Legal guardianships don’t always protect the elderly as intended

Guardianships were designed to protect the elderly—those who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. Unfortunately, as the population of Pennsylvania ages, an increase in guardianships is leading to an increase in elder abuse.

The state has the fourth largest population in the nation of elderly people. Over 3 million members of the Baby Boomer generation will be adding to the population of elderly in the state over the next few years. Family disputes over how to care for the older generation often leads to court appointed guardianships. The guardian—who is typically a complete stranger—is given the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the senior, including decisions regarding diet, medical treatment and even the place of residence. Unfortunately, guardians in Pennsylvania are not regulated by the government; they are not required to obtain licenses or certification of any type. This often leads to the financial exploitation of seniors and in some cases, physical abuse as well. People who are financially able to pay for private, in-home healthcare are forced into negligent nursing homes by guardians. Their assets are liquidated, estates depleted and family heirlooms lost in the process.

There is nothing more frustrating than not being allowed to care for someone that you love during the last precious years of their life. If a family dispute or other circumstances have led to a guardian being appointed to care for one of your parents or another person close to your heart, don’t give up. An experienced attorney can help you fight to regain guardianship and remove them from a potentially harmful situation. It the senior citizen was abused in any way while in the care of another, you may also be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering.

Source:, “As PA ages, the state examines guardianships and abuse,” Halle Stockton, August 4, 2013.

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