Public Guardianship
In the Best Interests of Incapacitated People?
by Pamela B. Teaster, Winsor C. Schmidt Jr., Erica F. Wood, Susan A. Lawrence, and Marta S. Mendiondo
February 2010, 262pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-37827-0
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-37828-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

By 2020, the United States will have 54 million citizens over 65, with one in eight of those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile medical advancements are dramatically changing the options for chronic conditions and end-of-life care, while increased mobility makes it less likely for families to be together. These are just some of the factors that show how important it is to have strong laws regarding public guardianship on the books across the United States.

This book offers the first full examination of the legal role of public guardianship in 25 years, comparing current conditions to those when the last study was published in 1981.

Public Guardianship: In the Best Interests of Incapacitated People? is written to advance public understanding of what happens to disabled and elderly adults when no family member or friend is available to be a caregiver or guardian should it become necessary. It is the first major study on this critically important issue since 1981. Conducted by experts in gerontology, social work, public policy, and public health, it finds that, although progress has been made, guardianship programs around the country still are hampered by limited staff and resources.

Public Guardianship analyzes the full range of state statutes governing guardianship, including guardian eligibility, investigation, due process, rights, powers, costs, and monitoring. The authors report their case studies of public guardianship programs, marshaling and comparing field data from their surveys of stakeholders in ten states. The book concludes with a variety of recommendations for improving guardianship programs, including the authors’ Model Public Guardian Act.


  • Includes case studies on public guardianship programs in ten different states
  • Offers bibliographic listings of works cited in the text
  • Presents tables and charts showing important data
Pamela B. Teaster, PhD, is professor, director, and chairperson of the Graduate Center for Gerontology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. She serves on the editorial board of The Gerontologist, the Journal of Applied Gerontology, and the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglectof which she is a former editor. She is the president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Kentucky Guardianship Association. She recently served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Social Security and Representative Payees, the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, the Center for Guardianship Certification. She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and a recipient of the Rosalie Wolf Award for Research on Elder Abuse. Current research projects include exploring linkages between poverty and elder abuse (KY Center for Poverty Research), a prevalence study of nursing home abuse (private donors), A Week in the Life of APS in Kentucky (University of KY and the KY Cabinet for Families and Children), and court-focused elder abuse initiatives (The National Institute of Justice.) She has recently conducted a national survey of elder and vulnerable adult abuse (National Center on Elder Abuse), public guardianship systems (The Retirement Research Foundation), and the sexual abuse of vulnerable adults in institutions (National Institute on Aging). She is the author of over 70 peer-reviewed articles, reports, books, and book chapters.

Winsor C. Schmidt, JD, LLM, holds the following appointments at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville, KY: Endowed Chair/Distinguished Scholar in Urban Health Policy; Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Professor of Family and Geriatric Medicine; and Professor of Health Management and Systems Sciences. His previous publications include Public Guardianship and the Elderly and Guardianship: Court of Last Resort for the Elderly and Disabled, as well as over 50 book chapters and articles on health and mental health law and policy issues. He is a member of the Washington Courts Certified Professional Guardian Board, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the District of Columbia Bar.

Erica F. Wood, JD, is assistant director of the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, where she has focused on issues concerning guardianship, health care decision-making, long-term care, dispute resolution and legal assistance since 1980. She serves on the Virginia Public Guardian and Conservator Advisory Board.

Susan A. Lawrence, PhD, has just completed a Master’s Degree in social work at the University of Louisville. She received her PhD from the Graduate Center for Gerontology at the University of Kentucky in 2007. She has had extensive experience working with frail elders in both New York and Kentucky. She was a consultant on the Mayor’s Task Force on Long-Term Care, in Lexington, KT. She has received numerous academic honors and is a member of the Gerontological Society of America and the National Association of Social Workers. Her previous publications include articles on aging and mental health, and public guardianship. Her research interests include complexity theory, men and depression, financial abuse of older adults, guardianship, and advocacy issues as they pertain to older adults.

Marta S. Mendiondo, PhD, is biostatistician and assistant professor with a faculty appointment in the Department of Biostatistics, College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. She has worked at the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging since 1997, and she has collaborated with Dr. Teaster since 2003 in several projects, such as the Retirement Research Foundation grant, “Wards of the State: A Study of Public Guardianship Programs in Seven Jurisdictions” and the NIA grant, “The Sexual Abuse of Vulnerable Adults in Institutions.”
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