They are the forgotten, the ignored and most vulnerable among us.
Within the five-county area of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Brevard and Manatee, the court has appointed Aging Solutions, out of the Office of the Public Guardian, to watch over and help take care of the hundreds of citizens the court has determined to be “incapacitated and indigent.”
Aging Solutions currently serves 230 wards, and there is a waiting list of over 175 people.
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You’ve got to understand these are basically wards of the state; you are the people responsible for them.
If the ward is living in a group home, assisted living facility or nursing home, Medicaid only allows them to keep $35 to $54 each month out of their Social Security, pension or anything else they might receive.
This isn’t what you might call “spending money” unless your idea of spending money is toiletries, underwear, clothing or maybe just a candy bar.
These are people, mostly elderly, who are as alone as you can imagine. Nobody comes or is ever going to come to see them in whatever institution they have been placed.
There is something called the “Ward’s Trust Account” that is used throughout the year to pay for unexpected emergencies such as dental work, hearing aids or eyeglasses not covered under Medicare and Medicaid.
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A few years ago I ran across Lisa Esposito, a local attorney and at the time the president of the Gator Club, and you can imagine the year she is having to suffer through.
She was chairing something called Elves for Elderly. The idea was to go to these very people and have them fill out simple “wish lists.” When I say simple, the items on the lists include items such as toothpaste, Crayons, a shirt, toothpaste, a magazine, a cheap watch or maybe a stuffed bear when they just need something to hold on to.
Esposito talked about some of those they had served. One was a 103-year-old man who had been a train porter. “He cried when he opened his box and saw a watch,” she says. “And there was the beautiful elderly lady who danced around the room after getting the sweater she wanted.”
This is the 10th year for the project and Esposito is still chairing it. She has a list of names of these wards with lists attached, looking for volunteers to round up the items and bring them to her office, where they will be delivered by volunteers. If people would rather make donations to the Trust, she can help with that as well.
The items do not need to be wrapped. It is all volunteer. One hundred percent goes to the project.
For more information, you can call the law office of Lisa Esposito at (813) 223-6037 or bring the items to 3606 West Swann Ave.
You’ve got until Dec. 12 to get the items or any other donations to her office. If you’re interested in being a part of the delivery people, you can talk to her as well ... as long as you don’t mind looking like an elf.