Thursday, December 12, 2013
Pennsylvania's Department of Aging (PDA) has made public a long-awaited report on "The State of Guardianships in Pennsylvania." PDA commissioned the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, to identify, research and analyze current approaches to guardianship around the state. Using a multi-faceted research design to collect information on current practices from a host of sources, CARIE was able to tackle some of the toughest systemic questions, including:
- How thoroughly are the rights of the Alleged Incompetent Person (AIP) protected when AIPs do not have legal representation 25% of the time, and the judges are inconsistent in appointment of counsel or insisting that AIP have counsel?
- How responsive is the state's guardianship system to ensuring the AIP's right to due process when in only 1% of the cases was the hearing for a guardianship held at the AIP's location?
How thorough is the guardianship hearing when the average hearing is only 34 minutes for uncontested hearings?
- How much is invested in the guardianship systems when the majority of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) staff that work with guardianship receive very little training specifically focusing on guardianship?
- How transparent is the guardianship process when only 57% of lawyers indicated that the entire guardianship hearing was held on the record?
- Are all avenues to alternative guardianship explored when 42% of lawyers indicated they had not been asked by the court to demonstrate they had explored alternatives to guardianship?
- Has guardianship become a defacto way to move someone into a nursing home when 42% of consumers are living in a nursing home 90 days after a guardianship appointment when the AAA is involved?
CARIE has made specific recommendations for changes to improve the Pennsylvania system (systems?) and thereby better protect the rights of vulnerable individuals. PDA seems to have made the decision not to publish CARIE's recommendations as part of the report, so we'll have to wait for a separate release. But, I suspect readers will get a strong idea of the recommendations from reading the report on CARIE's fact investigation. Feel free to add your reactions and comments below.
Thanks to Attorney Alissa Halperin, a co-director for the CARIE research team, for alerting us to the public release of the study.