Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fighting Ageism in the Twitter Era (Getting Old Isn't All That Bad)



Photo: Defying negative impact of ageism in America, intergenerational advocates recently met at the Justice In Aging conference in Washington, D.C.

ORLANDO, Fla.--The baby boomers, AKA the nation’s silver tsunami, had better pay as much attention to changing attitudes about aging as they did to shaking up all those previous social norms.
In American culture, old things get replaced with something nice and new: Like the latest smart phone.
Apply the concept to people, and it’s called ageism.

It’s as current as Twitter.

Tweeted Ageist Stereotypes

A team of researchers at Oregon State University took a look at tweets about people with Alzheimer’s disease and found ridicule, stigma and stereotypes.

One unpleasant tweet: “Waiting until your grandparents become senile so you can trick them into giving you their money.”

Ageism came up frequently at November’s 68th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, in Orlando, Fla. The conference brought together science, medical, social science and behavior experts, as well as policy wonks and other researchers.
I was there on a Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society, sponsored by the Archstone Foundation.

Experts from all over the world discussed research into the challenges of the old, the frail and those with dementia.

They talked about minorities and the poor, who, after a lifetime of being disadvantaged in our society, will face particular difficulties as they age, including the need to rely on at-risk safety net and entitlement programs.

Those in the middle class also face poor nutrition in “food deserts” and isolation in their cul-de-sac suburban neighborhoods. Even some retirement communities, built as havens from the hustle and bustle, are less than ideal places to “age in place.”

Yet, the vast majority of Americans say that’s what they want: to stay in their homes.

Boomers Internalize Stereotypes

This is where baby boomers may face their own internalized ageist stereotypes.

Stephen Golant, author of Aging in the Right Place, (Health Professions Press, 2015) said Americans are “repeatedly lectured” about how to “age successfully.” They are told the importance of remaining young in mind and body: To exercise. To eat right. To maintain their homes.

This can be pernicious, he said. It suggests those who are not healthy have only themselves to blame. People guilt-trip themselves even more when the demands of homeownership make them feel like life is spinning out of control.

The perceived stigma of giving up one’s home for a “home” can make life an “emotional battlefield,” Golant said.

Meanwhile, society does its best to accent the negative.

Asked to characterize the aging, some people recorded during on-the-street interviews dredged up cliches about spry retirees on vacation, but most talked about decline, disease, dependency.

“Society isn’t betting on them,” said one man.

The FrameWorks Institute did the interviews as part of its work with eight national aging organizations.

The groups are the Gerontological Society, AARP, American Federation for Aging Research, National Council on Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, American Society on Aging, American Geriatrics Society and Grantmakers in Aging.

New Metaphors for Aging

The goal is to find new metaphors for aging, said FrameWorks CEO Nathaniel Kendall-Taylor.
He said the way information is framed has an impact on how people use the information, which should come as no surprise to those who reframed cultural norms about race, gender, sex, the environment and entertainment.

The baby boomers have a lot at stake, and that includes me. I’m no fan of euphemisms, but I’m all for promoting a fine-wine view of life. It should get better with age. We should feel better about aging.

If some creative wordsmithing and mass marketing helps our society recognize that aging doesn’t diminish value or humanity, it would be a real contribution to our collective understanding of who we boomers are.

Linda Valdez wrote this article for the Arizona Republic, where she is a columnist and editorial writer. She is the author of the new book, Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders (Texas Christian University Press).

Full Article & Source:
Fighting Ageism in the Twitter Era (Getting Old Isn't All That Bad)

State judicial board won't drop investigation of judge


HARRISBURG, Pa. - The body that investigates misconduct allegations against Pennsylvania judges soon will decide whether charges are warranted against state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin.

The Judicial Conduct Board on Tuesday denied a request by Eakin’s lawyer to stop its investigation and send the case directly to the Court of Judicial Discipline.

Board member James Schwartzman said the request isn’t allowed under state rules.

Schwartzman said the board is required to investigate so it can determine if charges are warranted and then make the case to the court.

Eakin is being investigated for his role in an explicit email ring that also involved other judges and the state attorney general’s office.

He’s publicly apologized for what he’s described as insensitive and out of character emails.

The Judicial Conduct Board is an independent body of state residents, comprised of three judges, three lawyers and six non-lawyers. Half its members are chosen by the governor and half by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The board's job is to investigate complaints about judicial misconduct. Those investigations can result in formal charges being filed against a judge or a justice.

The board then presents its case to the Court of Judicial Discipline, which determines if a judge or justice should be suspended, removed from office or otherwise disciplined.

Full Article & Source:
State judicial board won't drop investigation of judge

Judges and Their Watchdog in a Calm Patch


Victoria Henley, Commission on Judicial Performance
SACRAMENTO ­— In 2012, California's judges were poised to wage political war on the agency responsible for disciplining them, the Commission on Judicial Performance.

Inflamed by what they saw as instances of overdiscipline and the harsh tone of some private advisory letters, judges were talking to legislators about measures to curb the commission's power. One justice called his colleagues' anger "palpable."

The legislation never materialized. Lawmakers, it seems, were wary of doing anything that might be portrayed as easing up on bad judges. Some judges, too, feared that initiating a review of disciplinary statutes might open the process to those seeking even more rules and sanctions.

Three years after state judges appeared ready to take on their disciplinarians in a public battle, the anger has ebbed. To be sure, there's still plenty of discontent. But whether it's a sense that the commission is now listening to judges' long-standing concerns or resignation that the system isn't going to change, the open calls for intervention have stopped—for now at least.

