Monday, January 10, 2011

Mentor Man Fighting For Elder Rights

By Tracey Read

Tom Fields' father lay dying in a hospital bed in Florida on a morphine drip for cancer.

Fields, a Mentor resident, believes that during his final hours his father was the victim of financial elder abuse by people close to him.

He said his father's wishes about his property were altered as a new will was written.

"People took advantage of my father and got him to sign a document," Fields said.

"There was no protection against this. A protocol could have stopped that."

Fields is now an independent advocate fighting to get laws passed to protect families in similar situations.

"Nothing here in Ohio holds abusers accountable," he said. "My main focus is to keep people out of the court system, which is basically taking advantage of people who are victims."

Fields' first step was writing the Ohio Department of Aging to ask it to create task forces looking at elder abuse issues and how to prevent them.

He also proposed a step-by-step list of protocols for hospitals to follow to prevent financial abuse:

* The first step would be to create a checklist of conditions in which patients are most likely to be taken advantage of — those on morphine drips, in a coma, Alzheimer's patients.

* Before an attorney could have the patient sign anything, an independent, trained examiner would first examine the patient to determine whether they are competent to make important legal decisions.

* The independent examiner would go to the patient's room to ask open-ended questions to collect evidence.

"An example would be asking the patient, ‘Do you have any legal or financial business you would like to conduct?' " Fields said. "Sometimes, the patient is misled. They're told (a will) is a birthday card and they sign it."

* Compare the documents to make sure they say what the patient wants them to say.

"Don't wait until the person is dead to make sure their wishes are carried out," Fields added.

Fields, who has testified before the Ohio Elder Abuse Commission and spoken out against a state Senate bill before a House committee, is also hoping lawmakers allow people the right to include statements in their wills saying any changes to their wills can be voided if they are later proved incompetent.

"I want to give the person the ability to control his or her own affairs," he said.

Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman Beverley Laubert said Fields' efforts aren't going unnoticed.

State ombudsmen, who field complaints about long-term care services and voice clients' needs and concerns to nursing homes, are working on several possible solutions to elder abuse issues involving finances.

"We hope to give probate judges the authority to freeze assets when it looks like financial exploitation is taking place," Laubert said.

"We'd also like to add employers of banks and financial planners to the list of mandatory reporters of those who suspect exploitation.

"We just need to find a sponsor with the new General Assembly. I'm hoping we're going to make progress. Tom is a very strong advocate.

"I'm not sure everything we have will address his concerns, but it's a step in the right direction."

I invite anyone who wants to discuss with me this report to contact me, Tom Fields, by calling me at 440/255-7693 or e-mailing me at I am especially interested in providing others more information about needed safeguards, expecially the 5-step interview protocol which I have described for the Elder Abuse Commission.

Additional Comments by Mr. Tom Field:

Meanwhile, I'd like to address the comment submitted on Jan 6, 2011 which asks if I have proof of what I allege. Not only do I have that proof, but for many years now I have exhibited that proof online so as to share it with others.

This proof consists of the transcripts of the sworn testimony of those involved in the case, including the defendant, doctors, and lawyers. See, for example, the testimony of the doctor who started my father on the morphine drip which begins at and is summarized at:

Additional evidence is linked at:

Finally, as for that reader’s suggestion that I "retain a lawyer in or an investigator in Florida to look into it", I hope it is clear that this evidence was collected by Florida attorneys whom I retained to represent the estate. I also hope that reader and others might be interested in the following private opinion of Florida police detective Joe Roubicek "“The obvious contradictions abound and one would wonder what the judge was thinking. As for the lawmakers and what they can do about it … You've suggested putting specific safeguards in place … it seems to me that in your case there is no way that your father should have been recognized as having capacity while in his deathbed. There should have been laws in place to prevent that and prevent any judge from doing what this one did”. Detective Roubicek works in the county next to where my father died and is the author of the book "Financial Abuse of the Elderly: A Detective's Case Files of Exploitation Crimes". As he describes in Chapter 6 of his book, he helped bring about the current criminal code (FSA 825.103) which defines exploitation and makes it a crime.

No comments: