Saturday, December 9, 2017

Inside a judge’s rehab: Unpaid work at Ada's Coca-Cola plant

Retired Oklahoma Judge Thomas Landrith is hailed as a hero of criminal justice reform.

He started the first rural drug court in the nation and has reaped awards for sending defendants to treatment rather than prison. Most judges in the state model their drug courts after his.

But Landrith also is involved in a more sinister byproduct of criminal justice reform.

Nearly a decade ago, Landrith started his own rehab work camp where defendants must work full time for free at a local Coca-Cola bottling plant and other companies, under threat of prison if they don’t comply. They are required to say they’re unemployed and turn over their food stamps to the program, which state regulators say is fraud. And on their days off, some worked for free mowing Landrith’s lawn and doing yard work around his property.

“It’s a joke, that’s all it is,” said Justin Manion, who was sent to Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery – also known as SOAR – by a judge this year. “It’s a sh***y place.”

It’s the latest discovery in an ongoing investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting into rehab programs across the country that promise defendants freedom from addiction but instead turn them into indentured servants for private industry.

Coca-Cola’s guidelines for its independent bottling plants prohibit forced labor. In response to Reveal’s reporting, the Ada Coca-Cola Bottling Co. said it would suspend its use of SOAR, saying in a statement that it takes “the concerns that have been raised seriously.”

“We have participated in the SOAR program because of the good we have seen it can do for people in our community and are hopeful we can work with SOAR to revise the terms of the program so that we can resume participation in the future,” the statement said.

The involvement of one of Oklahoma’s most celebrated judges exposes just how pervasive this type of rehab model has become, implicating major corporationspowerful politicians and even those whose job is to uphold the law. And it lays bare a litany of ethical and legal problems that can arise in the process, even in programs started with the best intentions.

Many defendants sent to SOAR have not yet been convicted of crimes, making their forced labor a potential violation of the 13th Amendment ban on slavery and involuntary servitude, according to legal experts.

State ethics rules say a judge should not serve as an officer of an organization whose proceedings might come before him or her. Landrith currently is an unpaid SOAR board member – a position he’s held since 2014 – and has sent at least nine defendants from his drug court to SOAR since 2010, records from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services show.

Landrith retired from the bench in 2014 but continues to work as the drug court judge in Pontotoc County as an unpaid volunteer. He said he tries to avoid sending men to his program, but doesn’t consider it a violation of the rules.

The rules still apply to retired judges, said Eric Mitts, director of the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints.

“In general, the judge should stay away from accepting a position that might create a conflict of interest,” he said.

‘Labor conquers all’


Landrith started SOAR in 2008 as his drug court was grappling with a shortage of affordable treatment programs. The Pontotoc County jail was so overcrowded that when Landrith meted out punishment for dirty drug tests, some defendants ended up sleeping outside. His rehab program would cost defendants and taxpayers nothing. All those in the program had to do was work.

“Labor conquers all,” Landrith said. “Some of those people have never worked a day in their life.”

Today, SOAR houses about 55 men and women who work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, a car wash owned by a board member, a roofing company, local motels and a Leachco factory that makes pregnancy pillows sold at Babies R Us, Nordstrom and Bed Bath & Beyond.

While women in the program get to keep some of their pay, men get nothing. The companies pay SOAR for all the labor and don’t have to pay for workers’ taxes or workers’ compensation insurance, according to the rehab program.

“Here at Ada Coca-Cola, we hire SOAR men because they’re dependable, reliable and they save us money,” a company representative said in a 2015 promotional video.

Kevin Lowe, the hiring manager at Ultimate Carwashes said the company’s priority is helping the men. Putting them to work is the only way most are able to afford treatment, he said.

“If that’s against the law, then shame on the law,” Lowe said. “I see men get their lives back and become fathers and husbands and contributing members of society again.”

In addition to working, the men are required to attend a group counseling session once a week and church services twice a week. If they complete the six-month program without breaking any rules, they’re eligible for a $500 stipend.

Reveal spoke with more than a dozen men who attended the SOAR program. All but one said the program was more concerned with work than their recovery. Cody Evans called it “the worst experience of my life.” Dustin Barnes called the people who run SOAR “crooks.”

Dustin Barnes was sent to SOAR in 2015. While there, Barnes said he was ordered to do yard work for Judge Thomas Landrith, including cleaning brush from his creek bed and mowing his lawn.
Dustin Barnes was sent to SOAR in 2015. While there, Barnes said he was ordered to do yard work for Judge Thomas Landrith, including cleaning brush from his creek bed and mowing his lawn. (Credit: Shane Bevel for Reveal)

“‘If you can’t work, your ass should not be here.’ They tell you that when you first get there,” said Lee Purdy, who was court-ordered to SOAR and worked at Leachco. “This ain’t the place for you if you can’t work.”

If men got hurt or were too sick to work, the program often kicked them out, they said. Some worked despite being injured.

“It made me mad and feel like I really wasn’t worth nothing,” said Lucas Allen, one of the men Landrith sent to SOAR in 2015. He said he was forced to work with an injured hand.  “It’s like they didn’t care what happened to me.”

“It’s the best way to re-establish some kind of self-worth in those individuals,” said board President Duane Murray. “There’s nothing better, more therapeutic than getting up and doing what everybody else does on a regularly scheduled basis.”

Landrith told Reveal that he expects SOAR to get sued for its work practices, as two other Oklahoma rehabs have recently. If that happens, he said, most defendants going to work-based programs will probably end up going to prison.

“We started the SOAR program because there was no place to send anybody. It’s still that way,” he said. “I don’t know what everybody wants the endgame to be.”

Other programs that resemble SOAR pay their participants for their labor. And most don’t have their participants perform free yard work for a judge.

“We were cleaning brush in his creek bed behind his house,” said Barnes, whom a judge sent to SOAR in 2015. “Cleaning his gutters. Mowing his lawn. Doing hedges. He was there hanging out, like he was one of the guys.”

Landrith said he donated a lawnmower and their pay to SOAR.

Abusing the food stamp program

Judge Landrith started SOAR in 2008 as his drug court was grappling with a shortage of affordable treatment programs.
Judge Landrith started SOAR in 2008 as his drug court was grappling with a shortage of affordable treatment programs. (Credit: Shane Bevel for Reveal)

Cody Theriac thought he’d caught a break when a drug court judge in Tulsa decided to give him another chance at rehab instead of sending him to prison.

But when Theriac arrived at SOAR, his first stop wasn’t to a drug and alcohol counselor. It was to the local food stamp office in Ada.

Theriac never had applied for food stamps before. As he sat in the drab government office, a SOAR employee coached him on exactly what to say.

He had to say he was unemployed, he remembered, even though a few days later he would be working full time at Leachco. He should say he was in a rehab. And once he got his benefit card, he had to turn it over to SOAR.

“Isn’t this fraud?” Theriac remembers asking SOAR administrators at the time. “I kept getting the same answers: ‘This is no big deal, this is how it’s done.’ The whole time I thought, if I don’t do what they said, I would go to prison.”

So Theriac did it. He left the Department of Human Services office with a food stamp card that day.

SOAR confiscated Theriac’s benefit card, locking it in a safe with those of other participants. Every few weeks, SOAR administrators would take a handful of men in the program to the local Walmart, where they were forced to use their cards to buy food for the entire rehab, they said.

A dozen other SOAR participants confirmed that they also were told what to say to qualify for a benefit card and then ordered to relinquish it to SOAR.

“It is against the law,” said Debra Martin, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. “The people who this happened to need to call us or email us and let us know.”

Some drug and alcohol rehab centers are allowed to apply for special food stamps for clients and legally purchase food on their behalf. But SOAR is not one of these approved programs and never has applied for these special benefit cards, according to the department.

“Any incorrect information on the application would be a crime in and of itself,” said Joe Glover, a department agent who investigates food stamp fraud. “The card is only for the individual. It’s not for a group.”

