When Cheri Jensen looked into assisted living placements for her 78-year-old uncle last fall, she sought assistance from the Iowa Department of Human Services. But asking for help might have cost her more than she bargained for.
Although Jensen has power of attorney for Bob Queener, she says, DHS officials visited his home to evaluate him without her knowledge, obtained a court order and removed Queener from his home last December without telling his family.
Queener was confined to a psychiatric facility, and a court-appointed conservator liquidated nearly everything in his home, including family photos and his Korean War uniform.
Jensen says her uncle has some dementia, but there was no reason for an emergency removal; he still cared for himself and maintained his home independently.
Nearly eight months later, Jensen and state Sen. Dennis Black were named Queener's co-guardians. Since then, 13 families have approached Black seeking help for family members in similar situations.
"I cannot believe that our elderly are being treated this way by people who are supposed to be taking care of them," Black says.
Vern Armstrong, a DHS administrator, says he can't comment specifically about Queener, who is now in a nursing home, but the department relies on medical professionals' advice when making placement decisions.
What happens after a person is removed? That's up to a court-appointed guardian or conservator, Armstrong says.
Michelle Diament is a frequent contributor to the AARP Bulletin.