How much power does guardianship give you?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How much power does having guardianship over your wife give a husband? Does this give him power over her body and can he make all decisions for her such as force feed, keep her in her room all day, etc. If she is demented does she have any rights?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Courts don't appoint guardians lightly, so those named to attend the needs of another person do have considerable power to act for them. But a firm guiding interest is that a guardian must act in that person's best interests"”and the actions you describe sound as if they might be downright abusive.

Every person, regardless of mental condition, has the right to be treated with dignity and free from harmful and hurtful behavior. In fact, there are very special and specific laws designed to protect frail elderly people who might be vulnerable targets of mistreatment.

If you suspect the husband is acting wrongfully in carrying out his duties as guardian, act quickly. Your first best step might be to call the local Area Agency on Aging. You can find contact information online at The organization should operate a confidential hotline that will allow you to discuss your concerns anonymously"”and advise you about what steps to take. In extreme cases, it may also act to investigate on its own.