Excerpt: Elder Orphans

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From Chapter 10 — The Stemwinder: Stories of a Faithful Care Manager


Artwork: Dylan Pecora


Elder Orphans

After Bella’s husband died, she was living in their Florida home by herself. Most of her friends were deceased and she really didn’t have anyone (with the exception of her sister-in-law who was her POA at the time). Everyone agreed it was in her best interest to come up north to live with Chloe. That was the background story that got more twisted than a Lifetime MOW once Bella’s case was dragged through the Florida courts.

I connected with Chloe through her attorney, Renee, who contacted me and asked if I would be interested in taking on a guardianship case. I knew Renee socially so there was familiarity going in. She explained that Chloe asked that she represent her in a Petition for Guardianship for her mom. She stated up front that she didn’t want to assume that responsibility nor did she think it was appropriate for her half brother and half sister to do so. There were grievances on their end and I came to know more about this sibling drama than I cared to.

When I told Chloe I was considering being temporary guardian for her mom she expressed sincere gratitude. It was probably relief more than anything because she was gearing up for a real fight with her brother and sister. On top of the acrimony, there was a large estate involved. Duly noted. I agreed and we eventually got a court order.

In Pennsylvania, you have to go through Orphans’ Court to file a petition for guardianship. The judges on the bench grant adoption rights, decide guardianship cases for adults with mental and physical disabilities, or an elder who’s incapacitated. In Bella’s case, we were dealing with moderate to advanced dementia, which required she have ongoing management of her medical/estate matters. All of the noise and family drama that swirled around Bella was antithetical to the definition of Guardian as defined in Montgomery County’s PDF, Duties of the Guardian of an Incapacitated Person:

“A Guardian of a Person is someone who is appointed by the Court to manage the life decisions, including health affairs, of the Incapacitated Person. A Guardian of the Person makes decisions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the Incapacitated Person.”

Health. Safety. Welfare. In my professional opinion, Bella’s psycho-emotional state was adversely impacted along the way: The constant infighting over the estate; her son kept throwing his weight around making obnoxious demands, which included seeing his mother. Unfortunately, that too, compromised Bella’s welfare. Where her health was concerned, I was faced with a major decision regarding cancer treatment, to cite just a few examples.

“I probably will,” I said to Renee after she warned me that I’d likely “hate her” for being offered this guardianship case. At the time I was being facetious. To the contrary, I was ready and willing to be tossed into the deep end. Ignorance is bliss, so they say.

She sent me a PDF guide to familiarize myself with the intricacies of Guardianship. Technically the time frame for a temporary guardian is 90 days. With Bella’s case we set a record. I was the longest temporary guardian in the history of Orphans’ Court in Montgomery County.



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