This should be Banned in Boson
Dawn Cromwell dares not leave her building. If she tried, a device girding her ankle would sound an alarm. For over a year, she has had to use store-bought reading glasses because her pleas for a prescription pair have gone for naught. She is given medications, but, she says, no one will tell her what they are.
more stories like this
For 20 months now, Cromwell’s life has been defined by a 10.5-by-12.5-foot living space at North End Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. In her tiny closet, there are virtually no clothes, and she has no idea what’s become of the cherished possessions in the Boylston Street apartment where she lived for years.
At 73, Cromwell is one of hundreds of forgotten docket numbers in Massachusetts probate and family courts, where judges routinely fast-track infirm elders into the care of guardians, often with little evidence to justify such wrenching decisions.
Cromwell, after a broken ankle and a brief rehab in early 2006, had expected to go home. But on the say-so from the nursing home’s doctor – a short, nearly illegible diagnosis – a judge decreed that Cromwell was mentally ill and handed all of her decision-making to a guardian. Cromwell lost all power over her own life, with no opportunity to object, no right to have a lawyer represent her, no chance to even be in the courtroom.
Three months later, the same judge, E. Chouteau Merrill, made the guardianship permanent – in a two-minute hearing in which the judge asked not a single question.
“You think living in America is just great, but you never anticipate something like this,” Cromwell said. “It’s just been a disaster for me. If I was robbed on the street and everything taken, I wouldn’t be as upset as I am now.”
This is a failure of our culture.