Finally, the abuse in probate and nursing homes is starting to get nationwide attention from mega media:
Are U.S. Probate Courts Abusing the Elderly?
When Texas Probate Judge Gladys Burwell ordered Juliette Fairley to pay $20,000 in cash for litigation costs associated with her 85 year old father’s guardianship proceedings, she allegedly violated the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure as well as Fairley’s right to due process under the U.S. Constitution. The daughter of Mr. Fairley, a 22 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, didn’t have the financial means to pay the dollars that Bexar County Probate Court requested and was subsequently disqualified from being her father’s primary caregiver. “Guardianship is such an enormous business operation,” says Dr. Sam Sugar, a physician and founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship (AAAPG), a nationwide advocacy group in Florida. “It’s worth trillions of dollars nationally and is enabled by the judicial system in all 50 states because there is no federal oversight or control.” According to court records, two of Mr. Fairley’s Texas physicians wrote letters that were submitted to the Court, stating that he did not need medical care. Within a month, however, while under his daughter’s care in New York, cardiologist Dr. Nicholas DuBois updated Mr. Fairley’s blood pressure medication from Lisinopril to Losartan to alleviate frequent urination, pulmonologist Dr. Diego Diaz prescribed him Fluticasone for an infection that was causing congestion, Dr. Borcich prescribed the military veteran liquid Carafate to help him eat and Dr. Natasha Nayak ordered eye testing for Mr. Fairley’s glaucoma, according to petitions filed with the Court. “My father has a history of various medical conditions which require regular monitoring and treatment,” Miss Fairley stated in an affidavit dated July 8, 2016 filed with the appellate court. Instead of holding the Texas caregivers accountable for denying the legally blind man medical treatment, Judge Burwell allegedly isolated the father from his advocate daughter by issuing an order that limits face to face visitation to a mere four hours per month and that creates a cost barrier by requiring payment of $50 an hour to visit Mr. Fairley at Trisun Care Center’s Lakeside retirement home property in San Antonio. Trisun Care Center management did not reply to a request for comment. “It’s a profit scam when family members are court ordered to pay to visit with their loved ones,” said Michael Larsen, author of Guardianship: How Judges & Lawyers Steal Your Money (Germain Publishing, February 3, 2016). “This has already been happening in divorce cases where children are ordered to live in foster care or group homes and it’s now happening with the elderly in probate court guardianship cases.” Judge Burwell’s orders are currently under review in Bexar County’s 4th Court of Appeals, according to filings obtained from the Appellate Court website. When asked to comment specifically on the orders, Judge Burwell did not reply but a clerk with the 4th Court of Appeals said that the appellate judges will rule without argument based on briefs submitted October 6, 2016. If the Fairley case renders distant memories of American Slavery, that may be because probate courts were the primary mechanism for dealing with legal issues involved with buying and selling African Americans until they were freed in 1865. “Guardianship is an outdated modality that’s being used to deal with 21st Century problems,” Sugar said. While the appellate court judges review the case, Mr. Fairley remains at the locked Lakeside facility, allegedly without free and unlimited access to his advocate daughter who was banned from talking to him when he was hospitalized earlier this year, according to statements in Miss Fairley’s affidavit filed with the Court. “Many retirement homes across the country don’t want to be bothered with adult children visiting their elderly residents unannounced because these facilities are often understaffed and don’t perform the services they are being paid for,” Larsen said. James Fairley’s guardianship case is among 4,000 to 6,000 others that Bexar County has reportedly juggled, according to media reports. Like Mr. Fairley’s daughter, Veronica Evans petitioned to be her father Adan Dominguez’s guardian at Bexar County Probate Court, reportedly to remove him from the retirement home system in San Antonio, but she failed. “It was clearly shown through photographs that my Dad had lost a lot of weight however the Court refused to consider and admit the evidence,” said Evans who is appealing a Bexar County Judge’s decision that she claims left her and two siblings without an inheritance. “He eventually died of conditions brought on by malnutrition.” Unusual weight loss is a red flag, according to Kerry Peck, attorney with Peck Bloom and author of Alzheimer’s and the Law (ABA Book Publishing, 2013). “Dehydration, a caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions are others,” Peck said. The Fairleys are not alone. An estimated 1 to 3 million people have been placed under court ordered guardianship or conservator–ship in the United States, according to media reports. Mary Rose says she also was required for three years to pay $50 an hour to visit her mother, Evelyn Nabity, whom, like James Fairley, is a ward of the state in a locked facility in Douglas County, Nebraska. “My mom needs dental work and two hearing aids but there’s no medical professional through the court that can follow up on her needs,” said Rose, an R.N. who works the night shift. “Prisoners have more rights than wards of the state.” In some regions of the country, the phrase “ward of the state” refers to an individual who is incarcerated. “My mother can walk, talk and toilet herself,” Rose said. “Her only crime is aging.” Times are changing, however slowly. At the federal level, a report on guardianship abuse, conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for the Senate Select Committee on Aging, is expected to be released at the end of October 2016, according to Sugar. “The life of a court appointed guardianship depends on enslaving innocent and vulnerable elderly victims,” said Sugar.