Guardianship News:

An unsolicited letter about Guardianship

Guardianship: A Broken Trust, a series from the Palm Beach Post Guardianship: A Broken Trust, a series from the Palm Beach Post

I recently received the following documents. They speak for themselves. they need to be shared widely.

Your comments to the authors and to me at drsam@aaapg.net  are welcome.

 

January 20, 2020

 

Dr. Sam Sugar M.D.

AAAPG

Hollywood, FL  33312

 

Dear Dr. Sugar,

 

Your book “Guardianships and the Elderly” has truly been a survival guide for us as we have fought for guardianship of our mother for over 2 years.  There has been exceptional Elder Abuse by many trusted professionals, including her conservators and guardian whose goal has been to make money from our mother’s estate while pushing her family away unnecessarily.  We are hopeful that our story will provide you with a stark example of how predators of all kinds can and will work together to drain estates.

 

Imagine if your loved one was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s.  Then imagine how you would feel if this vulnerable loved one was unduly influenced by those seeking personal gain. What would you do if the final result of such Elder Abuse would result in you being denied the right to talk to or see your mother ever again for no legal reason?  Obviously, no one would want this to happen, and many would never believe that it could possibly happen.  But this happened to our family. And it happened in a small community in our country’s heartland.

 

We are not writing to you today to ask that you intercede on our part. Our family has spent over 2 years and more than $500,000 on legal fees and expenses and yet continues to be denied by the guardian to have any visitation or information regarding our mother as we wait for an Appellate ruling.  We ARE writing because our experiences are a powerful example of how Elder Abuse can be the ruin of any American family–rich or poor–and because it is obvious to us that current laws are not protecting our elders from predators set on draining family assets. As you will see when reviewing the attached outline of all the abuses our mother has experienced in the past three years, it is not only individuals, but trusted professionals and public agencies that are letting them down. We want to help be part of the solution by making our story public and helping to strongly encourage those with power to prioritize a growing problem and make needed changes to our laws and the funding of appropriate education about Elder Abuse. For that, we need your help.

 

It is our opinion that laws need to be changed, public service organizations need to be strengthened, and legal entities need mandatory education in order to faithfully protect our elders. We are willing to talk to you on the phone or in person, make presentations to any organization, or supply testimony in hearings.  Elder Abuse is a national problem that is destined to worsen dramatically as Alzheimer’s is increasing at such an alarming rate.  Once you read about our experiences “in the system”, you cannot deny that there are problems that deserve addressing.  Please help us get the word out.

 

Thank you,

 

Kris Norelius                                               Juliann Norelius    

1484 Willagillespie Rd.                             27802 Shadow Mountain Drive

Eugene, OR  97401                                    Conifer, CO  80433

541-521-4825                                               712-269-6275

krisnorelius@gmail.com                          darbydog64@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Our mother has advanced Alzheimer’s.  Her diagnosis was missed for years until she was evaluated at the prestigious University of Iowa Medical Hospital by a team of board-certified neuropsychologists. Getting her diagnosis came after red flags began to fly everywhere regarding her finances, living patterns, relationships with her family and friends. Communication was stopped and physical changes became quite obvious. The classic signs of elder abuse became quite evident: emotional, psychological and most certainly financial abuse was occurring. What our family discovered as we pursued a course of action to protect our mother was that she was a victim of Elder Abuse.  This elder abuse did not stop with her paramour. Our mother’s financial situation and her Alzheimer’s/dementia, which made her vulnerable and susceptible to undue influence, provided an opportunity for elder abuse to expand to the legal system, the community, and her court appointed guardian and conservators.

 

With the increasing number of elderly suffering from neurocognitive diseases, more and more of our vulnerable elders will fall prey to some kind of elder abuse. Poorly written existing laws which provide little protection to our elderly coupled with the complete lack of understanding of the disease by the legal system will allow elder abuse to take new forms. There are over 5 million cases of elder financial abuse reported each year but sadly only 1 in 23.5 cases of actual Elder Financial Abuse is reported. Various studies estimate that seniors in the U.S. are scammed out of anywhere from $3 billion to $37 billion a year. Between 2013 and 2017, those over age 70 lost an average of $41,800 to elder financial exploitation, according to an analysis by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Undue influence is the most insidious method of elder financial abuse and when an abuser finds an elder with Alzheimer’s or dementia it is their golden ticket.

