Board of Community Guardians is in need of volunteers

Above, then 2022 Washington County Board of Community Guardians meets to disuss various issues the organization faced at the time, which largely involved the same issue it faces today.
Philip A. Janquart
There has been an uptick lately in the need among seniors for guardians
The Washington County Board of Community Guardians is looking for volunteers.
 With a recent increase in clients, individuals are needed to serve as guardians, providing the organization’s services to those in need.
 The Guardians’ services are intended for those, in most cases the elderly, who have no family or friends to assist them as they age and become less able to function in their daily lives, including everything from personal hygiene to scheduling medical appointments to transportation, and, in some cases, making responsible financial decisions.
 “We get different requests from different people in Washington County; they can be from pastors, police, care facilities, or even neighbors who notice somebody is not doing well and doesn’t seem to have anybody to take care of them,” said Board Chairwoman Jana Hill. 
 Hill was recently appointed after long-time chairman Steve Penner, a former pastor at the Weiser Community Church, stepped down to pursue a new opportunity in his vocation.
 “That’s how we get involved,” Hill said of the process. “It ranges from people who just need some medical attention to helping make sure they pay their bills.”
 She added that there are currently a couple clients, which the organization refers to as “wards,” who have dementia and are incapable of even understanding what the doctor is telling them.
 “And just because we become a guardian for someone doesn’t mean it’s a lifetime thing,” Hill noted. “Sometimes people get better and get established; then we can file through the courts to have our guardianship reversed. So, this frees up the guardian to take on another client.”
 There has been an increase in requests for guardians, however, and more men and women are needed to meet the demand.
 “We have had an uptick in the number of clients, the number of elderly, that are needing guardianship or conservatorship,” said Board of Guardians Secretary/Treasurer Layna Hafer. 
 The title “guardian” is something of an umbrella term describing the two areas where the Board of Guardians can provide assistance.
 Part of Washington County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Josh Dolton’s job assignment is to assist the Board of Guardians. He explained:
 “If you think of overlapping circles, I would say most people perceive a guardianship as someone who, basically, assists every aspect of a person’s life,” he said. “The guardian has authority to access privileged, protected, or confidential information. But a guardian can also be a conservator. But if it’s just a conservator, a conservator is essentially only in charge of the financial aspect of a person’s life. A conservator manages the finances.”
 Dolton stressed that being a guardian/conservator can be difficult. As a volunteer position, it is purely intended to help those who cannot help themselves.
 He noted that guardians are also there to make sure clients are protected from those who may want to take advantage of them.
 “Our role is to ensure these vulnerable adults are protected from exploitation, abuse, and neglect … we are their last resort.”
 Every case is different, according to Hafer who, like Dolton, noted that some can be easily managed with little time commitment each month, but that there are cases that are more challenging in nature, especially those where volunteers are both a guardian and conservator. 
 It means that serving as a guardian and/or conservator can be time consuming, stressful, and often times thankless.
 Yet, there are people out there that need the help.
 “It teaches a lesson of sympathy and charity and realizing that one day maybe you will be in the same position; and if there isn’t some familial support for some rhyme or reason, you get some help,” Dolton said. “You get what you give, right?”
 The Washington County Board of Community Guardians consists of some familiar and respected names, including Chairwoman Jana Hill, Secretary/Treasurer Layna Hafer, Steve Cooper, Kem Haines, Denny Field, Mark Pacini, John Aegerter, Karin Hoffer, and Vanessa Turrentine.
 For more information, call Jana Hill at (503) 804-6231.


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