An October 2017 article in the New Yorker, “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights,” tells the under-reported story of how guardianship practices without safeguards can lead to an institutionalized system of abuse, rather than protection, for the vulnerable senior population.
One-and-a-half million adults in the United States are under the care of guardians, either in the form of family members or paid professionals. Guardians are appointed by courts to protect and serve people who are considered “incapacitated.” They are entrusted to manage every aspect of a person's life, including their health care and their money.
But guardians don’t always have the best interests of their charges in mind. In 2013, the New Yorker reported how April Parks, a professional guardian, visited Rudy and Rennie North in the couple’s Las Vegas home. Parks informed a stunned Rudy and Rennie that she had a court order to move them to an assisted living facility, while her assistant threatened to call the police if they refused to leave. Without telling their daughter Julie, Parks whisked the Norths away. In just 35 minutes, their lives changed forever.
In Clark County, Nevada, where the Norths lived, it was routine for guardians to petition for temporary guardianship without even notifying the alleged incapacitated person. When Parks petitioned later to make the Norths’ temporary guardianships permanent, her request was granted after a cursory 10-minute hearing. Parks then sold off much of the Norths’ assets — including Renoir lithographs and Rudy’s prized car — and transferred their savings to her own account.
Parks was later indicted on more than 200 felony charges.