Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Elderly Man Abused in Nursing Home

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Elderly Man Abused in Nursing Home

Supported Decision Making: A Family's Perspective

This video features discussion on Supported Decision Making, an alternative to guardianship, from a family's perspective

Supported Decision Making: A Family's Perspective

NH enhancing law to protect against elder exploitation

Elder abuse prosecutor Brandon Garod
CONCORD — New Hampshire law criminalizing the financial exploitation of elderly and impaired adults will be enhanced Jan. 1 with additional language that casts a wider net.

As currently written, the 2015 law (HB 1807-FN) prohibits taking property from elderly, disabled or impaired adults without legal authority and “knowingly or recklessly” through the use of “undue influence, harassment, duress, force, compulsion, [or] coercion.”

On Jan. 1, added to the law will be language stating, “or under any circumstances where the person knew that the elderly, disabled, or impaired adult lacked capacity to consent, or consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the elderly, disabled, or impaired adult lacked capacity to consent.”

Assistant Attorney General Brandon Garod, who heads the Department of Justice Elder Abuse and Exploitation Unit, said the new language will help prosecutors get more convictions. As an example of what the expanded law will encompass, Garod cited a fictitious case of a son who regularly takes a parent to a doctor who diagnosed the parent with dementia, while the son takes property from the parent.

Garod said victims of these crimes, by definition, cannot make meaningful decisions, so when they’re interviewed, they sometimes say they consented. To get a conviction, he said, prosecutors have to prove someone took the victim’s property, the victim lacked capacity to consent and the perpetrator knew, or consciously disregarded the victim’s lack of capacity.

Hired to investigate and prosecute elder-exploitation cases across the state, Garod said his office receives “hundreds of reports” of elder exploitation every week. He said many reports come from the Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS) where everyone is a mandated reporter, meaning they have to report all allegations that come to them.

Garod said his office and the state’s county attorney offices “are bringing more cases than ever before.”

“If we feel we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, we will take the case,” he said. “Reports are coming in at an astounding rate.”

After investigating, Garod said, a small percentage of initial reports are found to have merit. If the value of property taken from an impaired adult is between $1,000 and $1,500, the case will be prosecuted as a Class B felony, he said. Allegations involving more than $1,500 will be prosecuted as Class A felonies.

Garod said the state’s elder-exploitation caseload is largely comprised of hands-on exploitation. Cases involving people sending money in response to online or phone scams usually involve perpetrators in other countries, making them nearly impossible to prosecute, he said.

“It’s almost always a person who is not here in New Hampshire, or the United States,” he said of those scams.

He said many victims of these crimes are well educated, but sometimes are lonely and “ecstatic” to be talking to someone on the phone. He said others want to believe they won a lottery and send cash, as instructed, to collect a fictitious prize.

“Education and outreach are the best thing we can do,” he said.

Portsmouth Police Community Outreach Coordinator Rochelle Navelski has been hosting events for area seniors, including a recent one titled, “How to Outsmart the Scam Artists.” She has a senior outreach brochure with tips and phone numbers and is the initial contact person for reports about senior exploitation in Portsmouth, available by phone at (603) 610-7503.

“Love and friendship should not cost anything,” Navelski tells seniors. “Never feel embarrassed if you are the victim of a crime. You are not weak or stupid. Keep in mind that criminals do not discriminate.”

Garod said New Hampshire has one of the oldest populations in the country and one of the most rapidly aging. Because of that, he said, it would not surprise him if New Hampshire also has a disproportionately higher number of elderly victims.

One of the sponsors of the bill to expand the elder exploitation law was state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.

“This bill will make it harder for people who prey on the elderly to avoid responsibility by claiming that they weren’t aware of a person’s condition or their limitations,” she said. “As people live longer, and often in circumstances where they lack adequate protective care, we need to make sure that protections like this are available and enforced.”

Garod urged anyone with information about the financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person to do one of two things. He said people can report suspicious behavior by calling the BEAS at (603) 271-7014. Tips can also be made through the Department of Justice Consumer Complaint hotline at (888) 468-4454.

Full Article & Source:
NH enhancing law to protect against elder exploitation

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Appeals Court Affirms 7-Year Sentence for Disbarred Attorney in $100K Theft Case

A New Jersey appeals court has refused to overturn the conviction and seven-year prison sentence handed to a disbarred Monmouth County attorney and failed political candidate who a jury decided misappropriated more than $100,000 from an estate.

A three-judge Appellate Division panel in an unpublished decision brushed aside a slew of objections raised by the ex-lawyer, Eugene Lavergne, to how his 2014 trial was handled.

While there were errors during the trial made by the judge and prosecutors, none warranted setting aside the conviction for second-degree misappropriation of entrusted property and fourth-degree contempt, wrote Appellate Division Judge Greta Gooden Brown, joined by Judges Marie Simonelli and Michael Haas.

Meanwhile, Lavergne’s counsel has vowed to appeal the case further.

Deputy Attorney General Evgeniya Sitnikova, who handled the appeal for the state, issued a statement.

“We are pleased that the Appellate Division affirmed defendant’s convictions and sentence. Mr. Lavergne received a fair trial and was justly convicted of abusing the trust placed in him as an attorney by stealing well over $100,000 from his clients. This seven-year prison sentence should deter other attorneys from betraying their fiduciary duties in such an egregious manner,” Sitnikova said.

Lavergne’s attorney, Wall solo Robert Pierce, said he was “sort of in shock” from the ruling, given what he said were the numerous trial errors, ranging from the erroneous admission of evidence to issues of prosecutorial conduct.

“We intend to file for certification to the  Supreme Court immediately,” Pierce said.

Lavergne, meanwhile, remains free on $85,000 bail on the condition that he not leave the country.

Lavergne was disbarred shortly after his sentence.

Lavergne, while under indictment, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014 on a combined Democratic-Republican Party ticket, but was handily defeated by Democrat Cory Booker.

He also ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 as the “No Slogan Party” candidate.

Lavergne’s legal woes began in July 2006, when Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cavanagh Jr. put him in charge of selling a marina in Avon-by-the-Sea.

The marina eventually sold for $800,000 and, after taxes and expenses were deducted, $502,193 was deposited into his attorney trust account, according to the ruling. Cavanagh ordered Lavergne to withhold at least $200,000 while other legal issues were pending.

Over the next several months, authorities said, Lavergne made at least 130 unauthorized withdrawals—totaling more than $108,000—from the trust fund and used the funds for personal purposes, according to the ruling.

At the time, Lavergne said the charges, brought by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, were “frivolous.”

He did not present any defense witnesses at his trial, according to the appeals court ruling.

Lavergne had been in ethics trouble before his criminal case. In 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court censured and kept him on indefinite suspension for failing to surrender files to a client who had fired him.

Full Article & Source:
Appeals Court Affirms 7-Year Sentence for Disbarred Attorney in $100K Theft Case

$300k unaccounted for at Probate office

An audit of the records of the Chambers County Probate Office has revealed that a former longtime employee at the office has been arrested after being suspected in the theft of nearly $300,000 from the county office over the term of their employment. The individual suspected in the theft has now been
arrested and charged and ordered to repay the missing funds. Chambers County Probate Judge Brandy Easlick released the information last week regarding the theft and subsequent charging of former employee Rene Hunt Welch. A nearly year-long investigation by the Alabama Examiner’s Office has revealed that Welch is suspected of the theft of exactly $299,861.68 from the Probate Office during the course of her employment at the office.

In a statement released on Friday by Judge Easlick she stated, “As your Probate Judge, I have always maintained transparency with the citizens of Chambers County. Whether the information was simply informative, good, bad, or otherwise. I have vowed to remain transparent to the people of Chambers County about your Probate Office and I continue to uphold my promise”. As Judge Easlick continues her statement she goes into depth about the nearly year-long investigation by the Alabama State Examiners Office and the discovery by that agency that a former employee of the Probate Office had circumvented the safeguards and internal controls put in place and allegedly took $299,861.68 of the office’s funds over the term of her employment.

