Hamilton County’s guardianship program helps seniors, incapacitated adults

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Hamilton County now has a program to help adults in need of assistance in living independently.

Guardianship Program Director Stephanie Seeger

The Hamilton County Volunteer Advocates for Seniors or Incapacitated Adults Guardianship Program was started this year through a grant from the Indiana State Supreme Court and the Hamilton County court. Guardianship Program Director Stephanie Seeger joined the program in May. The program’s activity picked up during the summer.

Seeger said Hamilton County didn’t have a program previously. The program is run by the Noblesville-based Shepherd’s Center of Hamilton County in a partnership with the courts.

“The biggest benefit as we have increasing numbers of our population aging (is), we are seeing an increase in the number of the people who need assistance to be able to continue living with independence and dignity,” Seeger said

Through the program, Shepherd’s Center of Hamilton County will serve as the court-appointed legal guardian of incapacitated adults in Hamilton County and provide assistance through trained volunteers. There is no cost to the people and their families for the assistance.

Steve Nation, a retired Hamilton County judge, is a member of the program task force.

“The guardianship program permits us to care for those who once cared for us,” Nation stated. “In light of the projected increase in the elderly population in Hamilton County in the next five years, the need for this type of program is greater than ever. By serving the elderly in our community with this program, we not only invest in the culture of our county, but also take the opportunity to thank our seniors who have given so much of their lives to ensure that individuals in the next generation will have better lives and futures.”

Seeger said some older people have family in the area, which helps.

“But a lot of people’s family members are out of state, or the person’s family might be aging themselves or have children to care for,” Seeger said. “If the court declares a person incapacitated and they are no longer able to care for their person or their estate, then they need someone to serve as their guardian. If they are a resident of Hamilton County and they don’t have anyone else able or willing to serve, our program can be named guardian. We prioritize a person’s wishes.

“We do not make money off the program. It’s a service for the county.”

Seeger said the program trains volunteer advocates who are paired with clients under guardianship. They talk with the client once a week and have monthly visits.

“They provide a level of care that we maximize their dignity and independence,” Seeger said. “We set their care plan based on what they desire. We involve any support system they have, according to their wishes as well. Family and friends can continue to be involved in their life and support them.”

Seeger said they also can serve as guardians for adults who might have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a stroke.

“We are primarily a senior center nonprofit. We partner with other Hamilton County nonprofits for clients who aren’t seniors,” Seeger said. “We are getting referrals on a weekly basis. Sometimes, it’s from family members who have concerns about a family member who may need assistance, Sometimes, it’s from residential facilities or medical facilities. I would say we’ve been receiving five referrals a week. The priority is connecting them to the least restrictive alternative.”

All volunteer advocates undergo initial training, are provided ongoing support and continuing education and are screened through an application and background check process. For more on the guardianship program or serving as a volunteer advocate, contact Seeger at stephanie@shepherdscenterofhamiltoncounty.org or 317-674-8777 ext. 8.


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