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Using guardianship reform to end elder abuse

Guardians are usually chosen to make decisions for people who are unable to make decisions for themselves, typically young children, seniors or incapacitated adults. In New Jersey, guardians can help make decisions regarding medical care, purchases, education and finances. However, when guardians abuse their power, the person in their care is often unable to do anything to protect him or herself.

Because of that, elder abuse and questions of guardianship reform are on the minds of lawmakers across the United States.

One of the main issues is the plight of disabled and elderly individuals who have experienced abuse while in state guardianship programs. People who have been declared incapacitated by the courts are often abused and exploited by their court-appoint caregivers, and they are usually unable to respond. Subsequently, their life savings is often spent in legal battles trying to get out of the bad guardianship.

Activists have called for federal intervention in the guardianship system. Many people think guardianship reform is the best way to stop the abuse and financial exploitation of elderly and disabled people who are unable to take care of themselves.

Some lawmakers have heard the message and are moving toward proposing new government regulations to reform guardianship programs and end abusive practices. Those supporting guardianship reform continue to organize meetings and to publicize their efforts. They are pushing for new protections for people who are unable to care for themselves and who rely on court-appointed guardians to help manage their affairs.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Rep. Ted Poe, Texas, advocates urge guardianship reform to prevent elder abuse," 15 June 2011

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