Orlando Sentinel’s recent article, “DeSantis, Florida lawmakers consider changes in troubled guardianship program,” reports that legislative leaders and officials of Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration met with judges, guardianship trade groups, state attorneys and people from the Elder Law section of the Florida Bar to talk about ways to protect seniors from exploitative or neglectful guardians.
“More must be done to enhance the structure of accountability for guardians to monitor compliance with established standards of practice and ensure that guardians are acting in the best interests of their wards,” Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said. “The matter is complex, and the solution extends beyond the Department of Elder Affairs; families, local communities, and public officials must also work together to prevent all forms of exploitation to provide safety and security for all.” Elder law attorneys can be very helpful.
The recent news concerning guardian Rebecca Fierle, who investigators say was responsible for more than 400 wards and regularly signed “Do Not Resuscitate” orders for clients against their wishes, has rekindled interest among lawmakers for more control over Florida’s 550 registered guardians.
Senator Kathleen Passidomo and Representative Colleen Burton participated in the meeting and said some of the ideas being discussed include limiting the number of cases each guardian has and requiring a judge to approve a DNR order. Other ideas include increased standards for guardians and more thorough monitoring.
The lawmakers say there’s no need to increase the requirements to become a guardian. All that is required now is a 40-hour course and passing an exam. Passidomo said the issue isn’t a lack of competence, but the risk for abuse.
As a result, standards and monitoring of guardians must be increased. However, these ideas are merely being discussed, as lawmakers have yet to present a concrete plan.
Governor DeSantis will publish a budget request for the Department of Elder Affairs, which includes the Office of Public and Professional Guardians, which could include more funds for investigators to review complaints. The OPPG has only four employees. Prudom has taken control of the department since July, when he asked Carol Berkowitz, the agency’s executive director, to resign because of the Fierle case.
Reference: Orlando Sentinel (September 16, 2019) “DeSantis, Florida lawmakers consider changes in troubled guardianship program”