Monday, April 6, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Guardian
Imagine having your whole life put into the hands of a stranger who can take away your freedom to choose from where you live to how you spend your money, and if you disagree on how they're handling things, you have no outside agency to complain to. Seven's investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- Ninety-five-year-old Lucille Gittens was forced to leave the home she had lived in with her son and his family for 30 years.
Sybil Gittens: "I felt helpless. I couldn't help her. I couldn't do anything."
Tecia Gittens: "It was very disturbing. My grandmother was like my best friend."
The court stepped in and appointed a guardian after a family disagreement over the mother's finances.
Keith Gittens: "Ninety percent of families have family squabbles. I'm sure you're aware of that, but that doesn't mean it has to reach this level of making a drastic decision like this for no reason."
He says, first the guardian took over his mother's estate and eventually took her out of her home and put her in a group facility.
Keith Gittens: "The legal system is so complex that you can spend all your time and all your money and get nowhere."
Keith says he could find no one to independently investigate his concerns about what was happening with his mother.
Keith Gittens: "There's too much power given in this guardianship program. There's no checks and balances really."
Avril Schuckman says her mother had a picture-perfect life, but her last hours were a nightmare.
Avril Schuckman: "My mother suffered desperately. I think it was the most heinous crime."
Avril says her mother had a do-not-resuscitate order, which her guardian ignored. In fact, the South Florida guardian did not call Avril in Tampa and tell her her mother was dying until four days after she was put on life support.
Avril Schuckman: "She lasted another 20 hours gasping for air. It was the most awful death I've ever seen. It was just tragic."
Avril thought the guardian should have been investigated, but she could find no independent agency to hear her concerns.
Keith Gittens: "I think that the legislature should look at the entire guardianship program and revamp it."
Avril and Keith are not alone. Nationwide, so many families are so upset about the treatment of loved ones they've organized.
Annie McKenna, National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse: "A guardianship is like being in quicksand. You never know what you're going to get into, and it's almost impossible to get out."
Annie McKenna is with the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.
Annie McKenna: "There's a saying in our organization that the main point of the guardianship is to isolate, medicate and take the estate."
McKenna's group has found hundreds of families frustrated with nowhere to turn, like this postal worker who complained because his guardian wouldn't let him use his own money to get his teeth fixed.
Postal worker on YouTube: "The guardianship is taking my pay every two weeks, plus my overtime money."
The association has posted videos like this on YouTube in hopes of getting states to do a better job of regulating the guardianship program and to create avenues for families to make complaints.
Annie McKenna: "If we can educate enough people now about the abuse of guardianships, we can do something to stop it."
There is an organization that licenses guardians, but critics say there should be an independent agency to oversee the programs, somewhere families can turn if they believe a guardian is not making the right decisions for their loved ones.
For More Info:
National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse
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