As the Tennessean reported Sunday, our system of taking care of people when they are at their most vulnerable, when they are unsure and scared, is in need of repair.
The case of Jewell Tinnon, who two years ago was comfortable in her own paid-for home and now scratches by in public housing, may be extreme, but if the emails, letters and phone calls that have come to the newspaper in the last two days are indication, it is not.
Ms. Tinnon, and others like her, suddenly find themselves under conservatorship. Given to the care of a guardian to make decisions about where they live, who treats them, and what future they have. Their home and other assets can be sold to pay for care, and pay for the conservator.
Each state is responsible for creating rules, processes and laws to ensure those that cannot manage on their own are cared for. And like most systems it works for the large majority of people that need it. But also like most systems, it breaks down under stress.
The conservator industry, and it looks and acts like one, needs to examine itself. When the process ignores durable power of attorney, or valid statements from doctors in its rush to judgment, or when it can’t distinguish the difference between someone who is temporarily addled from someone with Alzheimer’s — and ignores their pleas for review — then it is time for reform.
It may be appropriate that conservators charge from $150 to $300 an hour, but there is no review of those bills. There may be good reasons to limit appeals, but a patient’s request for removal from guardianship should be documented and reviewed by the court.
While most of the individuals who wind up with a conservator are properly, and perhaps well, served, and while court appointed conservators have large, unwieldy caseloads, those responsible should endeavor to treat their charges with the respect they themselves would choose to have.
Davidson County Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy, who handles conservatorship cases has reminded attorneys of their obligations, but we should examine ways to improve the system and remove the processes that lead to tragic decisions.
Hurting The Ones We Protect