When our loved ones become incapable of caring for themselves, whether because of old age, mental impairment or physical disability, among other reasons, we want to ensure that they are receiving the care and protection they need. One of the ways to secure their safety is to place them under guardianship.
Unfortunately, some guardians take advantage of their wards’ vulnerability. If this happens, acting fast and removing loved ones from the abusive guardian’s charge is essential.
Suspecting financial and physical elder abuse
Putting an individual under guardianship includes surrendering control to the guardian to make decisions about the ward’s medical care, finances and other decisions relevant to the ward’s overall well-being. Sadly, some guardians use their authority and the ward’s vulnerability to misuse assets for their own benefit. Signs of financial abuse include unusual fund or property transfers, unpaid bills and services or other unexplained activity that poses a risk to the ward and their assets.
Other signs of elder abuse can manifest in obvious and subtle signs of physical mistreatment. Signs like malnutrition and dehydration, isolation and changes in behavior can point to the guardian’s failure to perform their duty to care for the ward.
What can you do?
If you have suspicions that your ward’s guardian is misappropriating the financial assets or physically abusing your loved one, your initial step should be to report the abuse to the appropriate protective services or law enforcement agency.
Subsequently, you can ask the court to remove the guardian and appoint a new one who is trustworthy. However, the court does not automatically enforce the removal and new appointment. The court will hear the case to determine whether the guardian is unfit for the position and whether it is in the ward’s best interest to have a new guardian. Hence, providing relevant proof and information about the abuse can help the court decide.