Easlick goes on to note that she was aware of the investigation, but up until Friday she was unable to release information on the investigation to the public. Easlick has vowed to continue to work with the auditors to ensure that the Chambers County Probate Office remains in compliance with the investigation and puts in place whatever safeguards need to be installed to prevent further deception in the office.

The state auditor’s office completed an in-depth investigation into the Chambers County Probate Office. An 86-page report was made public on Friday that spanned a period from November 2014 to October 2017. During the time period analyzed by investigators and auditors it was discovered that $299,861.18 was missing from the accounts of the Probate Office. The investigation revealed that on numerous instances the amount of cash recorded on deposit slips by the bookkeeper and later deposited into the bank, was less than the amount of cash collected by the clerk’s office and verified by the bookkeeper says the report. At the time the investigation was ongoing, Rene Hunt Welch was working as the bookkeeper at the Probate Office.

Rene Hunt Welch was arrested and booked into the Chambers County Detention Facility over the weekend and charged with Theft of Property. Records show that 56-year-old Welch has since bonded out of the jail. The Alabama Examiner Office has ordered the former bookkeeper to repay the missing funds to the county. There is no word on when a trial date is expected for the former bookkeepers theft charges. In her statement Judge Brandy Easlick states, “ I take my job as the keeper of public funds very seriously and will prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law.”

Full Article & Source:
$300k unaccounted for at Probate office

Ex-lawmaker accused of bilking elderly widows guilty on all counts

A jury on Wednesday found a former Maine legislator guilty of bilking two elderly widows, one in Belfast and one in France, out of more than $3.5 million and of not paying income taxes after deliberating more than eight hours.

Robert Kenneth Lindell Jr., 53, of Cloverdale, California, was convicted of theft by unauthorized taking, a securities violation in connection with the alleged fraud, three counts of theft of federal income tax funds, and five counts each of intentional evasion of income tax and failure to pay Maine income tax.

Lindell, formerly of Frankfort, pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts. 

A sentencing date has not been set.

He will continue to be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail, where he has been since May after he violated his bail conditions after being free for a year. 

The jury of five men and seven women returned the verdict about 9 p.m. at Penobscot Judicial Center, according to the Maine attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case. The trial began Oct. 30.

The Belfast widow died in 2012 at age 92, but Lindell continued to have access to her finances. He drained nearly $3 million from her estate, which should have totaled about $5.5 million, the jury found. 

He was accused of stealing about half a million dollars from the woman in France, who was a longtime family friend, according to the prosecution.

The tax charges stemmed from his not reporting the alleged stolen money on his federal and state tax returns.

Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein told the jury in his closing argument that Lindell gained the trust of both women, then slowly drained their accounts between 2010 and early 2017. Bernstein described the women as being “financially isolated.”

“He spent more than six years taking money that didn’t belong to him,” the prosecutor told the jury. “He bought a house in California wine country and made extensive repairs from the outside in. He paid massive credit card bills for expensive travel and expensive dining all over the U.S. and Europe. 

“Mr. Lindell paid tuition for his child’s private high school and, later, college tuition, all with [their] money,” Bernstein said. “He paid off a loan. In addition, he wrote checks to himself and to his company. He used these women’s money as his personal piggy bank.”

Defense attorney Harris Mattson of Bangor told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday that Lindell had the authority to move money in and out the women’s accounts and trust funds. Mattson also said the Lindell’s more than $400,000 in management fees were reasonable.

“The money from a trust used to purchase the house in California as an investment, to fix it up, along with the artwork and the wine collected by Mr. Lindell were investments that he was allowed to make under the rules of the trust,” he said.

“Every one of the state’s charges is crippled by reasonable doubt,” Mattson said. 

Bernstein told the jury that the case was prosecuted in Maine because the money in the accounts and the securities were held in Maine.

Lindell served in the Maine House of Representatives as a Republican from 2004 to 2006, when he was defeated in his re-election bid.

His Maine securities disciplinary record included sanctions in 2002 and 2013. Both actions ended in consent orders, court documents said.

