Lost Hope

Paul Hewitson has spent the Last two years in a place he calls hell.

The court noted receipt of both letters, but took no other action on the ombudsman's requests.

In January 2001, Commissioner Bassett approved the sale of the house. Hewitson testified and recalls telling the court that he agreed the house should be sold, that it was too big for him, but he asked that he be allowed to sort through his possessions himself.

Instead, Roy inventoried and sold the contents. Hewitson didn't even get to choose which videos to take, or which family photographs. He says he has no idea what happened to his wife's jewelry or his own wedding ring. He had recently purchased a computer, which he wanted to learn to use in the group home, but says Roy told him she needed it to take care of his business.

illustrations by Tifenn Python
Tifenn Python

Roy kept both of Hewitson's vehicles, a 1993 Ford Aerostar and a 1985 Ford Bronco, explaining in court documents that she needed them to transport her father to doctors' appointments. Neither car is listed as an asset. Yet, according to Roy' s own accounting records, she has spent almost $8,000 of Hewitson's money on car repairs, gas and car washes.

And it's hard to imagine that she's given her father a ride anywhere lately, since Roy moved back to Canada last year.

The ombudsman informed the court of Roy's relocation. "Mr. Hewitson was not told of this move," Dawn Savattone wrote, "and he is very concerned about his future."

Dawn Savattone has continued to try to get Hewitson out of the North Valley home. She wrote to LaPrade, suggested alternative living situations and asked the court to step in.

The court did have a social worker review Hewitson's living conditions in February 2002. Then, two months ago, Bassett finally noted the recommendation to allow Hewitson to move, but he also pointed out that LaPrade had taken no action. Bassett said it was up to LaPrade to file a motion to get a full evaluation of Hewitson's situation.

LaPrade still has done nothing. His response to the suggestion his client should be relocated? "Go find the place. When you find it, let me know where it is."

The lawyer says the court file is a foot thick and that he doesn't know what's in it. He says it's been three months since he last spoke to his client on the phone and that he doesn't recall the last time he saw him, although he says he's been to the North Valley Care Home.

"I presume he's still at the same facility," he says. "I haven't been there lately. How old are the people?"

LaPrade readily admits that he spends a lot more time on the phone with Steacey Roy than with Paul Hewitson. He says Hewitson can't be reasoned with — that all he wants is to return to his home, which has been sold.

LaPrade has been paid about $5,000 for his work in this case — all from Hewitson's bank account.

LaPrade says it's Roy's responsibility to find her father a new place to live, and that there isn't a facility like the one Ronnie Brown described.

Brown disagrees. So does Dawn Savattone.

"There are many different kinds of assisted-living centers where a person can go down for meals, have assistance with medication, even have a small pet if they'd like," she says.

And all for less than Hewitson's current monthly housing bill of $2,000.

Last month, Steacey Roy filed papers with the court requesting that she be relieved of her duties as guardian. She wants her father put in the care of the public fiduciary. She's leaving him with a little less than half of his $291,000 estate.

The court could look at alternatives to assigning Hewitson to the public fiduciary, says Chick Arnold, the mental health/probate attorney. Arnold is part of a group called the "Alternatives to Guardianship Project," which meets regularly to discuss such concerns.

It's not unheard of for the court to review a ward's capabilities and revise a previous opinion, possibly even revoke a guardianship. In this case, if his lawyer made such a motion, the court could consider doing so for Hewitson, instead of assigning him to the public fiduciary.

"If [my client's status was] something less than fully incapacitated, I'd be running into court," Arnold says. "The role of that lawyer is to be the lawyer for [the client], and even if the lawyer doesn't believe that [the client] is making the right decision, that's not the lawyer's job."

The court might play a role, too. The court investigator should be following up to be sure that Hewitson's well-being is ensured, Arnold says.

But the last investigative report in Hewitson's file is dated April 2000. That's also the date of the original neurological exam. There never was a follow-up.

"The legal issues are easy here," Arnold says. "The problems are letting a guy like Paul have access to the system."

Hewitson needs access quickly. For better or worse, his living situation is about to change.

The owners of the North Valley Care Home have grown frustrated with him. He complains about the food and doesn't socialize. They say he refuses to take his medication. Hewitson admits that he sometimes hides the pills, but says the tranquilizers make him feel too drugged-up, and sometimes his throat hurts when he swallows large tablets. He says he had to beg for more than a year to get an appointment with a throat specialist, and that he never has been taken to get his teeth cleaned.

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