My biggest question while getting ready to head for Carson City, and in addressing the guardianship seminars Dan and I have been asked to present is: How do private guardians find their wards?
We already knew several ways and had discussed them at our seminars; people giving out too much information at financial planning meetings, loose-lipped caregivers who tip off guardians, house cleaning staff, “well meaning” neighbors and so on.
Dan and I have searched for the common denominator by connecting some of these victims together. Well, we found one, and it should have been clear as day. Perhaps it was, and that was why we didn’t see it before - it was there in plain sight.
We found families whose loved one landed in guardianship as a result of a simple “slip and fall” that placed them in a hospital. And it went downhill from there.
While they were in the hospital, a doctor would be asked to give the patient a cognitive evaluation; perhaps a nurse thought they needed extra care, and as outlined in Dan’s article, one particular guardian trolls the halls looking for wards.
We also discovered that the physician’s certificate form checked off by the doctor is readily available. More importantly, the doctor may, or may not be aware that the form is going to be used exclusively for a guardianship issue.
In speaking to one such doctor, we were told that his/her patient may need help, be it in home care or a guardian at the time of the evaluation, but a week or month from then, things may be back to normal. The doctor assumed they would then be re-evaluated.
No statement like that was on any chart we reviewed. All seemed to indicate permanent mental incapacitation.
Was it an error by omission? This kind of error has cost people we met a year, or more of their lives and a tremendous amount of money.
Now I was ready to travel to Carson City and discuss guardianship issues. My appointment with Senator Becky Harris was made with trepidation, since I am very superstitious and our meeting date was Friday the 13th. But I was determined to forge ahead.
Dan kept prompting me during the entire flight to the Capitol about his New York rule of no more than 2 minutes to make your point. I, on the other hand, kept trying to impress upon him that he was no longer in the “Big Apple.”
This was Nevada and still a small town/state, where everyone knew everyone. You can imagine Dan’s surprise when we arrived at Senator Harris office and her “right hand” was a gentleman who I worked with several years ago - Scott Sabraw who taught me the ropes of lobbying. Yes, a very small town.
Senator Harris was more than gracious; giving us plenty of time to go over the points in the bill draft that were important to the families we were working with, and the pitfalls we had encountered in our investigation.
She told us that the best of her bill and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart’s bill were being merged together and should be ready in a few days to be introduced to the Senate. Then, shaking off all of my superstitions, she asked if I would like to sit with her on the Senate floor when she introduced the bill. Well Yeah! (I thought that and politely said, “Yes, I would love to”).
Our next stop, after a glass of celebratory wine and the best chicken pot pie, was with Rick and Terri Black, (Terri’s father is in guardianship in Las Vegas) to the Attorney General’s office. We wanted to see what kind of help we could get since Clark County District Attorney Wolfson didn’t seem interested in doing much more than looking the other way when it came to seniors being cheated.
That too seemed to be a positive visit. There was the promise of “have your families send us information and we will follow-up on what the DA does not take care of.”
Last stop of the day was Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle. He proposed a bill requiring the licensing of private for-profit guardians.
He was not sure if his bill draft would be out before the deadline and we were really sweating it. The Assemblyman told us that Monday was “D-Day.” If it was not out then, it would not make it.
This is an important bill and we all had our fingers (and toes) crossed. It did come out and by the time you read this, Dan and I will have testified before the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.
Stay tuned…perhaps the good guys are going to win after all.
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