In our work at AgingParents.com, we often hear from adult children that the elders in their lives don’t want to “stay home” at all. This usually means that they are afraid of leaving their own living situation and being forced to move elsewhere for some form of care. They make promises to their loved ones that they will never do it. There are times when the family cannot care for an elderly parent at home and living conditions with caregivers are a solution. But for some cruel adult children, the nightmare comes true. Here is a real life example.
Jonas was 96 when his daughter, Becky, decided to put her father in a care home, which remained unclear. He had trusted her. He had given her power of attorney on finances and also put her in charge of his healthcare. Jonas could move around on his own with Walker, and generally took care of his daily needs. He was computer literate and regularly tracked his investments online. His biggest problem was short term memory loss. He was hard of hearing. He needed some help with daily activities, but his mind was clear. His daughter found a doctor to see her father briefly and said he had dementia. For an elderly person with hearing loss, the examiner must be very close to the older person so that they can hear and understand the test. That earlier trial conclusion was questionable, as the records showed him to be completely “out of it”. He was not. He was clear about what he wanted, was able to have a good sense of humor in any conversation and was alert when talking with others. But his daughter apparently wanted his money, which was enough.
Becky lied to her father and said that she needed “rehabilitation”. She told him that she would take him to a place where he could take her for a while. Then he dropped her into a care home for people with advanced dementia and left her there. There is no “rehab” available in assisted living. Jonas could think for himself, make reasoned decisions and express his wishes. He was there for three miserable months before reaching his son Jack in another state. He realized that he had been lied to. He was not getting “rehabilitation”. He was being placed near so many other people, he was worse than the dementia. Jack flew into the town of Jonas and immediately contacted a competent elder law attorney.
Jack told the lawyer that his father was very rich. Maybe Becky just wanted her money. He was furious at what Becky had done. He had taken away all of Jonas’s credit cards and identity. He had also taken over Jonas’ bank and investment accounts, and changed all the passwords so that Jonas couldn’t even see what was happening. He had transferred millions of dollars worth of Jonas’ money to his personal account, which Jonas had no access to. All this was done without his knowledge or consent. This was great abuse!
The attorney first had Jonas tested by a licensed psychologist to see if he still had the psychic ability to alter his legal documents. is it done. The psychologist conducted tests and interviews over a period of three hours. This was not a superficial test. Then he explained that Jonas really understood what he had, and was able to make a decision. He did well enough on the doctor’s test to show that he had the necessary ability to do whatever he wanted with his legal documents. The attorney then immediately changed the power of attorney and health care directive as requested by Jonas, and obtained documentation as to Jonas’s competence from the psychologist. Jonas put Jack in charge.
Jack then goes to the assisted living home to pick up Jonas and take him home. The house keeping record of being in charge of Becky called her. Becky called the police. Attorneys, Jack, Jonas and police officers were all standing in the lobby, trying to straighten it out. The officer interviewed Jonas. He was very clear in stating his desire to put Jack in charge and that he wanted to go home. The officer then told the assisted living staff that Jonas had interviewed very well and was clear about what he wanted. He said that they could not hold Jonas against his will and let him go! Jack took his dad out. But the matter did not end here.
For the rest of the stressful day, Jack took Jonas to a hotel to rest. Then he took Jonas to his house. The door was locked and they couldn’t go inside. There was another daughter there, and she told Jonas that he couldn’t come to her house. With this, it was clearly time for the lawyer to get a court order to stop the misbehavior. He collected the necessary information and presented the claim in the court. She asked what is called an “elder abuse restraining order” in California. These are protective restraining orders designed to prevent abusers from accessing a vulnerable elder. Hearing was held in court. Jonas’s lawyers succeeded. As part of the order, the other evil daughter who had locked Jonas out of her own home had to move out immediately. Jonas’ attorney will seek an emergency guardianship in California, called a conservatorship, to keep him safe from any further abuse. Jonas is in favor of it and will cooperate. Jack and his fellow brothers will both be in full charge of Jonas when the guardianship is granted.
It is a tragic case of betrayal of faith, a very distressed 96-year-old, and at least two sons who care enough to go out of their way to protect their father. Because Jonas owns property, all of this can be accomplished with a competent personal attorney. Without that financial security and the ability to hire a good lawyer, it is likely that daughters would have gotten away with this horrific abuse.
- If you are the elder in your own family Be Very Careful About Who You Hire On these powerful legal documents that are part of your estate plan. Don’t pick an adult child nearby just because they are conveniently located. Make sure the person appointed is completely trustworthy.
- If you are an adult child who sees their sibling taking advantage of your aging, step up and at least Get legal advice about the rights your elder may have to change the appointment of who is in charge. Sometimes it is too late for the elder to have the ability to replace the original power of attorney and health care directive. Dementia will destroy ability. Other more forceful legal steps may be needed to protect elders.
- Senior care homes vary in how restrictive they can be. Someone like Jonas should never be forced to have one, especially when he has the means to be in his own home with caregivers in case he needs them., Assisted living homes are less restrictive than nursing homes, but in this case, they tried to force an elderly person to stay when he or she wanted to move in with a family member. He saw that Jonas had signed new legal documents and refused to accept them.
- Faced with the serious question of whether an elder has the legal capacity to make decisions about property and in charge of health care, this needs to be fully explored. A safe way to detect this is to emphasize what is called a neuropsychological test., It is standardized throughout the US, and can only be administered by a licensed psychologist, not a medical doctor. The elderly are interviewed and tested. It is scored with numbers, and compared with what is normal. Some psychologists are immoral and actually do harm in what they write. Others do the right thing, and are not testing at the request of a greedy family member. The most reliable assessments of elders occur over time and the doctor uses more than one source of information to determine the truth about an elder’s ability to make decisions.
Credit: www.forbes.com /