Monday, December 22, 2014

Readers respond to 'Kindness of Strangers' series

Enlightening. Scary. And sad.

These three words crop up often in the dozens of emails and phone calls I have received since the Herald-Tribune's publication of "The Kindness of Strangers," a look at elder guardianship in Florida.

The stories of people trapped and bewildered by a system designed to help them are certainly sad and scary — but I was especially happy to hear from people who are also focused on learning more about this overlooked aspect of elder justice, and arriving at workable solutions.

Some ways to make the process of protecting incapacitated elders less intrusive and more fair were touched on in Part 3 of the series.

But I've also heard from readers who want to know what they personally can do to protect themselves or loved ones from enduring the same legal tangles as the Floridians we profiled.

Having proper legal documents is a necessary first start. But when a petition for emergency temporary guardianship is filed, sometimes these written wishes can be set aside by the court, if there is any claim against their validity.

One attorney I spoke to suggested making a video of yourself while you are still fully in possession of your mental faculties. This vivid evidence that you were of sound mind and free of undue influences when you made decisions about who should handle your health care and finances, she said, can be very compelling to a judge.

And, of course, there is no substitute for clear, frank communications with your family and others you will rely on as you age. Avoiding conflict now, and making your intentions clear to everyone involved, will help your loved ones form a united front if they are ever called on to speak in your behalf.

One interesting response to our series came from Laurie Anspach, the executive director of the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights of Florida. This organization champions mental health rights, and has worked to curb the overmedication of children.

But Anspach said she sees parallels in the cases of adult wards who are medicated in long-term care facilities.

"We get a lot of hotline calls from family members whose parent has been committed through the Baker Act, and a guardian is appointed," she said.

One tactic CCHR is exploring could help delay the rush to guardianship that includes a court-ordered mental assessment. Anspach's group, consulting with attorneys, has prepared a document that withholds consent for this exam. The form is modeled on one that parents can use to refuse medical access to their children, and it is intended for use by an elder's designated health care surrogate.

"We have given it out to elders, but it's in the pilot stage," Anspach says. "I don't have any evidence yet that it's been used."

You can download the "Non-Consent Form for Elderly" at the group's website.  (Read more)

Full Article & Source:
Readers respond to 'Kindness of Strangers' series


StandUp said...

Awareness is key to reform. This series did a great job of raising awareness and we are grateful.

Rachel said...

I hope the outpouring of reader response will encourage the reporter to keep reporting on guardianship abuse.

Angie said...

You must have gotten the enlightening, scary and sad comments from people who have never heard of guardianship or guardianship abuse.