Guardianship is supposed to be a legal tool, but many nursing homes are abusing it. My Elder can help your family avoid this tragedy!
Nursing homes in New York State have been accused of using ‘guardianship petitions’ as a means to coerce elderly residents into paying outstanding fees.
A startling expose in the New York Times this week discusses a number of instances where nursing homes have requested courts to transfer guardianship away from the family. Ostensibly these requests are prompted by family feuds, suspected embezzlement or just the absence of relatives to help secure Medicaid coverage.
However, judges, legal experts, and others well versed in the guardianship process claim that often the petitions are used as a means of duress.
In a guardianship case last year involving a 94-year-old resident in a Jewish aged care facility, New York Supreme Court judge Alexander John Hunter issued a scathing 11-page critique of the motivations behind the petition made by the nursing home’s management.
In a more recent case, this time involving a family who refused to pay exorbitant rates to a Catholic nursing home, a court evaluator threw out the guardianship petition and questioned the motivations of the facility. The family spent US$10,000 in legal fees fighting the case.
Some nursing homes argue that guardianship petitions are the best way to resolve disputes about payment for care. The alternative is to sue an incapacitated resident who cannot respond.
“When you have families that do not cooperate and an incapacitated person, guardianship is a legitimate means to get the nursing home paid”, said Brett D. Nussbaum, a lawyer for the Catholic nursing home Mary Manning Walsh.
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Anyone familiar with this blog knows that the cornerstone of the Lost Messiah blog has been, from its inception, the deplorable condition of nursing homes and the abuses of patients within those homes. And the fact that so many of them are run by Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox Jews just makes it worse.
Judaism is founded on the principle of humanity, the sanctity of life, charity and human decency. To criticize the ownership of these nursing homes is not to be anti-Semitic. It is to have a conscience. Anyone not critical of the deplorable condition within many of the country’s nursing homes, New York’s response to Covid-19, the lack of Federal oversight of nursing homes, the endless flow of money from nursing home magnates to politicians and/or to judges and/or to doctors and hospitals and social workers and guardians is to be in my mind, blind or morally bankrupt. That is a full stop.
It was not until recently that I learned to understand the magnitude of the nursing home problem when factoring in guardianship. I did not know. Now that I do, I am just sad. I have seen for myself how it all plays out and it is devastating. Social workers in hospitals are paid to call attention to patients who provide easy targets for guardians, doctors are paid to provide diagnoses like Alzheimer’s, behavioral maladies, mental incapacity or other conditions. Judges are either blindly trusting of guardians or believing of what they are told or are part of the system that awards custody to guardians. Guardians stick patients into nursing homes with which they are connected. When all else fails, or a lawyer willing to stick a thorn in someone’s side comes in, Patient Care Intake Reports are tailored to direct the ward into a particular nursing home usually the one that is in some way connected to the guardian, whether through ownership or a system of payments. Either the ward has problems that the unconnected home cannot handle or the ward’s insurance is not the right kind. It’s all in the narrative. Many guardians are connected to some of the most deplorable nursing homes; and it is to those homes that some proudly send their wards. In other words, they are paid to fill a bed and reward the elderly cash-cow with confinement. It’s all in a day’s work. And it should be noted, the financial connections are publicly available in most states albeit hard to find.
The pockets are so well lined and the wheels are turning constantly, a well oiled corrupt and broken system. The flow of money is a steady stream. The process has been worked out to the most fundamental, almost atomic levels. Politicians are provided with hefty donations. In New York Judges are elected, they too benefit from the donations they receive. The methods of trying to get someone out of guardianship or out of a deplorable nursing home, one in which a ward is placed by a court appointed guardian runs slowly, if at all. So while the system of harming the elderly runs smoothly, the possibility of a correction saunters along at a snail’s pace.
Judges frequently accept the words of guardians at face value, even when it should be apparent that the guardians are dishonest (to put it mildly). Court appointed attorneys, many of them, have been a cog in the wheel of the system for so long that they do not even know the system is broken, or alternatively, they are part of the influencers helping to create certainty that the system will keep running, and…. unencumbered.
