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Overseeing the Overseers


Santa Barbara County has its share of conservator abuse. It’s important that more people are aware of this issue, and volunteer to oversee the care of our elderly.

For example:

—In 2006, a judge granted a conservator the right to purchase shares in 40 percent of a Montecito estate at way below market value.

—A judge granted a conservator, and the conservator’s network, $150,000 from an elderly woman’s estate, thus rewarding what the conservatee’s caring friends and relatives considered unscrupulous actions—in particular, pressuring the conservatee to undertake unnecessary home improvements.

—Conservators often support the use of heavy-duty pharmaceutical drugs with serious side effects to sedate their wards.

—Conservators also may place their wards in rest homes that give little therapy, exercise, healthy food, or kind treatment. So it’s no wonder the health of their wards is declining, and they end up dying prematurely.

I have an elderly friend whose brother was placed in such a facility. He was poor, but lo and behold, as soon as he got his inheritance, he was placed under conservatorship and moved far away from friends and his sister, with whom he’d been living with for many years. This man was instrumental in creating our local farmer’s markets, and has been into health food for decades. His sister travels a great distance every day, all the way from Ojai, to comfort him and bring him organic food. Last year his doctor was amazed at his recovery, and told his sister to keep doing whatever she was doing. The conservator objected and insisted he eat the terrible food offered at the “guest home.” His recovery was reversed.

Even though the sister is his best friend, she was discriminated against by being limited to three hours per day, unlike other visitors to the facility who had no time limit. The conservator’s agent told her that if she brought food again, even a piece of the organic fruit her brother has been accustomed to eating, she’d be barred from visiting her brother.

The conservator’s actions have to be illegal; they are a clear violation of basic human and Constitutional rights. It was sad because the sister brings life back to her brother. He’d wither and die quickly without his sole support, locked in a facility, forlorn and friendless.

Fortunately, her brother was transferred to another facility. The manager there allows her to bring him one healthy, organic meal per day. Unfortunately, the conservator is still in control.

There may be good conservators out there, but the problem is that power and money tend to corrupt people. That’s just human nature. There has to be a better paradigm or concept to help our elderly in need. We need a holistic alternative that emphasizes healing and wellness, not heavy-duty drugging and the taking of the estate. I believe that professional conservators, who charge estates $140/hour, are more interested in profit than the welfare of those in their care; that it’s a ripoff; and that there are far less expensive alternatives.

The sister was mistreated and intimidated by the last facility when she questioned the diet and treatment, and her character was assassinated in reports to the court. Is this any way to treat an elderly woman? She was labeled as disruptive. It is the conservator who has been disruptive of health and well being, and this poor elderly pair have been the victims of serious elder abuse.

But when there’s money to be made by court-sanctioned professional conservators and their profit-making network, elder abuse is overlooked.

To find out more about elder abuse by conservators, one can go to the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) website at stopguardianabuse.org.

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