The Question of Guardianship: How the Elderly Lose Their Rights

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Parks was later indicted on more than 200 felony charges.

In the assisted living facility, the couple deteriorated quickly. New doctors prescribed increasingly higher doses of medications including Valium, Prozac, and oxycodone. Rennie gained 60 pounds. Rudy found it hard to read and concentrate. When their daughter Julie became concerned and tried to help her parents, Parks called the police. Julie, who was cited for trespassing, convinced a local newspaper to write a story, which generated much attention, about her parents' suffering because of Park’s actions.

In 2015, a court hearing found that Parks had sold the Norths’ belongings without proper approval and the judge suspended her guardianship. The Norths left the assisted living facility and moved in with their daughter. Parks was later indicted on more than 200 felony charges—including racketeering, theft, and exploitation—for her actions, which affected more than 150 victims.

Could what happened to the Norths occur in New York? While New York has a more rigorous legal proceeding for declaring someone in need of a guardian than Nevada, the courts’ capacity for effective monitoring and providing oversight of guardians is challenging, given a lack of resources. Moreover, guardians are often appointed who—given the complexity of cases—cannot fully address the needs of incapacitated persons, or worse, may actively exploit them.  

The Vera Institute of Justice created The Guardianship Project (TGP) in response to reports of exploitation by guardians in New York. TGP’s team-based agency model provides a strong check against abusive practices. For people who are highly susceptible to exploitation and criminality, TGP serves to advocate for an effective system—one with adequate safeguards—so that stories like those of Rudy and Rennie North cannot happen in New York.