Archive for November, 2008

>Constitutional Rights

November 30, 2008

>

The U.S. Constitution guarantees a person can’t be deprived of “life, liberty or property” without due process. State law allows a court to appoint a guardian for people who are incapable of making responsible decisions.

Utah Commission on Aging director Maureen Henry says: the statute is vague enough to be problematic, What, for example, does “responsible decisions” mean?

During the past 50 years, the courts have emphasized the due process rights of adults who are mentally ill — requiring that a person admitted to a psychiatric facility be brought before a judge to assure that his confinement is justified; the burden is on the state to prove that the commitment is necessary. But there’s no similar system protecting the elderly, charges Henry, who as an attorney specialized in elder law.

If an old person is put in a nursing home or locked Alzheimer’s unit and she doesn’t want to be there, the burden is hers to work her way out, not on the state to prove to a court that she needs to be confined. And in legal matters, Henry notes, the person who bears the burden of proof is more likely to lose.

Henry says: That’s not to say that families or facilities are ignoring the law. But there is no system in place to deal with the complexities of self-determination for old people — “and that forces everyone, nursing facilities, patients, families, caseworkers, into that gray area where no one is really clear about what is right and wrong.”

There’s no one whose job it is, at any level of government, to look at the folks in nursing facilities or locked units of assisted living facilities to make sure that they either agree to be there or that they were admitted following legal procedures.

Old people are often talked into — occasionally even tricked into — moving into nursing homes and assisted living facilities by well-meaning relatives. In the vast majority of cases, family members don’t even try to get guardianships before admitting an elderly relative to a facility, because it’s not clear under what circumstances they should, and they’re expensive.

It’s pretty easy for a family member to get uncontested guardianship, the experts agree (although it can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees). When the Deseret News went to court to watch guardianship proceedings, it was startling how quickly someone could be stripped of all decision-making rights. Once the paperwork is in order, “hearings” average seconds, not minutes.

Full Article and Source:
Who should make choices for the elderly?

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Constitutional Rights

November 30, 2008
The U.S. Constitution guarantees a person can’t be deprived of “life, liberty or property” without due process. State law allows a court to appoint a guardian for people who are incapable of making responsible decisions.

Utah Commission on Aging director Maureen Henry says: the statute is vague enough to be problematic, What, for example, does “responsible decisions” mean?

During the past 50 years, the courts have emphasized the due process rights of adults who are mentally ill — requiring that a person admitted to a psychiatric facility be brought before a judge to assure that his confinement is justified; the burden is on the state to prove that the commitment is necessary. But there’s no similar system protecting the elderly, charges Henry, who as an attorney specialized in elder law.

If an old person is put in a nursing home or locked Alzheimer’s unit and she doesn’t want to be there, the burden is hers to work her way out, not on the state to prove to a court that she needs to be confined. And in legal matters, Henry notes, the person who bears the burden of proof is more likely to lose.

Henry says: That’s not to say that families or facilities are ignoring the law. But there is no system in place to deal with the complexities of self-determination for old people — “and that forces everyone, nursing facilities, patients, families, caseworkers, into that gray area where no one is really clear about what is right and wrong.”

There’s no one whose job it is, at any level of government, to look at the folks in nursing facilities or locked units of assisted living facilities to make sure that they either agree to be there or that they were admitted following legal procedures.

Old people are often talked into — occasionally even tricked into — moving into nursing homes and assisted living facilities by well-meaning relatives. In the vast majority of cases, family members don’t even try to get guardianships before admitting an elderly relative to a facility, because it’s not clear under what circumstances they should, and they’re expensive.

It’s pretty easy for a family member to get uncontested guardianship, the experts agree (although it can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees). When the Deseret News went to court to watch guardianship proceedings, it was startling how quickly someone could be stripped of all decision-making rights. Once the paperwork is in order, “hearings” average seconds, not minutes.

Full Article and Source:
Who should make choices for the elderly?

>Death Prompts Investigation

November 30, 2008

>

A young woman spent her last weeks of life emaciated and with bed sores, and now her family and lawmakers are holding the State of New Jersey responsible for her death. The developmentally disabled woman was being cared for in a group home overseen by the state.

