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Guardians needed for probate volunteer program

| May 15, 2018

COSHOCTON – If you are looking for a way to make a difference in someone else’s life, consider becoming a community guardian through the Coshocton County Probate Court.

“Typically our clients either have no family in the area, they’ve outlived their family or they just don’t have someone that can advocate for them in anyway,” said Kelly Bratton, the deputy clerk at probate court who coordinates the program.

The adult in need of a guardian is known as a ward and is not able to manage their own affairs because of their age or due to a mental or physical disability. The court assigns a guardian to that person and they must answer to the court for providing proper care and management of the ward’s affairs in the ward’s best interest.

“There is an application process,” Bratton said. “You can find the application online or come see me at probate court. There also is a six hour training you have to complete, but we make it as easy as possible. It’s on a flash drive or you can do it online. After that there is an annual three hour class, but it also is accessible online.”

The information packet about the program explains that there are three basic forms of guardianships: Guardians of the estate, guardians of the person and guardians of the person and the estate.

“Community guardians are typically only of the person,” Bratton said. “They would make decisions on things such as placement of a person in a nursing home, medicines or have the final say with doctors.”

The guardian will have to complete an annual report and annual plan and submit a statement of expert evaluation within six months of being appointed a guardian and then annually thereafter.

Under state law, to be appointed by the court as a guardian, you must be: A resident of the state, at least 18 years of age (Coshocton’s program requires volunteers be at least 21-years-old), and a law abiding citizen.

“We are looking for people who are caring and compassionate,” Bratton said.

One volunteer who has been with the program for several years now is Diane Williams.

“I started in 2012 after I retired from the county board of developmental disabilities,” she said. “I wanted to stay in contact with people with disabilities.”

Since that time she has worked with two different people who were both residents at Echoing Hills.

“The first lady I had dealt with a lot of health problems,” Williams said. “I had to help with end of life decisions and whether or not to call in Hospice. Her mother had been her guardian but went into a nursing home and died. When she passed away she left my ward money. I had to go get financial guardianship because they were in a bind with needing someone to help with managing her inheritance. She herself was so close to the end of her life that she didn’t get to benefit from it a whole lot though. I also kept in touch with her family in Texas and shared with them what was going on.”

Before her first ward passed away Williams picked up a second one.

“His mom was his guardian, but she went into a nursing home and could not make decisions anymore,” she said. “I just have to help him with medical decisions because he is very high functioning and knows what’s going on. Other than with medical issues he doesn’t need a lot of help. When medical issues come up we talk about them, he makes a decision and I sign the papers.”

Williams added that a lot of decisions volunteers help their wards make are ones they will have to deal with in their own life or help a family member with.

“My father is elderly and I’m making some of the same decisions with him that I made with my wards,” she said. “Most people who would volunteer will have some experience with what they are helping to make decisions on. The key is to be open to what is best for the individuals. You aren’t taking charge of them and telling them what to do. The main thing is to advocate for their rights because they might not always understand what is happening.”

The time you have to put into the program really depends on the individual you are paired with.

“For me the most time consuming part is when I was the financial guardian, but that doesn’t usually happen,” Williams said. “Usually you see someone over the holidays and at their birthday, but that really depends on the individual. If they go into the hospital though you will have to be available to go in and sign papers. When we go on vacation, Echoing Hills has my contact information so they or the hospital can call if anything dramatic happens.”

For more on the program, visit www.coshoctoncounty.net/probate/, stop by probate court at 426 Main St., or call 740-295-7417 and ask for Bratton.

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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