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But Stewart ruled in favor of Wolfe at every turn. The guardianship was continued, with even tighter restrictions.
While Wolfe had said Letty and John made it difficult to keep aides, one helper, Deb Graves, says she was removed from the job after noting in the daily log that if Letty continued to improve, she wouldn't need 24-hour care. Graves doesn't understand why aides who fought with Letty were kept while those who got along with her were dismissed. "When I went to school, and then in places I've worked since," she explains, "the patient's rights were number one. If the patient didn't get along with someone, that person was gone. But not this time."
Graves noticed other discrepancies. While she'd been told that Letty was incontinent, "she wasn't," Graves says. "She didn't wear Depends. She didn't have to be cleaned up. I have no idea where they got that." She'd also been told that John Milstein was a problem, but she thought he usually had a calming effect on his mother.
"They wouldn't let her see her son, and believe me, she loves her son," Graves says. "They wouldn't let her visit her neighbors. And we were supposed to listen in on her telephone calls."
Letty was angry at all the strangers intruding in her home--and understandably so, Graves says. "I would be, too," she adds. "But I liked her. Here was this woman who had been taken care of her whole life by her husband, then he's gone and she has to deal with this horrible situation.
"She doesn't have the experience to fight the world that is doing this to her. But she still fought."
After several demands from Horen and the conservators, Wolfe finally unveiled a care plan that would cost Letty's estate $17,000 a month. At that rate, her resources would be gone in less than two years, and Letty would have to go into a nursing home. Unless, of course, Judi and Marvin Wolf were willing to foot Mom's bill. But there is no indication that the Wolfs would support Letty. In fact, among the bills charged to her estate were several from the Wolfs, including $160 for a television and $100 for groceries.
Wolfe says he did what he had to in order to comply with the court's orders. It was nearly impossible to balance Letty's wishes with his responsibility to "provide 24-hour care and keep her safe." But under pressure from Horen, he finally resigned as temporary guardian last summer. Wolfe says he quit because he could not condone the amount of money being charged to Letty's estate. "The attorney fees were outrageous," he says. (Wolfe himself settled for $36,000 after charging $40,000.)
Horen lost no time proposing a replacement. He knew the Wolfs wouldn't go for John, Letty's first choice (if she had to have a guardian at all), so he suggested the Densts. Although retired, they were both well-respected medical professionals and in good health. What's more, they offered their services for free to their old friend. Tender Loving Care would be contracted to provide a minimal amount of help during the day, Horen said.
But Judi, who has never requested that the courts allow her to be Letty's guardian, objected to the Densts. She said they would be biased and were part of the problem.
"As to the perceived lack of impartiality, the Densts plead guilty," Horen responded in court. "They are 1,000 percent biased in favor of Mrs. Milstein being able to live the rest of her days in peace and freedom with appropriate safeguards for her welfare with the minimum in intrusion and costs.
"They are heartsick at the current condition in which Mrs. Milstein is being held prisoner in her own home under restrictions which are more intrusive than those she would endure as a prisoner in either a state or federal maximum-security prison."
Once again, Judge Stewart ruled against Letty's wishes.
Instead of the Densts, Stewart eventually appointed Florence Jones, director of Home Care Management, as Letty Milstein's new temporary guardian last fall. Any hope that Jones would be less restrictive were soon dashed; she complained enough about John's "interference" that Stewart issued a temporary restraining order against him. As a result, Letty has seen her son only twice since last October.
And while the cost of Jones's guardianship is less than what Wolfe had proposed, it is running more than $4,000 a month, about $1,800 more than Jones initially told the court.
In addition to being Letty's guardian, Jones also provides the in-home health-care personnel, a potential conflict of interest, according to guardianship-industry watchdogs. (Wolfe had contracted with other agencies to provide the in-home care.) And Jones has also been allowed to put a lawyer of her own on Letty's tab: attorney Glenn Hagen. He's warned the Densts and Watts to stay away from Letty or face legal consequences. He's told the court that Letty still suffers from incontinence--an outrageous lie, Horen complained. And Hagen also told the court that John had struck his mother in front of an aide, even though a police investigation determined there was no basis for the charge. "Lies, lies," Letty muttered at that hearing, before Horen restrained her.