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Guardianships putting thousands of elderly Texans at risk


Documents show they’re losing their rights

Repost from: The Houston Chronicle 

By LISE OLSEN

Updated 11:01 p.m., Thursday, November 3, 2011
 

Under a court-ordered guardianship, 86-year-old widow Helen Hale was plucked from the house she and her husband had built on wooded acreage in Cypress for their retirement and relocated to an unlicensed group home run by a caregiver with a criminal history.

Across Texas, 30,000 to 50,000 disabled and elderly people like Hale have lost the right to decide where they live, to choose a caretaker or to spend their life savings after being declared incapacitated and ordered into guardianships, according to new estimates obtained by the Houston Chronicle from the Texas Office of Court Administration and interviews with probate court officials statewide.

Nationally, the number of people declared “incapacitated” is rapidly increasing as the population ages. And so have reports about mistreatment, neglect and problems involving relatives and non-relatives appointed to protect them, according to warnings from the federal Government Accountability Office.

In August, Hale’s daughter Jane Goings dropped by the group home and found her mother ill.

“I just knew that there was something wrong with her. Her coloring didn’t look right. My mom looked like a limp noodle,” said Goings, who prior to Hale’s 2011 guardianship lived next door to her mother and shared her care with other siblings.

At Goings’ urging, Hale was rushed to a hospital where doctors found dangerously low potassium levels and a urinary tract infection, according to medical records and interviews with her children.

‘The living dead’

In some of the state’s largest counties, like Harris, Travis and Bexar, so many people are in guardianships that each probate judge oversees from 1,500 to 3,000 “wards” of the court. Yet most judges have only a single investigator to check out potential problems.

Across Texas, courts don’t have enough staffto visit wards even once a year. That means, in many places, that no one is guarding the guardians, though some judges recruit volunteers to do so.

“They lose their rights – they’re the living dead,” declared Houston advocate Latifa Ring, who has argued for reforms and pushed for increased oversight by Congress. “There’s a systemic problem in guardianships.”

GAO reports this year and in 2010 warned that many elderly and disabled people – including many veterans – had been exposed to neglect and rip-offs under guardianship.

Family usually steps in

In most Texas cases, relatives serve as unpaid guardians. Statewide, however, many courts are being forced to hire non-relatives or attorneys to oversee assets, care and other personal decisions because the family is unable or unwilling to do so.

Over the last 12 months, Texas judges ordered a total of $5 million in fees paid to guardians, new state data obtained by the Chronicle shows.

Bexar County has an unusually high number of guardianship cases – about 6,000, which is almost as many as Harris County – because so many military members retire to San Antonio, but have no children or relatives nearby, court officials say.

In some guardianship cases, including Hale’s, lawyers get appointed after families fight over the care of an elderly or disabled relative. Those guardians are paid out of the assets of disabled and elderly Texans.

Hale’s first lawyer guardian was Marcia Pevey, the highest-paid guardian in Texas in the last year, data analyzed by the Chronicle shows. From August 2010 to September 2011, Pevey collected more than $200,000 for guardianship services – more than anyone else statewide.

Pevey did not respond to requests for comment for this story. She was ordered to be paid $13,421 in October for acting as guardian for Hale, who receives only $1,700 monthly as a railroad widow.

Hale first ended up in Harris County probate court in February, a few months after the death of her husband Edward “Bunny” Hale, a longtime Southern Pacific Railroad employee.

Pevey was named guardian because of allegations that one of Hale’s sons had substance abuse problems and had failed to properly care for her, and that some of her children owed her money.

New home, guardian

Hale was removed in August from the group home Pevey selected, and now lives in another facility under another lawyer guardian. One of Hale’s six children hopes to regain control over their mother’s guardianship in a case set for next week. Meanwhile, records show that the total fees charged to Hale exceed $26,000.

 

lise.olsen@chron.com

 

A Heartbreaking Story of Elder Abuse and Legal Thievery


by Jim Fargiano 2011-09-03

Source: http://goarticles.com/article/A-Heartbreaking-Story-of-Elder-Abuse-and-Legal-Thievery/5265354/

Until relatively recently, I was unaware of how rampant elder abuse is within the legal court system. For almost the last two decades, my life has been consumed by helping as many people as I could in a different way than most give help. I have informally counseled and helped thousands of people through the publishing of my book, as well as in private sessions as a medium/psychic. It was not until my good friend started to share her story with me that my eyes were opened to something far more prevalent than I was cognizant of; at least on a conscious level.
I have been privileged to know Diane for over five years. During that span, she has never been anything but helpful, loving and compassionate to everyone. Doing what I do for a living generally makes me able to be a pretty good judge of character. Ironically, it is a judge and his decisions that prompted me to write this article. The choices and attitude he has expressed have been protected by legal statutes. While they might be legal, they are far from moral, ethical or compassionate.

