Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fighting fraud against the elderly

This article was originally published in The Crime Report, a criminal justice news service.

Paul Greenwood, San Diego’s Deputy District Attorney, has been investigating crimes against the elderly for over two decades.  As head of San Diego’s Elder Abuse Unit, he’s been a front-row witness to the tragedies such crimes have left in their wake.

“I have seen for myself many instances where victims in their seventies, eighties, nineties, never recover,” he said. “They don’t recover financially; they don’t recover psychologically. And emotionally, it can be devastating for them.”

Over the course of his career, Greenwood has emerged as one of the country’s most outspoken advocates for elderly crime victims. He has not only pushed California state lawmakers to pass aggressive elder abuse reforms, but he’s also testified numerous times before Congress, calling for a nationwide change in our approach to elder abuse.

But the subject is still below the national radar. That, says Greenwood, is why such crimes should be given separate attention in the criminal code.

When President Obama cited the need to train more prosecutors to combat elder abuse at the 2016 White House Conference on Aging, it “was probably the first time I’ve ever heard [a] president in the last 20 years even mention it,” said Greenwood.

“Other crimes– particularly gang violence, child abuse, trafficking, they seem to get the attention of the politicians. But sadly, not so much elder abuse.”

Currently, only an estimated two percent of incidents involving financial exploitation of the elderly is reported, according to research conducted by the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA).

Nevertheless, advocates say that public awareness has been growing.

Over the past decade, all but four states in the U.S. have passed legislation to address elder abuse, and to a lesser extent, elder financial exploitation.

People appear more willing to pick up a phone and call somebody when a relative or a friend is victimized.

Still, Greenwood says, it remains a challenge for public policy: “Once somebody reports it, does anything happen?”

Generally speaking, Americans view stealing from the elderly as a morally repugnant act. It is no coincidence that the 2016 amendments to the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act draw on several notorious cases of seniors losing everything to fraudsters.

But for all the evocative value of such cases, there are still relatively few local resources committed to the investigation and prosecution of these crimes—with the exception of a few counties scattered across the U.S.

Despite the new legislation adopted by states over the past decade, elder financial exploitation is still not recognized as a crime in its own right.

“I think [this] is related to age-ism, to be honest,” Elizabeth Loewy, former chief of the Elder Abuse Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, said in an interview with The Crime Report.
 
New York City has a record of aggressively prosecuting elder fraud, despite the difficulty in getting exploitation statutes passed—largely thanks to the work of Elder Abuse and Elder Fraud Units in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

Loewy pointed to the scarce number of Elder Abuse Units around the country, especially in comparison to domestic violence, child abuse, and sex crimes units.

“I felt fortunate that we had one,” said Loewy, “but we didn’t have the resources of the other units, even though we had more cases.”

Brenda Uekert, director of the Center for Elders and Courts, a project of the National Center for State Courts, compared it to the early days of domestic violence laws:

“Those crimes were hidden, because people were charged with assault or battery,” she said. “So if you were to collect statistics on domestic violence in 1980, the crime didn’t exist, [and] the problem didn’t exist.”

Some of the worst cases of elder financial exploitation are not being perpetrated by strangers, but by family members and caretakers who have access to an elder’s life savings.

“Unless you have law enforcement and prosecutors trained on elder abuse, I don’t know that they recognize this is a criminal behavior,” said Uekert.

“Sometimes in the law enforcement arena, and we’re really working on this, it tends to be discarded as a family issue,” said Julie Schoen, deputy director of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). “Or, they perceive that maybe the older adult has some sort of cognitive impairment, or they honestly don’t take it seriously.”

“The piece that I am particularly concerned about is when there is a legal document such as a Power of Attorney, or court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship,” said Uekert. “Very often somebody shows that to law enforcement, or prosecution, and they say ‘well, you’ve got this civil arrangement, so this must be a civil problem.’ And that’s one of the challenges I think that we still need to overcome.

“Just because this document exists, doesn’t give that person the [right] to take out $50,000 and buy himself a boat.”

Once an elderly person has given money to a criminal in an IRS, lotto, or ‘grandparent’ scam, police often say there isn’t much they can do, said Schoen, “They don’t [treat] it like a property crime or a theft.”

Patrick Lamb, Assistant D.A. of Jefferson County, Alabama, said he was “quite certain” that the majority of such crimes in his county never made it to his office, even though he heads a white-collar crime unit that focuses on public corruption, fraud, and elder exploitation.

“I find that frustrating,” he said.

Since it was formed in 2014, the Jefferson County unit has focused on cases where a family member abuses Power of Attorney to take money from an older relative. In one recent case recounted by Lamb, a man abandoned his aunt in a nursing home and cleaned out her accounts, leaving no money left for her care.

But cases of third-party theft, where an older person is victimized by scams over the Internet, mail, or telephone, are not making it to the Jefferson County DA’s office.

“Even when it’s reported, if it’s at all complex, it’s not investigated,” said Lamb. “If the elderly are taken advantage of by an email, then once they’ve sent the money, what are the police supposed to do?”

He added: “If you’re a Birmingham police detective and you get 20 calls of elder exploitation, they’re all going to the white collar unit, and they’ll have a stack of police reports to follow up on. And if the first one is ‘niece took $500,000 out of her retirement account,’ that’s one where there’s something you can do: you can go talk to the complainant, [and] you can look at the bank account.

“But if the next one is ‘somebody called me and said my grandson was in jail in Georgia, and I needed to transfer $200,000 to get him out of jail,’ there’s nothing to follow up on.”

A scam like this “may be more clearly criminal than a caregiver or a family member,” said Lamb, but “you don’t have a person to charge or to investigate or to hold accountable.”

Resources vary throughout the country, and so do attitudes about the roles of law enforcement and prosecutors.

The Jefferson County D.A.’s office has one investigator for all white collar crimes, and adheres to a more conventional procedural chain. If police never find a suspect, the case never makes it to the D.A’s  office.

In contrast, the San Diego D.A.’s Elder Abuse Unit has three prosecutors, four investigators, and actively seeks out cases of suspected fraud.

Greenwood realizes that “most prosecutors around the country don’t see it as their role to rattle the cage and go look for cases,” he said.

Last year, one of Greenwood’s investigators even worked full time on a local ‘grandma scam,’ tracing the money all the way back to India through prepaid Walmart and Green Dot cards.

Twenty years ago, when Greenwood’s Elder Abuse Unit was first formed, former Chief of Police David Bejarano also created a special unit within the San Diego Police Department to deal with elder crime.

These combined resources within the DA’s office, law enforcement and state legislature have made San Diego one of the country’s leading counties for prosecuting elder fraud.
Needed: A ‘Cultural Shift’
Based on what prosecutors and national elder advocates are saying, it will take nothing less than a complete cultural shift within the criminal justice system to protect older Americans.

