Hospice Patients Alliance: Consumer Advocacy

Preventing Financial Exploitation of the Elderly, Patients and Terminally Ill

When the Unthinkable Happens

We regularly receive reports from anguished family members. The types of problems encountered in the end-of-life care arena vary, however one particularly troubling problem is the wielding of the judicial and health care systems in order to fraudulently divert a victim's assets into the bank accounts of the perpetator(s). Such a diversion of assets is truly unimaginable to the naive and trusting. While this type of crime occurs in a minority of families, when it does occur, families have no idea how to successfully fight these criminal acts that are ongoing and robbing their family's estate. It is extremely important that an estate attorney be consulted when family members become elderly, ailing and especially when they become terminally ill.

In one common scenario, a family member may conspire with an attorney and/or physician to have an elderly or ailing family member placed into a nursing home, assisted living center or hospice and have the courts appoint the family member, attorney or physician as "temporary or permanent guardian." The cooperating physician may certify that the patient has dementia when they do not, or that the patient is terminally ill when they are not. In some cases, hospice medical directors who should normally be doing their very best to protect patients and ease their suffering are actually taking non-terminal patients into the hospice to increase the hospice's patient census and revenue stream. A cooperating attorney may receive fees for arranging the mis-use of guardianship or be directly appointed guardian without any family member being involved.

Once one of the conspiring perpetrators is appointed guardian, other family members have absolutely no say in where the patient is placed, his or her assets or the type and direction of health care provided to that loved one. A court-ordered appointment as "Guardian" provides for much greater authority to make decisions than does an ordinary power of attorney. Sometimes, perpetrators of such a scam will mislead the court by stating that "there are no other surviving family members or powers of attorney known" when the other family members are very active in the lives of the victim. It may be difficult to imagine that the courts can be mislead in this way, but it happens.

Difficulties Un-Doing Court-Ordered Mis-Guardianships

Once a judge appoints a Guardian for the victim, it will often be reluctant to admit it made serious mistakes in its previous ruling appointing the Guardian. If the attorney is well-known and trusted by the court, then the court will likely place more credence in the testimony of the attorney than family members. Some attorneys may mis-use their position as "officers of the court" to bolster their own personal interest in the case and even slander family members who are simply trying to rescue their loved one from ongoing victimization!

Why Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies
and Other Powers May NOT be Effective

Family members often believe that if they have a legally valid Power of Attorney drawn up, or other such legal instrument drawn up, that they are protected from anybody else coming in and taking control of the situation. In most cases, there is no problem and their power of attorney document does empower them to act to protect their loved one. When a guardianship is given to someone other than those holding the powers of attorney (usually when the courts are mislead), health care agencies and staff will follow the direction of the court-appointed guardian, even banning other family members from having a say about medications given to the victim, where the patient will reside or even if the patient can be kept in the home of other family members.

Getting Appointed Guardian of Your Loved One

For those who are victimized by mis-used Guardianships, the struggle to recover control over their loved one's very life, health care and decision-making often fails completely, sometimes leaving the family in financial ruin and the patient sometimes involuntarily euthanized. There are many ways to hasten a patient's death which do not involve overdosages of medications. Sometimes simply stopping needed medications will precipitate the death of a patient. Sometimes sedating the patient will cause dehydration and starvation with resultant circulatory collapse and death. When other family members are banned from the presence of the victim, there is often nothing they can do to protect their loved one. And the outrage is that the courts not only did not prevent it, but actually empowered the criminal perpetrators!

If you have a vulnerable loved one in your family who is elderly, ailing or even terminal, getting appointed Guardian will prevent others from usurping the power to make decisions on behalf of your loved one. You may be advised that getting a Guardianship is completely unnecessary, and in many cases that may be true. However, we have received many complaints about situations where assets are stolen, guardianships misused and victims shunted into health care situations not of their choosing; if this is a possibility in your family, then getting a Guardianship may be a wise choice. If there is any possibility of family conflict in your family ... where other family members may not agree on what is best for your loved one, getting the Guardianship may be the only way to assure quality care and protection of the family's estate. If you have serious concerns about possible exploitation of your family member, contact a local expert attorney who specializes in Estate Law. Preventing estate fraud is one thousand times easier than resolving fraud that is already happening!

If you know of a case of estate fraud involving the elderly, chronically ill or hospice, please let us know by sending a brief, concise statement of the facts.

If you have questions about hospice, we hope that you will take the time to visit the hundreds of pages at our website, read our Guide to Hospice Care or visit our resources and links section (with hundreds of vital resources listed).

Hospice Patients Alliance affirms that all human life is inherently valuable and that the role of hospice nurses, physicians and all other staff is to alleviate suffering and provide comfort for the sick and dying without sanctioning or assisting their suicide. A death with dignity allows for a natural death in its own time, while doing everything possible to assure relief from distressing symptoms. Hospice Patients Alliance works hard to promote quality hospice care throughout the USA. If you would like to support our mission, we hope you will consider supporting our mission through a donation. Hospice Patients Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charity and your donations are deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

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