Friday, December 05, 2008

Powers of Attorney, Elder Justice, Help Hiring Helpers, and No More Minnesota Nice

New Report on Powers of Attorney (POAs)

On Thursday, AARP’s Public Policy Institute released Power of Attorney Abuse: What States Can Do About It. Written by Lori Stiegel and Ellen Klem of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, the 89-page document compares state laws on POAs and highlights measures that offer special protections against abuse, which include:

Clear statements of agents’ duties to act in good faith, within the scope of their authority, and according to principals’ expectations or best interests; and to follow principals’ estate plans, keep careful records, and cooperate with health care proxies.

Special language used to signal “hot powers,” particularly risky or questionable actions like changing beneficiaries.

Provisions permitting third parties to refuse to honor POAs when there's good reason to believe they’re being used to commit abuse and requiring the parties to report to APS.

Requiring those that have used POAs to misappropriate property or assets to pay it back.

Imposing sanctions for those who refuse to accept legitimate POAs.

In a USA Today article about the report, Naomi Karp, strategic policy adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute, offered the following advice to anyone who's considering executing a POA:
Don't give anyone, even a child or spouse, POA unless you thoroughly trust that person with your finances.

Consider requiring the person who has POA to periodically report to a third party, such as your lawyer or another family member.

Make sure other family members know who has your POA so they can be on the lookout for misconduct.

The report also describes strategies for advocates who want to improve their states' POA laws. Copies are available at Power of Attorney Abuse: What States Can Do About It.

Give a Shout to the New Administration
Marie-Therese (MT) Connolly, Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (and former Coordinator of DOJ’s Elder Justice and Nursing Home Initiative) is circulating a proposal urging the new Administration to appoint high-level special advisors on elder justice at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to help set priorities and work with Congress and stakeholders around 3 priorities:
Improve research, evaluation, and data collection;

Enhance interventions and responses; and

Increase public awareness

Questions can be directed to MT at

New Web Site to Help Hire In-home Helpers
Safe Help in Your Home is a new Web site created by Lynn Loar and Jane Tamagna to guide people through the process of screening, hiring, and managing in-home aides. The content is slated for inclusion in their forthcoming book And You Thought Talking to Your Parents About Sex Was Hard—Finding Out What Your Parents Want toward the End of Their Lives. Lynn Loar is a licensed clinical social worker with expertise in abuse and neglect across the lifespan and Jane Tamagna is a social issues editor who has worked for the Bureau of National Affairs and is on the faculty of American University's School of Public Affairs.

The site is for people who are thinking of hiring in-home help for themselves, relatives, or friends; for care providers who want to show clients that they’re capable, trustworthy and responsible; and for agencies that want to provide capable, trustworthy, and responsible aides to clients.

What’s unique about Loar's and Tamagna’s tools, which include comprehensive checklists, are that they go beyond the standard steps (e.g. references, criminal background checks, etc.) to address such common-sense yet critical concerns as matching clients' and caregivers' personality types to avoid conflict. They also advise employers to check child and sex abuser registries and ask potential employees for copies of credit histories and DMV files. Their work draws from their experiences in the field of child abuse prevention, which is significantly ahead of ours in this arena, and they respond (justifiably, if not too gently) to common excuses and justifications they’ve heard from our ranks for why we don’t do more (“It’s too expensive,” “Aren’t we exposing ourselves to more liability by digging deeply? etc.).
Visit the site at Safe Help in Your Home. For more on elder abuse by paid caregivers, see Abuse by Paid Caregivers.

No More “Minnesota Nice"
As a native Minnesotan, I got a kick out of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s anti-scam campaign, “No More Minnesota Nice,” which warns Minnesotans about lottery and sweepstakes scams. I’d assumed that the point of the campaign was to urge us Minnesotans to eschew our notorious niceness and hang up on fraudsters as quickly as possible or tell them where to go. Which makes sense since criminal telemarketers know that the longer they can keep someone on the phone, the more likely they’ll be able to complete a scam. But the campaign’s promotional materials fall short of actually promoting or scripting rudeness. So, I thought I'd do it for them:

“The next time you’re contacted by a telemarketer, just say “!!#$%!!#!!”

I hope I haven’t offended.

For more on mass marketing fraud, see Mass Marketing Fraud.

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