By Nancy Thorner –
Several weeks ago Tom Field, a 25-year advocate of legal reforms for the elderly and for fixing what is a broken elder care system, reached out to me via a phone call from his home in Mantor, Ohio, to inquire whether I was interested in pursuing the topic in light of the upcoming 5th White House Conference on Aging scheduled for Monday, July 13, held once every decade since 1961. Field’s overture was initiated upon his reading of my July 9, 2011 article titled, “Allegations of Alleged Corruption and Abuse in the Probate Court Level in Cook County, IL.”
A positive response at the time to Tom Fields prompted me to write the following two articles, both of which were published at Illinois Review Article 1: “Thorner: Elder Justice Act under Obamacare fails seniors – Part 1” and Article 2: “Thorner: White House Conference on Aging: Will Elder Justice be addressed sufficiently?”
Having initially expressed doubt that anything worthwhile would be realized from the conference, it became apparent that the question I addressed in the second article, “Will Elder Justice be addressed sufficiently?,” was deserving of a big, fat zero, an opinion verified when Tom Fields shared this post-conference email:
This tweet sum up much of what can be reported about the conference: Shame on #WHCOA and its Elder Justice Panel for refusing to address abuse by legal professionals and professional guardians
Post Conference Disappointment and Anger
It can be concluded from other post-conference e-mail reports that Tom Fields and others did their best before the July 13th WHCOA, and during the conference itself, to address the current rampant abuse by legal professional guardians. Mr. Fields, wishing he could have applauded the conference for doing so, instead encountered a conference that never touched upon the topic, the same having occurred in nearly every other such forum conducted by the administration’s government. They include the Elder Justice Coordinating Council that was created by the Elder Justice Act (and mentioned during the conference); the Administration on Aging (and its parent, Health and Human Services); and the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging.
As Mr. Fields wrote in one of his e-mails:
“Not only did the WHCOA refuse to address such abuse, but it impeded efforts by myself and others from doing so. How? First by demanding that I stop circulating a handout at the regional forum which I attended, and second by refusing to share tweets which I and others sent during the conference.”
In that the conference could and should have tried to help advocates like Tom Fields network with other advocates, it didn’t accomplish this. Instead, it pushed its own agenda, one which deliberately ignored the issue identified by the tweet noted above, further exemplified by this 3-minute ABC News video presented on-line, which the conference refused to play and discuss.
As the video is a mere three minutes long, it is inexcusable that three minutes wasn’t allotted during the 50-minute Elder Justice Panel in a conference that lasted 7+ hours. Had the video been played, it would have demonstrated how current laws, including APS laws, failed to prevent a stroke victim from being taken advantage of in a hospital emergency room.
Why these laws failed in this case is discussed in this short, 2-page PDF file. The emphasis there is on the lack of a very simple mechanism, one based upon a checklist, needed in such settings to alert affected family members and authorities. It would seem that no scam should be simpler to prevent than one which take place in the emergency room of a hospital, yet our government and professional associations have repeatedly proven themselves unequal to this task.
As to the history of the 3-minute video presented on-line by ABC News, it was initially posted by Tom Field at his own website in the aftermath of how his own father was similarly taken advantage of by a lawyer 25 years ago in a hospital just hours before he died of cancer, as testified by the doctor who had started him on a morphine drip and Do Not Resuscitate order.
The doctor’s testimony is summarized here; it is also reproduced in full beginning at this site and linked there to the other evidence, including the testimony of the defendant and others involved in this incident, including several attorneys. A brief summary of all this and more can be seen here.
Fields not alone in observing WHCOA indifference toward Elder Care and Reform
Tom Fields wasn’t the only individual who had post-conference feelings of disappointment and angry because the WHCOA’s Elder Justice Panel didn’t mention the rampant abuse by professional guardians and the probate system. After all, this was an issue addressed prior to the conference! Comments by Fields and others can be found here as displayed by the WHCOA, along with its Elder Justice Policy Brief.
An acquaintance of Tom Fields, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed these concerns after watching the entire White House Conference on Aging:
I was likewise disappointed/angry that the elder justice panel did not mention abuse by professional guardians and the probate system. The suggestions provided by the panel on how the banking industry and others could address financial abuse were unrealistic.
Although the monograph on elder financial abuse developed by the WHCOA cited a family member as being the number one cause of financial abuse of an elder, the panel did not address how to handle this problem. Better trained prosecutors is a start, but won’t help in the case of guardianships, as it is all after the fact. Further, if a family member tries to intervene and stop financial abuse, the probate judges, not wanting to take the time to sort things out, take the easy way out by appointing a professional guardian.
Elderly Guardianship Situation is a Disaster
Excellent insight was shared by Sam Sugar, M.D. with Thorner about the current Abusive Probate Guardianship situation via a telephone interview which Dr. Sugar willingly consented to on Wednesday, July 15. Dr. Sugar, like Tom Fields, was an active participant in pre-conference activity and likewise followed closely the entire July 13th WHCOA event.
Sam J. Sugar, M.D. PC, heads “Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship” with members in 25 states. His former position was as Attending Physician at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Doral Florida. Prior to that he was Medical Director at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Evanston, Illinois. Dr. Sugar graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the Florida Medial Society. He retired from active practice in 2013.
Per our conversation: Dr. Sugar attended a Private Watch Party as the event was unfolding at the White House. After tweeting the WHCOA dozens of times, Dr. Sugar concluded that the WHCOA was simply a political PR stunt, clarified when a woman speaking at the event noted how the same problems that existed 10 years ago still exist. In fact, offered Dr. Sugar, the situation is much worse today. Noted was how the elderly guardianship situation is a disaster. With massive number of cases where the same “playbook” of litigation, medicate, isolate, take the estate is used by greedy lawyers and guardians. The cases predictably end up where both family and the elderly ward are losers.
According to Dr. Sugar, no one knows for sure how many wards there are nationally, but government estimates range between 1-1/2 and 3 million. Sugar places the responsibility for this rampant copy-cat abuse, neglect, and exploitation at the footstep of the state judiciaries. Among the worst states for judicial guardianship abuse are: Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. As stated by Dr. Sugar: “What is happening is an outright theft of an individual’s entire estate under ‘color of law.’” Furthermore, “the failure to protect elders is generated by the willingness of jurists to allow the weaponization of state laws.”
Normally, appeal to federal agencies would be a potential remedy to abuse from a state for, as an example, failure to provide due process. However, because of the “Probate Court Exception” federal courts cannot intervene and there is no remedy from the federal government and apparently, no interest in one either. Vulnerable elders and their families have been totally abandoned by their governments.
In that Dr. Sugar’s organization, Americans Against Abuse of Probate Guardianship” is not a wealthy organization, it could not afford the entry fee for a seat at the table of the WHCOA, although an attempt was made for representation. Their website is filled with stories and information from victims around America.
National AAAPG Teleconference on Tuesday, July 21
Dr. Sam Sugar’s organization, “Americans against Abusive Probate Guardianship” is sponsoring a National Teleconference on Tuesday, July 21 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The conference can be accessed from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also dial in using your phone, but your computer is the preferred method of participation. United States : +1 (571) 317-3112 Access Code is: 502-285-845.
As stated by Dr. Sugar in his National AAAPG Teleconference invitation:
We need to identify key individuals in every State who will take leadership roles in our fight to stop the abuse. We need to develop a broad base of national support to be able to activate and encourage media coverage and create solid plans for lobbying for statutes we will recommend. In short, we need you to stand with us to protect our elders and ourselves.
Found here is a youtube presentation of the full 7+ hours of the WHCOA.