Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Granny Snatching Promising to Be One Of The Most Lucrative Activities for 2011

Story By Ron Winter title by E.A.

Granny Snatching. What is it? It’s an ugly phrase and an uglier practice and it is increasingly affecting more and more American families.

Granny Snatching occurs when younger family members take custody of an elder relative under false pretenses, convince a judge to declare the elder person incompetent, allowing them to then force their aged relative into a nursing home or similar institution, and strip them of their assets. In the coming decades trillions of dollars will be at stake as America’s population ages, and we must prepare now to defend ourselves and our finances in the future.

We hear about these incidents when they involve rich or famous people with lots of money at stake, but not the day-to-day incidents involving regular folks with modest incomes or nest eggs. Yet according to advocates for the elderly, incidents of Granny Snatching are growing exponentially across the US and in Canada. With the first Baby Boomers turning 65 in March 2011, Granny Snatching is expected to quickly become one of the prime forms of elder abuse.

This is my first weekly column on Granny Snatching and related issues involving the elderly, including legal, nutritional, and financial and how these issues affect us all. My regular column will run Wednesdays.

Until exactly two years ago, I had no knowledge of these issues, but today marks the 2nd anniversary of my then 91-year-old mother’s move to my home in Connecticut. This created a nearly vertical learning curve on Granny Snatching and other matters affecting the elderly. I will do my best to pass on through these columns all that I have learned since Mom’s move to Connecticut.

Within 20 years nearly 80 million Americans will be aged 65 or over and they will have disposable incomes conservatively estimated to be in excess of $1 trillion annually. As a result elder Americans will have unprecedented opportunities, and unprecedented challenges, including keeping their freedom and their assets.

Until a couple of years ago I had no idea that Granny Snatching existed. But on December 14, 2008 I received a call from my older brother informing me that our mother had been hospitalized in Albany, New York suffering from disorientation and confusion. He said my mother, who had lived alone in the apartment she had shared with my father until he died 10 years earlier, should be placed in a nursing home. A family meeting would be held in a couple of weeks, he said, to determine her fate.

But my wife and I immediately agreed that my mother could move in with us to avoid the isolation and cost of nursing home care. We decided to go to the family meeting and make that offer, but three days later I received a phone message, from my brother-in-law this time, alerting me that my sister was at that moment finalizing the procedures to commit my mother to a nursing home that very day. If I wanted any input on the situation I must call before 3:30 p.m. – giving me roughly three hours to change the course of my mother’s future.

I called back and made the offer, which after some discussion was accepted. Five days later my mother was transported to my home in Connecticut by my sister and her family, along with a carload of her belongings. We had dismantled my home office and turned it back into a bedroom for my mother’s use and the transition seemed smooth. Mom had been told – at my insistence – exactly what was going on, and she agreed that living with us was a far better alternative than life in a nursing home.

A week later my brother arrived with another carload of my mother’s belongings minus one major item – her checkbook. Mom had discovered on Christmas Day that my sister, who had Power of Attorney, had kept Mom’s checkbook, and had no intention of giving it back. They argued several times during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day with no resolution.

Meanwhile, we had made another important discovery – that virtually all of my mother’s maladies were caused by poor nutrition and sleep deprivation. Mom’s discharge form from the hospital said she suffered from Hypokalemia – potassium deficiency, and dehydration. Both can cause confusion, disorientation, memory loss and other symptoms that can be confused for dementia or Alzheimer’s. She also suffered from hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid often caused by a lack of iodine in the diet.

We cut her intake of caffeine, which can cause dehydration, substituting herbal tea or decaffeinated coffer for her afternoon and evening drinks, created a daily menu that included a balance of nutrients, and gave her a daily multi-vitamin/mineral tablet.

Within a week Mom’s entire demeanor dramatically changed for the better. But the impasse with my sister continued and on New Year’s Day 2009 my mother rescinded the Power of Attorney status she had awarded to my sister and then things went from bad to worse. Within three weeks my sister filed a lawsuit in Supreme Court in New York, claiming my mother suffered from and had been treated for Alzheimer’s and dementia. She said Mom was incapable of even the most rudimentary of daily functions, much less handling her own finances. She claimed Mom shouldn’t come to court to defend herself because Mom’s mind was so terribly deteriorated that she wouldn’t be able to understand the proceedings. There wasn’t a truthful allegation in the entire lawsuit.

Mom ended up enduring a grueling day in court, and won her freedom, proving that my siblings and their children who also ganged up on her were wrong. But that didn’t end the abuse. My siblings and their children immediately began making false claims to the State of Connection Department of Social Services that Mom was being abused and in physical danger by living in my home.

Each complaint, coming sometimes on a monthly basis, resulted in new investigations, in which we were cleared of all charges each time, along with new stresses and issues for my family. Mom is still with us, has fought off each of these challenges successfully, and her case is now triggering a review of Connecticut’s elder law. She will turn 94 in January, and hopefully before next summer her persistence will have created a much better legal environment for Connecticut’s elderly.

I’ll keep you posted.


Steve Lanning said...

Very informative, Ron,
I'm sorry you had to go through what you went through, but thank the Lord, you had the tenacity and means to fight.

Question: With all the false allegations flying from your sister and family, were there any laws broken by their falsifying data or charges that can be made?

Appreciate your input.

jessah gomez said...

thank God that you were able to save your mother from the savage ulterior motives of your sister and her family. exactly what your sister is after for was the finances of your mom. what comes into my mind is that is she really your sister in the first place i mean biologically?