David F. Dumont & Rosalyn Dumont
Guardianship & Eldercare Services



Media Coverage


Picture

David Dumont, a registered legal guardian, works with a client at the Tender Loving Care assisted living facility in Lakeland.
  
 
Published Sunday, September 25, 2005 Lakeland Ledger, Sunday Edition TODAYS SENIOR insert
LEGAL GUARDIANS

Professionals Manage Affairs of Seniors Who Need Help


By GARY WHITE
The Ledger

It's a common scenario -- adult offspring having to take control of an elderly parent's finances and health care. But what happens when there are no grown offspring or other family members willing or able to assume that responsibility?

It's not a rhetorical question in Florida, with its large population of seniors living by themselves.

"That's very common," says David Dumont, a registered legal guardian based in Lakeland. "A lot of people have never had children. It's remarkable how many people are all alone in this world."

In such cases, the state entrusts Dumont and other professionals to make decisions on behalf of elderly people incapacitated by dementia.

Dumont is a partner with his wife, Rosalyn Dumont, in a firm that provides guardianship and geriatric care management.

Those duties can include making decisions on admitting someone to a nursing home, selling a house or even withdrawing artificial life support.

Not all of the Dumonts' charges are people bereft of family members. David Dumont says he often is hired by relatives whose circumstances make it difficult for them to assume responsibility for an aged parent.

"Sometimes the children live in Michigan or New York or wherever, and it's very awkward for them to be an advocate for mom or dad or an aunt or uncle 1,500 miles away," Dumont says.

Florida's Department of Elder Affairs established the Statewide Public Guardianship Program in 2003 to regulate professional guardians, who must pass criminal background checks and credit reviews and complete 40 hours of education before being registered.

Guardians are required to file annual plans and financial records and must pass competency exams.

The state gives local courts the authority to set the fees guardians can charge. In Polk County, the 10th Judicial Circuit Court has established a maximum rate of $60 an hour.

Michelle Hollister, executive director of the Statewide Public Guardianship Office, says state regulation arose from concerns about a few unscrupulous guardians, including a Broward County woman now in prison after bilking clients out of money.

Hollister says there are about 300 registered guardians in Florida.

Dumont says the government oversight ensures registered guardians can be trusted to act in the best interests of their charges. He says professional guardians serve as a buffer against those who might persuade a senior to sign a power-of-attorney form and then take financial advantage of the person.

The Dumonts also offer geriatric care management, serving as "a surrogate son or daughter" to escort elderly clients to doctors appointments or check on them at regular intervals for relatives living out of the area.

Guardians sometimes receive clients through the judicial system. If a court determines someone is mentally incapacitated and no relatives can be found, the court will appoint a guardian to oversee the person's affairs.

Dumont, a registered legal guardian since 1990, says he must sometimes make highly consequential decisions, such as selling a client's home and entering the client in an institution. Those actions are always reviewed by a court.

In rare cases, a guardian must determine whether to withdraw a client's medical life support. If the client hasn't made out a living will, Dumont says he will talk to friends and neighbors and try to learn what the person's wishes might have been.

Dumont presents a report to a hospital's medical ethics committee, which makes a recommendation to a judge. The judge ultimately decides whether to end life support.

"There are lots of checks and balances in this field," Dumont says. "Everybody wants to do what's ethically right, so we act as a team."