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Case studies

Case Study One - Least restrictive alternative

A is an 87 year-old widow with dementia who had been residing at home with support from a private cleaning service and her family when she was admitted to hospital. Her medical team advised that it would be unsafe for her to return home to live. Although her capacity fluctuated, she was not able to make reasoned decisions about her living situation and she had limited understanding of her declining abilities believing she would eventually be able to return to her home. A was placed into hostel level care awaiting permanent placement.

A's son made an application to the State Administrative Tribunal for the appointment of a guardian and nominated himself and his sister, who resided overseas, to be appointed joint guardians to decide where their mother should live.

There was a dispute between the son, his sister and his ex-wife. His ex-wife believed that A had capacity to live at home and should not have been placed into residential care. She reported having a good relationship with A and wanted to maintain this. She also had concerns that she and her children, A's grandchildren, had not been informed when A was hospitalised. She believed they would only be kept informed in the future if the Public Advocate was appointed guardian.

After consultations by the investigator from the Office of the Public Advocate, all three parties agreed that there was no need for the appointment of a guardian if a contact arrangement could be reached. The son and his ex-wife wanted no personal contact between them. They agreed to keep each other informed regarding A's health, accommodation and visits by telephone text messaging.  

The investigator highlighted during discussions that the appointment of the Public Advocate might result in more restrictive contact arrangements being introduced including a roster system. The parties decided that they preferred to arrive at their own arrangements without the involvement of a third party.

The application was dismissed.

*Note: Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Case Study Two - Urgent investigation

The State Administrative Tribunal received a guardianship application for R, a woman who lived in Australia under the care of her daughter but was not a permanent resident and her immigration status was unclear.

R had experienced a stroke but due to her immigration status was ineligible for many health and associated services, including residential care.

The application sought a guardian and an administrator to assist in determining the woman's immigration status and to advocate for her to become a permanent resident to be able to access relevant health care services.

The matter was listed for a hearing within a week.

An investigator from the Office of the Public Advocate contacted R’s family, the hospital social worker who had made the application, an advocacy agency that was assisting the family with immigration and other issues, and various government agencies to attempt to determine the status of R.

It became clear that without legal authority and the assistance of fee charging professionals, accessing immigration information and advocating on behalf of R was difficult. R's position was further complicated by her having no income.

Hence the Tribunal appointed a guardian to clarify R's immigration status and to apply for required visas or residency status. The woman's daughter was appointed administrator.

*Note: Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Case Study Three - Community-referred investigation

A group of concerned businesses contacted the Telephone Advisory Service about J who was arriving at their businesses wearing little clothing and asking for money. She appeared to be affected by alcohol or substances and they were concerned about the affect of her presence on their customers.

The investigator was able to establish that J's disorientation, poor mobility and involuntary movements were the result of a neurological disease.

J lived alone after separating from her husband who continued to support her but visited infrequently. The investigator met with J, her family, local businesses and a medical treatment team to establish the key issues and J's wishes.

J wanted to remain living at home but she had little awareness of her deteriorating health. Her husband and family were reluctant to make decisions about future care arrangements that were against J's wishes.

The local hospital's neurosciences unit agreed to increase support services for J, however, recruitment of additional support staff took some time. In the meantime, the local businesses were becoming impatient with what they perceived as a lack of response as J continued to visit their businesses.

One of the concerns in investigating such cases is the sensitivities around maintaining a person's privacy while reassuring complainants that their concerns are being treated seriously.

Further meetings were held with local businesses to ensure they understood that J's situation was related to a medical condition and that steps were being taken to address the issues.

The Public Advocate applied to the State Administrative Tribunal seeking the appointment of a guardian and administrator. Meanwhile, J's brother decided that he preferred that the family make accommodation and medical decisions for J. He was appointed her guardian and her husband was appointed her administrator.

*Note: Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Last updated: 25-Aug-2015

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