Home > Uncategorized > Family doctor opposes DDS’s continuing effort to remove mother as co-guardian of her son

Family doctor opposes DDS’s continuing effort to remove mother as co-guardian of her son

The primary care doctor for the past eight years of a man with an intellectual disability is voicing opposition to a continuing effort by the state to remove the man’s mother as his co-guardian.

For more than a year, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has, for unclear reasons, been seeking the removal in probate court of Cindy Alemesis as co-guardian of her son Nick. That is despite the fact that Cindy appears to have saved her son’s life in 2018.

In a letter intended to be submitted to the probate court, Zaheer Ahmed, a doctor of internal medicine based in Lowell, said he has “witnessed how Cindy cares for Nicholas over the years.

“She (Cindy) is very active in his care, concerned for his well-being, makes sure he does not miss medical appointments, and has always acted in the best interest of her son,” Dr. Ahmed wrote in the letter, dated November 9. He added, “I am confident that removing Cindy as co-guardian of her son will not be in the best interest of Nicholas.”

Cindy was the first to notice how ill her son was in December 2018, and got him to a hospital for lifesaving treatment after his group home staff missed a critical medical appointment for him with Dr. Ahmed.

Nick, who is 29, has a mild intellectual disability, and was born with hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is excess spinal fluid in his brain. He has a shunt in his brain that drains the fluid.

Staff in Nick’s group home in Dracut failed to take him for a scheduled morning ultrasound appointment with Dr. Ahmed on December 19 of 2018. The ultrasound would likely have shown that Nick’s brain shunt was leaking spinal fluid into his stomach.

DDS’s only stated reason in its petition for Cindy’s removal, which was filed in October 2020, was that she had made decisions that were not in her son’s best interest. The Department’s petition did not say what those decisions were.

Nick and his mother, Cindy Alemesis

Eight months at Mass. General Hospital

In a previous letter, which Dr. Ahmed wrote following Nick’s hospitalization in 2018, he stated that he had examined Nick on December 17 of that year, two days before Nick fell ill.

During the December 17, 2018, visit, Dr. Ahmed scheduled an ultrasound of Nick’s abdomen for two days later — December 19 at 10 a.m. Dr. Ahmed’s letter added that, “the patient and care worker were both informed of (the) appointment before leaving the office on that date.”  However, Dr. Ahmed said Nick didn’t show up for the December 19 appointment, and the ultrasound had to be rescheduled for December 21.

However, Nick fell ill during a church service in the evening of December 19. During the ride back home in a church van, Cindy insisted that Nick be taken to Lowell General Hospital. There, doctors found that the shunt was leaking spinal fluid into his body. Cindy didn’t know at the time that the ultrasound appointment had been missed.

Nick got sepsis from the leaked fluid, and was transferred to Mass. General Hospital. He remained there for eight months during which he underwent multiple brain operations and other procedures. Cindy was at his bedside for much of that time.

Staff missed medical appointments

After Nick’s recovery and release from the hospital in July 2019, Cindy  regularly complained that staff in the group home, run by LifeLinks, a provider to DDS, were continuing to miss medical and dental appointments for him.

In his November 9 letter in the case, Dr. Ahmed stated that “Nicholas has missed doctors appointments. Cindy notices the missed appointments and advocates for her son.”

Cindy filed a complaint in October 2020 with the Disabled Persons Protection Commisson (DPPC), alleging that the group home was continuing to miss medical appoints for her son. But DPPC screened out that complaint as ineligible for an abuse investigation, and instead referred it to DDS for an “administrative review.”

The DPPC intake form stated that Cindy’s complaint was screened out because Nick had not suffered a serious physical or emotional injury. However, that same DPPC intake report acknowledged that one of the alleged missed appointments had led to Nick’s hospitalization for eight months.

Cindy said that during the past year, her contact with her son has remained sharply restricted by DDS and the provider.

DDS guardianship removal petition raises question of retaliation

In 2019, Cindy had sought to remove the other appointed co-guardian for Nick. That co-guardian is paid by DDS, according to DDS records. Cindy maintains that the other co-guardian has been uninvolved in Nick’s care and lives in Florda. Cindy’s effort in court to remove the other co-guardian was unsuccessful.

That previous court battle, however, raises a question whether the current effort by DDS to remove Cindy as co-guardian is being done in retaliation.

A pre-trial conference in the case has been scheduled for December 15 by Probate Court Judge Melanie Gargas.

We are continuing to advocate on behalf of Cindy, and we intend to join with Dr. Ahmed in stating to Judge Gargas that Cindy has always acted in her son’s best interest and should not be removed as his co-guardian.

As we have noted in the past, this case fits a pattern in which DDS and providers have taken a variety of punitive and retaliatory actions against family members and guardians when they are seen as troublesome or meddlesome in advocating for adequate care for their loved ones in the system.

It is unfortunate that DDS has dragged out this case as long as it has. The Department’s effort to remove Cindy as her son’s guardian and the restrictions placed on her contact with her son have placed unimaginable stress on her. Those restrictions have also hampered Cindy’s efforts to advocate for the best possible care for Nick.

