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Stephen W. Wolf, LLC
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When Adult Protective Services Attacks Inconvenient Adults

(When the old age police come knocking)

You're getting older – and you're alone

As we age, our abilities often diminish. Our ability to run and jump leaves us. Our memory becomes shorter. For some, challenges with mental illness are exasperated by aging. In the far majority of cases, as we lose our ability to take care of ourselves others step in and help us with our day-to-day needs. But for some, no one is there and as hard as we try, others notice how we are beginning to slip. When you are alone, the most often result is that some well-intentioned person places a call to Adult Protective Services. That call brings life-changing consequences.

In the majority of cases, Adult Protective Services finds a real need. Someone might be literally starving and living in squalor. Help is needed. But for a few who are, let's say, “inconvenient” to our system of living, life become hell.

Inconvenient older adults

An inconvenient older adult creates issues that draw attention to him or her. He or she might be difficult to get along with. Perhaps they are fighting with neighbors. Perhaps they just want to be left alone and shun the concerns of others. In some cases, mental illness problems become exasperated with age. They see things that are not there. The become scared and call the police.

In order to be found incompetent, an older adult must be in danger, be a danger to others or be the subject of exploitation. Inconvenient older adults are none of these. They feed themselves, their houses are clean, there is no exploitation. They are, simply, annoying. And annoyance can buy them a ticket to an Adult Protective Service action. (It should be noted that many older adults are afraid to call the police, even when needed, for fear the police will bring Adult Protective Services with them.)

Adult Protective Services - the old age cops

Like most state or county services, Adult Protective Services social workers are often entry level positions. They are young and lack life experience. They may or may not be licensed and training, in some cases, is lacking. Tact is often not a word known to such employees. Mix a person with mild dementia or mild mental illness and the true meaning of an adversarial system comes to light. Each side goes to war.

Adult Protective Services are the cops of old age. They can be exceedingly aggressive to their clients. Respect goes out the window and the very idea of treating their clients with dignity is foreign to some of their employees. You are not a “client” of Adult Protective Services, you are the criminal counterpart of a police action; you are a defendant. As we will find out later, you may truly become a defendant in an action against you.

Who is Adult Protective Services

There is a legitimate need to provide care to adults over sixty years old that cannot provide for themselves. The State of Ohio recognized that and made laws requiring each county investigate allegations of abuse or neglect. They gave them broad ranging powers and demand face-to-face interviews, preferably at their residences.

You can't keep them out of your home.

The Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Ohio insure you are secure in your persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. But those Rights are not available to you, at least not when Adult Protective Services is involved. They will employ the police and if necessary, force access into your home. While the police may or may not kick the door down, a bevy of county employees behind two or more uniformed and armed police officers is normally too much for an elderly person living alone. Should the elderly person seek help from friends and family, Adult Protective Service can terminate that through laws that allow them to get restraining orders against such help.


A guardian is a person who takes over a persons decision making. The guardian steps into your shoes and makes decisions regarding health care, where you live, what you can purchase, what medications you will take and every other aspect of your life. For many, guardians are necessary. Some just can't take care of themselves anymore. For some, they are financially exploited and need protection so that their funds can be used to care for themselves. Guardianships are not bad things and are used to make many people's lives so much better than they had been.

Should I accept medical services demanded by Adult Protective Services?

No! But beware, those services will be forced on you unless you yourself act.

When Adult Protective Services demands you participate in medical services, it is almost certainly a prelude to guardianship. A request for a geriatric assessment will result in a Statement of Expert Evaluation where a medical doctor makes a conclusion either recommending or denying your need for a guardian.

Adult Protective Services ordered the assessment because they believe there is evidence of your need for a guardian. It is likely that Adult Protective Services will recommend a doctor who agrees with them. It is not in the best interest of Adult Protective Services to send cases to doctors who would disagree and terminate their case. It is not in the best interest of the doctor to find you do not need a guardian when Adult Protective Services thinks you do. That doctor will no longer get referrals. The Adult Protective Service doctor will almost certainly find you need a guardian.

For this reason, you have the right to an independent medical examination with a doctor of your choosing. Sort of. Adult Protective Services will demand a doctor who has geriatric competence in the area they think you are lacking.

So, should you accept medical service demanded by Adult Protective Services? NO! But beware! You just can't then walk away!

Refusing Adult Protective Services demands

Ohio has a system where when a elderly person refuses demands made by Adult Protective Services, they can petition the probate court for an order forcing services onto a person. You become a defendant in this action. This is called an adversarial action. Adult Protective Services is afforded extreme deference. The deck is stacked in a number of ways once an adversarial action begins.

First, should a judge or a magistrate disagree with Adult Protective Services and should you fall into harm, that judge or magistrate will be severely criticized for his or her disagreement. Assenting to Adult Protective Services demands is their safest course of action. The only way to provide a different result would be to show through your own evidence that Adult Protective Services is wrong.

The second way the deck is stacked against you is the doctor, essentially the employee of Adult Protective Services, now sees that not only does Adult Protective Services see you need a guardian, but the court must have agreed. The doctor approves and states you need a guardian.

So what should I do???

That means you have to get your own services first and insure those services are done by someone truly independent.

A request that you seek an assessment when made by Adult Protective Services is almost always a demand for a Statement of Expert Evaluation from a doctor who issues an opinion as to if you need a guardian. Making an appointment for that Statement will likely taint the result. Someone thinks you need a guardian. Instead, you need a geriatric assessment. After that, you need to convince that doctor to provide a Statement of Expert Evaluation denying the need for a guardianship.

If you can get a medial doctor to issue an initial Statement of Expert Evaluation denying the need for a guardianship, hopefully this action against you is near an end or will be ended.

You have the right, under law, to an attorney

This is a life-changing event. Get an attorney. Pay for one if you can. Unfortunately, many elderly cannot afford to hire an attorney.

It is in everyone's best interest to, if possible, place you under guardianship. Should something happen to you or were you to hurt another, the court, prosecutors and Adult Protective Services will be severely criticized.

You have the right to an attorney. More than that, you must be represented unless you waive that right. If you can't afford your own attorney, one will be appointed.


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