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View Sample Pages : New Braunfels Herald Zeitung, September 27, 1987

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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - September 27, 1987, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6 A Herald-Ze/funp New Braunfels. Texas Sunday. September 27. 1987 Guardianship Public guardians struggle to keep up as private firms rely on solvent wards EDITOR’S NOTE - Middle class or poor, they are alone and may need a guardian. Who will help? States have answered with a relatively new idea: the public guardian This part of the series. "Guardians of the Elderly: An Ailing System. ” explores how these government officials cope. LOS ANGELES (API Five social workers in the public guardian’s office here control the lives of 1.000 elderly people The office also controls $200 million in assets and has run a hardware store, a plant nursery and an oil drilling operation owned by its wards. It is the largest and one of the oldest public guardianship offices in the country, and its critics say it now turns away cases and favors monied wards over the indigent Both criticisms are true to some extent, the public guardian says His office is swamped, and his budget is constantly under threat "We don’t want any more We have too many," said Gordon Treharne. the Los Angeles public guardian ‘‘Everyone thinks we should expand and we’re not We’re retrenching " And ifs happening all across the country Faced with a crush of elderly who either outlive their money or live far from family, states are setting up and loading up public guardians as a catchall for those who have no one else While numbers remain unclear, an Associated Press study of more than 2.200 guardianship cases around the country shows that 2.A percent of the 300.000 to 400.(RH) people under guardianship ma> be ward' of public guardians The public guardians take direct control of the lives of oui people and make the decisions an> guardian makes — where the ward will live whether to pull the plug on life-support systems, how much money is spent on groceries Public guardianship is brand new by government definitions." said James Scanned, the public guardian in San Francisco We're in our in fancy We're really just evolving now to meet the needs of the community Meeting those needs is becoming increasingly difficult In Phoenix caseworkers have time to visit their wards only four times a year Ten nessee s new public guardian’s office took in AT people in the first two mon ths and expects to reach '.WO in the first year Thirty two states have some form of public guardianship and almost all are finding big problems that are getting worse Some public guardians have been indicted, others criticized for neglec ting wards or "warehousing" them in nursing homes. In California, a grand jury blamed the Santa Clara County public guardian’s office for the 1985 starvation death of 79 vear-old John Nagle. The office hadn't seen the ward in two years. The grand jury’s report helped establish new guidelines for the office The public guardian for Du Page County. IIL, pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct and theft last year after he was accused of investing wards' money for his own benefit He was ordered to repay $12.(WO John M. Hartman, a former Bay County, Mich , public guardian, ad mitted in 1985 that he embezzled $129,506 from some of his 75 wards He was sentenced to five years in prison Las Vegas' public guardian. Jared Shafer, has drawn fire for making real estate investments with part ners in the law tirm he chose to hail die most of his office's business in North Dakota, wards are placed in the hands of part-time public ad ministrators. appointed officials with no training, staff or money to care for their charges In one case, a public administrator put two wards in the care of a friend who charged each estate S2.(hhi a month for room and board. When you don t have the ap propnate staff, you get into these binds," said Verdine Dunham pres! dent of the California Association of Public Administrators. ‘‘Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night worried) that I haven’t done something that will come back to haunt me Added Phoenix public guardian Dean Trebesch:    Iheiv’s mort realization now that the power that goes with guardianship is so awesome and the loss of rights so awesome that we d better make darn sure we do it right " While some social service profes sionals hail the care arui services provided by public guardians other experts point to the problems of handling so many w ith so few Without a public guardianship pro gram the mentally ill. some of them elderly who have been declared incompetent have no one to speak for them In Pennsylvania it is estimated 5,000 to 6jxr) mentally iii people have been declared mcompe tent since 1979. and half have t>ecr released from institutions It s a mess The>e people ar*' in no-man s land No one i« protecting them," said Edward Carey .» member of the Pennsylvania bar association's subcommittee on the elderly and infirmed. Yet some oppose the idea of public guardianship. Lawrence Frolik. a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, sees it as another layer of bureaucracy Charles Arnold looks out on the rest of country from this retirement mecca and sees unlimited possibilities for the guardianship business. "I think guardianship is unquestionably the future," he says "The business is overwhelming and the need is dramatic.” An attorney and former public guardian in Phoenix, Arnold is part of a new and growing field of guardianship entrepreneurs profes sionals who, for a fee. will run the lives of old people Called professional guardians or fiduciaries, they take on a role once held by sons and daughters They earn their money by making all the decisions for their elderly wards, including where they will live and. in some extreme cases, when they will die. So promising is this field that San Diego Community College has begun night courses on how to be a professional guardian Their fees come from the people whose lives they control No state yet requires a license to hang out a shingle The ranks include people such as Frank Kepensek. who agonizes over the medical decisions he must make ••Substituting judgment for another adult who sits there and says I don t want this operation it s just miserable,” said Kepensek the executive director of the Guardianship Program of Dade County Inc a non profit Miami concern Others define their role in terms of cost effectiveness economies of scale and bottom lines It is basically money manage merit, said Man May a Detroit-area attorney with 4<xi wards "It is basically the review of their financial affairs to make sure the nursing homes are charging them the correct amount of money, that the nursing home is paid, that the money is provided for their needs.” While guardianship still is largely seen as a family affair, a legal step taken by children to better care for their parents, a year long Associated Press study of the nation’s guardianship systems found an increasing number of strangers taking over as the legal "parent" of the elderly In more than 2,200 files reviewed by the AP nationwide, about one-quarter of court-appointed guardians were banks, attorneys and businesses who charge for their ser vices The investigation also detailed in stances where private guardians have proven costly and. in some cases, detrimental to their wards through avarice or ignorance — Susan Lehmann, a Grand Rapids. Mich . professional conservator was sentenced to nine months in jail in 1985 for stealing $48,000 from her wards She was accused of cashing wards’ Social Security checks and buying a $6.(RH) car for herself with wards' money A presentencing report said she had told a witness she "needed the money and they didn t ’’ A 1982 Miami grand jury report told of a lawyer who served as both attorney and guardian and double billed his ward s estate for $77 (un> The charges included $1,013 for the three hours it took to buy a S2oo clock When a Hagerstown. Md nurs mg home complained in 1978 about the unpaid bills of an elderly resi dent, court officials discovered her guardian an attorney had failed for five years to collect rents or pay taxes on a home she owned The ward lost the home in a tax sale Court officials note that these cases are the exception Many professional guardians are dedicated people who can help the elderly through their re maming years For some the deeper issue is com See ENTREPRENEURS Page SA The Cass Center I SM N Ah nut Suite I Ne* Braunfels ! * 'Hi * (512) 620-651 7 ft l l IC ll< IMI: < !-;n I RI Design • Bulk! * Decorate \. DO YOU HAVE FALL HAY FEVER SYMPTOMS ? If so. we need volunteers to participate in an approved clinical stud> for a new, once a day. antihistamine. Participants must 'be between the ages of 18 and 60. and will be paid. For more information call: Frank C. Hampel. Jr.,M.D. Allergy & Immunology INTRODUCING Our New Tailored Mid Heel Slip On Easy. 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