Mother of Member Mollie Freebairn
(Pictured on the right – Foreground, left to right, Mollie Freebairn, Margaret Norris (Margo’s Guardian), and Margo Freebairn)
My mother, Margaret (Margo) Freebairn, is one of an untold number of Americans who has been drugged and kidnapped from her home, and confined in a nursing home against her will. Her bank account has been drained by geriatric care counselors, attorneys, judges, court-appointed guardians, conservators, nursing homes and nursing home doctors. In May 2010, her home and all of her earthly possessions were sold. All the while, Margo has pleaded to be reunited with her family and to return home.
Margo is 87, and as she would be the first person to tell you, she does have a poor memory. She was attending classes in art, history, politics, and philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis when she became concerned about her memory deficits. She began attending cognitive aging seminars, enrolled herself in two memory and aging studies, and invited her two daughters and a number of her nieces to become informed participants in her aging process. This was to be an open and constructive exchange of information and ideas. At this point a corrupt and predatory system, aided and abetted by a few of her family members, began moving behind the scenes in a series of covert activities to derail her life, devour her resources, and bar her from contact with anyone who has any objections to this, I am very afraid, for the rest of her life.
I am her daughter, Mollie Freebairn, her chosen Health Care and Durable Power of Attorney, who has not been allowed to see or speak with my mother for the last nine months. I have managed to get calls though to her on three occasions; the last time was May 9, 2010, Mother’s Day. Margo related to me in desperate tones of her deep unhappiness at being confined at the nursing home, and her dearest wish to go home. She pleaded with me to call her more often, and to please visit her, which compelled me to explain to her that there is nothing I long for more, but I would be arrested for attempting to visit my mother. Her guardians claim that I am the cause for my mother’s unhappiness at being confined in a nursing home, and that she is happy when barred from seeing me. They do not allow her to have contact with most of her other family and friends either, for some reason. Among the most disturbing aspects of this situation is the fact that no one who is not personally profiting from controlling my mother’s life, is allowed to see her or ascertain how she really is!
Until a few months ago, Margo owned an enchanting little century-old home in South St. Louis, filled with family heirlooms and primitive antiques. When I last saw her, she was quite able to care for her garden and chase her kitties around the yard. In September 2009, Margo was drugged with Ativan and taken from her home against her will and mine, by my sister Elizabeth St. John, a veterinarian in Sikeston, Missouri, with professional access to the sedative. My sister hid our mother from me for a full month, during which time she place her in one of the nursing homes with suspicious ties to Diane Smith, a geriatric care manager.
Diane Smith has worked for my sister for over two years. For much of this time I believed and trusted that Diane’s expertise would assist the family in finding the best in-home care for Mom, and allowing Mom to move to a home of her own choosing, if she eventually became so feeble that she could no longer live at home. As events have disastrously turned out, however, Diane’s actions have had the effect of derailing Margo’s and my efforts to arrange for the in-home care she truly needs. The exorbitantly expensive, overbearing, nutritionally illiterate caregivers referred by Diane Smith efficiently drove Margo out of her home. Along with the court-appointed attorneys, one of the two guardians, and nursing home, Diane Smith has made thousands of dollars from the dissolution of Margo’s home and her life savings.
Since realizing that Diane Smith’s expertise thus far from helping, was harming my mother I have learned, from a Social Worker at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, how to advertise in community churches, senior centers, as well as local newspapers, to find and interview for in-home care caregivers. I have found two wonderful caregivers who were standing by, ready to provide Mom with 24-hour care, that she can sustainably afford on her monthly income, so that she could return to live in her own home.
As decreed at the hearing on February 5, 2010, Margo’s guardianship is held jointly by two of her nieces; Gay Norris of St. Louis, who was underemployed and in need of an increase to her income, and Dr. Margaret Norris who makes a comfortable living as a geriatric counselor in College Station, Texas. By Margaret’s own accounts, her professional services include placing clients into nursing homes, whether they wish to go or not.