"The grumbling continues," said Thomas Hollenhorst, an associate justice on the Fourth District Court of Appeal and a veteran judicial ethics instructor. "The next time you see some really, truly outlandish discipline handed down, it will all come back."

MORE INFORMATION FOR JUDGES

Erica Yew, the chairwoman of the Commission on Judicial Performance and a judge on the Santa Clara County Superior Court, is trying to make sure that doesn't happen. Based on what she's heard from many conversations, Yew said she believes that tensions between the CJP and judges have eased, and she hopes that's at least a partial result of efforts to demystify what it is the agency does.

"I think part of the angst comes from not understanding the process," Yew said. "We now go to courts that invite us. We're doing outreach to groups that we've never talked to before, the public defenders association, district attorneys, ethnic bars."

Yew said she's reinstituted meetings between the CJP and presiding judges to answer their questions. She also meets with judicial leaders at training sessions for presiding judges, court executive officers and supervising judges.  (Continue)

Full Article & Source: 
Judges and Their Watchdog in a Calm Patch

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hospital Trying to Seize Guardianship of Disabled Patient From His Family in Order to Kill Him


A Houston, Texas hospital is attempting to seize guardianship of a disabled patient shown in a shocking video begging to stay alive. Chris Dunn has received national attention over a video showing him begging and praying to stay alive and to now have Methodist Hospital remove his life-sustaining medical treatment that it wants to remove.
Now, the hospital is attempting to take away guardianship from Dunn’s family.

Yesterday, the attorneys representing Evelyn Kelly contested Methodist Hospital’s application for custodial guardianship of Evelyn’s adult son, Chris Dunn. Kelly is his Medical Power of Attorney and trying to ensure that Chris continues to receive life-sustaining treatments that the hospital is attempting to remove.  Methodist has invoked the statutory process found in the Texas Advanced Directives Act (TADA-Chapter 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code), which allows the hospital to override medical directives of a patient and provide only ten days’ notice before involuntarily withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

Even if a patient is conscious, able to communicate, walk, or pay for his own care, Texas law authorizes hospitals and physicians to override the medical decisions of a patient and remove care, including food and water, after providing the required ten days’ notice.

Officials with Texas Right to Life informed LifeNews today that Dunn’s only recourse is to find another facility that will offer him an ICU bed – a daunting task on a rushed time frame for anyone, but even more so when the hospital has determined to end your life.

“Last week, Chris’s mother was granted a second two-week extension of the 10 day period to find another facility, a task made even more difficult because the hospital will not provide a diagnosis of Chris’s condition.  The same day the extension was granted, however, Methodist filed an injunction seeking custodial guardianship of Chris.  The hospital is thus attempting to prevent Evelyn from representing her son and defending his right to continue receiving care,” the pro-life group said.

The pro-life group added:
In November when the hospital initially attempted to remove care, Evelyn contacted Texas Right to Life, which has assisted the family in the difficult legal process and provided legal assistance.  Yesterday, the lawyers representing Chris and Evelyn, Trey Trainor and Joe Nixon, contested Methodist Hospital’s attempt to seize guardianship.  Trainor and Nixon are the same lawyers who appear in video documentation of Chris communicating his desire to continue receiving treatment and for his mother’s attorneys to fight on his behalf.  In court documents filed today, Trainor and Nixon note this video evidence that Chris is alert and responsive, only intermittently sedated depending on the dosage of medication.
The court documents filed yesterday reveal that Justine Moore, an employee of Methodist Hospital, applied to be Chris’s Permanent Guardian.  As Trainor and Nixon note, Chris lived with his mother before his illness and has since indicated that he would prefer her to speak on his behalf before anyone else.  Furthermore, as a former EMT, Chris is well aware of what life-sustaining treatment entails.  When asked explicitly if he wants to continue receiving such care, he clearly communicated that he does.
Finally, and most shockingly, Trainor and Nixon point to the inappropriate nature of Moore’s application for guardianship.  Moore was the very same employee who revealed to Evelyn the hospital’s desire to remove care.  She cannot therefore be an impartial guardian, and there is evidence that she would in fact be acting directly contrary to Chris’s wishes for his own medical care.
Texas Right to Life condemns Houston Methodist Hospital’s legal maneuvering to force their anti-Life quality of life judgments upon Chris.  Until now, the hospital has been hiding behind the unethical, unconstitutional, and unprecedented Texas law; however, now that a judge has shown skepticism at the process allowed by law, the hospital is going out of their way to remove the little legal protection Chris still has, his Medical Power of Attorney.  This reveals the lengths to which this hospital will go to ensure that the final authority of these Life and death decisions remain in the hands of the physicians and hospital that does not see Chris’s life as worth living.
Dunn is one of countless Texans who have been victimized by the draconian Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA), enacted by the Texas Legislature in 1999.  The law – which benefits the medical lobby and jeopardizes medically vulnerable Texans – protects the financial and discriminatory interests of hospitals and physicians by abrogating the civil liberties of patients.

As Texas Right to Life explains about the law: “When a hospital or physician determines for any reason that they disagree with a patient’s decision about his or her own medical treatment and invokes TADA, Texas law protects those healthcare providers as they remove life-sustaining treatment from the patient even when doing so means overriding the patient’s desire and right to live—and even when the treatment is benefitting the patient.  The law does not require that the hospital inform the patient or family about the reasons or basis for the removal of treatment, which could include financial reasons, discrimination, or subjective quality of life value judgments about the life of the patient.”