We urge DDS to drop its effort to push Cindy out of her son’s life, and to begin to work with Cindy to rectify the problems she has identified with her son’s care in his group home.

 

 

 

  1. November 16, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    Wow a very good letter Why is she only co-guardian and who is the other guardian. Does she have proper legal support? Thanks Peace Tom Spellman 414 40 31341

    Like

    • November 16, 2021 at 9:15 pm

      Yes, she has an attorney representing her in the case.

      Like

  2. Lynn Royal
    November 16, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    Lowell, MA: It is my strong opinion, as this happened to me also that DDS has a long history of legally (or illegally) attempting to remove active and strong guardians of their adult-child(ren). Unfortunately, the state courts tend to side with DDS, so PCP and Specialist letters are excellent support at both levels (State & Federal).. The family may be better off to file a criminal grievance in Federal Court (for breaking Medicare and Medicaid laws), where homework is done by federal judges and clerks and therefore they are more easily persuaded by facts. It is now a known fact, that the ‘agency providers’ (at least in MA, maybe nationally under DDS) are financially and legally protected, even when those in their care become the victim of neglect, abuse and sub-adequate care – intentional or otherwise. However, DDS may not be so well protected. WE NEED TO STAND FIRM so that DDS and the Agency Care Providers are held accountable for their actions or lack thereof. Two agencies, the Coalition of Family Advocates (COFAR in MA) and Voice of Reason (VOR) nationally supported are strong friends of I/DD advocates. I wish you the best in your efforts to protect and continue to protect your I/DD son. My heart goes out to you and those in your shoes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 16, 2021 at 1:46 pm

      Is this going on in other States No one is Wisconsin has been removed nor IL that I have seen in the press. This is really strange that family support can be destroyed by the State.

      Like

      • Lynn Royal
        November 16, 2021 at 5:28 pm

        Dear mspell: You will most likely not see legally attempted ‘guardianship removal’ of a guardian(s), parents, relatives, strong advocates of an I/DD in print anywhere, nor will we see the outcome. it is a very guarded secret. As are ICFs for families on the wait list who desperately need ICF level of care services. I am appalled that there are over 100 empty beds available (in MA alone) and ready to assist those severe, profound, medically fragile and multiple diagnosed sons and daughters out there. The Olmstead Act of 1999 with an assent by the principled and now deceased Justice Ruth B. Ginsberg; Medicare/Medicaid laws; rules & regulations of DDS that are on the books but ignored in practice, on the subject of CHOICE. Hidden agendas and political directions and representatives who only consider ARC (an active Lobbyist and provider agency – conflict of interest???). We are not on an even playing field here. Not even close. This is why we all need to actively belong to VOR (National Voice of Reason who advocate in Washington, DC) and constructively learn the how, who and what in order for us to ‘stack the deck in our favor’ (so to speak).
        /lar

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous
    November 16, 2021 at 1:43 pm

    Thank you to COFAR for this update. I have often thought of Cindy and continue to pray for her and her son.

    The reason the DDS complaint is vague is that they don’t have a legitimate reason to remove Cindy as a guardian. Their actions are not in alignment with what their mission ought to be. A common thread in these cases is that the disabled person has medical or other needs that DDS is just not able or willing to meet in their “community” settings. Because that would support services in an ICF setting. With Cindy out of their way, they would be free to do as they please. Their long distance guardian is a sham.

    Demand to know the details of their complaint and the facts to back up their actions. You likely have a good reason to sue those involved and they are trying to cover that up. A lot of their actions are cover their butt activities.

    It’s time for qualified immunity to end.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Ann Ulevich
    November 16, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    I wonder why there is need for a co- guardian who is paid by DDS? My experience as a guardian for a relative who was well cared for at Wrentham Dev Center was supportive and collegial. My anecdotal info is that private agency group homes are not equiped to manage complex medical issues, their staff is not fully acquainted with their clients medical conditions, and that staff are not adequately trained in working with families and guardians. Unfortunately, the concern of families may be considered criticism (probably is – prompted by fear and anger), which then is defended rather than seen as an opportunity to work together.

    I am alarmed by the disrespect for this mother, surely she and her son have been through so much. What is the oversight for coguardians and their involvement with their clients. To whom do they report and how often is that done? What is the process for appointment? Thuis seems like a systemic problem, with unfortunate damaging consequences for DDS clients.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. November 16, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    DDS needs to end this action against Nick’s Mom, Cindy and leave this family in peace. She is his mother, she loves him, and she has never done anything but work in his best interest. The power and control asserted by a state agency and its providers against a mother is wrong on every level. It violates DDS policy and everything it is supposed to stand for, especially providing family support and keeping families involved. There have never been any charges of abuse or neglect against Cindy. She was simply too vocal, and DDS wants to shut her up. This is a frightening precedent for DDS to set. Will they come for your guardianship next? Withdraw from this case, Commissioner. We need actively involved parents and advocates. Let’s not intimidate them.

    Liked by 1 person

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