Recent news articles spotlight egregious acts conducted by court-appointed guardians against the older individuals entrusted in their care. These reports highlight some of the worst situations occurring within a system that requires expedited improvement, now.
AARP has long fought for state laws to protect older individuals—and their assets—from abuse, and to make sure guardians—public, private, and family caregivers—have the information they need to do their job. Over the past 4 years alone, AARP State Offices across the country have passed more than 45 guardianship-specific laws to address this serious issue.
But more needs to be done, including clamping down on the bad actors by increasing court monitoring, oversight and training of guardians, and mechanisms to follow up with protected individuals. Specifically, AARP believes reforms must emphasize, at minimum:
- The Individual: Every individual has different needs and preferences. State laws should emphasize individualized guardianship plans and require courts to order less restrictive options for individuals who are capable of making their own decisions.
- The Guardian: State laws must spell out the duties and responsibilities of a guardian, providing a standard for decision-making focused on the expectations of the person under guardianship, and outline standards of practice and training requirements. It also must provide a detailed procedure for getting rid of bad actors.
- The Courts: State laws should guide judges to use the least restrictive option available when considering cases for guardianship, including supported decision making, and focus on court oversight and monitoring to help prevent abuse and exploitation.
AARP will continue to work, on a state by state basis, to urge policy makers to ramp up reform of the adult guardianship system because no elder should face abuse or exploitation, especially at the hand of the person tasked with their protection.
For now, if you suspect abuse of a protected individual by a guardian, here’s how to get help:
- People who witness any form of abuse should call 911.
- A state-by-state list of places to report elder abuse is available on the U.S. Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse website, ncea.aoa.gov, or by calling 800-677-1116.
- If you’re a caregiver, know the facts about managing your loved one’s money
If you have a story to share about your experience as a guardian for an older individual, we encourage you to visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.
To sign up for updates on AARP’s advocacy efforts in your state, click here.
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.