This all began approximately two and a half years ago. Diane’s mother had given her power of attorney and named her the healthcare proxy. Like many families, there were disagreements with the siblings. Diane was being told that her brother and sister wanted to sell their mother’s home and place her in a nursing home. While this elderly woman, Dorothy, had some early dementia and knee problems, she was still a vibrant, cognizant person. She had no interest in being displaced so that those two could have her money. Diane’s family suggested she file for legal guardianship to protect her home and to protect her mother’s life as well. It seemed to make an abundance of sense.

To tell the events of what unfolded quickly is really an injustice to the elder abuse that has incurred since. The siblings contested the petition for guardianship. Instead of reaching a mediated agreement, the judge listening to the case decided he would be better at making decisions for everyone. He assigned a law guardian and a healthcare manager. It appears these three have worked together before. Diane was immediately removed from what her mother wanted; to have her take care of her needs if there was any reason for it. As it was, Dorothy would spend many weekends at Diane’s house. It must be noted that Diane works from home and took care of her father in his last years. It would give Dorothy a change of scenery and much appreciated love and companionship. All of that was about to change.

Diane, rightfully, brought in a lawyer to help overturn the judge’s decision. This attorney had handled her parents’ legal needs in the past. Not only was he familiar with the family dynamics, but he had intimate knowledge of what Dorothy wanted. He was even going to represent Diane pro bono. All he wanted to see was that this aged woman was allowed to live happily at her own home, or with Diane. The Supreme Court judge, based in Nassau County, New York, took it upon himself to unfairly disallow the attorney’s generosity and right to represent Diane. It was the first step in a string of negatively prejudicial rulings against my friend.

The law guardian requested that a reverse mortgage be approved for $275,000 on Dorothy’s home of six decades. In open court, opposed by some, this magistrate authorized the financial decision and stated that the money would allow Dorothy to remain in her home for at least five years. It is now only two years later and all of that money has been spent. In addition, social security and a couple of small pensions were still coming in. In a mere twenty-four months, more than $325,000 had been frittered away!

As of the writing of this story, the judge has ordered Dorothy into a nursing home. In his ruling, he admits this goes against Dorothy and the family’s wishes. The law guardian, healthcare manager and another person showed up unannounced and told Dorothy they were taking her to the doctor to check on a problem she was having. Dorothy, now eighty-seven years old, willingly went with them. She was hustled to a nursing home that was a distance far from the only child who has been battling for her freedom. She is frightened beyond belief.

The lie to get her into the car is one of a long string of deceptive tactics used by the law guardian, healthcare manager and the judge himself. There has been hearing after hearing over the last thirty or so months where the three of them have waged a war of defamatory statements, incredulous lies and perjury against Diane. They have fought the only daughter looking to do the right thing for her mother, with their end game being a complete bleeding of Dorothy’s modest estate. Her health has been compromised, and from my outsiders view, it was done solely to line their own pockets. The tragic thing in all of this has been that the judge, elected to uphold the rights of all people, has spearheaded his attack on an elderly woman.

How I wish I could condense hundreds of pages of documents into a short article. There was the theft of over thirty thousand dollars of jewelry. Dorothy stated that her other daughter absconded with it and she has been asking to have it returned. The supposed law guardian knows about it, but has refused to step in. There was a sworn statement from another legal person stating that from all of the interviews she had with people familiar with the family, that Diane was seen as the most loving and giving child of the three. It states that her brother is known to have a violent temper and would be a danger to his mother. In court, the very same woman stood before the judge and said that this same man would be the best person to have Dorothy live with. In my opinion, these egregious actions of Diane’s siblings has been overlooked in exchange for their support in allowing all of this to go on without their objections.

As I sum this up, I would share with you that there was a previous time that Dorothy was locked away for thirty days in another facility. She was denied the chance to be taken out by Diane for Thanksgiving, nor was she allowed to attend her only great granddaughter’s christening; something that she wanted very much to be a part of. In trying to support Diane in whatever limited way possible, I have found that elder abuse is a much broader problem than I was aware of. The National Association To Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) has stepped in to help with this case; one of a multitude they are bringing to the attention of Congress and other law related committees. It seems like power-hungry people who are trusted to protect the rights of our senior citizens run amuck and take advantage of them, their families and so forth. Justice is supposed to be blind, yet it is those in society who need not be blind to the fact that this goes on far too often. If you find yourself in a position to make a difference by correcting the wrongs of these judges and guardians, make sure you do not wait for someone else to fix it. What would you do if this was your Mom or Dad; if it was your family faced with this?

About the Author

Jim Fargiano is a student and teacher of spirituality and universal awareness. He has shared his ability to communicate with Spirit with thousands of people. There is a daily blog for like-minded people who are willing to improve their lives. Jim can be reached at http://www.JimFargiano.com. Follow Jim Fargiano’s daily blog at http://www.JimFargiano.blogspot.com

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