 

With the baby boomer population poised to enter their 60’s, and with the number of diagnosed Alzheimer’s cases expected to jump from 5.8 million Americans to over 14 million by 2050, it is imperative that our lawmakers take this seriously enough to amend Elder Abuse laws and that attorneys and law enforcement are fully prepared to recognize and participate in helping to alleviate Elder Abuse.  Our case is a horrible example of how the current laws are failing to protect our elderly.

 

As is a typical situation of those suffering from Alzheimer’s, a series of traumatic events in our family as well as the early progression of her disease caused our mother to become deeply vulnerable. At that point a predator came into her life and began to manipulate her and work his way into her estate. The size of her estate provided no protection from this attack. The paramour worked his way into her home, controlled her life necessities, coerced her with affection, initiated changes in her finances and property, and used secrecy in effecting those changes. He isolated her from friends and family cutting off telephone access, suppressing her loyalty to her children and family and filling her with lies and fears thus creating a siege mentality making it easier for his victim to mindlessly follow his demands. (Please note that this predator was destitute and our mother had a large estate)

 

Once this predator had successfully established his control, he convinced our 82-year-old vulnerable mother to terminate her sizeable trust, change her will, change her medical P.O.A. and place him on her bank accounts all with the assistance of local attorneys. He also convinced her to marry him allowing him to gain full access to her assets, but those plans were stopped by our legal efforts. This is really where the story of elder abuse and exploitation of our mother begins. Her elder abuser was removed legally for a short time, but the courts dismissed the Elder Abuse charges and denied us a hearing, even after being presented with a diagnosis, allowing him to return to her side and continue his course of undue influence.

 

The paramour provided the framework for the abuse and then ALONG CAME THE LEGAL SYSTEM which took further advantage of her vulnerability and diminished capacity due to her advanced Alzheimer’s.

 

The following is a brief outline of the abuses that were bestowed upon our mother and ignored by all parties, legal and medical:

 

Paramour:

Isolated Mom, controlled all face-to-face and phone conversations

Barred family from any knowledge, personal or written, regarding her medical

condition and advancement of her disease

Took money from mom for his bills and to purchase silver

Provided a poor diet

Became signer on her bank accounts

Persuaded her to terminate trust

Squatted in Mom’s home while she was in Assisted Living facility (no payment

made to conservatorship for rent, utilities or damages)

Forced Mom to turn away family visitors, including infants and her closest

granddaughter

Took her to his residence from her assisted living facility for an average of 6

hours per day for probable non-consensual sex

Takes advantage of her disease by continually brainwashing her with lies that her

family has stolen from and physically abused her

Used Mom’s vehicle for his own purposes while she was in Assisted Living

Used Mom’s credit cards to buy food, gas, and clothing for himself while

convincing her to say this usage was alright, even though she was under a

full guardianship and had been declared incompetent.

After she had been moved to skilled nursing, he used her credit card again to buy

goods for himself.  It was only after a formal complaint

and black-and-white proof did the police recover her card. Police refused

to file charges.

 

Current Guardian:

Reacted to the news of the temporary guardianship by taking mom on unplanned

drive across Iowa without her medication.  She refused to return our

mother to town as our sister and I, then guardians on a temporary basis, requested it. (Not locatable for more than 10 hours)

Has not permitted any family to see our mother and refuses to work with family

for resolution. (Recorded conversation available)

Asked for and was granted an absurd $40/hour to be guardian for such things as

Taking mom to lunch or bringing her candy (friend issues, not guardian)to

the current tune of over $10,000 (this would be +$80K/year on top of what

Mom’s estate pays for her assisted living care). Judges ruling.

Allowed and hid the fact that the paramour took Mom over state lines to marry

her after the court had ruled she could not marry due to incompetency

Refused to file for simple annulment so our family was forced to initiate the court

annulment and pay for it.

Allowed paramour to use Mom’s credit card (falsely stating to law enforcement

that she had the authority to grant permission)

Refuses to communicate with family as to Mom’s health. Has declared that she

does not intend to notify family upon Mom’s death.