Covid-19 has made the problems that much worse. Patients in nursing homes cannot get visitors. There is no oversight, none. The foxes run the henhouses. And the money flows…
The movie “I Care a Lot” a controversial work of art in my opinion, does not delve deeply enough into the abuses of the elderly within the guardianship structure. It does not approach the confounding ability of judges to turn their heads as they grant guardianship of healthy people to individuals who, for lack of a better word, traffic in human lives. The system is broken. From where I sit, it might only work if guardians are rewarded for setting people who do not need their assistance free. Pay someone a ransom, of sorts. Indeed, there are people who need help, need someone to watch over them; and there are perhaps guardians who really care, for whom money is not the ultimate goal. If so, they the unicorns.
But without attention, oversight, accountability and a complete overhaul, the system will keep running. There is simply too much money involved. A human being is worth thousands. And “I Care a Lot” should be teaching legislators, both state and federal a very important lesson: the system needs to be torn down and rebuilt. The guardians need to be stopped. The nursing homes need to be held accountable.
The elderly caught in the system are being abused, treated like animals. Many would have more rights if they attacked their captors and wound up in jail. It is simply a sick reality.
And attorneys who might be helpful in the area of setting people free have the threat of disbarment personal harm hanging over their heads. The system is broken. Without tearing it down, it likely will not get fixed.
2021 | R | 1h 58m | Dark ComediesA court-appointed legal guardian defrauds her older clients and traps them under her care. But her latest mark comes with some unexpected baggage.Starring:Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González
You can make a lead character reprehensible — even repellent — and still hold on to an audience, but you’d better not make her dull. “I Care a Lot” is a pitch-black karmic comedy of bad behavior and worse payback; it made a stir at this year’s online Sundance festival and landed unexpectedly on Netflix last week. It features just about the worst person imaginable, a woman who bilks senior citizens out of their life savings by becoming their court-appointed guardian. But in Rosamund Pike’s chilly, hollow central performance you may find it difficult to care at all.
A stranger knocks on the door. The older woman who answers the door is informed that the visitor is now her legal guardian and will make all decisions for her. Within days, the older woman has been placed in a nursing home and her home sold so that the stranger may profit.
It’s a perfect opening for a psychological thriller. In fact, it is the opening for Netflix’s new featured movie “I Care a Lot,” starring Rosamund Pike as Marla, a ruthlessly ambitious woman who has made a business out of exploiting older adults. Her method: petitioning a local court to appoint her as emergency guardian for older adults whom she alleges cannot make decisions for themselves.
Unfortunately, the plot of “I Care a Lot” — despite its share of plot twists and theatrics — is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Every state allows courts to appoint a third party (called a “guardian” or “conservator”) to make decisions for someone the court determines is at risk because they lack the ability to make decisions for themselves. The process can provide needed protection to those who are unable to care for themselves. Yet it also has real costs. Not only do individuals for whom guardians are appointed lose the right to make some or nearly all decisions for themselves, but reports of unscrupulous guardians using the system to exploit vulnerable adults are far too common.
This exploitation is made possible, in part, by outdated state laws. Take Marla’s first “trick:” petitioning for a guardianship without telling her elderly mark. State guardianship laws permit courts to appoint “emergency guardians” without notice to either the person alleged to need a guardian or family or friends who might come to their defense. Even when state laws say that individuals are entitled to notice before a guardian is appointed, courts can (and do) waive giving that notice. And long-term guardians are also routinely appointed without the subject of the proceeding being present in court.
EXCLUSIVE – Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., demanded that the Department of Health and Human Services investigate New York nursing home deaths, citing the state attorney general’s report that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration may have undercounted nursing home coronavirus deaths by as much as 50%.
Throughout the pandemic, there has been perhaps nowhere more dangerous than a nursing home. The coronavirus has raced through some 31,000 long-term care facilities in the United States, killing more than 163,000 residents and employees and accounting for more than a third of all virus deaths since the late spring.
Nurse Ratched does not reflect the caring, self-sacrificing nursing profession. Richard Gere’s nefarious legal tactics in “Chicago” would get a real attorney disbarred. Steve Martin’s sadistic, nitrous-oxide-huffing Orin Scrivello in “Little Shop of Horrors” is certainly not representative of the dental profession. Similarly, Pike’s portrayal of guardianship is a performance designed to engage viewers and generate an emotional response, but it is not rooted in reality. All of these are examples of art created to tug at viewers’ emotions to make the respective films more captivating.