A caretaker of a 92-year-old woman who is attempting to fight her guardianship said she was fired last week after allowing the older woman to speak with a friend who lives overseas.
Georgina James, 53, said she was terminated from her position caring for Brandon resident Christine Lagisquet on Sept. 3.
Lagisquet, who was featured in a recent Tampa Bay Times story, is under emergency temporary guardianship. Her son alleges she has dementia. She has been fighting to keep the legal arrangement, which places all aspects of her civil rights in the hands of a professional guardian, from becoming permanent.
Due to a court order, friends must now get permission from her guardian, with consent from her attorney, before seeing or speaking with Lagisquet. Her guardian placed caretakers at her home to provide round-the-clock supervision.
James said Mind & Mobility Home Care told her she was being removed from the position at the request of Lagisquet’s guardian, Susan Whitney, because she had allowed Lagisquet to speak with her friend Dominque Lucbernet, who lives in Paris.
“But her attorney told me she was allowed to call her friend in France,” James said. “I’m good at my job. They have no reason to fire me.”
She was also simultaneously removed from her position caring for another one of Whitney’s wards, she said. When called, a representative of the care agency said they would respond to emailed questions. That has not happened yet. Jonathan Hackworth, Lagisquet’s attorney, declined to comment.
Gerald Hemness, the guardian’s attorney, confirmed that James was fired.
“When a care provider does not clear her actions with Ms. Whitney, it is entirely possible that she will be terminated,” Hemness said.
Guardianships should be understood through the lens of a parent-child relationship, he said.
“If you want to give a child a peanut butter sandwich, all you have to do is call the parent and see if it’s okay,” Hemness said. “It’s simple. But when they don’t ask, I’ll tell you why: They don’t like the answer the parent is going to provide.”
James said she was taken aback by the removal, and by Lagisquet’s situation.
“I’ve been a caretaker for over 12 years — I’ve worked with families that are fighting about money, I’ve worked with a judge, I’ve worked in facilities and I’ve never seen anything like this,” James said. “They’ve just dirtied everybody around her — her friend of 30-something years, her neighbors. Now they’ve made me look dirty.
“It’s heartbreaking because she’s lovely, and she’s being isolated,” she added.
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James, a patient care technician, said she doesn’t believe Lagisquet needs the level of supervision she is currently receiving.
“She needs somebody to take her to the grocery store, and probably to help her with her bills and help her manage her money, but she doesn’t need 24-hour guardianship,” James said, estimating that round-the-clock caretakers are costing Lagisquet around $768 daily. “If this continues, this lady will have no money, and she’s going to be thrown in a nursing home.”
Caring for Whitney’s wards took up the bulk of her 36-hour work week, James said. The agency offered to assign her new jobs, she said, but she no longer feels comfortable working with the company after being removed at a guardian’s request.
Working in a health care field rife with staff shortages, she said she has other options.