Sunday, November 13, 2005

Taking over the Lives of Elderly for Fun and Profit

Okay, maybe it doesn't classify as "fun" except that people like making lots of money. And I don't want to imply there could not be an experience of satisfaction in taking care of elderly person. It's just the way it is done by the owners of these businesses in Southern California (where the staff are mostly illegal immigrants) these days, make finding the satisfaction extremely difficult.

An article in the Los Angeles Times takes on the world of professional conservators who are assigned to watch over elderly people the way families used to do.

Helen Jones sits in a wheelchair, surrounded by strangers who control her life.

She is not allowed to answer the telephone. Her mail is screened. She cannot spend her own money.

A child of the Depression, Jones, 87, worked hard for decades, driving rivets into World War II fighter planes, making neckties, threading bristles into nail-polish brushes. She saved obsessively, putting away $560,000 for her old age.

Her life changed three years ago, when a woman named Melodie Scott told a court in San Bernardino that Jones was unable to manage for herself. Without asking Jones, a judge made Scott — someone she had never met — her legal guardian.

Scott is a professional conservator.

It was her responsibility to protect Jones and conserve her nest egg. So far, Scott has spent at least $200,000 of it. The money has gone to pay Scott's fees, fill Jones' house with new appliances she did not want and hire attendants to supervise her around the clock, among other expenses.

Once Jones grasped what was happening, she found a lawyer and tried, unsuccessfully, to end Scott's hold on her. "I don't want to be a burden to anyone," she told a judge, almost apologetically. "I just wanted to be on my own."

Jones' world has narrowed. She used to call Dial-A-Ride and go to the market, or sit in her driveway chatting with neighbors.

Now she spends her days watching television in her living room in Yucaipa, amid pots of yellow plastic flowers and lamps with no shades. The caretakers rarely take her from her house, except to see the free movie each Friday at the local senior center.

"I'm frustrated, because I don't know my way out," she said, sitting within earshot of one of Scott's aides. "There must be a way out."

Jones' conservator is part of a young, growing and largely unregulated trade in California.

When a Family Matter Turns Into a Business

Now this makes the business seems terrible and most likely it is. And I bet you're thinking I'll go into a rant about families taking care of their elderly like they did back when--well when the government wasn't trying to grab everything from the middle and working class to funnel to the wealthy and powerful.

Nope, not me.

In fact, if you notice the top two examples are about people who were quite wealthy and even locally powerful (as money begets power at the very least and the man had run a business). Therefore, out of all our elderly they are capable of feelings of an ability to do something about the situation. "There must be a way out."

This is not to deny their needs and their rights are also probably being short changed. It is just that their voices are being heard, because they are the type people who get their voices heard.

Good for them. I hope it works out. Of course, people, even those deemed unable to effectively manage their own lives completely need to be served according to their wishes that are reasonable, not a business.

But little to nothing is often heard when a elderly care center or even a relative lets a patient die from benign neglect, and this happens all the time also. Those are victims who are not wealthy and do not feel they should have some control over their lives and they remain silent. Once they too, when they could work were considered somewhat valuable, though, of course, not as valuable as a Paris Hilton--after that woman can shop. Since the 70s the value of a person's life in the news media and in our entertainment usually revolves around either having money or looking and doing the things that people with a lot of money can do. And newspapers these days are always looking for advertisers who help the editor and publisher get bigger cars next year, and a better home in the future, so their outlook is highly in tune with the "you don't matter if you're not rich" syndrome.

Sure this is big time. And it will make a big stink in CA, maybe the nation. But the less wealthy people will still suffer in silence when they grow older.

The only solution is to recreate the society of the 70s and before when the government wasn't shoveling all the money and power into their small already wealthy buddies domain.

Remember, if you've created a society in which money is everything, expect your elder years to become a victim to the same.

In the mid to late nineties we started to drift back to the earlier mode, where the average American counted as much as Bill Gates, did. Funny, though Bush and his administration talk incessantly about their Christian values, Church membership is going down. Obviously, shoveling more money and power into rich and powerful pockets, is not a Christian value. And America is just following it's leaders.

The time to prevent elder abuse is when you are still able to stand up to those who would favor only the currently most powerful, because there comes a time when you won't be.

As we can see, even Social Security alone cannot save people from abuse, only a society that has the resources to make sure that elderly care is good, and a family that has time to care, time to love can help you when you become enfeebled.

The new Medicare Bill of 2003 set up Medicare to be mostly a scam too. So don't expect those currently in power to help you in your old age.

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