As PA Ages, the State Examines Guardianships and Abuse

by Halle Stockton:
Pennsylvania is fourth in the country in terms of its elderly population, and as the state’s more than 3.3 million Baby Boomers join the ranks of the elderly, state courts and welfare systems will be put to the test. Guardianships are especially open to abuse because there is little regulation or oversight.
Examining guardianship is a priority in the state, with both the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania conducting studies. While guardianships are needed for those who can no longer care for themselves, they also require individuals to surrender all their rights — in some cases to a total stranger.

The National Center for State Courts estimated there were 1.5 million active guardianships in the U.S. in 2011. In Pennsylvania, the courts decided more than 30,000 guardianship cases between 2000 and 2011.

Some cases reviewed by PublicSource show the difficulties that guardianships often bring. According to court documents and personal accounts:

  • In late 2007, two of Rita Denmark’s children filed for guardianship of their mother in different states — one in Pennsylvania, where Rita was a lifelong resident, another in Florida. The dispute came to a head while Rita, who has dementia, was visiting her son in Florida. Attorneys suggested an independent guardian serve for a short time. Now, Rita has been a ward of a guardian in Port Orange, Fla., for more than five years. Her daughter, Holly Peffer of McKean County, has been trying to bring her 82-year-old mother home. The guardian has billed nearly $94,000 from Rita’s estate. “I had no idea how dangerous guardianship was,” Holly said.

  • Three people brought Grace Connors, who was suffering from dementia, from California to Pennsylvania in 2001. One of them obtained a fraudulent power of attorney to control her assets. Daughter Mary Claire Connors, who had cared for her mother in California, traveled east to reclaim her, but a Luzerne County judge appointed a nonprofit agency as guardian. Mary Connors said that, under guardianship, her mother’s estate was depleted and she was not allowed to visit without supervision. She said she spent at least $100,000 and went bankrupt trying to get her mother back. Grace died in 2006 at age 85. Guardianship, Mary said, is “ownership of a human being …. There is no escape.”

  • Problems can also occur when the guardian is a family member. Shelley Kuziak of Columbia County said she was the primary caregiver for her mother, Miriam Kuziak, for several years. But Shelley’s sister became guardian in 2006. The sisters’ opinions on how to care for their mother differed. Shelley said she repeatedly fought in court for visitation after being accused of coercing her mother to accept medical treatment. She said she was not permitted to visit her mother in the years leading up to her 2008 death at age 77.

Full Article, Video and Source:
As PA ages, the state examines guardianships and abuse

See Also:
NASGA:  Rita Denmark, PA/FL Victim

NASGA: Grace Connors, Pennsylvania Victim


14 Responses to “As PA Ages, the State Examines Guardianships and Abuse”

  1. StandUp Says:

    Great reporting!

  2. Nancy Says:

    I'm so glad to see Mary, Shelley, and Holly's Moms get publicity!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Every person in the U.S. needs to be informed of the nightmare that comes about from most professional and public guardianships, where total strangers are put in charge of a ward's life, health, and finances, and what happens next, is the total squandering of all, without any concern for the wards welfare.In order for the guardians to pay themselves heftily , together with their attorneys, they even try to take the family of the ward from visiting nor seeing them, their own fathers or mothers, so they can continue with the thievery of the ward's assets. And when the ward dies from neglect or just from believing they have been abandoned by their own family members, then the "guardian" simply helps himself or herself to whatever they can from the estate and leave little or nothing for the family members.This abuse needs to be looked into by the State, the Supreme Court and any other agencies who can scrutinize what is really going on with "guardianships". gs

  4. Rudy Bush Says:

    It has become the fashion to pretend rationality by showing support for "both sides" of issues. Some issues, however,as Patrick Henry shouted, do not make the person discussing them appear rational, when that person presents them in a two-sided way. To continue to tip-toe around the guardianship issue, with the words, "protection," "comfort," "care," "dementia," "disability," as excuses for guardian ordered isolation, poverty, and murder, as excuses to claim guardianship is necessary, when it is now known how dangerous guardianship is, is folly.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    It is encouraging that there is some publicity regarding forced guardinaships and the devastating result of such.Cruelty to animals, or habitual "Hoarders" get more attention and persecution, than do our elders under criminal guardianships of abuse and financial exploitation, with the courts approval. This is also a Human Rights issue – which the feds have not addressed,A DISGRACE – how our infirm are allowed to be abused by the system, which was designed to protect. enb

  6. Sue Says:

    KARMAAnd, deep appreciation for not burying the truth. I hope this is the beginning of consequences for actions and inacitons. And keep in mind those that depend on cases for profit and/or JOB SECURITY want YOU!!!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Actually, OVERSIGHT is NOT the problem. The word is ACCOUNTABILITY; there is NONE. The guardianship issue is a deliberate racketeering scheme, wherein the DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS in the appointment of guardians is a standard practice, which allows the harvesting/stealing of the fruits of a lifetime of labor from older, elderly Americans. The Pa State Dept of Aging is very COMPLICIT with the probate court's racketeering practices, so the so called "concern" spoken of is merely a facade for the appearance of legitimacy to allow "the perfect (court condoned)crime" to continue filling the pockets of the officials who profit & the state coffers.

  8. kathy Says:

    In my opinion guardianship is the biggest scam… legally steal. Isolation is ABUSE! Holding people against their will is ABUSE! The guardians that do this are the lowest of the low….

  9. Holly Says:

    Until you are snagged in it… you have no idea. Please research and get educated on this topic!Guardian and guard have nothing in common when it comes to guardianship of a human being.Did you notice in the article the ones who had "no comment" to the reporter?Thank you Halle… great job!

  10. Martha Says:

    Good job, Halle. Thank you.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I went to Court to save our mother's limited assets from the sweepstakes she was sending money to (thousand of dollars). She was placed under conservatorship and the several involved lawyers swallowed the money we were trying to protect.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Things are looking up for PA elderly. Great article.

  13. Diane Says:

    It is heartening to see more public articles written about guardianship abuse. It gives me hope that more people are waking up to the horrific abuses of the system and the government's blatant disregard and acceptance of human trafficking of the elderly. Thank you Halle!

  14. Holly Peffer Says:

    If you or a love one has been harmed by an "unscrupulous" guardianship I personally encourage you to be a voice for others, join NASGA and DO NOT be silent!What Jetta L. Getta, owner of Young at Heart Elderly Service's of Port Orange FL did to our mother, Rita Denmark(featured in this article) appears to have been INTENTIONAL and IS HORRIFIC!There are a lot of local newspaper articles and several other Wards/victim's contact information available by contacting me My mother's suffering will not go in vain even if we help just one!!!

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