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No Procedure for Investigating Abuse of Conservatees

Summary

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.

A San Bernardino County conservatee suffered false imprisonment, isolation, physical abuse, mental abuse, and financial abuse while residing in an assisted living facility. Records indicate sexual assaults by a male caregiver. The sheriff determined there was no evidence of a crime. Community Care Licensing assigned an investigator two years after the victim died.

The court investigator failed to interview any of the conservatee’s family or friends. He ignoredabuse by the conservator and the facility. The court appointed attorney facilitated abuse, counseling the conservator on strategy to unlawfully isolate the conservatee.

CEDAR documented similar cases in Santa Clara, Monterey, and Alameda Counties. We hear similar stories across the state. Victims are abused with impunity, often until death.

Existing Law

Welfare and Institutions Code 15600(i) States in part:

Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to provide that adult protective services agencies, local long-term care ombudsman programs, and local law enforcement agencies shall receive referrals or complaints … and shall take any actions considered necessary to protect the elder or dependent adult and correct the situation and ensure the individual's safety.

Probate Code 1826(a)(3) instructs the court investigator to interview the following individuals:

(3) The proposed conservatee's spouse or registered domestic partner and relatives within the first degree. If the proposed conservatee does not have a spouse, registered domestic partner, or relatives within the first degree, to the greatest extent possible, the proposed conservatee's relatives within the second degree.

Rationale

Statewide protocols for response to elder abuse could decrease abuse of conservatees. Review and accountability for investigations, plus an appeals process, could further curb abuse.