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Take No Prisoners

The Santa Clara County Public Guardian's Office (San Jose) is under fire following allegations that the office seized control of elders' assets - including their homes - secretly confined them in nursing homes and refused to let relatives visit them or even know their locations. 

In effect, the elders were kidnapped. The elders were not being physically or financially abused, neglected, or mistreated; in fact, they were exercising their right to live at home under the care of those they love.

Nevertheless, the agency convinced a judge to grant exclusive control over these elders' lives and finances, with minimal to no evidence that they were in danger. Also concerning is a report stating that the Public Guardian can't account for more than $72 million in assets belonging to its elderly wards.

For news reports detailing these allegations, click here.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) recently released a report on the growing problem of nursing homes and assisted living facilities falsely imprisoning elderly residents they deem incapable of making their own decisions. The rationale is that the residents must be kept safe from harm - even though a federal court ruled more than 40 years ago that nursing homes have no special right to keep people locked up against their will.

The report concludes: "All adults have the right not to be locked in long term care facilities. That includes people with disabilities and those with dementia. Only a court of law can deprive an adult of the right to move freely about the world."

The Santa Clara County allegations demonstrate that even those legally empowered to keep an elderly resident confined can abuse that power.

If a loved one is being prevented from leaving a long-term care facility against his or her will, you should consult an elder law attorney to discuss your options.