When Tara O’Leary was 26 she was developmentally disabled but healthy. But when she died three years later, she was hospitalized, just 48 pounds and in unspeakable pain. The case is now prompting a full review of similar group homes.

The problems began when the woman’s father died in 2005 and her stepmother took over as guardian. The problem was, she wasn’t a legal guardian, yet was allowed to act like one, denying the family access to O’Leary, or letting them know the location of the group home where she was being cared for.

The family said O’Leary’s case worker told them all the right things: “Oh, Tara’s needs are being met fully.” “She couldn’t be in a more loving environment.” “This family loves her and cares for her as she was her own.”

But inside the home, O’Leary was withering away, and was finally rushed to the hospital where things went from bad to worse. The 29-year-old died on November 10. The case worker has been suspended and the group home has been shut down.

With more than 1,200 developmentally disabled adults in New Jersey, lawmakers want to know who’s caring for them, and if they are okay.

Full Article and Source:
N.J. Family Alleges Abuse At Home For Disabled

See also:
Death of 48-pound disabled woman prompts NJ probe

New Jersey officials investigate state-licensed caretaker after death of 28-year-old woman

Authorities investigating death of Hunterdon County woman

Death of 48-pound disabled woman cues NJ probe

Death of 43-Pound Disabled Woman Prompts Probe (Video)

Death Prompts Investigation

November 30, 2008
A young woman spent her last weeks of life emaciated and with bed sores, and now her family and lawmakers are holding the State of New Jersey responsible for her death. The developmentally disabled woman was being cared for in a group home overseen by the state.

When Tara O’Leary was 26 she was developmentally disabled but healthy. But when she died three years later, she was hospitalized, just 48 pounds and in unspeakable pain. The case is now prompting a full review of similar group homes.

The problems began when the woman’s father died in 2005 and her stepmother took over as guardian. The problem was, she wasn’t a legal guardian, yet was allowed to act like one, denying the family access to O’Leary, or letting them know the location of the group home where she was being cared for.

The family said O’Leary’s case worker told them all the right things: “Oh, Tara’s needs are being met fully.” “She couldn’t be in a more loving environment.” “This family loves her and cares for her as she was her own.”

But inside the home, O’Leary was withering away, and was finally rushed to the hospital where things went from bad to worse. The 29-year-old died on November 10. The case worker has been suspended and the group home has been shut down.

With more than 1,200 developmentally disabled adults in New Jersey, lawmakers want to know who’s caring for them, and if they are okay.

Full Article and Source:
N.J. Family Alleges Abuse At Home For Disabled

See also:
Death of 48-pound disabled woman prompts NJ probe

New Jersey officials investigate state-licensed caretaker after death of 28-year-old woman

Authorities investigating death of Hunterdon County woman

Death of 48-pound disabled woman cues NJ probe

Death of 43-Pound Disabled Woman Prompts Probe (Video)

>Legal Aid Facing Cutbacks

November 29, 2008

>

Single mothers, low-income immigrants, and senior citizens are some of the types of clients who legal aid groups serve with litigation obstacles.

Advocates say that the demand for free legal services increases in economic downturns.

But hundreds of legal aid organizations nationwide are facing losing a significant amount of their operating money, which comes in part from interest on money that lawyers hold in trust for their clients. All 50 states have some form of a law that earmarks such money for legal services for the poor. Nationally, it added up to about $370 million last year. Advocates say that figure could drop by as much as 50 percent in 2009, victim of both the economic meltdown and low interest rates.

Susan Erlichman, president of national association of IOALTA programs (interest on lawyers trust accounts): “We’ve never had this type of decline.”

In Ohio, revenue from IOLTA is expected to drop 50 percent this year to $11 million from $22 million in 2007. Projections for 2009 look even grimmer with incoming revenue dropping to $4 million. In Washington state, revenue for grants is expected to drop from $9 million in 2008 to $6 million next year. Texas originally projected $28 million for 2007, but interest rate cuts dropped the figure to $20 million.

Legal aid firms also face decreases in government and private grants. In Seattle, King County further cut a grant for the NWIRP that paid for their domestic violence program.

Erlichman: “some legal aid firms have already begun cutting workers, and case files are piling up.”

