By Lyndsie Kiebert
Joyce Hatcher is a member of the Bonner County Board of Community Guardian. She currently cares for two people — and might take on another soon — by making decisions about their medical needs and day-to-day lives.
Some days, that means approving a new medication.
Other days, that means hanging up photographs in the room of a man with a fading memory.
“It’s just doing a little bit to try to make someone’s life pleasant,” said Steve Franklin, another member of the board. “You’re really involved with a person’s life, and I think that’s what makes it, to me, gratifying.”
Guardians in Bonner County care for community members who can no longer care for themselves and have no family or friends to step in and help. Most of them have dementia or some other debilitating condition that requires they live in a care facility. Guardians can choose whether or not to manage their client’s money, and if they choose not to, Franklin will as the board’s conservator.
“When someone becomes a guardian, they step in as a parent would for a minor child,” said Tami Feyen, board chair and Bonner General Home Health and Hospice manager.
The board of volunteers meets once a month to discuss the citizens they currently care for, and to offer advice and support. Guardians must apply, get a background check and receive training. Members take on as many cases as they choose, and while every case varies, member Mary Franzel said she’s found being a guardian is extremely manageable.
Guardians are bound to care for their people until they pass, but the Board of Community Guardian works as a team to make sure all clients are taken care of given a volunteer must leave the board, Hatcher said.
The district court oversees the guardianship program, but the process is straightforward, Franzel said. Guardians file reports once a year about the people they look after and receive counsel from the county prosecutor’s office whenever it’s needed.
“It’s real. It’s one of the most real things you can do. We discuss people’s lives — what we can do to help them, how they’re progressing or things we can do to make their life a little bit enjoyable,” Franklin said. “It’s a challenging thing, but it’s probably the most gratifying thing you can do because you’re helping an individual and you see what your help does.”
The county’s need for guardians currently exceeds the capabilities of the board. To become a guardian or notify the board of someone who needs help, call 208-255-3098 and leave a message. Anyone with questions should call that number or contact Feyen at [email protected] To learn more, visit the board’s website at bonnercountyid.gov under the “Departments” tab.