Jennifer Warner commented on Share Your Story 2015-09-17 02:24:42 -0700A Grandmother in Peril
By Jennifer Warner
I desperately fear for my 100-year-old grandmother’s well being. She lives in Sonora, CA (Northern California, east of Modesto). As a child, she rescued me from foster care and took me in as her own, but now my hands are tied so that I cannot take care of her when she needs me the most. The person who has tied them is a man of nearly absolute power: he controls the very air that she breathes and the food she is allowed to eat. He is her court-appointed Conservator and is set to control her estate once she dies. Until then, he controls her food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and in-home personal care. As he himself has proudly declared, he “basically controls her life.”
This man was trusted with his lofty position due to a family conflict over how my grandmother’s money would be used to pay for her growing care needs. He came with an impressive sounding title—California licensed professional fiduciary—and was touted as a fair and neutral third-party who would help diffuse the conflict. He was given the job only after an extensive interview process, during which he represented to me that I could continue caring for my grandmother on a day-to-day basis and could continue supervising her medical care. Once he had the job, he drastically changed course. During the month of November 2014, he isolated my grandmother from her family. We had to come at certain times of the day, and all of our visits had to be closely monitored by privately paid caregivers who reported back to the Conservator. One of those caregivers put towels in my grandmother’s windows so that no one could see in. The Conservator also instructed the caregivers to unplug my grandmother’s phone for most of the day.
On Dec. 2nd, the Conservator arranged for liquid morphine—a powerful respiratory depressant—to be delivered to her home to help with respiratory distress, which none of her family members could detect. He instructed her caregivers to administer the morphine “as needed” for her supposed respiratory distress. He was undeterred by the fact that they were not medical professionals and some had never even given morphine before. In fact, he boldly insisted that he himself could put the morphine in her mouth—despite the fact that he has no medical training other than basic first aid. Had the morphine been given to my grandmother, her precious life may have been cut short.
Deeply troubled, I filed a report with Tuolumne County Adult Protective Services. APS forwarded my report to the Court Investigator in the Probate Court that appointed the Conservator. I went to local law enforcement, and they also determined that my concerns needed to be handled by the Probate Court. I filed a complaint with the Conservator’s state licensing board, and an investigator requested a copy of the Court Investigator’s report to help her figure out what to do. I received one message loud and clear: only the Court should monitor its own.
Meanwhile, the Court Investigator assured me that she would look into my concerns and would present her findings to the Probate Court Judge. She went on to craft a report that fully supported her colleague, the Conservator. Just recently, it was confirmed that the Court Investigator did not even investigate the facts underlying my concerns, but, instead, reported information that was favorable to the Conservator—even when much of this information had not been corroborated. Despite my several requests to change Conservators, the Judge has kept this Conservator in power. And, yes, she gave great weight to the Court Investigator’s report.
In explaining the reason for the morphine, the Conservator stated that my grandmother had less than a month to live. I was not allowed to verify this prediction because he had taken away my ability to communicate freely with my grandma’s medical professionals. However, when I observed my grandmother, I saw no significant decline and so I intervened so that she would not receive the morphine. When I finally could speak to the medical staff, they had no idea where the Conservator’s dire prediction came from and they explained that the morphine had been prescribed only as a precaution.
Nine months later, my grandmother is still alive and proclaiming that she wants to hit 101. Yet protecting her delicate life continues to be a struggle. The Conservator finally gave up on the administration of morphine, but, since then, I have witnessed a whole host of other suspicious happenings.
My grandmother is supposed to be on 24/7 oxygen, yet her oxygen has sometimes been left off for extended periods of time and her oxygen level allowed to plummet. Rather than showing concern about her falling oxygen levels, the Conservator implemented restrictions on how often family members could check her oxygen level.
On two different occasions, my grandmother had a medical emergency, but neither the Conservator nor the caregivers called 9-1-1. It is probable that the first was a mini-stroke, but the Conservator would not allow the test that would have confirmed this diagnosis. And the caregivers who were on duty at the time refused to answer any questions about what happened. Her quality of life has not been the same since.
My grandmother has also been confined to her bed for over four months—even though the doctor keeps saying that it is safe for her to be helped out of bed and she has two caregivers on duty around the clock. A woman who used to walk miles a day and is still strong enough to stand now spends her days looking at the walls of her bedroom. Not only is she missing out on some of life’s simple pleasures, being bedridden puts her at risk for several medical problems, such as pneumonia, bedsores, and muscle atrophy.
When I speak up about these troubling occurrences, the Conservator ignores me. According to him, I need to stay in my place and be “just a granddaughter.” Never mind that my grandmother raised an assertive woman who is now a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Care Manager, specializing in older adults. I must learn to submit to the authority of a man who took a 30-hour course and passed a two-hour licensing exam.
And I already know what will happen if I bring my ongoing concerns to the attention of one of the agencies charged with protecting older adults. Any report will boomerang back to the Probate Court to investigate one of its own. So the Conservator keeps his job and escapes accountability. My grandmother’s health is continually at risk. And I cannot escape constant worry and stress. I receive my mandate to look out for my grandmother from a Higher Authority, and no Conservator—and no Court—can take that away from me. And so I muster the courage to share my story and, in so doing, I hope to regain some of my personal power.
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