As a group, the elderly are the most vulnerable members of society. Unfortunately, this means they are sometimes taken advantage of by the individuals who are supposed to be their caretakers. Sometimes, abuse can occur at the hands of someone entrusted with the guardianship of an adult. According to an investigative report by the Wall Street Journal, adult guardianship systems across the country are fraught with allegations of exploitation and abuse.
Take the case of an elderly Washington woman who lost much of her savings when a court appointed a guardian to care for her after a well-meaning housemate pushed for a court petition claiming she was having behavioral and cognitive difficulty. The retiree, a previous NASA employee and real-estate investor, was flabbergasted when a guardian showed up on her doorstep who subsequently racked-up thousands of dollars in questionable caregiver fees before the woman successfully turned over the guardianship in court 30 months later – all on her own dime.
While many guardianships are awarded to family members, judges, as in this case, are turning to a growing industry of professional, unrelated guardians. These guardians are often granted broad authority over a ward’s living conditions, medical care and finances placing seniors in an extraordinarily vulnerable position if they stumble upon a bad apple. In fact, a federal survey conducted on guardianship reveals 64% of judges and staff who responded reported misconduct-related issues among guardians in the past three years – a number of guardians have faced prosecution for wrongdoing. With the population of seniors set to double by the year 2050, adult guardianship will increase and, along with it, further potential for abuse and exploitation.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Abuse Plagues System of Legal Guardians for Adults”, by By ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES and ASHBY JONES, October 30, 2015.
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