By Attorney David Engler
Adult Protective Services (APS) is responsible for investigating reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of Ohioans aged 60 and older. Similar agencies exist in every state. APS is part of each Ohio County Department of Job & Family Services (CDJFS). The Ohio Revised Code defines “abuse” as infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish. “Neglect” is defined as the failure of an adult to provide for self the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services. “Exploitation” means the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker using an adult or an adult’s resources for their monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain.
APS can petition Probate Court for a temporary restraining order to prevent interference or obstruction of its investigation by any person, including the abused adult. The court must find (a) that there is reasonable cause to believe the adult is being or has been abused, neglected, or exploited, and (b) that access to the adult’s residence has been obstructed. APS can also petition the court to approve a service plan providing involuntary services. The adult must receive a notice describing his or her rights and the consequences of a court order at least five working days before a hearing on the petition. An indigent adult has the right to a court-appointed attorney. Notice of the hearing must also be sent to the adult’s guardian, attorney, caretaker and spouse.
The court must find by clear and convincing evidence that (a) the adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited; (b) the adult is in need of protective services; (c) the adult is incapacitated; and (d) no other person authorized by law is available to give consent. If the court so finds, it must issue an order requiring protective services for up to six months, but can be re-authorized for up to a year.
But like with any governmental organization, APS can be too intrusive. Before they act there needs to be clear authority that an adult can be removed.
Recently, I met a distressed couple who had their Mother literally yanked from their home in the final months of her life. An anonymous tip was given by the Mother’s long time “friend” that she wanted to go back to the care-takers residence. The mother was in full scale dementia and would answer a few questions correctly and if asked would parrot the name of the “friend.” In horror the family of the elderly woman watched as APS took the mother from their home and moved her back to the friend’s house. After the Mother was there the friend arranged for her entire estate to pass to him. An attorney helped in the sham transfer.
In a matter of months the family desperate for help asks the Probate Judge to order an evaluation of the Mother. She had dementia for at least a year and was unable to make any decisions on her own. Be careful when a governmental agency says that it knows best. Hold on to your liberty because they are about to snatch it from you.
Probate Court acted quickly but it was too late. The Mother died a few days after the mental health assessment. Her possessions real and personal would have passed to the children, but for the friend getting everything transferred.
More than the money the family loss the beauty of being with their parent as she lived her final months. All they are left with is bitterness towards a government going too far and a scrapbook of memories.
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal Law