medicate with harmful things all the while becoming more helpless and dangerous too himself at 30... Im left with broken heart and wallet...still back at square one 15 yrs later. My strength is waning...


brokenhearted 2 answered...

I was considering guardianship for my 29 year old son who is schizophrenic and attempted suicide this week. He may now have permanent physical damage that will hinder him eating and drinking. From what I've read here, it won't really help much. He really needs residential care. There aren't any hospitals in Oklahoma for long term care anyway. Thank you poster "tired in tulsa" for your info, it was helpful. I'm in Tulsa too. Wishing for help to keep him safe from the voices that torment him 24/7. He only takes his medicine when he is forced to. :(


Mom Out of Answers answered...

I have a 29 year son who is paranoid schizophrenic and I would like to get guardianship over him. He is very difficult to live with. In fact, I rarely could sleep in my home being afraid of what he would do. I developed Vertigo from the stress. My son has been homeless before because of this. He was recently in an apartment run by a mental health institute for many years but lately he has been getting worse and worse. This is his third time being in the hospital this year of 2015. Just today he became extremely violent and the mental health organization will no longer let him live in this supervised apartment. Now I'm in the position of looking for a place for him. Financially I don't have a lot of money and would like to know how to assume guardianship without going through a lawyer? I am in crisis mode right now! My son is being held temporarily in the hospital. Can someone help me?


Peacetrain answered...

I also have a very sick adult child. My heart goes out to everyone of you having to deal with such a heartbreaking situation. My daughter is 23 and Bipolar and an addict. Has tried to kill herself over 10 times. Been to many clinics, rehabs, therapists...You name it. She is on probation for 3 felonies. I just want to commit her for her safety and societies safety. I cannot believe it is okay to have mentally ill people running free in this society. All that happens to them is they go to jail, families with resources can pay to put them somewhere, or they die... I want my daughter to live. I am trying to figure out how to get guardianship over her so I can start utilizing everything I can find to help her. Because she is an adult I cannot do much of anything for her, except love her. Any advice in how to get guardianship and find ways to help my daughter before she is either incarcerated or dead? Thanks!