Full Article & Source:
Hospital Trying to Seize Guardianship of Disabled Patient From His Family in Order to Kill Him

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Judge: Lawsuit over state’s sale of ward’s home can proceed


ROCKLAND, Maine — A judge has ruled that legal claims against the state and the buyer of a Rockland man’s waterfront home, which was sold while he was under the state’s care, can go forward.

Justice Andrew Horton also dismissed several other claims made against state officials in the case involving the sale of the Owls Head home of William Dean Jr.

“In the span of six months, most of what Mr. Dean owned and valued wound up being sold off, flooded or euthanized, as a result of DHHS’s intervention on his behalf. It seems clear that, had DHHS as Mr. Dean’s public conservator pursued a strategy aimed more at conserving his assets temporarily (and winterizing them effectively) rather than liquidating them permanently, Mr. Dean would be much better off today,” Horton ruled.

Attorney Cynthia Dill of Portland said the decision Monday in Business and Consumer Court in Portland was important in that it provides an exception to the state’s sovereign immunity when the state serves as a public conservator for an individual.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services had been appointed temporary conservator and taken control of Dean’s finances and properties in September 2012 after he had been hospitalized for mental health problems in May 2012.

The state argued it needed to become conservator because Dean — who had never lived independently — was not capable of managing his finances, stating in its petition to the probate court that he had misspent more than $200,000 from a family trust, that there were tax liens on properties in Owls Head and Rockland he had inherited, and that he had other unpaid bills.

After being awarded temporary conservatorship, DHHS sold Dean’s waterfront cottage on Castlewood Lane in Owls Head to James Taylor of Massachusetts in January 2013 for $205,000, even though the town had the property assessed at $476,840. The property consisted of 1 acre with 100 feet of shore frontage and a two-story, 1,000-square-foot cottage.

The state also euthanized Dean’s 10-year-old Himalayan cat, Caterpillar, saying there were no family members willing to care for the pet. And DHHS tried to sell the Rockland home on Broadway, but a pipe broke during the winter when there was no heat and caused major flooding, which then led to an outbreak of mold throughout the home, making it uninhabitable, according to court filings.

Relatives of Dean challenged the state in 2013, and a cousin of his is now his conservator. Dean has since been released from the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center and currently lives in an apartment in Rockland.

Attorney David Jenney, who represents the cousin and Dean’s estate, said Monday that from a brief look at Monday’s ruling, it appears that Dean has “gotten half a loaf — pretty much as expected.” Jenney had said at an earlier court hearing that his client was impoverished by the state’s actions while he was a ward of the state. Dean had $654,000 worth of real estate that was free of mortgages in September 2012, but less than a year later, he was down to $20,000 in assets.

The state argued that the Owls Head property was not worth nearly the value placed on it by the town. Horton said the state had some good points on that contention.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Taub, who represents DHHS and its officials, said Monday that he had not yet finished reading the 67-page ruling but that one option would be for the state to appeal parts of the decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Horton will be holding a telephone conference with the various parties on Dec. 21, Dill said. Barring an appeal or a settlement, the rulings mean the case will go to trial at some point.

Horton ruled against a request by Taylor, who bought Dean’s home, to have the case dismissed through a summary judgment. The justice said there were factual disputes that are best decided at a trial and that Dean’s cousin and current conservator, Pamela Vose, had made a sufficient finding of irregularities in the state’s sale of the property for the matter to proceed.

The judge ruled in favor of DHHS on multiple counts that alleged civil rights violations, intentional misrepresentation and deprivation of due process. But, Horton ruled that Dean’s claim of a breach of fiduciary duty against the state for its handling of his estate while it was his conservator could proceed to trial.

A telephone message left Monday for Taylor’s attorney, Zachary Greenfield, was not immediately returned.

Full Article & Source:
Judge: Lawsuit over state’s sale of ward’s home can proceed

See Also:
After state sold all he had, Rockland man hopes for ‘justice’

Man Pleads For Bilking Three Elderly Women


STUDIO CITY—The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced on December 1 that 30-year-old Jovanny Malka of North Hollywood entered a no contest plea for bilking three elderly women out of thousands of dollars, while claiming to assist them in obtaining a mortgage modification.

Starting from April 2012 to November 2013, Malka took more than $50,000 from three women ages 67, 69, and 72, prosecutors stated. He was facing a total of 6 felony county that included three counts of theft from elder or dependent adult exceeding $950.

According to a press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Malka, who pleaded to one count of grand theft of personal property exceeding $950, will pay restitution in full to all three victims as part of the negotiated plea. One of the victims lost more than $48,000 in the scheme.

Malka is set to face three years of formal probation and 30 days of community labor at a sentencing hearing scheduled for January 8 at the San Fernando Branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The Los Angeles Police Department Foothill Station is continuing to investigate the case.

Full Article & Source:
Man Pleads For Bilking Three Elderly Women

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Trying mediation to stem family feuds


Former 12th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth
By Barbara Peters Smith

When bad blood runs in the family of an elder who develops dementia or frailty, the situation can slither downhill fast.

Entrenched rivalries and resentments only complicate the thorny question of how best to care for a vulnerable older parent or spouse. One brother may suspect another of financial exploitation, or an adult stepdaughter may accuse her mother’s second husband of neglect or even abuse.

If the dispute reaches a point where attorneys are consulted or authorities called, the likely result is an adult guardianship process that strips the elder of any legal right to make decisions, and places a relative or professional in full charge of his or her finances, personal life and health care. The more complicated and deep-seated the family feud, the more likely it is that a probate judge will appoint an outsider to act as guardian.

