I had a client living in Brooklyn who had no close family. Her lawyer called me and asked if I would take on this woman as a weekly case management client. I agreed and began visiting her weekly in her home. I assigned two home health aids. These care-givers were cousins, and worked well together and covered the case 24 hours a day, 7 days week. I billed the lawyer at the beginning of the month for living expenses for the client. I would drop off this expense money weekly throughout the month, and pick up change and receipts from the prior week during each visit. I arranged and accompanied the client to physician appointments and was watchful that her medication was purchased and administered as prescribed. For about a year there were no real incidents on the case and the client was living happily and safely in her own home. The client was medically stable, merely needed custodial help with bathing, dressing, toileting, shopping, cooking and cleaning. She
had no skilled nursing needs. (I say “merely” because custodial care does not required a nurse).
The client was fine in her home and could have lived many years with this present arrangement. Unfortunately things started to slowly unwind. The attorney was slow on paying the case management bills, behind on the home care workers pay, and was not paying the invoices for medical supplies. I found myself bringing the weekly expense money from my own personal assets as the client still needed her food and medicine weekly. The medical supplies were from my husband’s DME store (Durable Medical Equipment). As a favor to me he continued to supply the diapers, bed liners, rubber gloves, etc. even though he was not getting paid for past invoices. I phoned the lawyer and he always had a plausible excuse for the tardy payments. As the months passed, he continued to pay my client’s bills slowly and late. If I didn’t know that the client had over half a million dollars, I would have thought that this lawyer was paying her bills from his own pocket. This lawyer had an assistant lawyer assigned to this case. As the payments continued to be in arrears, the lead lawyer stopped taking my calls or returning calls to me. The assistant lawyer didn’t want to take my calls either. The funny thing was that the assistant lawyer’s wife was also named Holly and our voices were similar. So when I called the assistant lawyer, I told his secretary that it was Holly. I never used my last name. He took my calls thinking I was his wife, but then realizing it wasn’t the right Holly. Anyway after several months of late payments, the home care workers threatened to quit. The home care workers couldn’t afford to pay their own bills when they were not receiving their salaries in a timely fashion. Since the lead attorney refused to return my calls, I contacted a different law firm that specialized in Guardianship proceedings. I petitioned Supreme Court to assign a Guardian to my client’s case and take over the control of her estate from her present lawyer.
The court immediately appointed a temporary guardian who contacted the lead attorney. Suddenly after months of not returning my calls, he was on the phone to me. This lawyer begged me to let his own law firm pursue the guardianship proceedings. I refused to change, and noted that his firm was so busy that my client was last on the list for attention to her legal needs and at risk of losing her home care workers. The case proceeded and eventually it was discovered that the lead attorney had pilfered away the client’s entire estate. In fact he had been paying the client’s bills with his own assets for the past 6 months. This lawyer was also the campaign manager for a prior mayor and also stole $150,000 from the campaign fund. Eventually the lawyer was convicted of tax evasion, as he didn’t pay taxes on the stolen money and contacted me prior to his sentencing hearing. He asked me to speak to the judge on his behalf for leniency. I refused, and told him that my client suffered as a result of this theft. The lawyer was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
The court hearing for my client resulted in a guardian being appointed to over see her estate of half a million dollars, which was reimbursed by the law firm’s insurance policy. Unfortunately this lawyer didn’t care about my client’s happiness and welfare either. Court appointed guardians are reimbursed annually based on the income and expenses of the estate. They receive a % of all income and assets flowing in or out of the estate. It’s takes less effort to pay one nursing home bill monthly than to pay and supervise the client’s household. My client was immediately removed from her life long home and placed into remote nursing home in the Bronx. She had lived her entire life in Brooklyn and suddenly was living in the Bronx with no nearby friends able to visit. The lawyer refused to reimburse me for my out of pocket expenses for the months I used my personal assets to pay the weekly living expense money. The lawyer refused to pay the receipts for the medical supplies to my husband. I received legal papers requiring me to appear in Supreme Court with an “order to show cause” for approval from the judge to pay my case management fees as well as reimburse me for months of my own private assets used to fund this client’s household bills. I was pregnant with my second child at the time all of these proceedings were happening. My income was low because I wasn’t able to work the long hours in my condition. I was placed on bed rest when I went into premature labor. I ended up delivering my child one month prematurely. My infant had to remain in the hospital as a boarder baby for a week after his birth. Eventually I was reimbursed for the money owed to me, and the guardianship lawyer was court ordered to pay the past due bills of the client.
It was very disheartening to go through this procedure for myself as well as my client. In the end the client was prematurely placed into a nursing home even though she could have afforded to spend the rest of her life in the comfort of her own home. The average stay/survival in a nursing home is under 2 years. People live longer and happier in their own surroundings with their friends, families, pets and personal items. Nursing Home placement is needed for patients who have bedsores, therapy needs, tube feedings, respirators, and skilled nursing tasks. For most people in nursing homes though, they merely need custodial care not skilled nursing care. Any child or care giver can provide custodial care. We do it for our own parents and grandparents. My client passed away earlier than she should have. In the nursing home she no longer had the choice of what she ate, when she ate, when she was bathed and toileted. She was put on a schedule for all her needs and lost control of choice in her life for even her most basic needs. I discovered later in my career that it is commonplace for guardians to immediately place wards into nursing homes as they consider it a safe setting and easier to manage. The fees are much higher for cost of care in nursing homes as conpared to staying home with private home care. But the guardian many times chooses the higher cost of care as they make more money. Remember they are paid based on a percentage of the income and expenses of the case. So if they only pay $4,000 a month to keep a client home, it behooves them to place the client in a $15,000 a month nursing home. I thought I was helping my client by requesting a guardianship. Unfortunately the guardian was just as bad as the original attorney, but her conduct was legal.
Be well, feel good...Holly
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