On Friday, October 25th Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) hosted a public official’s breakfast, Aging Ohio and the Future of Guardianship. The breakfast celebrated LMM’s Guardianship Services 30th year by beginning a conversation on how Ohio’s demographic shifts will impact demand for services over the next 30 years.  

The event was attended by State Reps. Kent Smith (District 8), Terrence Upchurch (District 10), Stephanie Howse (District 11) Bride Rose Sweeney (District 14), and Rep Juanita Brent’s (District 12) district representative Jhontay Davenport. Councilman Dale Miller (District 2), Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell (District 7) and Councilwoman Cheryl Stephen’s (District 10) representative, Al Snodgrass were also in attendance. 

The event began with LMM’s Acting CEO, Maria Foschia, providing an overview of the agency’s history and services, along with an explanation as to why guardianship is a central service provided by LMM.  Since 1989, LMM has served as Cuyahoga County’s only provider of guardianship services; LMM began serving Lorain County in 1993.  

LMM’s Director of Advocacy, Margie Glick, shared insights into the current state of aging in Ohio. Glick highlighted that by 2030, 30% of Ohio will be over the age of 60 (an increase of 30% from 2012), that 1 in 11 Ohioans are currently aging in poverty and that by age 75, one in two adults will have some functional impairments. Such impairments can be worsened for those who are low-income and may have lacked access to quality health care in their younger years.  

Attendees were provided with district-specific data courtesy of the Center for Community Solutions that highlighted rates of aging, poverty amongst those over the age of 65, and rates of disability. 

Following Glick’s comments, Kendra Daniel, LMM’s Director of Adult Support and Advocacy (ASA), provided insight into the agency’s Guardianship Services program and the important role that Adult Protective Services (APS) plays in identifying seniors in possible need of guardianship. APS is often the first step in the guardianship process. A neighbor may call APS to report an instance of hoarding, or an adult may call APS with concern that their family member is financially exploiting them. From there, the need for guardianship will be determined by Cuyahoga County or Lorain County’s probate courts, and, if necessary, the individual will be referred to LMM for services. Appointments of guardianship are often lifetime relationships, with an average length of five years that a vulnerable adult is under guardianship through LMM. 

Kathryn T. Joseph of Kathyrn T. Joseph & Associates, Inc. and Janice Dzigiel, Executive Director of Senior Transportation Connection, echoed LMM’s call for increased planning by state and county leaders and for further public investment in APS and guardianship. Joseph, who has served as a member of LMM’s ASA Advisory Board since 1996, highlighted the fact that currently in Ohio, Medicaid funding cannot be used to fund guardianship services. Dzigiel, a senior advocate and a former guardian, explained how great the need is for guardianship services and the positive role a guardian can play in an individual’s life. In addition to serving as a decision-maker, guardians can help prevent instances of isolation, which are common amongst older adults.  

The breakfast concluded with a robust conversation about the need to prepare for the pending demographic shifts. Attendees requested a report with policy recommendations to use in conversations with other elected officials. LMM plans to work with its partners at the Center for Community Solutions, the Western Reserve Area on Aging, Senior Transportation Connection and Kathryn T. Joseph, Inc. to develop this document.