Murray, SOAR’s board president, called the participants of SOAR “volunteers, not employees,” saying they weren’t technically employed anywhere. He said the rehab had worked out an arrangement with the local Department of Human Services office when it came to food stamps.
Martin said the department is unaware of any such deal.

A questionable rehab model


Landrith got the idea for SOAR from Raymond Jones, a convicted meth dealer who once came through his court.

After Landrith ordered Jones to complete a similar work-based rehab program nearly 20 years ago, Jones told Landrith that he had found God and was a changed man – so much so that he decided to start a rehab of his own, called the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program.

Jones also helped launch Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery, a rehab that provides labor to chicken processing plants using unpaid workers. As a result of Reveal’s original investigation, participants filed a total of four class-action lawsuits against the two rehabs, alleging human trafficking and fraud. The program is now the subject of two government investigations.

“Raymond is a very smart guy. We thought, ‘Well, if they could do this, why can’t we?’ ” Landrith recalled. “So Raymond and I decided to do one here. He was the person who said, ‘I think we could do this.’ ”

Jones confirmed that he consulted with Landrith on the creation of SOAR but said he is no longer involved.

Like its predecessors, SOAR has become indispensable to courts looking for alternatives to prison. At least 15 drug courts from across Oklahoma have sent defendants to SOAR since 2010, records show.

Some judges send defendants to the program to get them away from bad influences or into stable housing. But others have used the program instead of certified treatment, a potential violation of state law.

The Oklahoma Drug Court Act requires drug courts to send defendants for treatment at certified facilities with trained counselors and regular inspections. SOAR is uncertified and says the best cure for addiction is hard work.

Neither the courts nor the program have ever measured its success.

“I’ve never worked that much in my life. I was exhausted every day,” said Jesse James Ward, who worked for a roofing company and completed SOAR in 2015.

Not long after leaving the program, he was charged with drug possession.

Full Article & Source:
Inside a judge’s rehab: Unpaid work at Ada's Coca-Cola plant

Woman gets 5 years for bilking elderly Palatine man out of $4 million

A woman has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for bilking an elderly northwest suburban man out of more than $4 million.

Corinne Dziesiuta, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in August, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Dziesiuta, who is originally from New Jersey, was working for a call center in Costa Rica when she made several phone calls and sent letters to the victim, a Palatine resident, prosecutors said. The victim was told that he won millions of dollars in a sweepstake, but had to pay various fees and taxes in order to collect.

Dziesiuta and her accomplices tricked and bullied the man into transferring large amounts of money to accounts they controlled, prosecutors said. He made 37 payments ranging from $23,751 to $210,000.

She perpetuated the scheme for more than six years, causing the victim to lose more than $4.1 million, prosecutors said.

In 2016, the victim began cooperating with law enforcement, who directed him to inform Dziesiuta, who was using the name “Lisa Conti,” that he would only provide additional funds in person, prosecutors said.

Dziesiuta agreed to travel to New York to meet him, and was arrested when she arrived at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin sentenced Dziesiuta to 60 months in prison on Tuesday, according to the statement.

Full Article & Source:
Woman gets 5 years for bilking elderly Palatine man out of $4 million

Sheriff: Pair stole thousands from developmentally disabled man in Oregon City area

Jack Allen Dunn and Rosemarie Hildegard Henley
OREGON CITY, OR (KPTV) - A man and woman are accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a developmentally disabled man they were supposed to be watching over in the Oregon City area, according to deputies.

Jack Allen Dunn, 43, and Rosemarie Hildegard Henley, 49, both of Redland, were arrested Nov. 20 on charges including criminal mistreatment and theft.

At the prompting of an attorney for the family trust of the 73-year-old victim, detectives began an investigation into financial irregularities relating to the suspects’ handling of the man’s income.

Adult Protective Services was also involved Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office investigation.

The 73-year-old man lives on a farm on Potter Road in the Oregon City area and he granted Dunn and Henley power of attorney to assume control of his finances, which included disability payments and social security benefits, in mid-2015.

Investigators said the suspects also began tending to the farm animals on the man’s 40-acre property.
Detectives determined Dunn and Henley spent tens of thousands of dollars of the man’s money on themselves.

Both suspects were booked into the Clackamas County Jail on charges of criminal mistreatment and theft. Dunn faces an additional charge of possession of an unlawful silencer.

Before Dunn and Henley were granted power of attorney, the man’s sister-in-law had been managing his finances since 2012.

In October 2016, the Clackamas County Circuit Court named a new limited guardian and conservator for the man. A court-appointed advocate has also been assigned to help maintain his independence.

Full Article & Source:
Sheriff: Pair stole thousands from developmentally disabled man in Oregon City area

Friday, December 8, 2017

Woman who bilked elderly man out of millions is sentenced


CHICAGO (AP) — A woman who pleaded guilty to bilking an elderly suburban Chicago man out of more than $4 million over six years has been sentenced to five years in federal prison.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Corrine Dziesiuta (zee-SEW’-tah) was sentenced on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin. She pleaded guilty in August to federal fraud charges.

Prosecutors have said the 39-year-old Dziesiuta persuaded the widower who is now 88 years old to wire funds from his U.S. bank account to banks in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. She told him he’d won millions of dollars in prize money but needed to pay insurance, taxes and fees.

She was arrested after making arrangements to fly him to New York so he could deliver a check for more than $3.7 million.

Full Article & Source:
Woman who bilked elderly man out of millions is sentenced

Families of elder abuse victims speak out, wield new power at Minnesota State Capitol

Elder Voice members visited the Capitol on Friday to meet with Gov. Dayton’s administration about abuse in senior care homes.

They are members of a group that no one would want to join. But they are growing in numbers and political influence.

They are the daughters, sons, spouses and other relatives of vulnerable adults who have been physically or emotionally abused at senior care facilities across Minnesota.

In recent weeks this coalition, known as Elder Voice Family Advocates, has emerged from obscurity to play a central role in early efforts by the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton to reform Minnesota’s troubled system for responding to violent crimes and other forms of abuse in senior homes.

Over the past year, its members have blanketed Minnesota legislators with letters, e-mails, phone calls and testimonials highlighting their stories of anguish, including incidents in which loved ones have died, been maimed or traumatized as a result of maltreatment. Last spring, as lawmakers considered budget increases to keep pace with escalating complaints of maltreatment, members of Elder Voice made repeated trips to the State Capitol to describe crimes that were going uninvestigated and unresolved.

Their grass-roots efforts gained new urgency after the publication last month of a five-part Star Tribune series chronicling breakdowns in the state’s handling of elder abuse investigations. The report prompted a chorus of legislators to demand reforms, and Dayton this week called for a special work group to quickly produce recommendations for the 2018 Legislature. Elder Voice was chosen to help lead the work group — a remarkable feat for a volunteer-driven organization that still funds its activities by passing a hat at meetings.

“We feel the gentle hands of our loved ones pushing us forward,” said Jean Peters, one of a half-dozen Elder Voice members who met with Dayton’s top staff on Friday. “Our job is to channel the anger and the sadness that many of us still feel into positive change for vulnerable seniors across this state.”

Bright orange socks

Elder Voice’s increasingly political role has come as something of a surprise to the group’s founders.
The idea for the group came out of a meeting nearly two years ago between Suzanne Scheller, an attorney from Champlin, and Peters, at a forum on elder justice. At the time, Peters had just discovered that her 85-year-old mother had been emotionally abused and ridiculed by a nurse’s aide at an assisted-living facility in Edina.

Over coffee, the two discussed their shared frustration at how hard it is for relatives to get even basic details of abuse incidents from state investigators or the facilities where the abuse took place. They discussed forming a group — the only one of its kind in Minnesota — focused on providing support to family members of abuse victims and improving quality of care at senior homes.