Lindell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the most serious charge of Class B theft. He also could be ordered to pay restitution and back taxes.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-lawmaker accused of bilking elderly widows guilty on all counts

Monday, November 12, 2018

KARE Investigates: Advocates protest elder abuse deadlocks

ST. PAUL, Minn. - After hearing story after story of abuse and neglect in Minnesota’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities, politicians from both parties pledged action.

With just one week left in the legislative session, nothing has passed.

“We’re incredibly frustrated,” said Jean Peters with Elder Voice Family Advocates, a group of family members that has been lobbying for change.

Peters and other members have told their stories in committee hearings and in the media.

Kristine Sundberg shared how her father’s body laid in his room for seven days before anyone discovered it.

Debbie Singer told a Senate committee and KARE 11 about her mom June Thompson.

“My mom was a vibrant 92-year-old red head,” she said.

June Thompson's daughter found her dead after the facility had failed to check on her.
June Thompson's daughter found her dead after the facility had failed to check on her.

Thompson spent her final days at The Commons on Marice Assisted Living, where Debbie believed a daily check-in program called “I’m OK” would keep her safe.

According to a state investigation, on October 26, 2017, she found out that hadn’t happened. When Debbie went to visit her mom, she saw two days of newspapers sitting outside her front door.

“My gut was just something is very wrong here,” she said. Then she saw her mom.
“I flipped on the light and I saw her in her lift chair in the reclined position with the footrest up and she clearly was gone,” she said.

State records show Debbie’s mother had likely died two days earlier. The report says the facility had “falsely documented” that it had checked on her.

Over the past year, KARE 11 documented other troubling cases.

WATCH: In MN, elder abuse lawsuits die with the victim

Jean Krause was a dementia patient who was sexually assaulted by a worker at her assisted living facility.

“She couldn’t cry out,” her son Bob Krause said. “She couldn’t tell anybody.”

According to court records, the facility washed her nightgown and mattress pad before police arrived, allegedly destroying some of the evidence.

WATCH: KARE Investigates: Did assisted living facility cover up sexual assault?

In another case, cell phone videos showed two aides at a different assisted living facility verbally berating and threatening Suzanne Edwards.

“I was terrified for my mother,” her son Kent Edwards said.

WATCH: Alleged abuse of dementia patient highlights secrecy in MN

And KARE 11 told the story of Mary Cleary, the 97-year-old nursing home patient who left behind a haunting video describing how she suffered for 19 hours with two broken legs.

In a cellphone video, Mary Cleary described how she suffered for 19 hours with two broken legs. (Photo courtesy: Cleary family)
In a cellphone video, Mary Cleary described how she suffered for 19 hours with two broken legs. (Photo courtesy: Cleary family)

“They said, ‘Oh, you didn’t break any bones.’ And I said, 'I know I did. I could kind of hear them,'” she recalled in the cell phone video recorded by her family.

The next day, when the nursing home finally sent her to a hospital emergency room, doctors confirmed she had two fractured femurs.

WATCH: KARE 11 Investigates: Nursing home complaints kept secret

Elected officials said they were outraged and promised change.

“We have not been fulfilling our responsibilities,” Governor Mark Dayton said in March.

Dayton and Republican Senate President Michelle Fischbach proposed a sweeping bi-partisan bill that was based on the recommendations from the governor’s task force.

In news conference this year, politicians from both parties repeatedly promised reforms. (Photo: KARE 11)
In news conference this year, politicians from both parties repeatedly promised reforms. (Photo: KARE 11)

“This is an issue that I think brings people together. This is an issue that is so important that we need to deal with it this year,” Fischbach said.

The bill called for tougher penalties, expanding the rights of victims to sue, and for the first time, comprehensive licensing of assisted living facilities.

Their bill went nowhere.

Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) pledged to fix the system when she spoke with KARE 11 last summer.

“The system is definitely not working the way it should,” she said at the time.

Housley proposed a bill with more limited reforms that also included a timeline for licensing assisted facilities and notifying families when a complaint has been made.

