Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

How can you preserve your family as your elders age? You need to guard both your elders’ wishes and dignity, and the freedom of speech and association of all concerned. 

Did you know that your own rights to freedom of speech and association might be in jeopardy? Even though you live in the United States, they might be taken away by a judge.

Why am I telling you this? Because that’s exactly what happened to me. It took me years of expensive litigation—after my mother died—to free myself from those restrictions.

I was the personal representative of my mother’s estate. (That’s the same as being an executrix.) The circumstances required me to sue the former guardian. The judge issued an order to forbid me from speaking to anyone about my mother. It had no expiration date, so it would have lasted forever. (Similar orders are common in guardianship cases.)

Except for conversations with me and with the minister from Hospice, my mother never got anything approaching her freedom of speech back. She made me promise to let others know what had happened to her. I don’t want you and your loved ones to suffer that way.

Every year, over 3.5 million people turn 65. This is the fastest-growing group in the United States. By 2050, people over the age of 65 will make up 22% of the total population.

Nearly half of those turning 65 will suffer from some form of dementia at some point in their lives. A loved one’s dementia affects every aspect of the patient’s life, your life, and the life of everybody who cares about the patient. Even worse, it leaves everyone in a very vulnerable emotional state.

Both you and your loved one can be manipulated by unscrupulous people who have an alphabet soup of degrees behind their names. So can everyone else in your family. “Trust us,” they say, “and things will get back to normal.”

But the situation only gets worse. Much worse. How do I know? I once was one of those manipulated people. I wanted to trust the people the court said were experts. Now I know better. It took me fourteen years to get my life back; I don’t want that to happen to you.

Recent exposés show us the abuses of commercial guardianship and the horrors of advancing dementia for people of all economic levels. From the dissolution of the Britney Spears conservatorship, to “I Care So Much,” “The Father,” a New Yorker series entitled “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights,” and the prizewinning series in the Albuquerque Journal by journalists Diane Dimond and Colleen Heild – producers and journalists have made heroic efforts at revealing the scope of the problem.

That’s why I made a vow to my mother that I would put our story into a book. That’s what I did. It’s called Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions). It’s a casebook showing exactly how various people manipulated my mother and me, and how I began to develop counter-strategies.

Regardless of whether the elders you love are famous and have millions of dollars or are simply trying to survive on Social Security or a VA pension, they can be targeted when they are vulnerable. So can you. I’ll provide you with the knowledge you need to help you decide which “experts” might not really have your best interests (and those of your loved ones) at heart.

As recent press reports have shown, many who make a living by caring for our elders lack proper oversight. This situation allows predators within this group to take advantage of vulnerable families in order to enrich themselves and increase their power at the expense of those families. (Even those “professionals” who act as guardians for the indigent are paid by the state.)

The “experts” who give lectures and offer meetings at senior citizens’ centers are often the same people who earn their primary living as commercial guardians, conservators, and trustees. (They prefer the term “professional”; I prefer the term “commercial” because, in my experience, the predators in this group are motivated by power and greed.)

Some people have gone bankrupt trying to protect family members when the law didn’t allow them to win. They just didn’t know it. Some keep fighting in ways that have already been shown to be ineffective, but they’re unaware of this. Knowledge gives you the power to take effective action. (It doesn’t become power until you use it.) Knowledge may prevent you from wasting time and energy on strategies that have been shown to fail, and instead allow you to concentrate your energies on arenas where you have a chance of winning. I know. I’ve been there.

It’s dangerous out there. I know. Family members often become “collateral damage” in various interested parties’ grabs for power and money. Unlike most judges, I do not consider anyone who serves as a commercial guardian—nor any of the people who routinely make their money from this industry—“impartial.” Getting clients puts food on their tables.

I came through this swamp myself. Miraculously, I’m still standing. I want to be your guide. I want Dayspring to help you slash your way through this dense overgrowth of outmoded customs, restrictions and cronyism with as little harm to you and your loved ones as possible. That’s Dayspring’s mission. And mine.