Within weeks, however, Peters and Scheller found themselves entangled in a policy debate over the use of hidden cameras in senior homes. Peters and her sister, Kay Bromelkamp, had used a miniature camera to detect the abuse of their mother; Scheller strongly believed that such devices could deter abuse. When legislation was introduced in 2016 that would enshrine the rights of Minnesota families to use electronic surveillance, Peters and Scheller rallied other relatives to testify in support.

As word of Elder Voice spread, people began traveling from as far away as Bemidji and Red Wing to attend the group’s quarterly meetings in Champlin and Minneapolis. Others called in from Iowa, Wisconsin and even Ontario. What began as a support group small enough to fit in Peters’ Minneapolis living room soon had to hold its meetings in Twin Cities community centers.

Before long, members of the group who only recently had been strangers found themselves traipsing to the State Capitol to testify and attend hearings together, often in distinctive orange clothing to match the group’s tangerine-colored logo.

As a further show of solidarity, the group’s leaders have taken to wearing orange socks emblazoned with the figure of a woman flexing her biceps and the words “Give ’em hell.”

As a result of the group’s outreach, lawmakers last spring directed the Office of the Legislative Auditor to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the state Health Department’s process for investigating maltreatment complaints. That review will be completed in January.

“The issue resonates and it resonates very quickly,” said Scheller, the elder abuse attorney. “Everyone knows someone in their family affected by elder abuse and neglect.”

Left in the dark

Robin Roberts, a real estate agent who lives in New London, Minn., is among the group’s newest members.

Like many in Elder Voice, she came to the group in a state of despair — but determined. In late October, Roberts was called into a meeting and told matter-of-factly that her 81-year-old mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, had been a victim of “inappropriate sexual touching” by a male resident at her assisted-living facility. She was told that the incident had been reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, which investigates abuse. However, when Roberts asked for more information, she was told that all details would remain confidential until the state completed its investigation.

“At first, when you learn that something this horrific has happened to your mother, you feel helpless and alone,” Roberts said. “You start reaching out for anything — anything, anything that will effect change, because the laws as they are written now are stacked against the families.”

The group’s legislative agenda for 2018 is decidedly ambitious. It includes changes to the criminal code that would enhance penalties against abusers of vulnerable adults; changes to state law that would grant victims’ families access to abuse investigation reports; the creation of a separate licensing system for assisted-living facilities; and the establishment of minimum staffing ratios in senior care facilities, among other priorities.

Elder Voice is also among a handful of consumer-oriented groups, including Minnesota AARP and the Minnesota Elder Justice Center, that are part of Dayton’s new elder-abuse task force. They have until late January, before the 2018 Legislature convenes, to develop recommendations designed to improve the health and safety of 85,000 Minnesotans who live in senior care facilities.

“We know this is going to be a long-haul effort,” said Elder Voice president Kristine Sundberg. “But we’re tenacious and we’re not going away.”

Full Article & Source:
Families of elder abuse victims speak out, wield new power at Minnesota State Capitol

New state programs will provide options for aging seniors

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday announced the launch of a new website called PA Link to Community Care to help connect older Pennsylvanians with community services and support.

“Everyone deserves the right to age at home if they choose to,” said Wolf in a prepared statement.

“The initiatives my administration has been putting together to help seniors stay in their homes offer options to make a smart decision about services. No one wants a cookie-cutter offering of where they should live or what their health care should look like.”

The website, http://carelink.pa.gov, connects users with more than 350 in-home service providers, which appear on a searchable directory offering personal care, assistance with activities of daily living, companionship services, respite care and rehabilitation services.

Also, residents of Beaver County and 13 other southwestern Pennsylvania counties may be eligible to enroll in a new managed-care program for seniors, those with long-term disabilities and others starting in January.

The state’s Community HealthChoices program will begin a three-phase roll out, being fully implemented by 2020. It will serve hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents.

“Both PA Link to Community Care and the soon-to-be-launched Community HealthChoices present community options to help Pennsylvania’s seniors choose the best care for themselves or their loved ones,” Wolf said.

Those who are eligible for Community HealthChoices are at least 21 years old, dual enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid programs, or receiving long-term services and support through various waiver programs, receiving care in a nursing home paid by Medicaid, or an Act 150 participant who’s dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. CHC will replace many of the state’s current waiver programs for people with long-term service needs.

Full Article & Source:
New state programs will provide options for aging seniors

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Financial exploitation costing elderly $3 billion each year



With the family together this holiday, it may be a good time to review your parents finances looking for signs of fraud and exploitation. Sylvia Miller told us about a neighbor who seemed so nice taking her to appointments but ended up cleaning out her bank account. "I learned a very good lesson," said Miller.

For others it's an even harder lesson. "The oldest victim we had was in their late 80's taken for about $100,000," explains Lt. Mike Yarbrough with Jefferson County Special Investigations.

Financial exploitation of someone over sixty is a felony in Alabama. Yarbrough says the culprits are family members, caretakers, financial advisers, even attorneys. He says the scammers come across as so nice and helpful running errands and taking unsuspecting seniors to appointments.

"Unfortuantely there is temptation anytime money is around," warns Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg. With our population aging, it's the elderly who have most often amassed wealth making them prime targets. "That's where the money is; that's where crooks are going."

And if a senior has diminished capacity with dementia or Alzheimer's, these thefts often go undetected. The Alabama Securities Commission is focusing more on financial abuse of seniors. Stock brokers and financial planners are now required to report suspected exploitation.

To learn more call:
1-800-222-1253
http://www.asc.alabama.gov/

Full Article & Source:
Financial exploitation costing elderly $3 billion each year

Woman Accused of Abandoning Disabled Husband Who Died

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma woman is accused of abandoning her diabetic and nearly blind husband, leaving him to die and his body to lay undiscovered for months.

The woman was arrested in Sayre last week. Court records don't show that formal charges have been filed.

Payne County Sheriff's Investigator Rockford Brown told the Stillwater NewsPress that the man's body showed no obvious sign of foul play and that an autopsy will determine if he died due to neglect. Two dogs were also found dead in the home.

Brown says the man was diabetic, blind and unable to get food or water that was not inside the home. He has sent the prosecutor complaints of caretaker neglect, financial exploitation and animal cruelty.

Sayre is about 130 miles (210 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City.

Full Article & Source:
Woman Accused of Abandoning Disabled Husband Who Died

Steve Marshall: There are ways to help protect elderly from scammers

Many of our parents and grandparents, and those in the older generation of Alabamians, have worked hard to make good lives, take care of their families and build our communities. They deserve security and respect, but unfortunately, they may become targets of fraud, exploitation or abuse. The best way we can protect them is through preventive education and vigilance to stop those who would take advantage of our senior citizens.

The same general advice that applies to everyone in avoiding scams applies to the elderly, though they may be subject to particular fraud such as someone pretending to be a grandchild in trouble and in urgent need of money. Other common tricks are impersonating law enforcement, court officials or the IRS and demanding the immediate payment of fines. They use deceptive caller IDs to look like real officials and employ threatening high-pressure tactics designed to make the victim panic and act in haste. A common thread that should send a red warning light is that they ask for the money to be paid by gift cards or pre-paid money cards.

Lottery scams are common where a letter tells recipients that they are winners and victims are directed to wire money to cover the fees. Sometimes consumers are asked to send financial account numbers under the deception that the information will be used to deposit winnings into their accounts.

Other scams targeting seniors use Medicare, trying to bill for services or devices that were never received. Be wary anytime you or your loved ones are asked to provide personal information such as bank or credit card accounts, and Medicare or Social Security numbers.

As a general rule, never give personal information unless you have initiated contact with the other person or verified their validity. It is always best to shred receipts. Closely monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity.