“I’ve served in every division,” says former 12th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth, who retired in August after 26 years. “But the anger that burns in probate cases burns incandescent.”

Divorce court can get ugly, too, he adds, “but there you only usually have two parties. Here, you can have dozens. You can imagine all the slights that a sibling experienced — all those things bubble to the surface when the adult parent becomes incapacitated. All those hostilities, all those concerns about where the estate’s going to go, get very intense.” 

Families unhappy with Florida’s probate system say that instead of resolving discord, guardianship can make matters worse. They tell stories of intrusive professional oversight that depletes an elder’s life savings, while restricting the ward’s access to friends and relatives. They have sought, and obtained, limited reforms of the process in the Legislature.

Now the 12th circuit — with courts in Sarasota and Manatee counties — is one of eight Florida districts embarking on a new experiment with potential to stem the costly and bitter litigation that can erupt in guardianship cases. If successful, it could one day help families settle differences without resorting to probate court.

Eldercaring coordination is a conflict resolution method that brings all interested parties to one table for the purpose of developing a caregiving plan. Modeled on a concept used successfully in high-conflict divorce cases — parenting coordination — it is the product of a two-year collaboration among 20 Florida organizations, and 21 more on the national level.

Fifth Circuit Judge Michelle T. Morley, with Linda Fieldstone, director of family court services in the 11th Circuit, steered the Florida and national task forces to the pilot project stage. In addition to the eight Florida circuits, four state systems — Indian, Idaho, Ohio and Minnesota — are testing the value of treating incapacitated adults as family members who need care, instead of probate prizes to be fought over.

“The idea of a one-size-fits-all system for everybody is just not appropriate,” Fieldstone says of the guardianship process. “It shouldn’t be an adversarial system. We don’t do that with younger families; we shouldn’t be doing that with older families.”

Haworth is acting as administrator for this circuit, referring cases for possible resolution by one of three coordinators during the two-year pilot project. Each district has been asked to handle at least six cases in that period, and the results will be evaluated by academic researchers. The goal is to save time, money and angst, while concentrating on the elder’s safety and autonomy.

“Everyone says in the courtroom, ‘I’m here for my mom’s best interests.’ It’s really different when you sit down and you’re asked to present a plan together,” says Erika Dine, a Bradenton elder law attorney who will lead the three-person team, and is already working on her first case.

The other two local coordinators are retired New Jersey judge and mediator Karimu Hill-Harvey of Myakka City, and Debra K. Carter, a Sarasota psychologist, mediator and parent coordinator. The requirements for the job are rigorous, including at least a master’s degree, experience in a related field, and weeks of specialized training.

“It’s putting the solution back in the family’s hands, with the assistance of the eldercaring coordinator,” Dine explains. “As the coordinator, I can bring in experts and say, ‘Let’s sit together here and figure out what is the best plan, without you having to go to annihilation in court.'”

Haworth heard about the concept from Morley, and brought it to Chief Judge Charles Williams this summer. Around the same time, Dine says, she and a fellow attorney approached Williams to ask whether the collaborative approach used in family court might apply to adult guardianship cases.

These discussions coincided, Haworth says, with Herald-Tribune articles “about some of the problems about guardianship. Judge Williams is very interested in making sure the guardianship program is working in the best interests of these incapacitated people. He said, ‘This looks great; let’s try it.'”

Haworth says he is “cautiously optimistic” about eldercare coordination, despite two major hurdles. Because the method is experimental and not court-ordered, all family members must volunteer to participate. And because it’s unfunded, each participant will foot a portion of the cost — although coordinators may do some work pro bono.

“If one person refuses, that’s the end of it; the model is set up that you have to buy into it,” Haworth says. “The second thing is the money thing. I think that’s actually easier than the first one, because you can sell the idea that it’s going to be cheaper than litigation.”

The concept’s success, he believes, will depend on the coordinators chosen to implement it.

“It takes special people to do this; it takes a compassionate person who also has to follow legal principles,” he says. Embattled families are “so angry at the whole process, and don’t want to spend any more money, and that’s something the eldercare coordinator is going to have to overcome.”  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Trying mediation to stem family feuds

'I failed the judiciary,' judge reportedly says at his discipline hearing


TRENTON — Former Mercer County Presiding Judge Gerald Council apologized to the state Supreme Court Wednesday during a hearing on his disciplinary case, in which he is accused of inappropriately touching and demeaning a subordinate, the New Jersey Law Journal reported.

"I'm embarrassed to be here," Council told the high court, reported by the New Jersey Law Journal. "I don't know how I ended up being here. I failed the judiciary. I failed my family. I've worked hard to be the best judge I can be," he said. "I certainly meant no malice nor harm to anyone."

In September, the state's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC), in a 56-page presentment, found "clear and convincing" evidence that Council inappropriately touched a court employee twice in 2012, which led to her being demeaned, belittled and publicly humiliated.

The committee recommended Council - who has since transferred to Middlesex County - be suspended for one month and possibly removed from his leadership role. The committee then sent the matter to the Supreme Court for a hearing.

The law journal reported ACJC Counsel Tracie Gelbstein asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to suspend Council for one month without pay for his "highly offensive" behavior.

Council's attorney, Alan Bowman, said Council understands that the charges against him are serious and that he carries "the mantle of the public trust," the law journal reported.

The incidents in which Council allegedly touched the employee, identified only as A.J, occurred in a two-week period in 2012 during and after sessions of Mercer County Drug Court, which Council led.

The first, during a social event for a new judge in the courthouse, witnesses told the committee that Council put his hand on A.J's upper back in an effort to move her out of the room and directed her to get back to work, the ACJC committee report said.