“It’s very good to have a case brought to you all tied up in a bow where we’ve got the defendant, we’ve got the fingerprints, we’ve got the confession,” Loewy told The Crime Report.

“But these cases in particular require investigation, they require extra work—because many of the victims won’t come forward to talk about what happened, or they don’t even realize that they’ve been defrauded.”

Greenwood, whom the NCEA called “the DA we all wish we had,” believes prosecutors need to change their traditional role:

“Most prosecutors are trained to be reactive,” he said. “With elder financial abuse we have to be far more proactive— so we have to talk to the banks, the credit unions, we have to talk to adult relatives, neighbors, mail carriers, and obviously the police departments to say ‘what are you seeing? what are you hearing? and what’s being done about it?’”

Full Article & Source:
Fighting fraud against the elderly

Elderly Abuse Epidemic in Nursing Homes Across the United States

Click to Watch Video
LUBBOCK, TX - It's estimated that one in every ten elderly individuals will experience some form of elder abuse. At the broadest level more than 2 million cases of elder abuse are reported every year, according to nursinghomeabuseguide.org.

CNN revealed an in depth investigate report of rape and sexual abuse in nursing homes across the nation as well.

Lubbock Injury Attorney Fred Bowers said elderly abuse cases are classified as medical malpractice and can be tricky.

"As a lawyer pursuing those cases we have to follow the requirements of the medical liability insurance improvement act which has been in place since 2003 and in order to do that is very time consuming and expensive." Bowers said.

Unfortunately he said personal injury attorneys have to turn away those kinds of cases very frequently, and it's an unpleasant task explaining it to families.

"Most people living in a assisted living or nursing home are retired people or are unable to work, Texas has very strict damage caps of what can be recovered in that," Bowers said. "

CEO of Crown Point Heath Suites Rick Ruble, said his wives family has had nursing homes in Lubbock for 58 years, and they have spent many years researching on how to create an environment for the elderly that they can feel comfortable about.

"They have the choice of when they want to shower, when they want to have a meal, what kind of meal," Ruble said. "You lose your dignity when you lose everything you have, when you don't have a choice."

Full Article & Source:
Elderly Abuse Epidemic in Nursing Homes Across the United States

4 Ways Reminiscence Therapy For Dementia Brings Joy to Seniors

Reminiscing is when someone shares memories from the past. Typically with Alzheimer’s and dementia, people lose short-term memory first, but are still able to recall older memories.

The goal of reminiscence therapy is to help seniors with dementia feel valued, contented, and peaceful. It can’t reverse or stop the progression of dementia, but the stress reduction and positive feelings can improve your older adult’s mood, reduce agitation, and minimize challenging behaviors like wandering.

We’ve got 4 wonderful activity suggestions to help your older adult reminisce over past memories in pleasant, relaxed ways.

1. Listen to their favorite music
Music helps people reminisce and relate to emotions and past experiences. That’s why it’s often recommended for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Music can even reach seniors with very advanced dementia.

You can play their favorite songs, have a little sing-along, or play music on simple instruments like shakers, bells, tambourines, or a DIY drum.

2. Look through photos or keepsakes

Pictures or keepsakes that bring back memories are another excellent way to reminisce. Photos of family, friends, and important life events are always good choices.

Photos of things that remind them of favorite hobbies are also great. For example, someone who loves to garden might enjoy looking at a gardening magazine or plant catalog. Someone who loved to cook might like a gourmet magazine with beautiful food photos. The same goes for sports, crafts, historical events, etc.

3. Smell familiar scents and taste favorite foods

Smell is a powerful ways to access memories. You could create scent cards or jars with smells that remind them of favorite foods (use spices) or a location like a pine forest near their childhood home (use fresh pine needles or pine scented sticks).

Taste is another way to evoke fond memories. Maybe they always made a special dish for holiday celebrations – you could make it for them and reminisce while eating together. Or maybe you could recreate a favorite snack they made for you as a treat when you were young.

4. Enjoy tactile activities like painting, pottery, or other crafts

Touch can also remind someone of the past. Familiar tactile activities like drawing, painting, pottery, knitting, sewing, or other crafts can spark old memories. Even if they can’t participate in these hobbies anymore, doing things like touching paintbrushes, swirling watercolors, scribbling with drawing chalk, squeezing yarn, or playing with fabrics can evoke strong memories.

Another way to use touch is through objects. Maybe wearing or handling favorite pieces of jewelry or accessories (like a watch or a necklace) would bring up memories of significant life events. Other ideas would be to bring out a significant piece of clothing (maybe a dress or suit) that they use to love or wear to important events.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Six women. Three nursing homes. And the man accused of rape and abuse

She is 53 and trapped in a facility for the old. Her left arm hangs limply at her side; in the right she cradles a baby doll she named Little Missy. Saliva drips from the corner of her mouth as she talks about her invisible boyfriend.

She speaks with a Southern accent and sounds like a much older woman, partly because of a massive stroke a dozen years ago. So it's jarring when she suddenly switches to the high-pitched, sing-songy voice of a little girl and speaks with shocking clarity about one night in October 2015.

She was living at a different place then -- the Brian Center, a 77-person nursing home on the outskirts of this mountain town. 

"I had been attacked, attacked by a man sexually," she tells us, lying in her bed and fully dressed in high-heeled boots, with other clothing and shoes mixed in with her sheets. "I was cornered between a closet and a bathroom, me with one arm. ... I couldn't breathe."

Occasionally, as she recounts her story, she closes her eyes and looks as if she is falling asleep. Then she's suddenly alert again. She's proud of her reputation for being feisty and difficult -- she says she's always being told she complains too much. She recites -- correctly -- the phone number for the state hotline where nursing home residents can lodge their grievances.

It could be tempting to dismiss her story as drug-induced hallucinations or the confusion of a stroke survivor. Police might find her the very definition of an unreliable witness. But she is adamant she is telling the truth.

She says the man who aggressively cornered her that day, sticking his hand up her shirt and fondling her breasts, was a nursing aide named Luis Gomez.

"It sticks in my mind the same way every time," she says. "After it's over is where the anger comes in. While it's happening, you want to cry. You think, why is this happening to me?" 

This woman, pictured above and at the top of this story, is now in a nursing home where she feels safe. But she is still haunted by what she says happened to her at the Brian Center in Waynesville, North Carolina.

It took her about two weeks to summon the courage to report what happened. She uses the word violated.

"I was embarrassed. I thought, 'I need to tell someone,' but I was afraid no one would believe me."

She was right. At first, no one did. 

The woman told police that the director of nursing at the Brian Center Health & Rehabilitation, Gail Robertson, reacted to the story with disbelief. She told the resident "to go live under a bridge, because nothing like that happened" in her facility, the woman recalled. 

The police showed up -- but not to investigate the allegation of sex abuse. Instead, an officer was asked to take the woman to a nearby hospital. There she was escorted to the sixth floor and locked in the psychiatric ward. 

