By this time tomorrow I should have completed my testimony to the state Legislature’s Standing Committee on Aging, relative to proposed changes to elder abuse laws.
You may remember that I became involved in elder law when my mother, then aged 91, moved from her apartment near Albany, New York, to my home in Connecticut on December 22, 2008. She had lived alone for nearly a decade after my father died, most of that time capable of handling herself and her affairs, but she was hospitalized in December 2008 suffering from dehydration and potassium deficiency.
As a result my siblings attempted to force her into a nursing home against her will –personnel from the nursing home were in the hospital preparing to move her out when I was notified.
I intervened, offering my home as an alternative, which was fine with everyone until my mother realized that my sister had kept her checkbook, which didn’t go over well with Mom. With proper nutrition and some much needed sleep Mom rebounded quickly after her hospitalization and spent the week after Christmas 2008 in a series of fruitless attempts to convince my sister to relinquish the checkbook. My sister refused so ultimately Mom rescinded the limited power of attorney she had given my sister, and moved her finances to new accounts in Connecticut.
After which my sister, brother and some of their offspring joined in a lawsuit against Mom, the aim of which was to force her to return to New York, to be placed in an Alzheimer’s ward, even though she was not suffering from that disease, and to give my sister guardianship over my mother’s body, property, social life, and her money; all of it.
Mom endured a grueling day of testimony in March 2009 and won the day, with the judge ultimately dismissing the case and declaring my mother competent. My siblings retaliated by lodging a rotating series of complaints to the Connecticut Department of Social Services falsely alleging that Mom was being abused in my home.
This was especially interesting since it directly contradicted their testimony in Albany Supreme Court that they believed Mom was safe and happy in my home – but they still wanted her money.
The DSS came to my home in June 2009, unannounced, I let the investigator in, she interviewed Mom, inspected my home, and got a rundown on the lawsuit my siblings had pursued, a factor that apparently was missing from their complaint to the state. We were cleared of all wrongdoing, which wasn’t surprising since there was no wrongdoing.
But the next month, my sister’s daughter, who had testified against Mom, picked up the ball and started another round of complaints. That was settled over the phone and through emails, since the state had already been to our home a couple of weeks previously and since my niece conveniently forgot to mention that she had testified against her grandmother.
We also informed the state that the first DSS visit had resulted in Mom suffering an episode of stress-induced delirium, which is a progressive and potentially fatal affliction, especially for the elderly. We supplied a report from Mom’s doctor for verification.
We thought it was over, but the following year, on the anniversary of the first complaint, my siblings started the whole thing over again. This, by the way, came after we had made efforts to reconcile which were slapped aside, an attempted home invasion, libel and associated unpleasantness.
The continuing pressure from my siblings and their spawn caused Mom to suffer several more bouts of delirium, each progressively worse than the last, as the doctors had cautioned. But, once again a state investigator showed up at our home unannounced, again informing me that he was investigating “a complaint of elder abuse.”
I told the investigator of the previous investigations, and the delirium it was causing, and asked that he review the files before putting Mom through that again. It didn’t matter. I was told that “if we receive 100 complaints we’ll conduct 100 investigations.” So we sought out legal and political help.
State Sen. Edith Prague who has become a friend to my mother and chairs the Committee on Aging, visited our home several times, as did a lawyer who specializes in elder affairs, and they both attempted to convince the DSS that they were being used by unscrupulous, out-of-state individuals with an agenda. It didn’t matter to the DSS.
Finally, before the current session began, Sen. Prague, members of the Committee on Aging, other interested parties and the legal staff at the Legislature recommended some new wording for statutes, making it a Class D felony to falsely report elder abuse. Considering that the DSS itself became the de facto abuser of my mother, I think the proposed changes are a good first step.
The existing law has plenty of muscle to intervene where there is real elder abuse, although I am continually amazed at the number of probate cases I hear about where abuse was evident and the DSS did nothing. Nonetheless, the proposed changes shouldn’t stop people from reporting real instances of elder abuse, but they should serve as a deterrent to unscrupulous lowlifes who get their jollies picking on defenseless old people who can’t defend themselves.
I’ll be telling all this to the Committee on Aging in the morning. I get three minutes. I hope they listen.
- Granny Snatching: “Ella’s Law” Now Law, Protecting Ct Seniors
- Conn Creating New Granny Snatching Legislation
- GRANNY SNATCHING: Ron Winter’s New Weekly Blog
- Granny Snatching: Legislation and Jail Time
- Granny Snatching: Elder Abuse Conference; The Emperor is Butt Naked!
- Granny Snatching: Legislature Passes “Ella’s Law” – False Elder Abuse Complaints Bill!