Monthly case histories about the real guardianship experience
Guardianship Spotlight:
Robin Phemister, Professional Guardian
Robin Phemister
How I Became Involved in Guardianship

My background is in accounting, bookkeeping, office management and real estate. In 2010, I was a  director with Business Network International (BNI) and trained members on how to network and  develop their networking teams. At that time the real estate industry was in a bit of a slump and a  family member of mine, who worked with a professional guardian, asked if I could help out with some  accounting/bookkeeping tasks for some of their wards. It didn't take long for me to "get the bug" and I  realized that guardianship and case management was everything that I have done in the past rolled into  one. My interactions with their clients were so much about educating and guiding them through  difficult situations and reassuring them about plans being put into place for their needs, whether  financial, emotional or physical. My real estate background was very helpful in terms of the  understanding of the contract process, education and time sensitivity, because in that field I was also in  a position to protect my clients through their purchase or sale. That same year my aunt completed her  professional guardian qualifications. She and the guardian we worked with were a great source of  encouragement for me to pursue what was quickly being realized as my calling.

In 2011, I completed the professional guardianship course and obtained a national guardian certification  as well. I wanted to get more connected and reached out to a local FSGA chapter and found that the  Space Coast Chapter in Melbourne was inactive. So I collaborated with a few board members to assist in  getting the chapter back up and running. I served as the President of the FSGA Space Coast Chapter  from October 2012 through July 2015. We now have more than 20 members and the chapter is doing well to  serve guardians and the community.
Honoring a client's dying wishes

I had a ward in his late 80's that was an ex-Merchant Marine who did deep dive recovery missions, the most disturbing of which was to retrieve bodies. Now, he was a frail man with a rough, gruff personality who was experiencing the challenges of dementia and acute renal failure. While he did have a tender side deep down, on the surface he used foul language, was extremely prejudiced and generally unkind to most people that cared for him.

He wasn't safe at home and it became necessary for him to receive more help, so we helped him move to an assisted community where his wife was a resident of the memory care unit. He showed his softer side by wanting to be close by so he could check in on her and see that she was okay, even though she could no longer recognize him.

Most of the time he was pretty offensive to the staff and we wouldn't have been surprised if he didn't get the best level of care, because he didn't appreciate what was being done for him. However, as a credit to the staff they stepped back and looked at him for the person he was and they did an admirable job.

At one point, he began to refuse his dialysis treatments. He wound up in the hospital and eventually it was his wish that we engage hospice, knowing his timeline would be very short. He was ready to be discharged from the hospital, but wasn't quite at the point where he would meet the requirement for 24/7 hospice attendants. Meanwhile the assisted living facility demanded that he would need a CNA or nurse with him at all times and he didn't like that option or the potential cost. That's when he asked, "Why can't I just go home to die?"

His home had been vacant and jointly owned by his wife. My husband and I scurried to the house to start cleaning and wait for the hospital bed to be delivered. One of the women that works with me did some grocery shopping to pick up essentials and some of his favorite things. We were able to bring in hospice and have companions with him that catered to his every need.

We knew about his Muslim faith, but he didn't practice it regularly. He wasn't interested in visitors to share his faith, but the companions respected him enough to read from the Koran until he was no longer engaging with them. About one week later, his organs were shutting down, but his eyebrows would raise when they were reading to him. We knew he was listening.

This was an awakening for us to be very sensitive about spirituality because it's too easy to get comfortable and complacent about it. One of the companions had done some research and asked me if she could dress him in all white and point the hospital bed toward Mecca. We don't know whether he knew this was going on but it was explained to him as it was being done.

He died peacefully at home with his spiritual wishes respected. He could have died in a cold hospital bed, but we had the ability to honor his wishes. Although he was tough to be around, as a guardian you have to dig deep and respect that some of it is the disease and some is the personality, but he deserved every bit of respect and dignity we could give to him, because it's the right thing to do.

It is easier to get the basic guardianship job done and harder to accomplish a client's wishes, but it made all the difference to him and ultimately to us!
What question do I get asked the most?

"What is guardianship going to cost?

The fees vary from region to region and guardian to guardian, so it's a question I'm not able to answer  specifically. I try to give a breakdown of customary fees and the review process enabling the clerk's office and  judges to make sure the tasks, the time associated with the work and the fees are appropriate. In my office  we always try to be as cost-efficient as possible and look for opportunities to save our clients' money.
What is a good tip for those selecting a guardian?
Light Bulb

If you have the luxury of time, I would encourage talking to and meeting with guardians you are considering, as well as their staff. It is very much about relationships and in a lot of cases, you are choosing a guardian for life. In most situations the guardian is not a family member and not someone that the ward had a relationship with. Having a good personality fit could work well. Guardians are trained to work with many people, diseases and circumstances, but a good relationship between guardian, staff members and family members can mean everything to the ward.

- Robin
We hope these articles are informative for you. Please keep in mind  that some of the views expressed are not necessarily the opinions or  philosophies of other FSGA members. We recommend hiring a guardian  that is a good fit for you.
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