The second incident, which the committee found more egregious, occurred after a drug court staff meeting. Council grabbed A.J.'s ear and pulled her from the room, saying, "come on, come on," the committee alleged.

One witness heard Council refer to the employee as, "my troubled child" as he led her out.

In November, Council sought and was granted a transfer to the family division of the Middlesex County Superior Court.

Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw took over Council's position as the new presiding judge in Mercer County.

Full Article & Source:
'I failed the judiciary,' judge reportedly says at his discipline hearing

Police: Massachusetts woman faked 'terminal brain tumor' to bilk elderly man out of thousands of dollars


Anisa Llega
ARLINGTON — An alleged scam artist is accused of bilking a widower out of thousands of dollars so she could pay her bills, including car and student loans. At one point, she even claimed to have a terminal brain tumor to get sympathy – and money – from the elderly man, who has no surviving family, according to authorities.

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan said 24-year-old Anisa Llega was arrested Wednesday on larceny charges in connection with a scheme to exploit more than $100,000 from the 84-year-old man, whose identity was withheld.

About three months ago, Llega began working as a house cleaner for the victim, who would frequent a local restaurant where she worked as a waitress. During that time, Llega cultivated a relationship with the man, eventually conning him out of large sums of money, according to Ryan.

At one point, Llega faked a terminal brain tumor to extract money from the man, who gave her $30,000 for a surgical procedure she did not require, police said. Rather than go under the knife, Llega used the money for a Florida vacation, according to investigators.

"This is a particularly sad situation in which the victim has no family," Ryan said, adding that Llega took advantage of the elderly man's "kindness and generosity."

Police froze several bank accounts in Llega's name as a result of the investigation, which was launched after an acquaintance of the victim told them about Llega. She is expected to be arraigned Thursday in Cambridge District Court. It's unknown if she has a lawyer.

Ryan said more charges may be filed.

Full Article & Source:
Police: Massachusetts woman faked 'terminal brain tumor' to bilk elderly man out of thousands of dollars

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A late-in-life friendship and a lost opportunity to say 'you matter'


Elaine Ellbogen
Elaine Ellbogen refused to be confined, even while under a court-appointed guardianship.

At 85, she often signed herself out of her Libertyville nursing home, walked to the Metra station and took the train to Chicago. She'd board a bus, then window-shop along Michigan Avenue or stop in art stores and greet the proprietors, who became friends.

She showed up at the Tribune Tower one frigid February afternoon, after talking to me only once before by telephone.

She wanted her independence, she said. She wanted to punish the people who had forced her out of her Highland Park home, citing her inability to care for herself. "I do not believe I should be under guardianship," she said.

That day earlier this year marked the beginning of a short friendship that ended with tragedy, and proved to me, once again, that people can be amazingly complex.

Elaine dressed fashionably, wearing a scarf and a splash of red lipstick that offset a crown of white hair. Articulate, witty, and dramatic, she quoted literature and discussed current events each time we met.

She spoke about working as an account executive in the 1950s for Daniel Edelman's public relations firm in Chicago. Much like the era was depicted in the "Mad Men" series, it was unusual to find a woman in that role at the time. For Elaine, it clearly remained a source of great pride.

She left her job within a few years to marry and raise two sons in Highland Park, filling the home with artwork and staying active with her children's activities. At one point, she tried to get back into the public relations world, but too much time had slipped by.

By the 1980s, when her sons left for college, Elaine's collections of artwork, newspapers, mail and clothing from frequent shopping sprees became unwieldy.

That was when the hoarding began and her marriage unraveled, said her son Andrew Ellbogen. Elaine stopped allowing family members in the house, which was in dire need of repairs. One side of the roof was caving in and mold was spreading throughout the home.

"Early on, the art covered walls at home," Andrew said. "In later years, the artwork was on the floor when she ran out of wall space."

After a small fire in the home, her family members begged her to move, offering options and financial help. They asked the city of Highland Park to intervene, but Elaine refused to move or clean up the house as needed for its sale. When I asked Elaine later if she considered herself a hoarder, she replied, "That is a matter of interpretation."

Eventually, a phone repairman who was allowed entrance to the house was so disturbed by what he saw that he took photographs and sent them to city officials, who contacted the guardian's office, Andrew said.

And so in 2011, the private guardian removed Elaine from her home by having her declared disabled in court. The guardian took control of her finances and major decisions regarding her life. This was a drastic step, and Elaine did not handle it well, feeling betrayed and lied to by the guardian.

She started to write letters, compelling and coherent in tidy cursive handwriting. She addressed them to a Lake County judge, a former presidential candidate and to news reporters, including myself.

"Awakened at 7:40 a.m. by pounding on my front door, I was informed by (guardian) that she would personally return me to my home in one hour if I would accompany her to the Highland Park hospital to answer a few doctor's questions," she wrote in one four-page letter.

"I never saw my home again," she wrote. "Thus began my surreal Kafka-like agonizing true story. I am a real-life example of the horrifying fate that can befall a low-income, elderly woman."

I was interested in learning more about guardianships, which are often necessary to obtain help for people who are incapacitated, but can also be abused.

But Elaine's case, as I soon learned, was no simple matter. She did not suffer dementia, as some court records stated, though she had received psychiatric care and was not taking her medication as prescribed.

Elaine was moved into a skilled nursing home in Libertyville in 2013, after a year of failed attempts to move her into a less-restrictive setting, such as assisted living, court records state. "She was resistant to the limits placed on her for spending and outings," the guardian wrote, describing her as verbally abusive.

