Finally! News you can use for seniors!

From the Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Project

By Marcia Southwick

In most states, if you are deemed incapacitated by a court, it will hand your rights over to a professional or family guardian who then will make all decisions for you.  Given that state courts are backlogged, and judges are faced with stacks of papers, it’s no wonder that a tendency to treat every case with uniformity has developed.   Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, and many elders and persons with disabilities are not being treated as individuals with dignity but rather as second-class citizens without equal protection under the law—as a non-person.  The descriptions of how removal of rights has caused suffering are heartbreaking.

Now that someone (often a complete stranger) has been appointed Dictator over your life and assets, and now that this Dictator has almost no supervision and little accountability for how your assets are spent, how are you feeling about it?  Not too great.   How is the guardian feeling?  Power drunk.

Even though guardians can control every aspect of people’s lives, they aren’t monitored by outsiders.  They pay themselves out of your estate in addition to having the right to claim that anything they do is in your “best interest.”  If that means selling your house and throwing you into a lock-down unit, so be it. If your spouse of 50 years fights for your freedom, they will simply, on your behalf and “in your best interests”, get you a divorce from that pesky spouse.  If your family doesn’t like it and wages a court battle, the guardian can use YOUR money to hire a lawyer to battle back, quickly exhausting your estate. And, what are your families chances of winning if you are in one of the many jurisdictions where the judge, the guardian, who was very possibly appointed by the judge, and the guardian’s lawyer are old pals?

One example out of many in which guardians became increasingly tyrannical can be seen in the case of Evelyn Schwartz.  Evelyn was born in 1916, widowed early, and, having had no children, lived alone for many years.  She had been a secretary to the dean of a local Mayfield Ohio college, and at the time she was deemed “incompetent”,  a very alert 93-year-old woman who had been declared fully capable by her physician.

For fifteen years, her caretaker, a young man named Dean, had been seeing to her every need.  He had a heart attack, however, which caused Adult Protective Services to come knocking.  At that moment, her life was changed forever.

Evelyn didn’t expect or welcome this intrusion into her life. She was receiving excellent care and had a close-knit group of friends.  She had put a financial Power of Attorney and Health Directive in place, which meant that she was well prepared for the future.  As most of us do, Evelyn desperately wanted to remain in her own home.  Instead, a professional guardian was appointed over Evelyn.

In the documentary The Unforgivable Truth, produced by The Silver Standard for the EARN Project, Evelyn can be seen picking typos out of the court document declaring her to be—in their assessment—incompetent. Can we really trust those who are not educated enough to construct a simple document to assess others’ mental capacity (overriding the judgement of medical professionals)? Do we really want them to have the right to use this assessment to imprison someone for life after having rob them of their entire identity, and given that identity, and all the powers and possessions that come with it, to someone else?

In a YouTube video, Evelyn describes losing her rights: “Everything is turning against me. It’s the most unfair thing I have ever encountered in my life!  I’m in my 90s and should not have to put up with anything like this—

I’m treated like a common criminal.  I have nothing left to live for . . . I don’t deserve this, a prison sentence!” (view article).

Many elders in her situation have compared being forced into nursing facilities as no different than criminal incarceration, yet their only crime is aging and their rights are less than an incarcerated criminal.  The “hearing” was held in front of a magistrate (not a judge) in a civil court.  Those giving testimony did not have to swear under the penalty of perjury.  Evelyn’s Power of Attorney was not allowed to speak (view article).  Often the senior citizen in question is not even allowed to be present at those hearings to determine the direction of their property and their very life.

Evelyn entered a world of psychological and financial devastation in which the guardian stole, destroyed, or sold off many of her and Dean’s belongings.  One of Evelyn’s friends, upon mentioning to the guardian that he could be fined five thousand dollars for removing Dean’s belongings without giving proper thirty-day notice, received this response: “YOU HAVE NO MORE AUTHORITY THAN A HORSE’S ASS”  (view article).

To me, that phrase captures the one-sided power that guardians have over protected persons and anyone who tries to help.  Lord Acton, the 19th century politician, said, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Unfortunately, that is still even more true today.

Full Article & Source:
From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project:  “YOU HAVE NO MORE AUTHORITY THAN A HORSE’S ASS” – said the guardian with a chuckle

See Also:
Evelyn Schwartz, Gone Too Soon

The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (EARN) Presents: The Unforgivable Truth: How We Have Turned America’s Greatest Generation into America’s Abused Generation

JOIN The EARN Project