No one there believed her either.

"I am really telling the truth here, and it's really not fair you're turning a deaf ear to what I'm saying," she remembers telling hospital workers in the ward, where she had been a patient before.

Discharged after a few days, she had no choice but to return to the Brian Center. She left there as soon as she could, ending up homeless at one point before landing at her current residence.

She'd been dismissed as a complainer, a troublemaker, an attention seeker. But as it turned out, she wasn't the first nursing home resident to complain about Luis Gomez. 

And she wouldn't be the last.

Meet Luis Gomez


Sometime around his 40th birthday, Luis Gomez started a new life in an unlikely place. 

Waynesville is a town of less than 10,000, a mix of lifelong residents and so-called halfbacks, retirees from the North who tried living in Florida, then ended up here, less than an hour from trendy Asheville, in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

It's also one of the whitest towns in the state. 

The move was a big adjustment for Gomez, who'd come to the United States from Guatemala and spoke only Spanish.

"It was such a culture shock to him," said Rob Burns, a close friend and neighbor. His first American home had been in New Jersey, he told Burns. There, Gomez told him, "my boss was Spanish, the place I worked was Spanish." In Waynesville, he discovered, he would need to learn English "in a hurry." So he enrolled in classes at a local community college. 

It was the late 1990s, and a construction job building racks for warehouses had brought Gomez to Waynesville. Soon he learned of another opportunity: a program at the community college that would help him become a certified nursing assistant, or CNA. That likely sounded promising, given the aging population in the area and the handful of nursing facilities that dot the country roads in Waynesville and surrounding Haywood County. 

After earning his certification in 2000, Gomez first worked as an in-home caregiver. Then he was hired by a nursing home at the base of a tree-covered hill called Autumn Care of Waynesville. During the next 15 or so years, he would bounce between Autumn Care and at least four other nursing homes, including the Brian Center. 

The Brian Center in Waynesville was the site of two alleged rapes and other reported sexual abuse.

Haywood County spans more than 500 square miles, but many of the facilities where Gomez worked are just a short drive from each other -- and not far from his home in the heart of Waynesville. 

As with any nursing assistant, Gomez was tasked with the most intimate of duties: bathing residents, taking them to the bathroom and changing their diapers. It's unglamorous work that doesn't pay much, but he seemed to enjoy his job. 

"He loved it. He loved helping people," his neighbor Burns told us, adding that Gomez often came over to his house for dinner and Bible study, and they talked about life and work. 

A former co-worker said most nursing assistants rarely went the extra step for their patients. But Gomez did. He would alert a nurse that a resident needed a new bandage, for instance, and he took the time to get to know his patients and their families. 

He was especially charming with female residents.

The phone call


A month after the stroke victim left the Brian Center, at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday, February 27, 2016, the Waynesville Police Department received a phone call from the facility. A nurse wanted to report a rape. 

Sergeant Dee Parton was quickly dispatched to the nursing home just around the corner from the new police station downtown. The nurse, 35-year-old Krista Shalda, greeted Parton and told her a current female resident claimed a male nursing aide had assaulted her on Thursday night.

The resident had reported the incident the previous day to a different nurse, who said the facility's director of nursing, Gail Robertson, told her that she would "handle everything."

But police were not called. Nor was a doctor. No family members were notified. 

And the aide was allowed to keep working. 

When Shalda spoke to Robertson about the same accusation the next day, Robertson allegedly said again she would "handle it" and that "they needed to keep everyone out of the issue." But Shalda knew the aide had been accused of something similar before. She was not going to stand by and let Robertson keep it quiet. Even if it meant risking her job.

She told the sergeant about previous incidents, accusations made against this man by both a patient and a staff member. 

Then she took Parton to the woman's room. 

The 53-year-old resident was "sitting on the side of her bed," according to Parton's report, "with her oxygen on." And she was crying. 

The sergeant introduced herself and asked the woman if she was OK. 

This will be difficult, Parton told her, but she needed to answer a few questions. 

The accusation


Almost a year later, as part of an investigation into sexual abuse at nursing homes across the country, we asked the woman some of the same questions, over the phone. What she told us was remarkably similar to what she recounted to police that day. The woman said she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure and needs full-time care. She moved into the Brian Center in 2015. 

Luis Gomez took care of her. 

"He bought me perfume and stuff," she told us. "We were friends; we would joke around."

He also told her he wanted to marry her. For weeks, she said, he would enter her room, make sure the curtain around her bed was closed and kiss her.

All of this made her uncomfortable, she said. But she kept quiet, worried that if she spoke up Gomez would get angry. 

In her new facility, the woman who reported being abused at the Brian Center enjoys watching TV.
She recalls being locked in the psychiatric ward of a hospital when she complained of sexual abuse at the Brian Center.

Then one night in February 2016, she said, Gomez did something she never expected -- and would never forget. 

He came into her room after her roommate went out for a smoke and asked if she needed to go the bathroom. She said she did, and climbed out of bed. As she entered the bathroom and faced the toilet, she heard the door close and lock. 

"He pulled my nightgown up and proceeded to rape me," she told us. "I told him to stop, then I gave my excuse, 'My roommate is going to be coming in my room any moment,' and he stopped."

She was in shock. A day passed before she told anyone.

When at first, nothing was done about her accusation, she feared Gomez might appear in her room again at any moment. 

Robertson, the nursing director, would later tell state investigators in an interview that she suspended Gomez shortly after 8 p.m. the day the police were called so the facility could investigate. He was permitted to wait in the television room for a friend to pick him up. He stayed there for hours, until 11 p.m. In the interview, Robertson acknowledged she didn't remember telling him to clock out and didn't ensure he was supervised while he waited. 

The woman still lives in the Brian Center today, in a different room. Only female nurses take care of her, she says. She vows she will never let a male employee touch her again. "I totally lost trust in the men."

She believes she did the right thing by going to police, and she is adamant that Gomez picked the wrong person to make his victim. 

"I definitely have my wits about me." 

The trail of accusations


Less than 24 hours after taking this woman's statement, Parton, the sergeant, was back at the Brian Center in another woman's room. 

The alleged victim had called 911 herself. 

Parton, accompanied again by nurse Shalda, introduced herself to a 63-year-old woman sitting on the side of her bed. She too suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and needed help with intimate daily tasks. 

Parton asked her what had happened, taking notes for the report she would file later.

"Luis started 'doing sexual stuff to me.' "

One time, she said, she awoke to find his tongue shoved into her mouth. On another occasion, he "rubbed me in my private area."

He would touch her in bed and say, "Let's go to the bathroom." He would touch his groin and tell her, "I want some." 

One day, as she got up from the toilet and tried to pull up her pants, she said, he pushed her into her wheelchair. 

Parton's report details what the woman said happened next. 