The last time I saw Elaine, at a coffee shop near her nursing home, she spoke about the Oscar Wilde play, "A Woman of No Importance" and her fear, after guardianship "that I was nothing now. That I was absolutely unwanted, destroyed."

Yet she seemed happier than on past occasions. After her funds ran out, the state took over Elaine's guardianship, and authorities were working on moving her to an apartment. She was allowed more freedom, and continued to leave the nursing home for short excursions.

She had begun piling papers and items in the private room she had at the nursing home, and clothes still carrying their tags hung along the wall. She had made some friends and enjoyed a good relationship with her ex-husband, her son Andrew said.

"The goal was always to let her have as much independence as possible," he said.

So, it was shocking to learn that, on June 2, Elaine left for a shopping trip and never returned home.

She had been struck by a train in Deerfield, and was not identified until a day later. Her death was ruled an accident by the Lake County coroner's office.

"She just miscalculated crossing the tracks," said Orlando Portillo, chief deputy coroner.

Her family members remain horrified that she met such a violent end, despite their attempts to keep her safe. She had been looking forward to her granddaughter's upcoming dance recital, Andrew said.

I couldn't stop thinking about her after learning the news. She had astonished me with her eloquence and mobility, and I enjoyed our visits. While I initially questioned why she was under a guardian's care, I began to understand why her family had become frustrated and sought the city's help.

Despite her eccentricities — or maybe because of them — I was touched by her and considered her a "woman of importance."

I wish she had lived long enough for me to tell her that.

Full Article & Source:
A late-in-life friendship and a lost opportunity to say 'you matter'

Woman sues York County probate judge over case delay

She says his allegedly retaliatory schedule change led to her loss of a grandchild's custody.

York County probate judge Robert Nadeau
The York County probate judge accused of creating a backlog of cases in retaliation for not receiving a pay raise is being sued by a New Hampshire woman who blames him for losing custody of her granddaughter.

Renee LeGrand of Effingham, New Hampshire, filed the civil action against York County Judge of Probate Robert Nadeau on Monday in York County Superior Court in Alfred. LeGrand wants the court to undo changes Nadeau made to his hearing schedule this summer, saying the changes resulted in delays that caused her to lose temporary guardianship of her granddaughter. York County, which pays Nadeau’s salary, is named in the suit as a party of interest.

Though LeGrand is the only plaintiff named in the lawsuit, her attorneys, in court documents, indicate that other parties affected by Nadeau’s changes to the hearing schedule could join her in a class-action suit.

“We are seeking an order to have Judge Nadeau restore the schedule to what it was before April 15,” said Portland attorney Robert Mittel, who is representing LeGrand.

Mittel said his client does not want to speak to the media.

The civil suit filed by Mittel and attorney Temma Donahue of Portland, who has been representing LeGrand in the guardianship fight with the girl’s mother, allege that Nadeau harmed LeGrand and other plaintiffs by “revamping his schedule in order to delay critical and non-critical court matters by many months, causing constitutional, financial and emotional injury to LeGrand and the other class members.”

LeGrand’s suit also alleges that Nadeau, who was elected to a four-year term in 2012, changed his schedule “to retaliate” against York County commissioners for refusing to substantially increase his salary.

The lawsuit states that on April 15, 2015, the county commissioners considered Nadeau’s request to increase his court schedule from two days a week to three or five days a week and to raise his salary to $90,000 or $120,000 from his former salary of $48,498.

Commissioners declined to increase court days, but did grant him a raise, upping his salary to $54,206. Nadeau immediately changed his court hearing schedule, which the suit alleges caused case delays of several months.

Nadeau reacted to the lawsuit Wednesday night in a telephone interview and through an email.

He said York County needs to allocate more time for cases to be heard. Nadeau said he adopted a new court hearing schedule which dedicates one entire week per month to trials. That system, he believes, has proven to be more effective.

If he can’t hear a case, he has the ability to appoint a referee – typically a probate judge from another county – to hear a case.

He said that in recent years certain types of probate court cases, especially guardianship disputes involving parents, have become far more complex and time-consuming to preside over.

“When a case is contested I need time on the docket for each side to present their witnesses,” he said. “I’ve done the best I can with limited means.”

Nadeau blames York County and its governing board of commissioners for not allocating more court days to hear cases.

“The number of full-time jurists in York County’s three district courts has doubled from three to six in the past 10 years, with the support of the state Legislature,” Nadeau said in an email. “By contrast, York County’s commissioners … have continued to fund only 64 hours of judicial time in the county’s lone probate court that must serve a population of more than 200,000.” “It’s frankly very shameful and myopic. As a judge and member of the bar, I will not accept that,” he wrote.

Full Article & Source:
Woman sues York County probate judge over case delay

See Also:
York County officials say judge ‘deliberately manipulated’ court schedule to create a backlog

Maine’s highest court to hear case against York County probate judge

Rep. Smith votes to expand foster care assistance and reform State’s guardianship laws


COLUMBUS— State Representative Smith (R-Bidwell) voted for legislation that increases the age for which persons are eligible to receive foster care and adoption assistance, as well as addresses issues associated with caring for the more than 67,000 juvenile and elderly Ohioans subject to guardianship in the state.

After having passed the House Community and Family Advancement Committee and Finance Committee earlier this year, the House voted in favor of the measure. House Bill 50 requires the Director of the Department of Job and Family Services to expand payments for foster care and adoption to qualifying persons up to the age of 21.

