INDIANAPOLIS — As Charles “Bud” Tucker lay dying, he asked his daughters to take care of his wife, Phyllis.
Pam Douglas says she tried.
By late 2014, though, another daughter had power of attorney. The mother, who would be declared incapacitated, was moved from Speedway to Greencastle.
“That’s where the nightmare blew up,” Douglas said.
Douglas said she found alleged discrepancies in her mother’s checkbook, wondering how $900 could be spent on food every month.
“Things weren’t quite adding up,” Douglas said. “My mother had been complaining off and on about money seeming to be disappearing. She couldn’t understand where it was going.”
With tears welling up in her eyes, Douglas said, “She would even make remarks to me that she wasn’t crazy, that she wasn’t stupid.”
Douglas contacted numerous law enforcement agencies but received little help in investigating, she told a House committee on Tuesday.
Elder care for Hoosiers could be studied under House Bill 1600, authored by State Rep. Melanie Wright, D-Yorktown.
She is asking the Legislative Council to assign an interim committee to study elder care, primarily the assignment of guardians and the protection of assets.
“As our population grows older, we’re going to have more people in these situations. Wright said. “We really need to look at family guardians and see what can we do to protect our seniors from people who might not have the best of intentions.”
The bill passed 12-0 on Tuesday from the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs.
In Indiana, there are three main providers of guardian services: families, private practitioners and non-profit agencies, said Kristen LaEace, CEO of the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
“There’s really not very good oversight or support of family guardians,” LaEace said. “Family guardians are required to submit financial accountings. Other than that oversight, that’s pretty much the extent of it.”
Indiana’s Adult Protective Services typically investigates reports of abuse and coordinates services for endangered adults. The agency, which serves adults over 18, has investigative units operated in hubs by 17 county prosecutors.
In 2017, APS received 19,958 calls for services. Of those, 11,240 were opened for investigation. That year, APS investigated 2,519 allegations of exploitation, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. There has been steady increase in exploitation allegations over the past 10 years, according to Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Aging.
The Tuckers spent most of their lives in Muncie. Phyllis Z. Tucker, who had a heart ailment, died in December 2016 at the age of 84. A civil lawsuit involving Phyllis Tucker’s estate is ongoing in Putnam County.
“I promised my father that I would continue this fight ‘til the day I die and, the Lord willing, I have a lot more time and a lot more fight in me,” Douglas said.