FL Senate Considering Restrictions For Elder Guardians

Jan 15, 2016

Elder guardian legislation is headed for the Senate floor.
Credit Flip Schulke, U.S. National Archives And Records Administration

The conversation around elder abuse typically revolves around nursing homes.  But one lawmaker is fighting a very different kind of mistreatment.

Florida has more seniors than other state according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The elderly make up nearly one fifth of the state’s population.  But that large retired community is an attractive target for predators.  Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) says the stakes are high for Florida’s seniors, and that’s why she’s filed legislation to protect them from guardian abuse.

“You can’t even imagine the power that’s given to a guardian,” Detert says.  “Once you’re assigned a guardian, your guardian is in charge of your bank statements your checkbook, your healthcare, your doctor appointments.”

The state already regulates public guardians appointed by the court, but private actors don’t face the same scrutiny.  Detert says this leaves the elderly vulnerable.

“They have been accosted by predators who have sought them out in Naples, Palm Beach, Sarasota—all the wealthy communities,” she says.  “They’re targeting elders because this is an unregulated—the private guardians are totally unregulated.”

“This is from Pensacola to Miami.” Doug Franks says.  “It’s from Maine to San Diego, it’s nationwide and something needs to be done.”

Franks is from Atlanta, Georgia and he came to before a Senate panel to speak in favor of Detert’s proposal.  He was on the way to visit his mother.

“My mother has spent over one million dollars.” Franks says.  “She spends a thousand dollars a day to stay in her home.”   

“I will see her after this—not on Friday, because I’m not allowed to, court ordered,” he goes on.  “I will see her Saturday and Sunday and she will pay $600 to see me, for a supervisor to take notes.”

And he says the cost of those visits adds up.

“My mom has already paid $30,000 in these supervised visits,” Franks says.

Detert’s plan would give family members recourse if they believe a guardian is taking advantage of their ward.  The measure directs the Department of Elder Affairs to develop a system for monitoring private guardians and responding to allegations of misconduct.  The measure is headed for the Senate floor and it has bipartisan support—drawing Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner and former Senate President Gwen Margolis as co-sponsors.