Margo named me as her sole Power of Attorney in 2009. This fact was dismissed without acknowledgement at the February 5, 2010 hearing, which lasted only a few minutes, and where little of substance was discussed. Commissioner Patrick Connaghan threatened to appoint a stranger as Margo’s guardian if I did not agree to his appointment of my two cousins. I therefore agreed, also in view of the fact that my sister and the guardians agreed to try allowing Margo to return home with the 24 hour a day affordable, loving, in-home caregivers.
Despite their own assertions that Mom would be happiest at home, and the Missouri law that the guardian must allow the protectee to live in the least restrictive environment, both guardians, Diane Smith, and my sister have since simply refused to meet with the caregivers or allow Margo to try returning to her home. They have refused to allow me or my son to visit or call my mother.
On May 10, 2010, my attorney submitted a petition to stay the sale of Margo’s home by her conservator, St. Louis Attorney John Ahlquist. At the same time, she submitted another petition to review the conduct of Margo’s court-appointed guardians. Both motions were dismissed by the same Circuit Court Commissioner Patrick Connaghan, who granted the guardian-conservator ad litem, Attorney Virginia Rice’s motion to waive Margo’s rights to attend the hearing on February 5, 2010 where her permanent guardians were appointed, or to have any say in how she is to live her life.
Anyone In America Can Fall Prey To Guardian Abuse
Most people do not realize, as I have only through this ordeal discovered, that anyone can petition the court for guardianship or conservatorship of an elderly or disabled person, which can lead to the complete and permanent loss of their freedom, possessions, and rights. The point of no return in today’s corrupt legal system is when the petition for guardianship is submitted. In Missouri Law for example, Chapter 475.060 states:
“Any person may file a petition for the appointment of himself or some other qualified person as guardian of a minor or guardian of an incapacitated person. …”
At this point, the court assumes total control over the person’s estate, living arrangements, and medical care. All costs incurred by the court-appointed attorney, guardian, conservator, geriatric care manager, and nursing home are charged against the person’s estate. This can swiftly drain their life savings and lead to the necessity to sell the person’s home and all of their belongings. Family members trying to free their loved one and save their home are on their own to cover the attorney fees. My experience is that it is almost impossible to find an elder law attorney who is not part of the corrupt system. Attorneys practicing elder law converse freely with the judges and opposing attorneys, and sabotage their client and their efforts to free their loved one at every turn. Twice I have been abandoned and/or betrayed by my previous attorneys. Under these circumstances both the Commissioner and opposing attorneys refused to communicate with me pro se in any manner.
How Many Victims Of Guardian Abuse Are Out There?
At the nursing home where my mother is confined, when I was still able to visit her, there were a number of other charming and distinguished residents who confided that they were being held against their will. Their families never seemed to visit, which seemed to me to be terribly neglectful of them at the time, not suspecting that I myself was about to be exiled from my mother’s life. In fact, it may be that many of these families are forbidden to visit by their court appointed guardians. Individuals with court appointed guardians lose ALL of their rights, including those protected by the federally-funded (formally Long Term Care Ombudsman Program) VOYCE. Most critically, they even lose their right to make phone calls, mail letters, or otherwise seek help to recover their lost freedom to live as they had planned, and saved for their entire lives, in the company of their friends and family.
In Margo’s case, her home and all her earthly possessions were sold in May and the proceeds divided between the guardians, nursing home, attorneys, geriatric care manager, etc. Unfortunately she still has a monthly retirement income that will continue to be divided between these same predators, while she is confined and cut off from her family and friends for the rest of her life, unless we can find a way to free her.
My request to you is to please help to call attention to and bring an end to this predatory abuse of untold numbers of elders and disabled persons rights, before they consume any more of our beloved ones. More information from the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (http://StopGuardianAbuse.org/) and the Open Letter to Congress and the White House Re: Reform of Unlawful Guardianships / Conservatorships and Abuse by Courts and Fiduciaries (http://www.AnOpenLetterToCongress.info/) is available online.