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How to Prevent State Intervention in Elder Care

Q: In the case of my mother, how can someone prevent the state of Florida’s DCF from entering someone’s life, taking away their home and entire livelihood without making any effort to locate loved ones or those who cared about her most? I was on deployment to Germany for 13 months prior to retirement from the military. Unmarried and without children, my only living relative was my mother, 69 years old, who lived alone in the home in which I grew up as an only child. My father passed away four years prior to my deployment. Upon returning from Germany, I was confronted by the worst nightmare, one that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Upon returning home, I was stopped at the front door by a married couple.  After introducing myself, the couple informed me they had bought my mother’s  home seven months earlier from the guardian of an elderly woman who was in the state’s care. Shocked, I immediately began calling various state agencies to locate my mom.  Although I didn’t stay in touch with her during my deployment, I never imagined my life would turn upside down in such a short time. I had been deployed worldwide many times throughout my military career and had always returned home without incident. After locating the agency, Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), I learned my mother had fallen and was unable to get up.  She was found two days following her fall by a neighbor who heard her yelling and crying. The neighbor peered through a window and immediately recognized my mother needed help and called 911. The police and ambulance arrived, entered the home and carried mom to a hospital emergency room. She was diagnosed with dementia, partial blindness and a broken hip. When DCF learned of her condition, the agency petitioned the court to appoint a Professional Guardian. DCF informed the court that my mother said she had a son, didn’t know of his whereabouts and had not seen or heard from him in a while. The guardian informed the court that because of my mother’s physical disability, partial blindness, mental incapacity and condition of her home, she should be placed in assisted living without any hope of ever returning home. The guardian found neither care documents nor information of the whereabouts of any loved ones. In order to pay for my mother’s living expenses and medical expenses, the guardian sold my mom’s home, liquidated her bank accounts, set up a trust account to pay the guardian’s compensation, assisted living facility, medical costs and subsequently my mom’s cremation. My mom died shortly before my return from Germany.

Q: In my case, how do you prevent the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) from taking away your mother’s home and entire livelihood without any effort to locate her loved ones who cared about her the most?

I was on deployment to Germany for 13 months before retiring from the military. I am unmarried without children, so my only living relative was my mother, 69 years old, who lived alone in the home I grew up in as an only child. My father had passed away four years before my deployment. I finally returned from Germany and was confronted by my worst nightmare.

Upon returning home, I was stopped at the front door by a married couple. After I introduced myself, the couple informed me they had bought my mother’s home seven months earlier from the guardian of an elderly woman who lived under the state’s care. Shocked, I immediately began calling various state agencies to locate my mom. Although I did not stay in touch with her during my deployment, I never imagined my life would turn upside down so soon. I was deployed worldwide many times throughout my military career and had always returned home without incident.

After locating the agency, DCF, I learned my mother had fallen and could not get up. She was found two days later by a neighbor who heard her yelling and crying. The neighbor peered through a window, immediately recognized my mother needed help and called 911. The police and ambulance arrived, entered the home, and carried mom to a hospital emergency room. She was diagnosed with dementia, partial blindness, and a broken hip. After DCF learned of her condition, the agency petitioned the court to appoint her a Professional Guardian. DCF informed the court that my mother said she had a son but did not know his whereabouts and had not seen or heard from him in a while.

The guardian informed the court that between my mom’s physical disability, including partial blindness, mental incapacity, and the condition of her home, she should move to assisted living without any hope of ever returning home. The guardian found neither care documents nor information on the whereabouts of any loved ones. To pay for my mom’s living and medical expenses, the guardian sold my mom’s home, liquidated her bank accounts, and set up a trust account to pay for her medical costs, assisted living facility, cremation fees, and the guardian’s compensation. My mom died shortly before my return from Germany.

A: It is the responsibility of the individual, not the state, to provide essential documents with directives and contact information about loved ones to the state in case of tragedy or incapacity. Contact an estate planning attorney and prepare care documents to prevent this from happening to you, your family, or others. Kristen M. Jackson is the founding partner of Jackson Law PA (407-363-9020).  She is experienced in estate planning, real estate law, business and contract law. Her firm has earned an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell signifying the highest level of professional excellence as obtained through opinions from members of the bar and judiciary.

Written by Kristen Jackson

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