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(PA) Casey: We Must Strengthen Safeguards That Protect Seniors From Financial Abuse

Hearing Examines Exploitation of Seniors Under Guardian Care

Westmoreland County Guardianship Supervisor: Providing Excellent Guardianship Services Should Be An Expectation, Not An Exception!

Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing, “Abuse of Power: Exploitation of Older Americans by Guardians and Others they Trust.” During the hearing, Sen. Casey examined the current state of the guardianship system and discussed ways to protect those under a guardian’s care.


Guardianship is governed by state law and is a relationship created when a court determines an individual is no longer capable of making important decisions about their life, property or finances and another person is granted the authority to make those decisions for them. According to the National Center for State Courts, there are approximately 1.3 million adult guardianship cases in the United States and an estimated $50 billion in assets under guardianship.


“While guardianship is supposed to be protective, and might sometimes be necessary, it can also bring a loss of rights,” said Senator Casey. “In order to protect seniors and people with disabilities we must ensure that the guardianship system is working on behalf of those under its care. We must all work together to ensure that guidelines are in place for properly vetting and performing background checks on all guardians.” 


Recently, there have been recent reports of bad actors taking advantage of the guardianship system. Guardianship experts commonly cite the following problems: a lack of proper monitoring and oversight of guardians, insufficient state resources to protect individuals subject to guardianship and barriers that prevent an individual from having their rights restored.


Denise Flannigan, from Westmoreland County, PA, testified before the committee at the invitation of Sen. Casey. Denise is the Guardianship Unit Supervisor at the Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Denise’s unit serves up to 80 clients as their Power of Attorney or guardian, and makes life decisions involving daily living tasks, housing, medical treatment and end of life care. As Denise stated during her testimony, “We are hopeful that this attention into guardianship issues helps in establishing the additional safeguards needed to protect all older adults under guardianship.”