 

Legal/Judicial Abuses:

            Trust Dissolution for 81-year-old Vulnerable Adult diagnosed with dementia with

large estate for no valid reason.

Refused to hear Elder Abuse case.  The court appointed a Guardian Ad Litem

(GAL) to represent Mom’s best interests.  The GAL reported that the

paramour’s financial maneuverings were “suspicious” but did not recommend a protective order because we had successfully convinced the court that a conservatorship be entered.  Her report stated:

“The timing of the most recent cash withdrawals coupled with Diane’s

mental state at the time and Denzil’s silver purchases is concerning. That being said, Diane is now protected from any financial exploitation at this point due to the conservatorship that has been established”. (GAL report 12/7/19)

Refused to criminally charge Marcia Losh (who is now Mom’s court appointed

guardian) after she took Mom across Iowa without the approval of her then

temporary guardians (us). Investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) who decided there was nothing improper with this behavior and stated that there were more important cases to concern them. Losh was later inexplicably chosen as Mom’s permanent guardian.

Mom’s Will was rewritten by local attorney–favoring paramour

Granted unnecessary and unreasonable fees to Guardian ($40/hour)

Judge refused to rule that Mom should get required follow up medical care

required by the University of Iowa. Ruled that Mom or her attorneys could

call the judge if she had any medical problems.

Attorney allowed conflict of interest by representing Mom and her paramour

simultaneously (reprimanded by Iowa Ethics Board)

Forced Mom to stay an unnecessary 30 additional days in the psychiatric unit at

U of I as they undid the damage from this legal conflict of interest

Abused the Conservator Position by not maximizing income for an approximate

loss to Estate of over $50,000

Appointed 2 conservators, one of whom (a former judge) hired an attorney to

represent him: all three billed at a rate of $200/hour.

Multiple attorneys represented unnecessary clients with mom’s “permission”

although she had a cognitive diagnosis.  She was persuaded to hire 6

attorneys. This resulted in a plundering of her estate for more than

$500,000.00 for all the fees spent to fight her own family from obtaining

legal guardianship (no actual proof was ever presented to support our

“unworthiness” to do so)

Court forced us, as temporary guardians, to place Mom in an inappropriate

assisted living facility where there was no memory care or any direct

education requirements that staff have training in advanced cognitive diseases. She later fell and was transferred to a nursing home.

When presented with a motion for family to be allowed visitations, which they had

been denied for nearly 2 years, the District Court judge made the decision

that he and his stenographer would meet with Mom at the county

courthouse to “discuss”.(November, 2019).  This was unprecedented and

cruel.  Reports indicate our mother doesn’t even know where she is.  Furthermore, this judge has repeatedly shown a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of advanced Alzheimer’s.

Typical responses that we received from the court, the conservator, the guardian

ad litem, law enforcement, and others are:

      • The caretaker (paramour) is doing the minimum required, i.e. providing milk sandwiches and taking her to see the local physician’s assistant for health care (the provider who failed to diagnose her and even testified that she was improving, despite the neurocognitive studies which showed otherwise) (DHS)
      • “Yeah, we know that the caretaker probably took some of your mom’s money, but it was not that much”(GAL)
      • “Yeah, we know that your mom was diagnosed with dementia on September 11, 2017, but how do we know that she was cognitively impaired 5 days earlier when she terminated her trust and changed her will?” (Her attorneys)

 

Community Abuses:

Disseminated lies about our sister and I across the rural community to push

agenda of keeping us from guardianship; choose to believe inaccuracies

put forth by the paramour even though Courts showed no wrongdoing by

the family

Through actions in courtroom and in public, showed myopic understanding of the

facts.  Chose to see Mom’s illness and our intervention as an Us vs.Them

situation that required their interference into family and health matters

which did not concern them and have been ultimately harmful to Mom.

Local healthcare workers were incapable and untrained to care for Mom,

however, they banded with the community “tribe” to present us as

invaders intent on “stealing all Mom’s money”.  All had extremely limited

knowledge of cognitive diseases and refused to recognize the validity of

the diagnosis from more educated specialists from a university hospital.