Many organizations provide advocacy and useful information for senior citizens, as well as general consumer advice. Some organizations that may be helpful include:

l The National Council on Aging and your local councils on aging. The national website is www.ncoa.org. You may find local organizations through telephone directory service or through the Alabama Department of Senior Services.

l Alabama Department of Senior Services. The website is alabamaageline.gov and its toll-free line is 1-800-AGE-LINE, or 1-800-243-5463.

l Alabama Securities Commission. Its website is asc.state.al.us and its toll-free line is 1-800-222-1253.

l Alabama Department of Human Resources. Its main website is dhr.state.al.us. To reach its Adult Protective Services page, click on Services and then click on Adult Protective Services. The state office’s phone number is 1-334- 242-1310, and each county has a local Department of Human Resources office.

l The Alabama Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of abuse, neglect and the financial exploitation of residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Those allegations can be submitted via the Unit’s email address. MFCU@ago.state.al.us. The phone number for the Attorney General’s office is 334-242-7300.

l Federal Trade Commission. Its website is ftc.gov and its phone number is 202-326-2222.

l The FBI has a page on its website about common consumer frauds and how to avoid being victimized. That page is fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/telemarketing-fraud.

l Alabama Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Interest Division. The main website is ago.alabama.gov and you may click on one of the tabs across the top marked Consumer. The toll-free consumer line is 1-800-392-5658.

Have a talk with your senior friends and loved ones about scams and tell them it’s ok to say no the next time they receive a questionable solicitation.

Steve Marshall is the Alabama Attorney General.

Full Article & Source: 
Steve Marshall: There are ways to help protect elderly from scammers

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Elderly Paso Robles lottery winner is the center of a legal battle concerning his welfare and fortune

Court case includes allegations of neglect and isolation from friends and family


–Charles Hairston bought a winning lottery at One Stop gas station at 703 Spring Street in Paso Robles in 2011 that was worth $78 million. According to reports and court records, Hairston was generous with his winnings including paying off his nephew, Eddie Hairston’s, mortgage and gifting his caretaker a $819,000 home and a Porsche. In a written declaration to San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Ronald Chaisson, an officer of Rabobank in charge of Hairston’s trust, Hairston “made regular gifts to as many as 15 people per year since 2011.”

Written statements from friends, family and a caretaker document allegations of neglect and isolation from friends and family, distrust and fractured relationships, which led to Eddie Hairston filing for a conservatorship for 88-year old Hairston, his medical care and finances. The court case was filed in November.

Eddie Hairston and friends of the elder Hairston are blaming an unlicensed caregiver, who has had power of attorney over the millionaire’s medical care and finances since 2015. The caretaker, Tiffany Borba and others, claim Eddie Hairston and friends were cut out of Hairston’s life for attempting to exploit his wealth.

Court reports say Hairston enlisted Borba as his caretaker in 2012. In written declarations to the court, friends of Hairston report incidents over the following years in which Hairston’s prescriptions were not filled, his home would be dirty, there would be no food in the house and calls to Borba from them would not be answered.

In a written declaration, a former neighbor, Melynda Weide, said in spring 2014, Weide and her husband heard Hairston calling for help from inside his home. The doors were locked, Weide said her husband broke a window to get to Hairston, who had been laying on the floor all night. Another friend, Janice Watson, reported similar situations during the same time period.

Legal records showed that Hairston gave Borba a $819,000 home in Paso Robles in March of 2015, also purchasing a new home for himself for $409,000. Watson’s husband, Lonnie, provided a written declaration that Hairston bought Borba a Porsche Cayman in 2016. Lonnie Watson’s declaration also included photos of several other vehicles outside Borba’s home.

In December 2015, documents showed that Hairston signed over power of attorney for both his finances and medical care to Borba. Up until that time, Eddie Hairston had the power of attorney. According to Borba’s written declaration, Hairston gave numerous cash gifts to Eddie and his wife that exceeded a half million dollars. The financial gifts included travel expenses to visit from Colorado. Borba’s declaration said the visits often ended in arguments and the final visit in November 2015 ending with “Eddie’s wife losing control, screaming at Charles.” Shortly after that incident Hairston changed his power of attorney from Eddie to Borba.

Attorney Paul Clark, who helped Hairston set up the trust for his lottery winnings, said, “Mr. Hairston expressed suspicion towards Eddie and his wife regarding their motivations.” Chaisson also claimed that a gate and security cameras installed at Hairston’s home were because of Hairston’s distrust of his nephew.

In her declaration, Borba stated that she’s arranged for his home care on a clinical level. That care plan includes care by licensed vocational nurses (LVN) and certified nursing assistants (CNA) who provide support and care 24 hours a day. “There is nothing Mr. Hairston lacks for in his care,” Rosalyn Myers, a private LVN who works with Hairston, said in her written declaration. Borba also denied allegations that she mistreated Hairston. William Dwyer, who claims to be a friend of Hairston since 1990 stated that he’s never been denied access to Hairston or seen Borba mistreat him. Kevin Wright, another of Hairston’s nephews, filed a written declaration in support of Borba, claiming that he’d never been prevented from visiting his uncle and accusing Eddie of going behind the Hairston family’s back by pursuing the conservatorship.

Eddie Hairston’s attorney, Glenn Lewis, argues in a court filing that the individuals supporting Borba’s claims either received gifts from Hairston or are working for Borba, who has the power over Hairston’s finances. Lewis wrote that “Charles Hairston is not speaking on his own behalf. His declaration is noticeably absent.”

In a recent conversation, Lewis told the Paso Robles Daily News that San Luis Obispo County Adult Protective Services had been involved in the case, but Lewis was not sure about the agencies current involvement. Lewis said a conservatorship is a “toss up, it depends on what the court-appointed attorney recommends.” The court-appointed attorney John Ronca to represent Hairston. Ronca has not yet returned a phone call from the Paso Robles Daily News. Lewis expects the case to continue for several months.

The 88-year old Hairston is bedridden but alert according to some reports. However, a report by Melanie Phillips, the court-appointed probate investigator states that Hairston believes it to be the year 1990 and was unable to hold a coherent conversation.

According to Eddie Hairston’s written declaration, he is Hairston’s biological son, claiming that Hairston told him this. Declarations from friends, as well as the woman who sold Hairston the winning ticket in 2011, stated that Hairston mentioned that Eddie was his son. In his declaration, Eddie said he attempted to have a private investigator test his DNA to confirm the paternity, but the investigator turned out to be a scam artist.

Full Article & Source:
Elderly Paso Robles lottery winner is the center of a legal battle concerning his welfare and fortune

Former pastor busted for bilking elderly parishioners out of $46,000 to pay for vacations and drugs

Mark Wayne Miller
A former Oklahoma pastor was taken into custody on Monday after parishioners came forward with accusations that he scammed them out of thousands of dollars which he then used to pay for family vacations and his drug and gambling addictions.

According to Tulsa World, Mark Wayne Miller, 48, formerly pastor of the Broadway Baptist Church, was arrested by Sand Springs police and charged with two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses following a year-long investigation.

Police state that seven members of the church stated that Miller bilked them out of $46,000, with police suspecting the amount could be larger after ten other parishioners who also lost money chose not to become involved in case.

“For what we could tell, (Miller) first started borrowing money in October of 2016,” said Sand Springs Police Capt. Todd Enzbrenner. “That victim tried to recoup the money, and when that didn’t happen she called us and filed a report.”

According to the court filing, Miller told some victims that he needed money to pay for his daughter’s college tuition only to later claim he lost the money in a bulk aluminum deal.

The report states that Miller, who served at the church for 14 years, the last four as the lead pastor,  bilked one elderly church member out of $30,000 and another for $11,500.

Miller then obtained another $5,000 for what he described as a “great vacation opportunity” and then reportedly used the money to take his family on a trip.

Miller additionally pressed the elderly woman for another $39,000 to pay for his son’s college tuition, but she declined to give him the money

Police state that when Miller was interviewed by investigators in August 2016 he told detectives that he was addicted to painkillers and gambling, adding that he attempted to recoup the money given to him by trying to win it back with more gambling.

Miller stepped down as the lead pastor at Broadway Baptist on Aug. 1, 2017 after being confronted by church officials over the money given to him by church members.

Full Article & Source:
Former pastor busted for bilking elderly parishioners out of $46,000 to pay for vacations and drugs

Couple charged with scamming home, cash from 92-year-old neighbor with dementia

Orlin Root-Thalman
The new couple next door, married men who blended their last names, showed what at first appeared to be a helpful interest in their neighbor, a 92-year-old woman who'd never married and seemed to be struggling with old age. 

But prosecutors say the couple's concern was only a cover for opportunism that briefly netted them their neighbor's house and control of nearly $2 million she had saved in more than a dozen area banks — until players in the senior services community stepped in.

Orlin Root-Thalman, 37, and Craig Root-Thalman, 29, were charged Tuesday with two counts of theft of more than $10,000 in a business setting and criminal slander to title related to how they got the woman to sign over the deed to her home last year, a transfer later voided by a judge in probate court.

All the counts are felonies, and the theft charges carry a possible maximum penalty of five years in prison. The couple, who own and operate Salon Orlin in Elm Grove, are scheduled to make their initial court appearances next month. 

"This case is particularly extraordinary because of the financial abuse and the scale of it, the length of time that this was going on, the vulnerability of this particular older woman," Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel Margaret Daun said.

Daun praised the work of Dewey Martin and Catherine Grady, a county attorney and paralegal involved in the case that already briefly landed Orlin Root-Thalman in jail on contempt during a guardianship hearing last year.

Martin said there were a number of "red flags" that the couple was manipulating the woman for their own gain.

"This couple befriended her and they started financially exploiting her," he said.

A new statewide Task Force on Elder Abuse brought together by Attorney General Brad Schimel met last week to discuss bringing more criminal charges in elder financial abuse and exploitation cases, Martin said.

"We're all working to bring these cases more to the forefront," Martin said, so that more criminal charges get filed in cases of elder financial abuse.

According to records:

The victim, a retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, lived alone for years at her house on N. 77th St. in Milwaukee. Around 2012, the Root-Thalmans moved in next door. A cousin of the victim, a senior citizen himself, and his wife had been helping care for the woman but as her dementia worsened, it became harder for them.

Around April 2016, the Root-Thalmans began helping the cousin care for the woman and her home. By July 2016, the Root-Thalmans had filed a quitclaim deed purporting to transfer the victim's house to them. Four days later, she signed a power of attorney document naming Orlin Root-Thalman as her financial agent. 

The woman's cousin told investigators the Root-Thalmans changed the locks on the house and told him that he and his wife weren't needed anymore to care for the woman.

Despite the woman's considerable assets, the Root-Thalmans didn't hire professional caregivers for her but instead paid untrained friends to assist her.

Orlin Root-Thalman then changed, or tried to change, the payable-on-death beneficiaries on the woman's many bank accounts and wrote checks to himself and his spouse for caretaking services, as well as more than $60,000 for improvements at the woman's house, which has an assessed value of about $123,000.

Martin said they also moved the woman out of her home and into a hotel.

"It was a whole conspiracy," he said. "They had their friends watching her. They had their friends who renovated homes coming in and fixing the home."

In early August 2016, less than a month after she had signed over her house to them, the Root-Thalmans sought to have her declared incompetent at a hospital. She was, but one doctor noted her condition was such that she certainly would have been incompetent 30 days earlier. He had a social worker contact the county's Department of Aging about her and the guardianship proceeding was initiated.

When officials interviewed the woman in 2016 at the nursing home where she'd gone after the neighbors took over her house, she didn't know the day, week, month or year, couldn't name the president or remember her guests' names after repeated introductions.  

She showed no memory of signing the quitclaim deed or the power of attorney in July and did not recognize a photo of the Root-Thalmans.

According to the complaint, the defendants knew their neighbor was mentally incompetent before they had her sign over her house and designate Orlin Root-Thalman as a financial agent because "her dementia was obvious, chronic and longstanding."

More than a year earlier, while she was convalescing from a broken hip, doctors found the woman confused, delusional and angry with impaired memory, all due to dementia.

Even a video the Root-Thalmans took of her signing the deed and power of attorney,  meant to show she was competent actually shows how she was being directed to read from notes, according to prosecutors.

The woman had planned to leave most of her estate to organizations that care for animals. The Root-Thalmans had two dogs, Walter and Sassy, according to handwritten notes they provided to the woman for the video.

Though guardianship records are sealed, the criminal complaint indicates the Root-Thalmans have appealed Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski's order voiding the woman's transfer of her home to the couple.

Her court-appointed guardian, attorney Eamon Guerin, said the woman is currently doing well, living in an independent apartment with 24-hour available care. He said she would like to return to her family home, but is not sure that will be possible.

Attorneys for the Root-Thalmans declined to comment.

Full Article & Source:
Couple charged with scamming home, cash from 92-year-old neighbor with dementia

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Public School in a Nursing Home Benefits Young and Old

Grace Living Center resident Nancy Maccourt enjoys spending time with her "littles"
When Nancy Maccourt moved into Grace Living Center in Jenks, Okla., she assumed it was a typical nursing home. But to her delight, Maccourt learned that she’d be sharing space with kindergarteners and pre-K youngsters from the local public school, whose classrooms are inside the nursing home.

“I was thrilled,” she says. “I have nine grandchildren, and I don’t get to see them very often. It fills a void to be around the kids. I love it.”

Although a number of nursing homes have onsite child care centers, it is rare for a public school to have such a partnership. “It’s something we’re very proud of,” says nursing home administrator Scott Bushong. “We view it as a collaborative extension to connect Grace Living with the greater community.”

School in a Nursing Home: The Birth of an Idea


The concept was the brainchild of Don Greiner, whose for-profit chain owns Grace Living.

He approached the school system in 1998. Putting his money where his mouth is, Greiner spent some $200,000 to construct two classrooms, a playground, an ice cream parlor and a beauty salon that looks into a classroom. The school system pays $1 annual rent, making it essentially cost-neutral. For the nursing home, the primary cost — other than construction and modest utilities and maintenance — is the salary of a liaison to the school.

Bushong says the rising generation of boomer elders sees retirement “as a time to create purposeful living.” To that end, the intergenerational curriculum focuses on three areas that benefit young and old alike: lifelong learning, wellness and physical fitness, and the arts and humanities.

Among the activities: joint exercise class, reading buddies, shared learning (making self portraits and friendship bracelets), dramatic play and singing.

Credit: Sarah Koehling
Youngsters prepare to take the track for the PTA jog-a-thon. Residents of Grace Living Center wish them luck and cheer them on.

A Winner for Kids


“When they start their school day, I drop them off, and the aides are there with the residents — we call them Grandmas and Grandpas (or “Grands” for short),” says Sarah Koehling, who has had three children attend school there. “They greet each other and give high fives or hugs. It gives a resident a reason to get up and get dressed and get moving.”

Wednesdays are a highlight for her 5-year-old twins, as they line up with the Grands for the ice cream social. When the kids (known as the Littles) participated in the PTA’s jog-a-thon fundraiser, the Grands lined up inside the nursing home to cheer them on, holding handmade signs and playing musical instruments. The Grands also help with activities like the fall carnival and, together with the Littles, decorate the building for holidays. The children eat lunch at small tables in the hallways and Grands can join them.

Perhaps most impressive, the children at Grace Living Center make remarkable progress in reading, thanks to the regular one-on-one time with their older book buddies, like Maccourt.

“Sometimes we just visit,” she admits. “The kids are so full of knowledge, it just blows my mind.

That comes from good parenting and the teachers here.” She also enjoys gardening with the children, together sampling their harvest of carrots, green beans and radishes.

Jenks West Elementary has pre-K and kindergarten classes in both the traditional school setting and the nearby nursing home.

Principal Suzanne Lair has tracked reading progress for years, comparing the students at Grace Living Center with their peers in the traditional classroom. Consistently, 25 to 30 percent of first-graders at Jenks West overall are not reading at grade level, compared to less than 4 percent of those who attend Grace Living for pre-K/kindergarten. That benefit continues through third grade, Lair says.

Building Character in Kids


Tricia Travers, who teaches pre-K and also is mother to a kindergartner at Grace Living, says the intergenerational program, which serves 46 children, has far exceeded her expectations.

“One thing that’s huge is how character-building the program is,” she says. “[The children] are really empathetic toward people of all ages. They see people with walkers, wheelchairs, breathing tanks, whose legs have been amputated. A parent told me it allowed her to teach compassion.”

Another parent, whose children are now in college and high school, told Travers her kids continue to be “very empathetic. They become so comfortable [with older adults] at such a young age, that has carried on through their lives.”
Credit: Sarah Koehling
Five-year-old Ethan plays Legos with one of his friends at Grace Living Center.

Dementia and Death


Children also encounter residents with dementia. “Something is hardwired in us, whenever those little kids are around, [those with dementia] flip a switch,” says teacher Katy Wilson. “They may not remember what they had for breakfast, but they are happy when they hear those babies. They are almost completely different people when the children are there.”

Wilson says the kids learn early on “how to regulate their actions.” They know to rein in their energy and walk calmly in the hallways to avoid jostling a Grand. “When they do a fist bump, they do it very gently,” she adds.

Inevitably, the children are also exposed to the death of a beloved Grand. “We talk about it with the children when we’ve lost a grandma or grandpa,” says Lair. “The children prepare a celebration of life booklet for the family. That’s been therapeutic. We talk about it in a very natural way.”

Lair says in the program’s early days, some parents were concerned about the children’s safety. “I remember having to call and plead with parents to consider it,” she recalls. But in 18 years, no problems have arisen. Today there is a waiting list for the nursing home classrooms.

The Benefits for ‘Grands’


Ensuring that the intergenerational encounters go smoothly and safely is the job of Adele Burnett, the nursing home’s liaison with the school.

Having such a position is key to the program’s success. She or other staff members are always on hand when Grands and Littles are together. Roughly one-third of residents participate, in addition to those who enjoy sitting and watching the kids on the playground or through the glass walls into the classroom.

“A couple times a day I might cry when I see the relationship between a child and a resident,” Burnett says. One recent example: a resident never left her room, saying she had no interest in getting up. Burnett persisted in trying to engage her with the children. “I told her maybe it would make her happy, and it would make the children happy,” she says.

The resident finally gave it a try. She later thanked Burnett for not giving up on her. “It’s really brought me back to life,” the resident said. “When I first came here, I thought my children were leaving me to die. This has given my soul a purpose.”

Bushong, the Grace Living administrator, says the program also provides an opportunity for the older generation to pass on their stories, “whether it’s about hard work and sacrifice or a sense of our roots as a country and trying to instill that in upcoming generations.”

Impact on Both Generations


Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a national nonprofit, says that little research has been conducted on the long-term benefits of intergenerational programming in nursing homes. But “what we hear is that young people who have been around older adults have a tendency to be more patient and be more accepting of differences than people who have not been socialized around older adults,” she says.

As for nursing home residents, “when you think about intergenerational programming, one of the important impacts is that it decreases social isolation and provides social connection and purpose,” says Butts, a 2015 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging. “They have a reason to stay alive. The more in-depth the relationship, the more impactful the experience for both generations.”

This is the first of a three-part series on model intergenerational programs. The series is written with the support of a journalism fellowship from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America and the Silver Century Foundation.

Full Article & Source:
Public School in a Nursing Home Benefits Young and Old

Lawyer found guilty of stealing more than $400K

BOWLING GREEN – A local lawyer accused of stealing more than $400,000 from a client was found guilty late Wednesday on all 14 counts he faced.

Robert Searfoss III, 40, of Perrysburg was convicted by a jury in Wood County Common Pleas Court of two counts of aggravated theft, four counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, four counts of money laundering, three counts of theft, and one count of grand theft.

The jury also found Searfoss responsible for 20 of 22 specifications that sought forfeiture of money as well as property purchased with the stolen money.

Prosecutors said Searfoss was in serious personal financial straits when he dipped into the trust of Eric Walker to buy a house and pay off debt, including back taxes, child support, and a home equity loan.

Defense attorney Rick Kerger contended Walker had borrowed the money from Mr. Walker's trust to be paid back with interest as a way of helping Mr. Walker shield the trust from his ex-wife.

Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry is to sentence Searfoss Jan. 2.

Searfoss has been held in the Wood County jail since his indictment in May.

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer found guilty of stealing more than $400K 

See Also:
Lawyer arraigned on 14 theft charges

Victor Garber Is Raising His Voice to Support Alzheimer’s Caregivers


Victor Garber lost both his parents to Alzheimer's. It was a long and difficult journey for family members.

“My father was in London, Ontario,” he recalls. “My brother became the primary caregiver, along with my father's wife. My mother lived in Los Angeles, so I was more involved in her progression.”

Making sacrifices


As a caregiver, Garber developed a deeper appreciation for others who've helped loved ones fight the disease. “You basically have to give up your life, and that's difficult for so many reasons. Alzheimer's rips people apart and, in some ways, is as difficult for the primary caregiver as it is the person going through it.”

Garber recalls how music comforted his ailing mother as he watched her slowly slip away. Caring for her was instinctive and emotional. “She became so helpless and so dependent. I was fortunate because I had money to put her in a facility that was extremely comfortable, and someone was always with her when I was working. I'm not the typical Alzheimer's caregiver by any stretch of the imagination. That's why I have such empathy for people who have to quit their jobs because they can't leave their husband or wife alone.”

Raising awareness


Garber is committed to using his fame to shed light on the issue, whenever possible. “On ‘Alias,’ everybody on the show became an advocate. Jennifer [Garner], Michael [Vartan], Ron [Rifkin] and Bradley [Cooper] all knew my mom. Celebrity does draw people in. I will take advantage of it and do whatever I can, when I'm asked.

“It's very hard for me to see friends going through it,” he adds. “Both my parents are long gone, so it's not in my daily life, except for the statistics, and that's scary.”

Creating a network of support


When tending to an Alzheimer’s patient gets to be too much, Garber says asking for help is crucial to survival. "Go to any organization in your area. Reach out to family and friends. You can't do it alone. You have to sometimes put yourself first, which is really hard to do. “Take care of yourself, because you have to function. Make sure you have support in place, in any way that you can.”

Garber adds, “We need a cure. It's about the scientists, the technicians and other people working in the industry, and where the money has to go. That has to happen.”

Full Article & Source:
Victor Garber Is Raising His Voice to Support Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio with Marti Oakley: Abolishing Probate #9: Hospice hastening the end of life w/Carly Walden







5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm ES
T

Join us this evening as Carly Walden from Hospice Patients Alliance reveals more about the mission of Hospice to hasten the end of life. Joining her will be Janice Whitten who has had direct experience with Hospice and the nightmare they endured while Hospice was involved. Far from being the good Samaritan organization it was once known to be, Hospice is the death knell for the elderly.

Carly will explain how to revoke Hospice, where to find the forms needed and how to proceed.

As people reach the age of 60, or become disabled, your life expectancy is being drastically reduced through a government policy of medical murder. All of it hidden under the guise of deeming you terminally ill with 6 months or less to live. But what if the diagnosis is wrong...or the terminal illness never existed to begin with? And even if an individual is terminally ill, why would that give Hospice the right to end their life as expediently as possible?

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Violence between residents in nursing homes can lead to death and demands our attention


Some preventable deaths in nursing homes are a result of aggression between residents. This most commonly occurs in people with dementia, our new research has found.

Ours is the first study to examine the frequency and nature of resident-to-resident aggression resulting in the most severe outcome – death. In our analysis, almost 90% of residents involved in resident-to-resident aggression had a diagnosis of dementia. Three-quarters had a history of behavioural problems, including wandering and verbal and physical aggression, which are common symptoms of dementia.

Published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society today, we examined records for all resident-to-resident aggression-related deaths among nursing home residents reported to a coroner in Australia between 2000 and 2013.

We identified 28 deaths resulting from aggression between nursing home residents in Australia over the 14-year study period. This is within around 3,000 deaths that occurred from non-natural causes. However, due to reporting limitations, the number of deaths due to resident-to-resident aggression is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. 

The rising global prevalence of dementia, particularly in the nursing home population, means aggressive behaviours between residents will increasingly be an issue. Two high-level reports on elder abuse in aged care in Australia have recommended better reporting systems so we can understand and prevent all such deaths in nursing homes.

Aggression in nursing homes


Resident-to-resident aggression is an umbrella term that includes physical, verbal or sexual interactions that are considered to be negative, aggressive or intrusive. These behaviours can cause serious physical harm or psychological distress.

The prevalence of aggression between nursing home residents is difficult to determine. Recent research estimates at least 20% of nursing home residents in the US were involved in such incidents.

These typically occur between residents with a cognitive impairment or diagnosis of dementia. A recent analysis of the international literature revealed physical forms of aggression between residents occurred most frequently in communal areas of the nursing home and during the afternoon. This is when the behavioural and psychological dementia symptoms usually manifest (also known as “sundowning”).

Most incidents appeared to be unprovoked, or were triggered by communication issues or a perceived invasion of personal space. Importantly, only one of the 18 studies reported a single death as the result of physical resident-to-resident aggression.
Wandering is a common symptom of dementia. from shutterstock.com
Our research found most exhibitors of aggression (85.7%) were male. The risk of death from aggression between residents was twice as high for male as for female residents. Those who exhibited aggression towards other residents were often younger and more recently admitted to the nursing home than their targets.

Incidents commonly involved a “push and fall”. Seven (25%) related deaths resulted in a coronial inquest, but criminal charges were rarely filed.

However, this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg as there is much potential for underreporting and misclassification of resident-to-resident aggression deaths. We have limited data on how often incidents of aggression between residents in Australia occur but do not result in death.

Reporting aggression


Our limited data are primarily due to how our mandatory reporting framework is structured. The Aged Care Act 1997 and associated Accountability Principles 2014 require nursing home providers to report allegations or suspicions of abuse to the federal health department and police within 24 hours. These allegations include unlawful sexual contact, unreasonable use of force, or assault against care recipients.

According to the Productivity Commission’s annual report on government services, the Commonwealth Department of Health received 2,625 notifications of assaults in nursing homes in the 2014-15 financial year. This is around 1.1% of all residents receiving care during that period. The majority (84%) of these reports were for alleged or suspected unreasonable use of force.

However, the legislation includes a discretion for providers not to report incidents of resident-to-resident aggression if the alleged offender has a previously assessed cognitive impairment and a behaviour management plan has been put in place for the care recipient within 24 hours of receipt of the allegation or suspicion of assault.

This means that the most common types of resident-to-resident aggression incidents (those involving cognitively impaired residents) are never collated and publicly reported. So we have no way of knowing the scale and severity of the problem.

The annual report statistics are also limited to identifying only the number of incidents. They do not include an analysis of the relationship between the target and exhibitor of aggression. This means we don’t know how many of the incidents were between residents or between residents and staff.

Finally, no other contextual information on the incidents is available in the annual report statistics.

This represents a significant gap in knowledge on resident-to-resident aggression. In-depth analysis of contributing factors can help provide evidence to inform prevention strategies.

Preventing aggression between residents


This issue has not gone unnoticed. In its June 2017 report on elder abuse, the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that aged care legislation should provide for a new serious incident response scheme. The scheme would require approved providers to notify an independent oversight body of any allegation or suspicion of a serious incident in their facility.

In relation to resident-to-resident aggression, these notifications would include incidents of physical abuse causing serious injury, or incidents occurring as part of a pattern of abuse.

The federal government’s recent review of aged care regulation supported this recommendation. The review was initiated in response to revelations of abuse and neglect in South Australia’s Oakden Aged Mental Health Service.

Ensuring accurate reporting of incidents of aggression between residents, and raising community awareness of ageing-related issues, are important first steps to improve our aged care system and prevent harmful interactions between vulnerable older adults in care.

Full Article & Source: 
Violence between residents in nursing homes can lead to death and demands our attention

Augusta woman faces possible indictment in unlicensed personal care home case

Charges against an Augusta woman accused of running an unlicensed personal care home where disabled residents were allegedly exploited and neglected will be considered by a grand jury for possible indictment.

At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in Richmond County Civil Court for Tamika Burns, 41, presiding Judge H. Scott Allen found probable cause to send felony charges of operating an unlicensed personal care home and exploitation of an elderly or disable person to the grand jury. He dismissed a third charge of neglect of an elderly or disabled person.

Burns has been held without bond since her arrest Nov. 7. Richmond County Deputy Marshal Stephen Billman obtained the warrants for Burns’ arrest after investigating a complaint emailed to the Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly task force, he testified Thursday.

Billman said he went to the home at 3541 Biltmore Place where he found four disabled people living in the dirty and roach-infested house. One of the residents was confined to a wheelchair and unable to move or speak, Billman testified. Another resident told him that she took care of the physically disabled man and kept house in exchange for $20 a month, he said. Both she and two other residents needed medication for mental illnesses.

Full Article & Source:
Augusta woman faces possible indictment in unlicensed personal care home case

Anaconda woman pleads not guilty to bilking elderly man


DEER LODGE — An Anaconda woman pleaded not guilty in Deer Lodge district court this week to felony exploitation of an elderly man.

Sherri Smith, 50, is accused of influencing an 86-year-old Deer Lodge man to extract at least $6,747 from him between July 2015 and May 2017 while presenting herself as an unofficial caregiver and friend. She allegedly worked around the house and spent time with him and tried to force out his hired caregiver but was rebuffed.

According to court records, Smith would take the man from the Senior Center to the bank to get money and then return to the center. Frontier Home Health service workers allegedly found receipts for cigarettes — the man doesn’t smoke — and for groceries not in his house.

On May 24, 2017, Smith allegedly called the man to bail her out of the Anaconda jail. Even though his eyesight is bad and he stated he should not drive, he drove to Anaconda to bail her out.

Bank representatives also reported numerous checks written on his account to various businesses until the man was allegedly unable to pay his bills, lost his phone and TV service, and was threatened with foreclosure.

Smith is free on $7,000 bond pending further court proceedings. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

Full Article & Source:
Anaconda woman pleads not guilty to bilking elderly man

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Florida spent $22,000 to remove online nursing home info from public view

“I’m just stunned,” said Barbara A. Petersen, who is the president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee, an open-government group. “Government serves the people. They are doing a disservice, and one with potentially grave consequences.”


From the Miami Herald's Carol Marbin Miller and Caitlin Ostroff:

On a good day, Olga Vasquez would dress up in the morning, apply makeup and stand in the hallway at her Hialeah Gardens nursing home, helping other residents get in and out of wheelchairs or offering unsolicited advice. On a bad day, her depression got the best of her and she would remain in bed in her nightgown.

May 31, 2012, was a very bad day.

Vasquez — who hadn't seen a psychiatrist in weeks despite instructions to the contrary — hoisted herself out of the window of Room 310, and hurled herself to the concrete courtyard 39.4 feet below.

This is the type of thing you might want to know about before your mom, dad or spouse moves into a nursing home. And such documented events were readily available on the website of state health regulators.

They aren't anymore — part of the latest erosion in what is supposed to be ready access to public records in Florida.

A little under three months ago, the state scrubbed its website. No longer can you go online and view the 83-page report that found Vasquez's death to be the result of misconduct and that determined other residents of Signature Healthcare of Waterford were in "immediate jeopardy."

The document can still be obtained from the state Agency for Health Care Aministration, although you have to know what to ask for and whom to ask — and you may be required to pay and wait. 

Online, AHCA now refers consumers to a separate website managed by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, though that site does not include as much material as the state previously provided. AHCA does maintain spreadsheets online that rate homes on a host of criteria, and allow consumers to compare.

For many years, AHCA's website included links to inspections of nursing homes, retirement homes and hospitals. They were available with a few keystrokes with very few redactions. The agency then began to heavily redact the reports — eliminating words such as "room" and "CPR" and "bruises" and "pain" — and rendering the inspections difficult to interpret for families trying to gauge whether a facility is suitable for a loved one. AHCA says the redactions were necessary to protect medical privacy, though patients were identified only by number. Vasquez was "Resident 239."

In the past year, the state spent $22,000 for redaction software that automatically blacks out words the agency says must be shielded from the public. Those same words were available on a federal website unredacted. Elder and open-government advocates said the newly censored detail did more to protect the homes than patients.

In September, 13 frail elders died miserable deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the sweltering aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which knocked out the home's cooling system. The Miami Herald and other media wrote extensively about Hollywood Hills' troubling regulatory history. And the Herald also reported on AHCA's decision to heavily redact reports.

Soon after, with no announcement or notice, AHCA wiped its website clean of all nursing home inspections, shielding the industry to the detriment of consumers.

"I'm just stunned," said Barbara A. Petersen, who is the president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee, an open-government group. "Government serves the people. They are doing a disservice, and one with potentially grave consequences."

In recent weeks, Petersen needed to find a nursing home for her 96-year-old father in Colorado. The assisted living facility where he lived had become inappropriate, and Petersen had only 48 hours to move him.

"If I was in that situation here, and I had to do that without the information that used to be online, I'd have to submit a public records request for it. And, as we know, it takes a long time for them to produce public records. Meanwhile, I'd be stuck with the hardest decision I've ever made in my life without any information."

"We put a tremendous amount of trust in these homes, and we need to make the best decisions for our families. Honestly, this makes no sense," Petersen added.

A spokeswoman for the healthcare agency said both AHCA's website and the federal site at Medicare.gov allow consumers to compare homes along a range of indicators, including quality of life, nutrition, dignity and abuse.

"AHCA goes above and beyond Florida law in the amount of information we make available online," said spokeswoman Mallory McManus. "AHCA's website www.FloridaHealthFinder.gov allows consumers to compare nursing homes by their inspection rating. Consumers can search by county, Zip code and even by services offered at every nursing home in Florida. This gives families more information to make informed healthcare decisions for their loved ones."

"In fact," McManus added, "in 2016 FloridaHealthFinder.gov won a Digital Government Achievement Award from the Center for Digital Government in the "Government-to-citizen State and Federal government" category, showing that Florida is a leader in getting information about healthcare facilities to consumers. FloridaHealthFinder.gov is an excellent tool for consumers, and a national leader in transparency."

The award was given before the state removed nursing home inspections from AHCA's site.

The Herald was unable to speak with administrators at the Hialeah Gardens home. Representatives from the corporate Signature HealthCARE did not return requests for comment. McManus said health regulators removed the "immediate jeopardy" label from the nursing home days after Vasquez's death after administrators demonstrated they had improved the home's safety. "Our Agency expected quick action to remove the potential risk to others. During a revisit on July 5 [2012], it was determined that the facility had implemented measures that removed the threat of serious risk to patients," McManus said.

"Our Agency held this facility accountable, and all deficiencies were corrected," McManus said.

The home's plan of correction included a long list of actions administrators took to improve safety, including a comprehensive review of all residents' medical records, new policies to ensure doctors' orders are carried out, better monitoring of the symptoms of psychiatric patients, and an audit of records for all patients on mental health drugs to "ensure that they were seen by the psychiatrist as ordered."

Though reports on Vasquez's death are no longer available on AHCA's website — or that of the federal Medicare program — a copy of the inspection obtained by the Herald is heavily redacted. The words "neglect" and "abuse," for example, are removed from one of the report's findings — and the definition of abuse from the Florida statutes is redacted.

A separate 50-page AHCA report on the same incident recites a portion of Florida law: "[Redacted] means any willful act or [redacted] act by a caregiver that causes or is likely to cause significant [redacted] to a [redacted] adult's physical, [redacted] or emotional health. [Redacted] includes acts and omissions." The portion is drawn directly from the state's elder abuse law, a public record, and is the definition of abuse.

AHCA's move is far from the only restriction in what records the public can see. The Herald wrote about an emergency management plan from the Hollywood Hills rehab center that was filed with — and approved by — Broward County, which included portions that were copied and pasted from a prior year, and failed to say how residents would be kept cool during a power outage. Broward and Palm Beach counties then refused to release any plans, though both had originally said they were public record. Miami-Dade released 54 plans, all heavily redacted.

Vasquez, who migrated to Florida from Cuba, first began to suffer from depression about a decade before her death, when her husband died, relatives told the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office. "Due to her depression, she was placed in" the nursing home, the report said. In addition to depression, Vasquez also was diagnosed with anxiety, chronic insomnia, heart disease and hypertension.

AHCA's report on Vasquez's death, dated June 14, 2012, said the 82-year-old former factory worker last saw her primary psychiatrist on March 1, 2012, for treatment of clinical depression. Staff at Signature never told him, the report said, that Vasquez's condition had worsened.

Vasquez, the report said, "was very depressed at times."

Vasquez's primary doctor had ordered a psychiatric consultation around April 30, 2012. But a constellation of lapses led to the home's failure to ensure Vasquez actually was treated. The psychiatrist Vasquez was to see left the nursing home, a report said, and the nurse who was trying to help Vasquez never was told who would fill in. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist who regularly saw patients on Vasquez's floor reported "he never saw [her] and [she] was not on his caseload."

Complicating matters: there was a 15-day gap in nursing notes in Vasquez's chart, the report said, and the home's administrator told an AHCA inspector he "had no idea" why no notes were made during those two weeks.

AHCA concluded: "There was no documentation to demonstrate the [psychiatric] consultation was completed, as ordered."

Three days before Vasquez died, the report said, she "was observed to be sitting in the hallway or lying in bed; she was not wearing any makeup, and the resident told [a nurse] she did not feel like doing anything." Vasquez needed help to fill out her menus.

A short report from the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner said that, on May 31, 2012, a maintenance worker noticed that the window in Vasquez's room was open. The widow was found in the courtyard underneath her bedroom window, 14 feet from the building. The medical examiner's office ruled Vasquez's death a suicide.

Six months before Vasquez plunged from her window, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development faulted the home for failing to maintain the windows safely. Windows, HUD said, were secured only with screws, and a corrective action plan required Signature to install window locks within all residents' rooms.

The AHCA report is unclear as to whether the windows in Vasquez's room were fixed, though an unspecified relative told AHCA she had noticed the day before Vasquez died that "the window clamp was not in place."

A Hialeah Gardens police report confirms some of AHCA's account, noting Vasquez wasn't breathing by the time she arrived at Palmetto General Hospital. A doctor pronounced her dead at 4 p.m.

Vasquez's niece, Maria Salgado, who handled Vasquez's affairs, told police she had been taking 10 medications for her depression, some of which are listed in the AHCA report, though the names and dosages are largely redacted.

Staff at the nursing home told Salgado that something happened to her aunt while she was walking in the garden — exactly what Salgado was told is redacted — according to the AHCA report.

Salgado, 53, called her aunt's death and the ordeal that followed painful to talk about.

She felt very close to her aunt, she said.

"It was such a horrible time," she said. With a long breath, she added, "I don't want to relive it." 

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Florida spent $22,000 to remove online nursing home info from public view