"Her hands went on to her wheelchair, and Luis 'rubbed up against me.' Luis put his penis between her legs and could not get it into her vagina. He then put his penis between her legs and ejaculated."

Afterward, he handed her a washcloth and said, "You need to wash that down." 

Gomez ensured her roommate was absent each time he assaulted her, she said. She was terrified to call for assistance when he was working on her wing. "I would not ring my bell no matter what I needed."

By the end of the interview, the woman was crying and said she was scared. Parton and Shalda tried to reassure her. She'd done the right thing, they told her. They would make sure she was safe.

They left her room and went back to the nursing station. There Parton asked Shalda: Had anyone else complained about this man?

Yes, Shalda told her. There was one more.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Six women. Three nursing homes. And the man accused of rape and abuse 

What's next for Nashville Judge Casey Moreland?

In the next 30 days, embattled Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland — with the guidance of his lawyer — will respond to state judicial misconduct investigators probing the veteran jurist's relationships with those in his courtroom.

Moreland was formally notified of the Board of Judicial Conduct investigation this week, his lawyer, Worrick Robinson, confirmed Friday.

"He will be responding and cooperating," Robinson said. The formal notification triggers a monthlong deadline for Moreland to deliver his side of the story to ethics investigators, though the judicial oversight body said publicly a week prior it was investigating Moreland. The announcement came after several Nashville news outlets, including The Tennessean, reported on allegations in a police report that Moreland had sexual relationships with women who appeared in his courtroom.

Moreland last week told WKRN News 2 he did not intend to resign. The judge has not spoken to The Tennessean despite repeated requests.

The investigation of his actions, if it results in a finding of misconduct, could lead to a settlement, private or public discipline or procedures to remove Moreland, which requires the Tennessee General Assembly to sign off.

It is rare the board opts for the most severe sanction, which is recommending a judge be removed. According to the Tennessee Constitution, then the Tennessee House and Senate must each vote by a two-thirds majority to remove a judge.

Since 1971, the judicial conduct board has recommended only five judges be removed, according to state reports.


The last time a judge was removed by the legislature was in the '90s. The conduct board (then called the Court of the Judiciary) recommended the removal of Dyersburg Chancellor David Lanier after Lanier was convicted of federal charges related to “sexual assaults on named victims,” administrative reports read.

According to media reports, women who worked at the Dyersburg courthouse accused Lanier in 1992 of fondling them and pressuring them for sex. One woman who had a child custody case before his court said he forced her to perform oral sex after summoning her to his office.

The House and Senate each unanimously voted to remove Lanier.

A state court history report says between 1991 and 2011, after discipline was sought against a judge, the most common outcomes were private discipline or the judge leaving office. Each occurred 46 times in that time period. There also were 36 deferred discipline agreements, in which judges resolve issues involving minor misconduct through treatment or rehabilitation.


The 16-member Board of Judicial Conduct's goal, according to Tennessee law, is to make inquiry into the "physical, mental and moral fitness of any Tennessee judge."

Waiting for Moreland's response to the ethics inquiry is Tim Discenza, the chief disciplinary counsel for the conduct board since 2010. Before that he was a federal prosecutor in Memphis for more than three decades.

If his investigation leads to a public reprimand, state law says notification will be sent to the General Assembly because Moreland has received that same level of discipline before. In 2014, Moreland was publicly reprimanded for intervening in a domestic violence case at the request of Bryan Lewis, a Nashville lawyer and longtime friend of the judge.


Lewis and Moreland went on a trip together in April, which has prompted current scrutiny of the nearly 20-year judge. A woman on the trip, 34-year-old Leigh Terry, committed suicide about a week later, a police report says. Nashville police investigating her death talked to two of Terry's friends who reported Terry had slept with Moreland while she had a driving under the influence case in Moreland's courtroom, the police report says.

Moreland's actions are now facing scrutiny from the FBI as well as judicial ethics investigators. Since the allegations surfaced, Moreland has taken a brief medical leave, stepped back from overseeing two specialty court programs while seeking alcohol abuse treatment and resigned as presiding judge. He continues to hear criminal cases assigned to his courtroom.

Full Article & Source:
What's next for Nashville Judge Casey Moreland?

See Also:
Casey Moreland to take leave from bench

Judge dismissed tickets, fines for female friend

Metro General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland resigns as presiding judge

Ethics Complaint Levels Charges Against Two Judges, Lewis

Investigation underway into inmate/deputy relationship in judge’s court

Court Adopts Guardianship, Probate Forms

The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted new and updated forms for adult guardianship cases and other probate matters. The forms take effect March 1.

Following the Supreme Court’s adoption of new adult guardianship rules (Sup.R. 66.01 through 66.09) in 2015, the Ohio Association of Probate Judges suggested several changes to forms used by probate courts. The Commission on the Rules of Superintendence reviewed the proposal and submitted its recommendations to the Court.

The guardianship-related changes consist of 13 new forms (Standard Probate Forms 27.0 to 27.12), which include:
  • Notification by probate court to guardians when it receives comments or complaints about the guardian and when it decides whether to hold a hearing about the comments or complaints.
  • Report to be completed by guardian listing a breakdown of fees incurred, including guardianship, legal, and other direct services fees.
  • Guardian’s notification to the probate court that he or she has completed the required training courses.
  • Address change notices and other personal information updates for guardians or wards.
  • Guardian’s application to begin a legal proceeding for a ward under his or her care.
  • Report detailing whether a ward has certain legal papers and their location.
  • Application to close the guardianship of an estate.
  • Annual guardianship plan.
In other probate areas, the amendments adjust forms about adoptions, minors’ estates, and the appointment of appraisers. Access all the new forms.

Full Article & Source:
Court Adopts Guardianship, Probate Forms

Thursday, March 2, 2017

90-year-old woman foreclosed, evicted from home of over 60 years

Rob & Gloria Turano
By Kevin Shea | For NJ.com 

LAWRENCE -- It wasn't supposed to end this way.

Gloria Turano thought she'd be living on Skillman Avenue when she died, in the ranch home her late husband Louis built for them in 1953. She never wanted to leave it, and the decades of memories of raising a family it holds for her.

"I thought the undertaker would take me out of here," the 90-year-old Turano said with a smile recently, sitting on a couch in the home's den.

But as she spoke, the house was not hers anymore.

It belonged to Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage company, which bought it for $100 at a sheriff's sale last year after a reverse mortgage company foreclosed on it - shutting down a loan Turano took in 2004.

She borrowed the money to help her pay her property taxes - in an effort to stay in the home. The taxes would be the loan's undoing.

The money ran low, and Turano's attempts to contact the lender, Financial Freedom, and refinance or work things out were never answered, she said.

She fell more behind in the taxes, and then legal notices started coming to the home from the lender around 2012 and 2013.

A little scared and embarrassed, she called her son, Rob Turano. He started what amounted to a last-minute legal battle to straighten things out.