Police unwilling to assist us numerous times, due to their ignorance of the

disease, their lack of understanding of what constitutes Elder Abuse, how

full guardianships work,  and unwillingness to work with our family, who

had been blackballed by the community. Called this a “civil” matter.

 

The above list of EA offenses may seem beyond belief or an isolated or unusual situation. However, these are documented facts and many of them have been or are currently being fought in Iowa District Court and the Appellate Court of Iowa as we attempt to regain Mom’s guardianship and stop the abuses.  It should be noted that our single attempt to call attention to the situation via the Elder Abuse charge against the paramour was quickly thwarted by the local Court so our efforts have largely been simply to get the guardianship and end this situation.

 

We need a change to protect the vulnerable:

  • Our mother could afford the best nutrition and the best care, but the minimum was expected- and ultimately provided
  • No matter how much is stolen, a penny is too much. A small sum might not mean much for our mother, but for many elderly every penny counts
  • Our medical and legal communities are absolutely naive about the progression of this disease and how to be vigilant about the appearance of Elder Abuse. Everyone would benefit from higher standards and education.  Attorney’s need

to have stricter guidelines for making estate changes for the elderly and stronger

punishments for abusing them.

  • Elder Abuse needs to be taken much more seriously across our nation and the public needs to be educated about it. 1/3 of our country’s citizens over 85 have Alzheimer’s (5.8 million).  This figure is expected to jump to 14 million by 2050.
  • Laws need to be put in place to seriously and thoughtfully protect our elderly. The definition of Elder Abuse should be national as currently each state has its own definitions and penalties.  There needs to be strong deterrents to elder predators/abusers.  There should be an Elder Abuse registry for families to protect their vulnerable Elders.
  • A guardian and conservator’s responsibilities and oversight need to be taken far more seriously. Strong standards and punishments must

be made mandatory.

 

Certainly our entire extended family has been sadly and deeply affected by the utter failure of the Iowa legal and medical systems to provide our incompetent matriarch with the fair and transparent care she deserves.  But this is about more than that.  This is about how our legislators, legal professionals, medical professionals and law enforcement are going to handle any future cases involving those vulnerable adults needing their help.  Without a greater and wider standard of knowledge about cognitive diseases by every one of these professionals, it would seem that these types of abuses will continue and grow in our country as our population ages.  Abusers and predators will become more adept at manipulating the public and the courts for their own gains and our elders and their families will suffer more losses both financial and personal.  Our case is a huge wake-up call about how these predators can utilize the existing public agencies which are currently in place for their own benefit and gain.  This is a crisis and needs to be addressed as such.

 

Thank you for your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your attention to our correspondence.  The following is a list of other entities that have received this information:

Iowa Government:

Governor Kim Reynolds

Tom Miller, Attorney General, State of Iowa

Chantelle Smith Assistant Attorney General, State of Iowa

Peter E. Deegan Jr. United States Attorney,Northern District of Iowa

Marc Krickbaum, United States Attorney,Southern District of Iowa

Iowa Legislators:

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley

Iowa Representative Steve Holt

Iowa Representative Jason Schultz

JD Scholten

Media:

Des Moines Register

Carroll Daily Times Herald

Sioux City Journal

Denison Bulletin

Omaha World Herald

Bloomberg News

ProPublica

NBC Dateline

60 Minutes

CBS News Sunday Morning

Institute for InterGroup Understanding

Government Organizations/Agencies:

Elder Justice Initiative (EJI), US. Department of Justice

National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)

United States Senate Special Committee on Aging

Organizations:

AARP

Shawna Reeves, Director, Institute on Aging

Kathryn Stebner, Attorney & Elder Abuse advocate

Catherine Falk Organization

Elderdignity.org

Families Against Court Embezzlement Unethical Standards

Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly

American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging

Center for Elders and the Courts (CEC)

The AARP Public Policy Institute

Hilarity for Charity.org

Kasemcares.org

IowaWatch.org

Iowa Capital Dispatch

Authors/Writers:

Joshua Greene, Psychologist

Dr. Sam Sugar, MD,AAAPG (Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship)

Michael Hackard, Esq.