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Published : Tuesday, 25 Aug 2009, 10:22 PM CDT
DALLAS - They’re not criminals. They’ve broken no laws. But they’re being held against their will by the State of Texas. Why? It’s a tragic story about what can happen when you are alone in the world and lose control of your rights, your money, and your ability to complain.
Jean and Michael Kidd never imagined their retirement would play out like this. “I feel like I am not in America,” said Michael Kidd. “I can’t believe I have been hi-jacked off the street, virtually from the hospital, and imprisoned,” Kidd told FOX 4.
Michael Kidd and his wife Jean have been living out of a tiny room for months. They have lost control of their money, their home, even their car. They say they’ve been robbed of their dignity and their voice. And who do they say is responsible? The State of Texas.
“It is a shock to our system,” says Kidd. “We are still kind of in a state of shock,” Kidd told Reporter Becky Oliver.
Michael Kidd worked as an engineer at KDFW for 23 years. He retired in 2001 with a pension, retirement account, and social security. Last month, he called the station for help. The Kidds have no children or relatives nearby. In November Michael fell and broke his hip. He was taken to a Plano hospital and into surgery. After a few days, the hospital called the state Adult Protective Services to report Jean had been in the waiting room for days and wasn’t eating. What happened next is a complicated, legal tale told in hundreds of pages of documents filed with the Collin County Probate Court.
Caseworkers paint a picture of two incompetent old people, age 67 and 70, suffering from dementia. Reports say the Kidds have mismanaged their finances and used poor judgment, that Michael is verbally abusive and even attempted to assault Jean. Michael says Jean has memory trouble but denies everything else. A judge determined the Kidds were incapacitated and unable to care for themselves. The state took over the Kidds lives, sent them to the Countryside Nursing Home in Pilot Point, and is now burning through their money to pay for their care.
“You have no idea how much money you have?” Oliver asked Michael Kidd. “None at all,” Kidd responded. “I know what my income was and I know it was more than enough to take care of my bills. Now, I am deteriorating instead of getting better,” Kidd continued.
The monthly tab for a couple at Countryside is about seven thousand dollars. Court records show, for five months’ care, the guardian paid eleven thousand dollars out of the Kidds’ accounts. The state’s Medicaid program kicks in the rest. “I could be at the Hilton for this kind of money,” Kidd told Oliver.
The state appointed a financial guardian in Greenville to manage the Kidds money and pay their bills. When they asked for an accounting, the state refused. Representatives for the state stated the Kidds did not have the mental capacity to even ask for their own financial or medical records. Yet, much of their personal information is public record. The state tried to get a temporary restraining order to stop FOX 4 from reporting the Kidds’ story, saying the couple does not have the authority to consent to an interview and that our report will cause them irreparable harm. Judge Weldon Copeland ruled against the state. He said he would welcome a neighbor or family member to serve as a guardian but no one has come forward. The state is the last resort.
“We have to buy this out of our own money,” says Michael. The state gives each of the Kidds a measly sixty dollars a month of their own money. They use it to keep a small refrigerator stocked with healthy food. Jean has lost twenty pounds and two teeth and says no one has seemed to notice. They have no personal belongings in their room other than the television. All of their remaining possessions sit in their house in Richardson.
Bob Graham lived across the street from the Kidds for 21 years. He is furious about what the state is allowing to happen to their home. The yard has been neglected. The power was shut-off last spring and food left spoiling in the kitchen. Graham says the state even left the doors unlocked. “What irritates me is the gross negligence in handling their financial affairs,” Graham told Oliver. There has got to be a better way of handling this than just coming in, in a totalitarian fashion, and taking over people’s lives against their will with no advocate to speak for them,” Graham continued.
Bob Graham’s wife Aline was one of Jean Kidd’s closest friends. She says Jean was having some memory problems but she too questions the state’s heavy handedness. “They needed some kind of help but it is frightening to realize how totally helpless and without resources they are going to be,” Aline Graham told Oliver.
The Kidds did have court-appointed representation from attorney, Bert Starr. Starr would not comment but court records show he billed their account for ten hours of legal work. The work Starr performed on their case was cut from the record. The Kidds say they met with
him briefly one time before their hearing and he represented them at the hearing.
Nick Shiek is Jean Kidd’s former boss. He went to court with the Kidds and says it was clear no one was advocating for their position and for them to be allowed to go home. “There was no defending, per se.” Shiek told Oliver. “The procedure went through really quickly.”
The Kidds say the state has tried to paint them as troublemakers who are incapable of making their own decisions about their own lives. And they’re frightened that it appears to be working.
“Having help is one thing,” says Jean Kidd. “Having someone come in and take over the whole ball of wax and say you will do what I say, and you have no control over your own life…” she says, is another.
“How could this happen in a country that talks about and brags about freedom,” says Michael Kidd. “And yet this is how we treat our old people. This can happen to any of you.”
The state has the responsibility to make sure the Kidds are safe. But is a nursing home the best answer? There are other possible options such as assisted living or home health care that may be less expensive and confining. But the Kidds say those options were never discussed with them.
Aug. 31 Update: Michael and Jean Kidd just want to get out of the nursing home and back into their house, but Fox 4 has learned the home may not be around if the state follows through with its plan .
Sept. 1 Update: There was a victory for a Richardson couple at war with the state over their mental condition and their money. Michael and Jean Kidd’s home was not sold on the courthouse steps and now the judge is clarifying his orders.