Rule-making session held regarding guardians

Change comes after years of complaints

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Important work was done Wednesday morning in a nondescript state building in Tallahassee. The Department of Elder Affairs began the process of implementing new rules for the guardians who care of those who can't care for themselves.

The change comes after years of complaints.

Ernestine Franks, 94, still lives in her Pensacola home, but her family claims she is being isolated by professional guardians who have gone through a million and half dollars of her savings.

"They are taking the greatest generation ever and imprisoning them," said her son and guardianship advocate Doug Franks. "They are taking all their wealth away and isolating them, and it's making a disaster for their golden years."

A dozen people showed up for rule-making session on the new legislation.

"The guardian has restricted family visitation," Alan Sayler said.

Others called in, sharing one horror story after another, saying families were destroyed, wards over-medicated to keep them quiet, heirlooms sold to pay the guardians.

Professional guardianships are a growth industry in Florida, fueled by cash. They've grown from just a few to more than 450 in the last decade.

The new legislation's biggest hammer is the ability to take away a guardianship license.

Lynn Sayler spent years battling her mother's guardian.

"If they are recommitting crimes and they are hurting people, they should be held accountable in all aspects," Sayler said.

”But all this will do is take away their license," reporter Mike Vasilinda said.

"Right, but then they can't practice, so maybe it works," Sayler said.

The new rules are expected to be in place this fall.

Being a professional guardian requires the completion of a 40-hour course, and a $100 registration fee, a successful background check, a credit check and the completion of 16 hours of continuing education every other year.

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