August 21st, 2014 by Marilyn J. Schmidt, Esq.
Does Someone You Know Need Elder Protective Services?
What do you do when your mother keeps going for walks and getting lost, so that the police have to bring her home? What happens when your uncle, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, is brought to the bank by his drug-addicted son to make large cash withdrawals? How can you help when you see your elderly neighbor driving around town with his car door open? How do you react when your father’s doctor calls to express concern that he keeps forgetting to take his cardiac medication?
Ensuring elder safety can be a challenge.
Most of us would offer to help by providing some care and supervision to our loved one, by securing adequate in-home services, by arranging for a move to assisted living, or, if necessary, by admitting him/her to a skilled nursing facility. However, what if the elder refuses this offer of help? Perhaps she/he is in denial that there is a problem. Or what if a family member stands in the way of the elder getting assistance? Maybe he wants the family’s money preserved for his inheritance rather than spent on services that ensure the elder’s safety.
Guardianships and conservatorships provide protection.
There are ways that your lawyer can attempt to resolve the situation by putting surrogate decision-makers in place. If the elder has the capacity to appoint a trusted friend or family member to manage things on his or her behalf, this can be done with simple paperwork, like a health care proxy, a durable power of attorney, or a trust. Where the elder lacks the capacity to manage his/her own affairs, this may involve the court appointment of a guardian over the person or a conservator over the assets. A guardian would have the authority to make most decisions concerning the elder’s residential placement, supportive services and medical treatment. A conservator would have the ability to manage the elder’s money, pay his/her bills, and protect his/her assets.
Massachusetts elder services agencies investigate abuse and neglect.
In addition, throughout the Commonwealth, there are non-profit agencies specifically authorized and funded by the government to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect involving people age sixty (60) or over. Abuse includes physical, emotional or financial abuse and neglect includes neglect by a caregiver or self-neglect by the elder, himself. Reports to these agencies are anonymous and confidential. If the investigator substantiates an allegation, the protective services agency will then attempt to remedy the situation. Where the situation cannot be resolved voluntarily, the protective services agency can file for a court order to protect the elder. Such a court order might be appointing a guardian of the person to make placement and medical decisions for him. It might be an order freezing the bank account temporarily and then appointing a conservator to manage his assets. Or, it might be an order directed at the person who is abusing the elder or interfering with his services.
Elder services in Western Massachusetts.
In Hampshire County, and the portions of Hampden County that are west of the Connecticut River, that agency is Highland Valley Elder Services, Inc. (586-2000). In the rest of Hampden County, it is Greater Springfield Senior Services, Inc. (781-8800). In Franklin County, it is Franklin County Home Care (773-5555).