It didn't work.

Rob entered the picture too late, as well as a lawyer he hired.

In January 2016, Mercer County Judge Paul Innes lowered his gavel and completed the foreclosure. "You had two years," Rob recalls the judge saying.

Then Fannie Mae started eviction proceedings against Turano, which heated up late last year. As he examined his mother's paperwork, Rob said he found instances of deceit.

A letter to state Sen. Shirley Turner and the state Attorney General's office were answered, but they did not help. They said his mother's situation warranted concern - and maybe an investigation - but they too were powerless to stop the eviction proceedings.

Rob and the lawyer were able to get some delays, but Fannie Mae collected Gloria's house keys on Feb. 5 - from Rob.

"It was a very sad day for me," he said. Gloria now lives with her son, across town.

Rob said he'll never forget what a lawyer told him early on in his fight: "You're not going to lose this house." Just like the television ads.

They did, and now Rob and Gloria want others to know her plight to save others from falling into the same trap.

Gloria said she hasn't told many people she lost her home. But she's ready now, saying, "If it can do something for someone else, if nothing at all."

THE REVERSE MORTGAGE

Reverse mortgages are loans eligible to homeowners over the age of 62. It's a "reverse" loan because the loan does not have to be paid back while the homeowner is alive and in the house - and taxes and insurance are up to date.

Lenders typically get their money back when the homeowner sells the house, or dies. Homeowners can make monthly payments if they want, but the lure for seniors on fixed income is not having to, lenders say.

Gloria's husband died in 1981, and by 2004, money was getting tight. Property taxes kept rising, but Social Security was not keeping up the same pace, she said.

A friend in Pemberton told her she'd taken a reverse mortgage, and gave Gloria the number for Financial Freedom. After calling it, a vigorous young salesman was promptly at her door. She made him blueberry muffins.

If the money runs out, could she get more? What happens then?

Gloria said the man had perfect answers to all her questions. If she needed more money, they'd refinance the deal because her house would "only go up in value," the man said. The deal was done in about 6 hours, Gloria said.

Due to their complexity, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development requires reverse mortgages require borrowers to be "counseled" before they sign the deal. Gloria said she was counseled over the phone.

Gloria's house was worth about $300,000 in 2004, she recalled, and her reverse mortgage was for about $180,000. She got $104,000 after Financial Freedom paid off an existing $60,000 line of credit she had, plus some other smaller debts.

Rob had no idea. "I didn't tell him anything," she said.

MONEY RUNS OUT

The Turanos put much of the blame on Gloria's situation on the reverse mortgage, which experts say can be tricky - and some say an icky business.

They acknowledge Gloria should have reacted quicker and told someone, but she lived alone and for years had taken care of herself, Rob said.

Everything was fine until about 2007, when the loan funds were running low, but Gloria was unable to reach anyone at Financial Freedom, she said.

Financial Freedom, a subsidiary of OneWest Bank/CIT, did not return a message seeking comment on Gloria's foreclosure. Fannie Mae also did not respond to a request for comment.

Her 2004 salesman told her he'd "always be there for her," she recalls. "I never heard from him again," Gloria said.

She says she hung in there for several more years, but then had to stop making tax payments to get by. "The taxes just kept going up and I did not have the money," Gloria said.

Gloria knew reverse mortgage rules state that taxes on properties must be kept current.

Then, several years ago, as Rob got involved, Financial Freedom apparently started paying down her property tax bills.

But they were also foreclosing - because they were paying the taxes, Rob believes, but he is not totally sure that was the foreclosure reason. The reverse loan balance had ballooned to over $300,000, Rob said.

Reverse mortgage foreclosures are rare, and evictions rarer, experts say.

Mark Kriegel, the lawyer Rob hired to try and save the house, said unpaid property taxes are vulnerable to public auction, which would then add a lien on the property - which lenders do not like.

Rob has since examined his mother's stack of paperwork, and from his calls and correspondence in trying to untangle the loan, he said he's found a case of shady lending to a senior and instance of fraud.

"I think she was just taken advantage of," Rob said. "In 2004, I think they saw a 77-year-old woman and thought, 'Well how much longer does she have on the planet?' "

Again, Gloria did not tell initially tell her son about the notices that started coming to the house because she knew he was having career issues at the time, she said.

But Rob said he found foreclosure notices were for a time being sent to Vernon, in Sussex County, and he found a document that states his mother "met with a certain lawyer early in the process, around 2013."

The meeting never happened, and Rob said he never got an explanation for the wrong address.
He started making calls to lawyers that focus on senior law, and other agencies. "This is fraud," people would tell him.

None of it mattered to the Superior Court of New Jersey, though.

Kriegel said he wished he was involved sooner.

"It's very unfortunate," he said. Reverse mortgages can be confusing, and the companies hedge on borrowers dying,  he said. "It's a morbid assumption and it does not work out for every borrower."
The silver lining is that Gloria Turano, even though she lost her home, outlasted the loan by living so long, Kriegel said. It's likely not what the lender expected.

Rob implored anyone considering a reverse mortgage to consult a lawyer, and make sure your family knows all about it.

THE COMPANIES

In 2011, three major reverse mortgage providers Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Financial Freedom, stopped offering reverse mortgages. Together, the were half of the reverse business at the time.

Wells Fargo cited falling home values and challenges in assessing the homeowner's ability to keep up with taxes and insurance obligations as the reason, Bankrate.com reported.

As for Financial Freedom, it was once part of failed bank IndyMac, which was taken over by the government in 2008.

In 2009, Steven Mnuchin led an investors group to buy the bank's remains - including subsidiary Financial Freedom - and renamed it OneWest. He is now President Donald Trump's Secretary of the Treasury.

This angered Turano, who started studying OneWest and Mnuchin.

Rob found, as Bloomberg News reported, that after Mnuchin sold OneWest Bank last year, HUD opened an investigation into foreclosure practices at subsidiary Financial Freedom.

And new owner CIT found more than $230 million in missing money, Bloomberg reported. Financial Freedom, as of December, 2016, had foreclosed on 16,220 loans - about 39 percent of the country's reverse-mortgage foreclosures, the site reported.

Combined with the way his mother was ignored, Rob said, and then finding out about the investigation and Mnuchin's ascension to government leader was too much to Rob.

He watched Mnuchin's confirmation hearings.

"I was taken by the manner in which he portrayed having to foreclose on homeowners as a tough job that he didn't seem to want to do; 'cleaning up the mess' I think he called it," Rob said of Mnuchin.

On the weekend of Donald Trump's inauguration celebrations, an estate sale company the Turanos hired held an open house at the Turano home, where workers had put price tags on nearly everything Gloria Turano owned, from her furniture to paperback books, and the fur coat she once cherished.

"The stark contrast of this weekend for us is this: as billionaire appointments and their friends descend on Washington to celebrate their victory, people will traipse through our family home buying - at a discount - my family's 65 years of life," Rob said then.

A FINAL INDIGNITY

Fannie Mae initially said Gloria had until the end of this month to leave the home, but then started offering her cash to leave early.

"First it was $5,000, then $2,000," Rob said. Gloria left on her own, without any rush money to exit early.

"I'm just so upset at the way she, and we, we're treated throughout this," Rob said.

The home on Skillman Avenue - where her husband loved to cook on a special indoor charcoal grill he installed, where she cleaned the "pecky cypress" walls by hand with a special solution and where the family loved to gather in the long, skinny backyard - sits empty, awaiting sale to a new owner.

Gloria Turano is healthy as one can expect at 90, save for some minor back problems, Rob says. And she has not lost her cooking skills, a bright spot for mother and son as she settles into her new digs with Rob.

"At least I'll get gnocchi out of it," Rob said as Gloria chuckled.

Full Article & Source:
90-year-old woman foreclosed, evicted from home of over 60 years

Lawmakers outraged over lack of investigation in nursing home complaints

The numbers of nursing home complaints that are not fully investigated have left Minnesota lawmakers quietly shocked and outraged.

The Minnesota Health Department performed on-site investigations of just 10 percent of the 3,400 complaint allegations it received from the public about nursing home and home-care treatment last year, according to the agency’s statistics.

And when nursing homes or other facilities self report allegations, the numbers from fiscal year 2016 were even lower. The agency only did on-site inspections of 102 allegations — less than 1 percent — of the nearly 21,000 allegations it received from providers’ reports.

“This is one of the worst performance reports I’ve heard in my 18 years,” Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka told state officials. “As a state we are failing with this….I don’t often get shocked anymore but you caught my attention.”

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. (Courtesy photo)
MN Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger
In committees and subsequent interviews, the agency agreed the numbers deserve attention.

“It is a high priority. This is an issue that we’ve had to deal with,” Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger told the Pioneer Press.

The number of vulnerable adults receiving care and the ease of lodging complaints have both grown in recent years, resulting in an exponential increase in the number of complaints the department takes in.

In 2010, the state’s Office of Health Facility Complaints received fewer than 500 maltreatment complaints from the public. Last year, that number was nearly 3,500. Six years ago, providers reported 3,100 possible issues. Last year, they reported almost 20,800.

The influx has prompted the agency to triage the complaints that come in. Complaints of actual harm, potential for harm or widespread problems which could lead to immediate jeopardy quickly rise to the top, said Assistant Health Department Commissioner Gil Acevedo.

But that leaves the department unable to immediately attend to other issues.

“Thousands of complaints are not investigated so maltreatment continues, and less severe issues may escalate to more serious harm,” the agency said in a budget request this year. Those uninvestigated complaints in the last year included more than 4,000 falls, nearly 2,000 complaints of emotional or physical abuse by staff and nearly 3,000 “unexplained injuries,” the department said.

“We know that this is not acceptable,” Acevedo told a senate committee. “The volume of complaints that are coming in pretty much overwhelms our staff.”

TIME DELAY


Even when the agency does an on-site investigation, the process takes a while.

“Because of the time it takes to complete investigations, the public does not know about complaints occurring in facilities where their loved ones live,” the agency said in its budget request.

Acevedo highlighted for a senate committee a case the state looked into last year, from a Gracewood senior living facility in Hugo.

From the investigative report on the incident: “A white powdered substance was spread under the client’s nose and the same white powdered substance was on the table placed in three straight lines. Client #2 was experiencing arm tremors. The song ‘Cocaine’ by Eric Clapton was playing in the background.” The white powder, it was discovered, was powdered sugar.

That resident was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and “was unable to report maltreatment due to severe memory impairment,” the investigative report said. But a staffer at the facility recorded the incident and shared the video.

In another incident, a client was recorded on the toilet and yelling “you guys are going to hell” at a staffer, and a staffer yelled back “we’ll see you there.” In a third recorded and shared incident, a client was videotaped holding an empty alcohol bottle “while another unidentified staff member was pushing the client’s wheelchair, with ‘rock music’ playing the background.”

“The facility was aware about this but did nothing to correct it,” Acevedo told senators.

But the report raised questions.

Undated courtesy photo, circa Sept. 2016, of Karin Housley of St. Marys Point, who is a candidate for State Senate District 39 in the November 2016 election. (Courtesy photo)
 Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point
“You said that complaint came in May,” Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, asked the assistant commissioner at the committee meeting.

“Yes, ma’am,” Acevedo replied.

“And the report was just posted yesterday?” Housley asked on Feb. 1.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

According to the health department, the initial complaint was received May 9 and considered serious enough to warrant a site visit. That two-day visit occurred in mid-June. The investigation continued until Aug. 24. The investigator informed Hugo Graceland that it found a violation of state statute in early October. While the investigation became public information on Dec. 20, it wasn’t posted onto the state’s website until Jan. 31, 2017, because of a backlog in web postings.

Although the state took months to publicly post the report, Hugo Graceland did not wait for action, according to Kari Bina, regional director for the group that operates a dozen Minnesota assisted living facilities, including Hugo Gracewood.

“We didn’t find out about this incident until the state walked through our door,” she said. Once the state officials arrived in June, the facility conducted its own investigation and “staff members that were involved were terminated immediately.”

NEXT STEPS


As the number of complaints rose and the percentage of state officials who could investigate declined, the state took steps to address some of the issues.

The state changed the leadership of the office overseeing investigations, began work to streamline the investigation process and adopted new methods to help prevent problems.

“We recognize that we have not been able to meet the needs that are there in the community. We recognized it several years ago and, actually, it has led to some major changes,” said Ehlinger, the health commissioner.

The governor’s budget also proposes a state increase in funding for the health facility complaint office over the next four years, accompanied by a request for more federal funding for investigations and higher fees paid by nursing home and home care providers.

Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, which represents nursing homes and other care and housing providers, said the providers see the need to increase the state complaint-investigation work.

“We’re supportive of that, even if there are going to be increased fees on our people,” she said.

Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka
Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka
Abeler, the state senator from Anoka and a longtime expert in health and human services, said he was not sure that increasing the budget would solve the problems.

“I don’t think they use the money they have well,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state will continue to work to improve.

“We are far from where we need to be,” Ehlinger told senators. “We are far from where we want to be.”

Full Article & Source:
Lawmakers outraged over lack of investigation in nursing home complaints

Tennessee lawmakers Norris, Gardenhire push bills to battle elderly abuse

Sen. Todd Gardenhire
NASHVILLE — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R- Chattanooga, and other lawmakers have unveiled a trio of bills aimed at protecting the elderly and other vulnerable Tennesseans from abuse.

The bills are intended to expand "systemic protection" for victims of physical, mental and financial abuse, imposing tougher penalties on perpetrators convicted of the offenses.

Among other things, the three bills would add elder abuse as an aggravating factor for juries to consider in death penalty cases.

Bankers and financial advisers would gain new whistle-blower protections in cases where they suspect elderly Tennesseans are being exploited.

"We have to address abuse," Norris said Monday at a news conference with lawmakers, prosecutors, bankers and senior advocates.

Noting seniors represent "one of the fastest [growing] demographic segments in our country," Norris said physical, sexual and financial fraud shot up by some 20 percent in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013. And it remains an under-reported crime, he added.

All three measures come out of an Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Task Force and are intended to build on a 2016 law sponsored by Norris and Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, which established Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Teams in the state.

The teams operate in all 31 of Tennessee's judicial districts and seek to foster cooperation and information sharing between different government agencies whose mission includes protecting elderly and vulnerable adults.

"Financial exploitation robs elderly victims of their money and their dignity," said Gardenhire, a retired financial adviser. "It also can rob them of their independence and can even force them into depending on government assistance, despite their best efforts to save for their golden years."

As a financial adviser, Gardenhire said he witnessed instances of abuse, sometimes by seniors' own children. "They come in and suck the money out of their [parents'] accounts."

The senator is co- sponsoring the bill dealing with financial abuse, which he said "gives someone immunity to pick up the phone and call somebody to say, 'I think Grandma is being taken advantage of.'"

District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis in the 31st Judicial District, which is comprised of Van Buren and Warren counties, said she's seen an increase in abuse that's "just devastating" during her tenure as a prosecutor.

Components of the three bills would elevate how some crimes are classified, thereby increasing amounts of fines and prison time, turning some current misdemeanors into felonies, Zavogiannis said.

Norris said elderly abuse is a silent crisis in which crimes "often go unreported, leaving its helpless victims to suffer silently. And, far too frequently, it happens at the hand of those whom they trust the most."

Incapacitation, shame, fear of losing independence or "simply being unaware of available resources, discourages victims from reporting abuse," Norris said. "Often, because the abuser may be a family member, the individual may also be fearful of reprisals."

Lawmakers say studies show reported cases of assault and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults have increased by 20 percent or more over the last decade.

According to estimates, as many as one in 14 cases of elder abuse are unreported. Other estimates indicate 41.4 percent of offenses were committed by a family member. Another 13.3 percent of victims were described by law enforcement as having close relationships with the perpetrator.

The legislation is being supported by AARP and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.

"It's time that we stop it," said Jim Shulman, executive director of the Commission on Aging and Disability. "Some of the stories are just horrendous."

To boost protection and penalties, the lawmakers introduced the following bills:

* Senate Bill 1230, the "Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act," which adds on existing criminal laws impacting elder and vulnerable adult abuse and exploitation. It creates class C and D felonies for those found guilty of committing these crimes and requires state agencies to submit offenders' names to the Tennessee Department of Health's Abuse Registry.

* Senate Bill 1192 makes various changes to state regulation of securities. That includes granting the commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance authority to restrict certain exemptions, increasing penalties for violations where senior citizens and adults with certain mental or physical dysfunctions are victims and altering filing and renewal requirements.

* Senate Bill 1267 requires the state Department of Financial Institutions to consult with financial service providers, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability and the Department of Human Services to consider ways all can collaborate to promote education and awareness of the dangers to vulnerable adults regarding financial exploitation.

Full Article & Source:
Tennessee lawmakers Norris, Gardenhire push bills to battle elderly abuse

Tennessee lawmakers announce legislation to combat elderly abuse

Click to Watch Video
Flanked by fellow lawmakers and representatives from the Elder Abuse Task Force, AARP and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, announced three bills that would combat what he said was a “growing problem” of elderly abuse in Tennessee.

“One of the fastest growing segments of our community in Tennessee is the elderly,” Norris said.
"Unfortunately, this mirrors an equally fast growing statistic on crime.”

Spurred by recommendations from a two-year study conducted by the Elder Abuse Task Force, the legislation aims to impose stricter penalties on those who prey on the elderly by enacting the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act.

Full Article, Video & Source:
Tennessee lawmakers announce legislation to combat elderly abuse

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cop Becomes Legal Guardian of 83-Year-Old With Dementia

A Kentucky cop said it was all part of the job when he took legal guardianship of an elderly man with dementia in his neighborhood.

"It doesn’t take any effort to care," said Sgt. Jon Sterling of the Erlanger Police Department. "Once Norm started down the road of not being able to take care of himself, it was the only logical step. You know, how could I not?"

The police officer of more than 20 years said he met Norm about four years ago, when the Korean War vet called cops to report some suspicious activity in his area.

"[Norm] lives alone and he lives in an area of the city that has pretty heavy traffic," Sterling told InsideEdition.com. “He looks after his neighbors.”

In the following years, Sterling said he often ran into Norm around town.

"Whenever I would see him, we would just stop and talk," he said. "He’s a very smart person. He has a very interesting view on history and politics. I just loved talking to him."

Last week, Sterling said he noticed social workers at Norm’s home, and dropped by to make sure he was OK. Norm had recently turned 83.

“He had lost a bunch of weight. It had been so long since I had seen him,” Sterling said. “His hair was as long as his beard. He really looked like he wasn’t taking care of himself. He literally had gotten smaller.”

The social workers determined he had a case of early on-set dementia, and Sterling added that Norm’s eccentric personality may have compounded the diagnosis.

"He’s got a way about him that I really liked because I’m a little eccentric myself," Sterling said. "So that’s kind of one of the ways we bonded."

Realizing that Norm had no close family members, he decided to assume guardianship of the senior. His wife, a nurse, and son were immediately on board with his decision.

Sterling was able to check his friend into the hospital, where he was given IV fluids, fed, and cleaned up.

"The short time he was in the hospital, he got his balance back; he got his color back," Sterling said. "He got the fullness in his face. It really helped."

With his temporary guardianship, Sterling was able to access his health and bank records, and figure out what further care he needed, including a retirement home.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Cop Becomes Legal Guardian of 83-Year-Old With Dementia

In Honor of March Being DD Awareness Month: Let Them Out!

NASGA is re-posting the first in a series of films about people with disabilities needlessly locked away in institutions in the US. It's happening across the country and we appreciate dedicated filmmakers who are bringing this national disgrace to the public's eye. #LetThemOut from Jody Santos on Vimeo.

Jody Santos is an award-winning journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker. She has reported for television, print news, and public radio for the last 20 years, and has been producing and directing documentaries for PBS and cable networks like Discovery Health and the Hallmark Channel since 2000. She has traveled to more than a dozen countries across five continents, documenting everything from the trafficking of girls in Nepal to sustainable agriculture efforts in Honduras.

Regardless of the medium, her goal has remained the same: to shed light on the social injustices of the day. Her reports often focus on the issue of violence against women and children and ways to prevent violence in our communities. As a special projects producer for Boston’s NBC news affiliate, she was nominated for an Emmy for a special report on an effort to rid the city’s streets of black market guns. Her documentary, No One Left Behind, just won a Telly Award in Film/Video in the social responsibility category. It was selected from over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents.

Over the years, Santos has appeared on National Public Radio, Unsolved Mysteries and other news outlets to defend her writings and weigh in on important current events. She teaches broadcast journalism and documentary film at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her book, Daring to Feel: Violence, the News Media, and Their Emotions, was released by Rowman & Littlefield in December 2009.

Get Ready for DD Awareness Month


March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD),  Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and  National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)  have partnered to launch a social media campaign to highlight the many ways in which people with and without developmental disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities.
The campaign seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.
Throughout the month of March, they will be posting many resources across social media including videos, blogs, toolkits, and other shareable content. We want to use this campaign to showcase the excellent work DD Councils, organizations and individuals are doing.

Source:  ACL Update 1/30/17

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Documentary "Edith+Edddie" Premiers at True/False Filmfest in Missouri


Two lovers against the world. A relationship trying to beat the odds.

This is among the most prominent storylines in our common book of narratives. Laura Checkoway finds a new way to tell it, at the intersection of ageism and ageless love, in her short film “Edith + Eddie,” which will have its premiere at next week’s True/False Film Fest.

Checkoway traveled to Virginia to make one film and emerged with something else — what no doubt will be among the most charming and infuriating 30 minutes True/False audiences will witness.
The title figures were newlyweds when Checkoway met them. Edith, who is black, and Eddie, who is white, dated for a decade before tying the knot at 96 and 95, respectively.

“It started really as a sweet love story, and just a testament to finding love in that season of your life,” Checkoway said. “They’d both been so awakened by each other. It seemed to give them a new reason to want to get up in the morning.”

It quickly became evident that another drama was bubbling up below the surface. Edith’s daughters were at loggerheads about how to care for their mother, and a legal guardian — who had never met Edith — was appointed to intervene.

As events unfolded, Checkoway was confused by what she saw. She initially thought this power struggle was an isolated incident but, after doing her homework, learned Edith and Eddie's story is an all-too-common one.

The film became a meditation on how we treat our elders and a painful glance at the guardianship system, which Checkoway called broken and predatory. Checkoway’s affection for her subjects, and the disorientation she feels with the viewer at seeing their potential fate, is clear throughout.

“Laura cares about the people she’s filming,” said documentary veteran Steve James, who executive produced “Edith + Eddie” as well as Checkoway’s first film, “Lucky.”

Checkoway’s background is in print journalism, most notably profiles and features for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and Vibe. Her transition into documentary was relatively natural, she said. The demands of a new medium felt like more of an adjustment than moving beyond the world of celebrity.

“I became a documentary filmmaker, maybe without consciously realizing it, but because I wanted to tell the stories of everyday people,” Checkoway said.

Full Article and Source:
All in Good Time:  True/False Doc Explores Purity, Complication of Ageless Love

Join the Edith+Eddie Facebook Page

Note:  Edith+Eddie premiers at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO Feb. 27 thru March 5th.  See the Edith+Eddie Facebook Page for exact time and locations.

Local Author Shares Troubling Experiences with Guardianship

Local author Teresa Lyles is sharing her experiences about guardianship and the rights of incapacitated individuals.

Teresa Lyles says she was very close with her mother, Carmen Tozzo, before 2011. Lyles says she was Tozzo's primary caregiver, until a family dispute ended in her siblings removing Tozzo from her custody. Tozzo was evaluated by Alachua County, in a competency hearing to determine her future.

Lyles says, "She was deamed incompetent, which means that you have no rights. She couldn't vote, she couldn't file a police report, she couldn't sue anybody. All of her constitutional rights were taken away, and she was put under a guardian."

Lyles says problems began with the guardian. "This permanent guardian literally started drugging her. Then she was drugged and removed from her home, and put in a lock down facility, also here in Gainesville."

Guardian care, Lyles claims, is what ultimately led to her mother's death. "She fell close to thirty times, while she was in both facilities. She was not given access to her money, she was not given access to her family."

Tozzo died at the age of 96, and Lyles says she didn't know how to cope. She eventually wrote a book, detailing their story, to bring awareness to situations like this. Lyles says, "What I want to do is raise awareness of this issue. It can happen anywhere, it happened here. I'm not the only that has gone through this experience."

Lyles explains her story more completely in her novel, "65 Minutes: A Tale of Torture and Murder in Guardianship."

Full Article & Source:
Local Author Shares Troubling Experiences with Guardianship

Lee Co. judges have to be present at Baker Act cases

Lee County judges have been ordered by the Florida Supreme Court to appear in person for Baker Act hearings.

The practice was halted in April when a judicial assistant for Judge Andrew Swett announced via email the judge would no longer be commuting to SalusCare and Park Royal Hospital but would instead chime in via a television screen.

The hearings in question relate to people who have been involuntarily committed for mental health reasons. The Baker Act, or the Florida Mental Health Act, is used to commit someone for 72 hours.  After three days, the individual can be released or the hospital can order a hearing where a judge decides whether to commit the individual for a longer period of time.

Kathy Smith, public defender for the 20th Judicial District, asked the court to intervene on behalf of people with mental disabilities.

The issue went to the Supreme Court after a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in September that nothing bars a Lee County judge from appearing via a screen in Baker Act cases, according to the News Service of Florida.

Kathy Smith, public defender - 20th Judicial District.
"We had found, as the attorneys of record, that conducting hearings in this fashion over video is very distressing to some of our clients that are experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations," Smith said.

The hearings held through screens left her clients wondering what was real and what wasn't' real, said Smith, who serves on the Supreme Court Task Force for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

"When they are having those concerns it makes it all the more difficult for us to tell their story," she said.

Mental heath advocates, including the Disability Rights Florida Inc., filed a brief on arguing that appearing electronically was inappropriate in these cases.

A decision allowing for judges to telecommute would be adverse to people who have mental disabilities, the group states.

"They are one of the most vulnerable populations that we deal with as lawyers and sometimes that means going the extra mile to make sure they understand what's happening," Smith said. "It's important."

The court began to use telecommuting in mental health facilities "for the purpose of promoting efficiency, time management of limited judicial resources, and security concerns," said Sara Miles, public information officer for the 20th Judicial Circuit.

Judge Andrew Swett
Miles said it's important to note the law doesn't prohibit judges from using technology to appear remotely in these proceedings.

The technology used for appearing via teleconference is state-funded and "allows for clear visual and audio contact," Miles said.

"Due process is preserved," she said, adding that the patients receive prompt timely hearings.

A final decision has not been made by the Supreme Court, but until then Judge Swett will have to commute to the hospitals for the Baker Act hearings.

Full Article & Source:
Lee Co. judges have to be present at Baker Act cases