Vulnerable Adult Initiative: Final Report 2008
Guardianship Protection Subgroup
The guardianship subgroup took on the following issues identified at the June summit:
- Lack of appropriate funding and resources needed to address the guardianship needs of vulnerable adults in the state of Washington.
- Limited legal ability of guardians to intervene when a higher level of care is necessary.
- Better balancing the victim’s desire for independence and the need to protect the victim, particularly when the caregiver is the perpetrator.
- Insufficient mental health intervention services to respond to the needs of vulnerable adults.
1) Address a the shortage of guardians:
a) Expand and fund the Office of Public Guardianship.
b) The Office of Public Guardianship should conduct a community education and recruitment program to find more guardians for smaller counties and more volunteers for pro bono guardianships overall.
2) Address inadequate and inconsistent guardianship laws by developing a stakeholder work group to consider updating guardianship-related statutes and regulations.
3) Reduce the instances of perpetrators of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation from being appointed as guardians by supporting changes to RCW11.88.045. These changes will clarify that the alleged incapacitated person is entitled to request a jury trial only on the issue of incapacity, but may request an evidentiary hearing if the issue to be decided is who should be appointed as guardian.
4) Better protect seniors with dementia by changing the involuntary detention process. Develop a stakeholder work group to help craft legislation that allows for a separate involuntary detention process for vulnerable adults to facility settings when they are diagnosed with dementia. This would address a population that appears to be covered by the guardianship statutes but is not being served by the mental health community because dementia is not considered to be a “mental disorder” in most counties.