Civil courts hold to the bizarre position that family or other interested persons have standing only after the death of the victim. Courts instruct families to document the ongoing abuse of loved ones, and then seek financial compensation after the death of the victim.
Attorneys appointed to represent conservatees often act without contracts or court supervision. Some conservators engage in abusive conduct. Some attorneys may facilitate abuse for personal gain.
Conservatorship involves profound deprivation of rights, often for life and without opportunity for appeal. Yet, courts may disregard due process in conservatorship proceedings.
Courts require conservatees to pay court costs, fees to the petitioner, fees to petitioner’s attorneys, and fees to court appointed attorneys, all without regard for the merits of a conservatorship petition. Conservatees and their families also bear the cost of opposing questionable petitions and proceedings.
False imprisonment and forced isolation in long-term facilities are shamefully common. Residents are denied visitors, phone calls, and mail. Law enforcement may not recognize isolation as a form of abuse. In some cases, law enforcement facilitates isolation abuse.
A San Bernardino County facility unlawfully imprisoned and isolated a resident for 15 months. The Sheriff’s Department determined the abuse was a civil matter. The investigating deputy threatened to arrest the daughter if she tried to visit her mother. He threatened to charge the daughter with a crime if she filed complaints. A Deputy DA stated: There is nothing out of the ordinary.
Elders and dependent adults may be forcibly isolated from loved ones, resulting in profound mental suffering. Isolation abuse by family is covered by media. False imprisonment and forced isolation in long-term facilities are shamefully common.
CEDAR’s survey of San Bernardino County assisted living facilities found that 24 out of 25 facilities offered to isolate a resident on request from the person paying the bill. A San Mateo County facility included instructions for isolation in their written contract.
Many families report that loved ones are imprisoned and isolated in long-term care facilities, sometimes denied contact with loved ones for years. Some families report physical abuse, chemical restraint, and sexual assaults by caregivers.
Many law enforcement jurisdictions take the position that elder abuse is a civil matter. Adult Protective Services (APS), long-term care ombudsmen, and Community Care Licensing may take the position that facilities have authority to forcibly imprison and isolate residents against their will. Investigations are kept confidential, preventing effective oversight or accountability. There is no appeals process for victims or their families.
Half of dementia residents in long-term care facilities experience abuse. Some of those individuals are under conservatorship. Law enforcement and county agencies largely disregard abuse of conservatees, deferring to the court. However, court investigators and court appointed attorneys rarely investigate abuse, especially when the abuser is the court appointed conservator.
The San Bernardino County ombudsman substantiated elder abuse in a long-term care facility. Then she closed the case and walked away. The victim suffered horrific physical abuse, mental abuse, chemical restraint, and likely long-term sexual abuse by a male caregiver. The ombudsman later testified:
We are doing the best we can.
The Santa Clara County ombudsman substantiated elder abuse in a long-term care facility. She determined that abuse was not a violation of the resident’s rights. Then she closed the case and walked away.
Requiring individual RCFEs to post CCL investigations and citations on the RCFE’s own website would provide the public with immediate and free access to public records. There would be no cost to CCL. The cost to RCFEs would be minimal.
Individuals are placed under temporary conservatorship in hearings that last only a few minutes and include no examination of evidence or testimony from witnesses. An individual’s right to self-determination is removed with the stroke of a pen. Further adjudication may never occur. Individuals languish in temporary conservatorship for years, in some cases until death.