By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By March, Letty was reaching the end of the time that Medicare would cover those costs. First Choice asked for a meeting. With Letty, attorney Horen, Judi, John and neighbor Dorothy Denst in attendance, the First Choice representative outlined a plan in which the company would continue to provide six hours of care a day. A Denver police officer was also present; John had invited him because he wanted a witness.
But Letty had already decided to ask Greta Pollard, the director of Tender Loving Care, a home-health-care provider with which the Densts were familiar, to evaluate her and, if necessary, provide services. And John and the Densts had worked out a plan to cover any of Letty's other needs.
When Letty turned down First Choice's plan, the company representative commented that she might need a guardian. She was capable of making her own decisions, Letty retorted.
After the meeting, Judi wrote down the police officer's badge number and name. A few days later Marvin called the police department and asked what the officer was doing getting involved in a private family matter. Then Stan Rosenbaum, one of Marvin's 17th Street lawyers, called Horen. On Judi's recommendation, First Choice was now going to provide 24-hour care for Letty.
But by now the Denver Police Department was not the only agency alerted to the growing family fight. Dr. Westfall was talking about asking the court for a restraining order against the Wolfs, John says. And one of Letty's former nurses had contacted Adult Protective Services, a state agency that watches out for the elderly, to register her concerns about the Wolfs' treatment of Letty. Adult Protective Services had contacted the Denver District Attorney's office, which assigned an investigator to call Letty.
Letty made the mistake of telling Judi that she was going to talk with the DA's investigator. On the first Friday in April, 1996, Judi called her mother and said she was going to take her to see "Dr. Haines"--even though Letty was still waiting for Greta Pollard's evaluation.
John couldn't find a Dr. Haines in the phone book. He talked with Dr. Denst, who kept a directory of area doctors; he couldn't locate a Dr. Haines, either. When Judi called Letty that afternoon, John told her that he and Dr. Denst were going to take the matter up with Adult Protective Services.
Judi never took her mother to that appointment.
She did go to Letty's house that weekend, though, and take all her jewelry, Letty told John in an angry phone call. She'd also demanded to know where her mother had safety-deposit boxes. "The Wolfs thought there was a lot more money than there was," says John, "but Dad lost a lot of it."
On Monday, April 8, Letty's attorney got a call from attorney Susan Haines, who said she was representing Judi.
Letty wasn't receiving proper care, Haines told Horen, and the Wolfs were taking their case to probate court to request the appointment of a temporary guardian and conservator for Letty.
There would be an emergency hearing before Judge C. Jean Stewart--the next day.
At her request, Horen went to court prepared to contest the appointment of a guardian for Letty Milstein. But he was at a decided disadvantage: It soon became apparent that Judi had been planning for this for some time.
She was claiming that her mother was incapacitated due to dementia.
Her petition cited the legal basis for such a finding: "Person lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his or her person, and needs a temporary guardian as a means of providing continuing care and supervision of the person. The person's welfare and best interests will be served by the appointment of a temporary guardian."
Then it got more specific: "Mrs. Milstein is recovering from a hip fracture and was recently released from a nursing home. Mrs. Milstein is suffering from progressive dementia. She is unable to self-administer her medications and is incontinent.
"She is often confused and disoriented to the point that she is unaware of her own care needs and lacks sufficient judgment to make adequate decisions...She fails to recognize her needs and has discharged health care personnel in the past."
Judi requested that Gordon Wolfe and his agency, Human Network Services, be appointed temporary guardian. He'd been recommended to her by Haines.
It was true that Letty had discharged some home-care providers--the ones she didn't like. But she'd retained others, and she'd made arrangements to hire more through Tender Loving Care. Besides, Letty didn't need much assistance, Horen argued. She didn't suffer from incontinence, except for one single stress episode after her injury. And her mind was as good as it had been in December 1995, when she'd been fine on her own with her housekeeper, her friends, her son and her dog.
Although Horen didn't have much time to prepare for the hearing, the law was supposed to be on his client's side.
After a 1987 Associated Press investigation into guardianships found "a dangerously burdened and troubled system that regularly puts elderly lives in the hands of others with little or no evidence of necessity, then fails to guard against abuse, theft and neglect," legislatures across the country began changing the rules. In 1988 the Colorado statutes were revised to require that state courts follow certain procedures before appointing a guardian for an elderly person.