Thanks to Ronni Bennett, of Time Goes By (http://www.timegoesby.net), I've read a very disturbing story from the Boston Globe entitled "Courts strip elders of their independence," subtitled "Within minutes, judges send seniors to supervised care" (see link below).
It seems that Dawn Cromwell, 73, is a virtual prisoner in a nursing home twenty months after what was supposed to be a short rehabilitation stay for a broken ankle. She is in a category called "unbefriended elders"--people who lack relatives or even friends to serve as their guardians. A nursing home doctor's short, nearly illegible diagnosis led to her being declared mentally ill by a judge and assigned to an overworked and/or imcompetent guardian. Dawn is apparently not mentally ill, or at least not seriously so.
Imagine the horror of finding oneself forgotten, with an alarm device strapped to an ankle to prevent escape, virtually no clothes, no prescription eyeglasses, no information about the medications she's forced to take. She can't even find out what happened to her apartment and her possessions.
Before you dismiss this as just an unfortunate mistake made in the Massachusetts probate courts, read the complete article. When you're young, it may be easy to dismiss such a story, or to believe that most elders are demented and incompetent to manage their own affairs. However, as we get older, we need to think about such things. If you're fortunate enough to have a loving family, or even loyal friends, nearby, you can probably avoid such tragedies. However, some of us are not so lucky.
At the very least, every senior should be sure to have a living will, grant power of attorney, especially for health care decisions, and maintain a safe place to keep this and all other personal information. It's time to think about who will take charge in case of emergency.
This article should serve as a wakeup call for anyone who doesn't recognize the perils of aging, or anyone who plans to rely on the government and the court system as the ultimate care giver. No elder, anywhere, deserves to end up in Dawn Cromwell's situation.
Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne