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Protecting our vulnerable elderly

Guardianships were established in part to protect the vulnerable elderly as they reach an age where they are no longer able to make sound decisions on their own. In a similar vein, nursing homes exist to provide that care and attention to those same elderly people who-whether by circumstance or desire-are seeking to live out their remaining years with dignity and peace of mind.

Now, a recent New Yorker article paints a disturbing picture of a widespread situation in which both institutions failed helpless senior citizens in order to seize their assets and homes while depriving them of their legal agency-all under the guise of legality.

What happened in Las Vegas

The article describes the tribulations of Rudy and Rennie North, 68 and 66 years old respectively, who awoke one morning in 2013 to a knock on the door from April Parks, owner of a company called "A Private Professional Guardian," who had a court order to remove them from their home and palce them in an assisted-living facility.

Ms. Parks, through a legal measure, had instituted herself as the guardian of Mr. and Mrs. North, giving herself full control of their estate, ostensibly doing so in their best interests-despite protests from the Norths and their daughter. Ms. Parks had done so to at least 400 other individuals.

More than a million and a half adult Americans are under the care of guardians, who have broad discretion over their financial and medical decisions. Some-like the Norths and other Las Vegas senior citizens-are placed in nursing homes which are more concerned with profit than providing care. In fact, some of the assisted living facilities mentioned in the article worked in conjunction with Ms. Parks to generate "leads"- a list of wealthy, vulnerable elderly people who could become her wards, wherein she would later recommend them to an assisted living facility of her choice.

How The Elderly Can Be Protected

Despite the focus of the story on the Las Vegas area, instances of nursing home abuse and the mistreatment of the elderly occur in every jurisdiction. Our loved ones shouldn't have to suffer unspeakable hardships during their golden years simply so a nursing home or another individual can turn a profit.

Often, the abuse that occurs in assisted living homes is both physical and psychological-whether it involves disregard to the person's health and cleanliness or disparagement and overmedication at the hands of the staff. Senior citizens and their families shouldn't have to endure this type of treatment, particularly in a nursing facility. Making sure that this isn't occurring-or that if it has, it has been remedied swiftly and justly-should be a chief concern.

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