According to Ohio Fostering Connections, an organization that advocates for foster youth, more than 1,000 Ohio youth age out of foster care at the age of 18 each year, putting them at increased risk of homelessness, unemployment, insufficient education, dependence on public assistance and human trafficking.

Additionally, HB 50 requires the probate court to furnish appointed guardians with a guardianship guide, which is to be written by either the Attorney General or the Ohio Judicial Conference.

“This legislation provides additional protections to at-risk youths and guardians that will dramatically improve the foster care system,” Smith said.

HB 50 states that the expansion of foster care services must be funded by July 1, 2017. It now awaits consideration in the Ohio Senate.

Full Article & Source: 
Rep. Smith votes to expand foster care assistance and reform State’s guardianship laws

Monday, December 7, 2015

Restitution for wards may be long fight


When news of Paul Kormanik’s death reached Phil Metoyer, there was no watershed moment.

No feeling of relief.

No justice.

On many nights, Metoyer had thought about what he’d say to Kormanik, a lawyer who had been appointed as guardian to Metoyer’s father, Albert.

In his final years, Albert Metoyer lacked proper medical care because Kormanik failed to file the right paperwork to enroll him for Medicaid, according to Franklin County Probate Court records. Kormanik liquidated the man’s assets and even interfered with the family’s plans for funeral arrangements.

It has been six weeks since Kormanik was found dead in his Upper Arlington home — the same morning that the longtime lawyer and guardian was supposed to appear in Probate Court on contempt charges for failure to pay restitution to a ward he had victimized.

Attorneys and friends close to the Kormanik family said he died by suicide. Official autopsy results are pending with the county coroner’s office.

His death brings more heartache and legal battles for families such as Metoyer’s who say that Kormanik victimized their loved ones.

Now, those who want restitution must spend thousands of dollars for attorneys and probably years in court proceedings, said several probate lawyers.

 
“People will usually have to file a claim against someone’s estate in these instances,” said John Mashburn, a probate lawyer.

Guardians such as Kormanik who oversee assets are required to be bonded or insured. Families also have the option to pursue action with those bonding agencies, attorneys said.

Before his death, Kormanik transferred his largest assets, such as his home, to his wife, according to county documents.

Probate Court officials declined to discuss what actions they are taking to ensure that families get their day in court, saying they can’t comment on cases that are before the court or might come before it.

Before Kormanik’s death on Oct. 5, the court had stripped him of his wards, and he surrendered his law license and pleaded guilty to 10 felony counts, including theft from an elderly or disabled person and tampering with records. He was to be sentenced on Oct. 20 for those crimes.

Two years ago, Kormanik had more wards — people deemed by probate courts to be unable to care for themselves — than any other lawyer in Ohio’s history.

Dozens of families came forward after The Dispatch found during a yearlong investigation that Kormanik and other attorneys were not taking proper care of wards and were misspending their money.

Investigations by the Probate Court and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien also found that Kormanik was stealing items from wards and, in some cases, giving the items to his staff members.

Hundreds of those things are unaccounted for.

Kormanik’s roster of about 400 wards was a byproduct of probate judges being overburdened by the demand for guardians. Several judges expressed concern to the Ohio Supreme Court about Kormanik’s actions as early as 2007, the Dispatch investigation found, but he kept accumulating wards.

Franklin County Probate Judge Robert Montgomery assigned wards to Kormanik until The Dispatch presented its findings.

Kormanik’s family has said he did nothing wrong. His daughter, in a written response after his death, said the Probate Court and the newspaper made Kormanik a scapegoat for a system in need of fixing.
Kormanik’s wife also has confronted court officials to express those sentiments.

His family members have asked The Dispatch never to contact them again.

Phil Metoyer carries the pain of his father’s final days as only a son can. He wanted control of the funeral for his father, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but Kormanik interfered.

“I pray for his family, but I wish Kormanik would’ve stood up and been a man about this,” Metoyer said.

Some wards’ families, such as the relatives of Richard E. Roberts, have hired attorneys who have been able to extract a few thousand dollars from the bonding company that insured Kormanik.

In the Roberts case, Kormanik stole a couch, lawn mower and rocking chair. Authorities found the lawn mower at the house of a former employee of Kormanik’s.

Roberts died on Oct. 20. With the help of an attorney, his relatives were able to do what Phil Metoyer couldn’t: bury their father and husband the way they wanted.

Julie Crum, Roberts’ daughter, said her father’s death and Kormanik’s suicide brought a blunt end to years of turmoil.

But the bitterness remains.

“All the heartache and tragedy over the last two years, and it all came crashing down in a two-week period,” Crum said. “My father’s case is coming to a close, and I hope that all the other families have found some closure as well.”

Judge Montgomery is still sorting out Kormanik’s wards. Court officials have reached out to relatives of his former wards to see if they are willing to take care of their loved ones.

Montgomery also created what he said is Ohio’s first public guardian in early October. He founded a Guardianship Service Board and appointed Jack R. Kullman Jr., a former magistrate in the state’s 10th District Court of Appeals, as the board’s director.

Kullman was appointed guardian of four wards on Oct. 1.

Other board members include Columbus defense lawyer Larry James. The board meets monthly; the next meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 17 on the 11th floor of 373 S. High St.

Full Article & Source:
Restitution for wards may be long fight 

See Also:
Convicted guardianship lawyer died of suicide, attorney says 

Lawyer charged with stealing from wards, bilking burial fund 

Investigations launched into billing by lawyers appointed as guardians

Wards of indicted guardian are missing items, relatives say

Guardianship bill needed

Lawyer indicted for theft from those he was supposed to protect 

Columbus Lawyer Gives Up All Guardianship Cases

With new guardians, wards gain new hope

Florence woman arrested for stealing from elderly family members


Jennilee Cox
31-year-old Jennilee Cox is facing multiple charges after she allegedly stole from her elderly family members.

