FORT MYERS — When grandparents reach the end of their lives, many families don’t have the time or resources to take care of them. That’s why many choose to assign a professional guardian to take care of them, but sometimes, that decision can go horribly wrong. We spoke to a Cape Coral woman who said her grandmother was stolen from her in a court of law, and we’re also hearing from a state senator trying to keep it from happening to others.
Today, all that Angela Fagg has left of her grandmother can now fit on her kitchen table.
“I feel like it’s all my fault. I honestly do feel like it’s all my fault. Because I wasn’t smart enough to be able to protect my grandma," said Fagg.
Fagg’s grandma, Clara Apseloff, had Alzheimer’s. She was declared infirm, and although Fagg tried to become her legal guardian in court, she didn’t have a lawyer. The judge assigned her grandmother a professional guardian instead.
“We’re walking out, and my grandma is kind of happy and I’m like grandma, it’s okay, and she’s okay and I get to go home with you now. Is that what’s happening? And I said no grandma, you don’t get to go home with me, you’re going back to the facility. I’m not in charge of you anymore. And she cried," said Fagg.
Fagg said, as soon as the guardian had control, things got worse. The doctors stopped talking to her. The nurses wouldn’t allow her to take her grandmother out of the nursing home. Then came the real shock.
“I was told she was running out of money. My grandmother shouldn’t have been running out of money," said Fagg.
Fagg’s grandmother was living at the Palms Senior Living Community in Fort Myers, until she stopped paying rent, and the Palms thinks, that wasn’t her fault, it was her guardian’s. According to a lawsuit, filed by the Palms back in October, the company believes the guardian made up the company she said she worked for, and mismanaged Apseloff’s finances to the point she owed the Palms more than $25,000.
“She was evicted, at 99 years old," said Fagg.
Now, a bill in the legislature, sponsored by State Senator Kathleen Passidomo, is trying to keep this from happening to anyone else.
“The bill prohibits a guardian from petitioning for their own appointment, unless they’re a relative, because we have heard of cases where professional guardians have basically trolled nursing homes and looked for victims," said Passidomo.
Last week was Apseloff’s funeral. Fagg was only notified an hour after she died, and didn’t even get to plan the ceremony.
“I just don’t understand how somebody could take something so precious. It’s the end of our life. It’s families that get to do these things, not some stranger," said Fagg.
Senator Passidomo said cases like Fagg’s are becoming more common. Her bill would also prevent guardians from issuing do not resuscitate orders without court approval.