It happens often that My Elder Advocate is called in to represent a resident who has placed in a Nursing Home against their will by a court-appointed guardian. In many of these guardianship cases, the elder is being abused or neglected and close family members have been banned from visiting their loved ones. In other cases, nursing homes themselves have been declared guardians and they have used this opportunity to pillage the personal accounts of the elders they are supposedly protecting.
As the number of seniors increase, so too will the number of individuals with cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and the trend of invoking guardianship for elders with these disabilities. However, guardianship – a legal tool which gives one person or entity the power to make personal and/or property decisions for another – has the potential of harming older adults rather than protecting them if not carefully administered.
There are several major functions that a guardian for an adult carries out:
• Making decisions the person is unable to make for himself or herself
• Exercising rights on behalf of the adult that the adult is unable to exercise for himself or herself
• Acting as an advocate for the adult’s best interests
• Taking action to protect the adult from abuse, neglect, self-neglect, financial exploitation and violation of rights
Over the years, a growing uncaring and unjust judicial system has helped convert guardianship/conservatorship from an appropriate law to one which, if misused, is damaging to the general public. At present, it operates to ensnare the most vulnerable people in a larger and larger trawling net, including those merely physically “incapacitated”! It has become a feeding trough for unethical lawyers and other “fiduciaries” appointed by the courts to protect, but many of whom become nothing more than predators.
Wards of the state lose all self-determination rights, including:
• the right to contract and choose a lawyer;
• the right to control their assets and make financial decisions;
• the right to remain in their own home and protect it from sale;
• the right to protect and enjoy their personal property;
• the right to choose where to live;
• the right to accept or refuse medical treatment, including antipsychotic drugs;
• the right to decide their social environments and contacts;
• the right to assure prompt payment of taxes and liabilities;
• the right to vote;
• the right to drive;
• the right to marry; and
• the right to complain.
The best way to avoid these abuses is to PLAN ahead of time.
Jack Halpern, Founder and CEO
My Elder Advocate LLC
New York, New York