Cox is accused of writing checks and cashing them. She took over $500 from elderly family members above the age of 80.

She has been charged with three counts of possession of forged instrument 2nd degree, theft 2nd degree, and financial exploitation of the elderly.

Cox has a $9,500 bond and is currently being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center.

Full Article & Source:
Florence woman arrested for stealing from elderly family members

Puxico caregiver charged with exploitation of the elderly


Jerri Greenlee
PUXICO, Mo. -- On Nov. 30, 2015, the Stoddard County Sheriff's Office responded to a call in the Puxico, Mo. area in reference to stolen checks. On arrival, Deputy Travis Stafford met with the victim, a 91 year old female.

The victim stated she received a statement from her bank and it showed there had been several checks written on her account that she had not written. The victim stated she checked her box of checks and discovered there were some checks missing. The victim stated she thought it might be one of the females that works for the in home services for the disabled that comes to her home. The daughter of the victim stated that her mother seldom ever writes checks on the account and if her mother needs something from town she does her shopping for her. The daughter also stated that her mother lives on a fixed income and all the money in her mother's account is now gone.

On looking at several returned checks it was noted that some had been written to Dollar General Store in Puxico. After looking at surveillance videos at Dollar General Store and speaking with Genisis Home Care Services it was determined that the person passing the victim's checks was Jerri Greenlee of Puxico who is also an employee of Genesis Home Health Care. Several other fraudulent checks were collected from the bank.

Jerri Greenlee, age 26, was arrested and transported to the Stoddard County Jail where she remains at this time. Greenlee is charged with Class B Felony of financial exploitation of the elderly. Bond set at $7,500.00 cash only.

Full Article & Source:
Puxico caregiver charged with exploitation of the elderly

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Their dad died after not seeing them for too long—this happens when they attend the funeral!


Christmas is just around the corner and many people are getting ready to celebrate with their families. Exchanging gifts and preparing food for the festivities are just two of those things almost everybody looks forward to. But bonding with family members you haven’t seen for a long time is actually the real meaning of Christmas.

Many successful adults work abroad, or really far away from their parents, making them see each other very seldom. Some of us don’t realize that our parents are getting older by the day—and there is not much time to spend with them. These are the times when our parents long for us and wish they were with us all the time—especially on Christmas.



(Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Their dad died after not seeing them for too long—this happens when they attend the funeral!

Judicial Reform News Conference :: November 24, 2015




Source:
Judicial Reform News Conference :: November 24, 2015

Court grants woman right to die after 'losing her sparkle'

Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

A 50-year-old woman who fears that the passing of her youth and beauty means the end of everything that “sparkles” in life has been granted permission to die by the court of protection.

In a highly unusual judgment published this week, King’s College Hospital NHS Trust has been told that the unnamed woman has the capacity to make up her own mind and is entitled to refuse the life-saving kidney dialysis treatment she requires.

The decision includes a detailed account of the lifestyle of C, as the woman is known, describing her as “impulsive”, “self-centred”, heavy drinking and four times married.

But the judge, Mr Justice MacDonald, explained that the principle was the same for any patient. “The right to refuse treatment extends to declining treatment that would, if administered, save the life of the patient,” he said in his court of protection decision.

“This position reflects the value that society places on personal autonomy in matters of medical treatment and the very long established right of the patient to choose to accept or refuse medical treatment from his or her doctor.

“Where a patient refuses life-saving medical treatment the court is only entitled to intervene in circumstances where the court is satisfied that the patient does not have the mental capacity to decide whether or not to accept or refuse such treatment.” Intervention, he said, was not required in this case.

MacDonald continued: “C is a person to whom the epithet ‘conventional’ will never be applied … C has led a life characterised by impulsive and self-centred decision-making without guilt or regret. [She] has had four marriages and a number of affairs and has, it is said, spent the money of her husbands and lovers recklessly before moving on when things got difficult or the money ran out.

“She has, by their account, been an entirely reluctant and at times completely indifferent mother to her three caring daughters. Her consumption of alcohol has been excessive and, at times, out of control … In particular, it is clear that during her life C has placed a significant premium on youth and beauty and on living a life that, in C’s words, ‘sparkles’.”

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, she had taken an overdose with alcohol. She did not die but caused herself such extensive kidney damage that she required dialysis – which she now refused to undergo.
The judge added: “My decision that C has capacity to decide whether or not to accept dialysis does not, and should not prevent her treating doctors from continuing to seek to engage with C in an effort to persuade her of the benefits of receiving life-saving treatment in accordance with their duty to C as their patient.

“My decision does no more than confirm that in law C is entitled to refuse the treatment offered to her for her benefit by her dedicated treating team. Nothing I have said prevents them from continuing to offer that treatment.”

MacDonald analysed evidence from psychiatrists and medics, and from one of the woman’s daughters. One daughter told him that her mother’s life had “to all appearances” been fairly glamorous. She said her mother did not want to be “poor”, “ugly” or “old”.

“She has said the most important thing for her is her sparkly lifestyle,” said the daughter. “She kept saying she doesn’t want to live without her sparkle and she thinks she has lost her sparkle.”

The daughter said family members would devastated if her mother died, but added: “We think it is a horrible decision. We don’t like the decision at all. But I cannot get away from the fact that she understands it.”

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Court grants woman right to die after 'losing her sparkle'