Transitioning To Adulthood
When your loved one with special needs becomes legally recognized as an adult, typically 18 years old, it is a major life transition. Some benefits and support systems he or she receives may end, but new opportunities for maintaining or improving your adult child’s lifestyle may become available. It’s critically important to realize when they reach this age, you no longer have the ability to act on their behalf in important matters such as financial and medical decisions.
One avenue is to become his or her legal guardian. This is a big decision and carries with it a number of pros and cons, including ongoing court involvement. However, if guardianship is not the desired direction, then establishing a power of attorney (POA), a medical directive and HIPPA release should be strongly considered. With these legal documents, you can continue to assist your young adult with the services they need. These decisions are complicated and should only be done in consultations with your physician and attorney.
As you create a vision for your child’s future, it is best to plan ahead to ensure your child’s lifestyle will be the best it can be. Here are questions to ask yourself, ideally well before your child becomes a legal adult, but the process can be helpful at any age.
- Can your loved one make his or her own decisions (personal, financial & medical)?
- Will they be able to continue with additional education?
- Will they require additional guardianship?
- Will special housing or transportation be required?
- Do you imagine your child employed, and if so, in what capacity?
- What social and recreational activities interest your child now and what might those interest be in the future?
- What are your hopes for your child’s lifestyle and care when you are no longer able to provide assistance?
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