Full Article and Source:
Economic woes threaten legal aid nationwide

Legal Aid Facing Cutbacks

November 29, 2008
Single mothers, low-income immigrants, and senior citizens are some of the types of clients who legal aid groups serve with litigation obstacles.

Advocates say that the demand for free legal services increases in economic downturns.

But hundreds of legal aid organizations nationwide are facing losing a significant amount of their operating money, which comes in part from interest on money that lawyers hold in trust for their clients. All 50 states have some form of a law that earmarks such money for legal services for the poor. Nationally, it added up to about $370 million last year. Advocates say that figure could drop by as much as 50 percent in 2009, victim of both the economic meltdown and low interest rates.

Susan Erlichman, president of national association of IOALTA programs (interest on lawyers trust accounts): “We’ve never had this type of decline.”

In Ohio, revenue from IOLTA is expected to drop 50 percent this year to $11 million from $22 million in 2007. Projections for 2009 look even grimmer with incoming revenue dropping to $4 million. In Washington state, revenue for grants is expected to drop from $9 million in 2008 to $6 million next year. Texas originally projected $28 million for 2007, but interest rate cuts dropped the figure to $20 million.

Legal aid firms also face decreases in government and private grants. In Seattle, King County further cut a grant for the NWIRP that paid for their domestic violence program.

Erlichman: “some legal aid firms have already begun cutting workers, and case files are piling up.”

Full Article and Source:
Economic woes threaten legal aid nationwide

>The Need for Improved Adult Guardianship Data

November 26, 2008

>

Two factors weigh heavily on the future of the ability of state courts to properly respond to the problems associated with the guardianship process . . . first, the aging of America . . . second, the current lack of basic reliable court data . . .

The US Senate’s Special Committee on Aging recently noted that the current guardianship system is not fulfilling its promise, and called for the development of new models of guardianship for the elderly.

“The starting point of any major reform is an accurate picture of the reality the policy intends to reform; in this case, that means at a minimum that states are able to count the number of incoming and outgoing adult guardianships in their courts. Unfortunately, the current caseload data on these cases is woefully deficient.”

In this issue of Caseload Highlights, The National Center for State Courts reviews the current state of guardianship data and describes some new approaches to more effective case management based on improved data.

Examining the Work of the State Courts – Caseload Highlights – The Need for Improved Adult Guardianship Data – Volume 15, Number 2 November 2008

The Need for Improved Adult Guardianship Data

November 26, 2008
Two factors weigh heavily on the future of the ability of state courts to properly respond to the problems associated with the guardianship process . . . first, the aging of America . . . second, the current lack of basic reliable court data . . .

The US Senate’s Special Committee on Aging recently noted that the current guardianship system is not fulfilling its promise, and called for the development of new models of guardianship for the elderly.

“The starting point of any major reform is an accurate picture of the reality the policy intends to reform; in this case, that means at a minimum that states are able to count the number of incoming and outgoing adult guardianships in their courts. Unfortunately, the current caseload data on these cases is woefully deficient.”

In this issue of Caseload Highlights, The National Center for State Courts reviews the current state of guardianship data and describes some new approaches to more effective case management based on improved data.

Examining the Work of the State Courts – Caseload Highlights – The Need for Improved Adult Guardianship Data – Volume 15, Number 2 November 2008

>Sheila Gast – Case Files

November 26, 2008

>

After FOX 9 reported on conservator Sheila Gast, more people wrote in urging them to continue to investigate her for the financial and emotional heartaches they say she’s caused families.

Sheila Gast Sherburne Co. Case File

Sheila Gast Hennepin Co. Case File

Sheila Gast Hennepin Co. Case File page 2

Files Source:
Investigators: The Power of One: Starting To Crack

See also:
Investigators: The Power of One

Investigators: The Power of One: A Call For Change

Sheila Gast – Case Files

November 26, 2008
After FOX 9 reported on conservator Sheila Gast, more people wrote in urging them to continue to investigate her for the financial and emotional heartaches they say she’s caused families.

Sheila Gast Sherburne Co. Case File

Sheila Gast Hennepin Co. Case File

Sheila Gast Hennepin Co. Case File page 2

Files Source:
Investigators: The Power of One: Starting To Crack

See also:
Investigators: The Power of One

Investigators: The Power of One: A Call For Change