Written By: Nikki Wilmoth
Ruth was elderly, a widow, very hungry and giving $1,000 checks to anyone who came to her door if they would just bring her something to eat. Most took the money, but didn’t bring back any food. She gave her car away to someone who promised to bring her food. She was about to sign her house away when Adult Protective Services got involved. The court appointed a guardian for her who ensured she was never hungry again.
Stories like this can be heard time and time again, all across our country. The protection of vulnerable Americans has never been more important. In particular, persons with disabilities and advanced age live into devastating vulnerability, desperately in need of a trustworthy, well-informed and committed guardian. Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) and Friends for Life have partnered to offer an online educational opportunity for anyone wanting learn more about guardianship.
This new certificate program, “A Complete Guide to Guardianship,” offers 11 individual courses providing a comprehensive overview from the consideration of guardianship alternatives and the legal process of becoming a guardian to being the best guardian possible. Discounted packages designed especially for Senior Living Leaders and other professional groups are also available.
“Guardianship is an important part of the continuum of services available for seniors and adults with disabilities,” said Donna Baugh, life skills training director at Friends for Life. “There has not been a resource available to provide a comprehensive understanding of the legal process and how to be the best possible guardian. This online training opportunity is unique.”
Baugh said Friends for Life has long been a proponent of quality guardianship for Texas residents, and education is the key.
“With the outreach we have planned for those who work with seniors and persons with disabilities,” Baugh added, “hopefully, there will be less misinformation about the ‘perils’ of guardianship and more knowledge about how quality guardianship can provide a safety net for those truly in need.”
Inez Russell, Friends for Life founder and executive director, noted there are an estimated 52,000 guardianships in Texas, and approximately 90% of those are family members. As life expectancy increases, the number of those unable to care for themselves and who have no one to assist them will likely increase exponentially.
“As reflected in an 8% increase in guardianship over the past five years in Texas, the growing need for knowledgeable and effective guardians is not matched by educational opportunities to equip them,” Russell said.
The team hopes this program will stand in that gap. In addition to providing education to those who wish to be guardians, the team hopes to see every person with disabilities and significant cognitive challenges thriving in an environment of safety, health, and justice, and connected to an advocate committed and equipped to step in when decisions about personal wellbeing and everyday living are challenging for them.
“Guardianship is a very detailed legal process designed to protect persons who can no long make good decisions about health, safety, and personal medical or financial matters,” Dr. Dennis Myers, GSSW professor, said. “In Texas, family, friends or concerned volunteers act as guardians for most of the incapacitated vulnerable adults who need this help. If none of these are available, there are programs, agencies, and private professional guardians who can arrange the safety net needed.”
Whatever the capacity of current and potential guardians, it is essential they are prepared for the critical service they provide.
“We are pleased to offer this new program and to provide the best education possible for future guardians who will ultimately provide the best quality of life for the most vulnerable in our communities,” Dr. Myers added.
Please visit our website for more information on the courses and the packages offered at baylor.edu/social_work/guardianship. Ask about all available discounts and continuing education credit hours by contacting us at Continuing_Education@baylor.edu or (254) 710-6440.