I was responsible for establishing
funding for Florida's court-appointed public guardians w
hen a story was published that became my
poster child for our efforts. Even though years have passed since the story, my passion for seeking that funding has never wavered.
In 2008, 85 year old Ronald Larsen, autistic and with dementia, was a
resident at a nursing home in Manatee County,
when a lesion was discovered on his face by a public guardian visiting another person
. The lesion had not been properly treated and
it became extremely odorous. He couldn't be treated until a
guardian was hired to approve surgery for him. So the person who
discovered his wound became his emergency temporary guardian, got him
the proper treatment and he eventually recovered.
Later, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) concluded that one of
its investigators had not been aggressive enough in seeking treatment for Mr. Larsen before the guardian discovered him. A
fter all of the negative attention Mr. Larsen's nursing home received, the facility eventually closed.
The case didn't sway the Florida legislature to provide additional funding,
but it did result in a gift of more than $47,000 to the Manatee-DeSoto
public guardian office from
The Foundation for Indigent Guardianship, Inc, a
non-profit group that raised money for public
guardianship through the statewide public guardianship office.
The case also resulted in DCF implementing new protocols on handling
medical neglect cases. For example, case investigators are now required to
photograph any medical condition that could be related to neglect.
My mission to help secure funding for public guardianship has included
my testimony in front of the United States Senate Subcommittee on
Aging about the effectiveness of guardianship monitoring. I also serve
as a board member of the Florida State Guardianship
Association (FSGA). Through it all, and as an Elder Law Attorney in Boca
Raton, I see the anguish, time and expense that families go through
when a loved one needs a guardian. So it's important for people to
realize that planning ahead can help them avoid guardianship
For example, completing your advance directives, which a) express your own
instructions for your financial and medical care in case you become incapacitated,
and b) appoints your designated health care surrogate to communicate
those instructions, is much less expensive and time consuming than
going through guardianship.
It's not easy to see a family go through the guardianship process, but it is good
to be a part of a profession that provides good people and
resources to assist those who are incapacitated and allows them do as well as they possibly
can, as demonstrated in the Larsen case.