“This is a top priority for us in 2018,” she said at a press conference before the legislative session began.

But even though Housley is now a leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, her plan still hasn’t passed the GOP-controlled state legislature.

According to the state constitution, this year’s legislative session must end on May 21.

Peters and other family advocates are backing the Housley bill. They say negotiations continue, but they worry true reform may not happen this session. They wonder if their voices were really heard by lawmakers.

“They’re listening to the industry. They’re not listening to these people who’ve had their loved ones abused and neglected,” Peters said.

With one week left in the session, lawmakers who want to address an elder abuse crisis are running out of time.

Our investigation started after a tip from a viewer.

Full Article & Source:
KARE Investigates: Advocates protest elder abuse deadlocks

Judge Humke temporarily suspended pending charges for allegedly mishandling cases

Washoe County Family Court Judge David Humke was temporarily suspended after he was again accused of mishandling child support and custody cases within in his department.

Humke, who’s served on the bench for about three-and-a-half years, was suspended with pay last week pending formal charges from the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.

Attempts at reaching Humke for comment were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.

According to the order of suspension filed on Nov. 2, the commission found Humke lacked knowledge over family law, which affected his ability to handle cases in family court.

The commission also found he had court clerks, attorneys and other parties involved decide matters on certain cases.

Humke also allegedly set unnecessary status hearings and never entered final orders in some custody cases, prolonging those cases for years.

He recently served a three-month suspension without pay and was fined $1,000 in a separate but similar case. Earlier this year, the disciplinary commission found he had mismanaged his department, which had processed about one-tenth of the 700 cases processed by other departments.

They also found he had failed to discipline a former judicial assistant, who was accused of inappropriate behavior.

Humke had just returned from serving that suspension when the presiding judge of the Second Judicial District Court Family Division filed another complaint against him.

During his absence, Senior Judge Deborah Schumacher was ordered to oversee family court cases within Humke’s department. In that time, she found his department had issued incomplete or incorrect orders in several child custody and support cases.

She then told Judge Bridget Robb, who conducted a six-month audit of the minutes of all the hearings Humke presided over. She looked at the cases he handled before he was suspended in July.

She then checked the status of several of those cases and filed a complaint. At a public hearing last week, Robb testified Humke set status hearings without making decisions, forcing the people involved to return to court several times.

She testified many low-income parents were forced to take a full day off work to appear in court.

“Even when (Humke) makes decisions in cases, the evidence demonstrates that they are often legally incorrect,” the commission said in the court order.

Humke also allegedly held trials without ever notifying the parties involved, “depriving them of their opportunity to be heard,” the court order said.

Last month, Chief Judge Scott Freeman issued an administrative order, which reassigned a chunk of Humke’s caseloads, such as divorce and custody cases, to other family court judges.

Freeman also assigned Humke a mentor, who then gave him advice. But Humke never followed that advice when he returned to the bench in October after serving his previous suspension, the order said.

Robb said Humke didn’t educate himself on family laws. She also accused him of showing up unprepared at his hearings.

“These failures diminished the public’s respect for the Bench and are an embarrassment to me, and I believe, to my colleagues,” the order said Robb wrote in her complaint.

The disciplinary commission has 60 days to submit a formal statement of charges from the time the suspension order was filed.

Humke could face a wide range of consequences, from a public reprimand or a fine to the permanent removal from the bench.

Full Article & Source:
Judge Humke temporarily suspended pending charges for allegedly mishandling cases

Man arrested for elderly exploitation faces new child porn charges

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) — On October 17th, Dothan Police arrested 65 year old Kevin George Hebert and charged him with four counts of financial exploitation of the elderly . During the course of the investigation, officers served a search warrant on Hebert’s phone, which led to more changes.

Police say his phone revealed two images of child pornography. Hebert was charged with two counts of Possession of Obscene Matter with people under 17 years old. Hebert's bond totals $30,000.00.

Officers are also searching Hebert’s home on Charlotte Ct., in Dothan, where they found more electronic devices.

Additional charges may be forthcoming.

Full Article & Source:
Man arrested for elderly exploitation faces new child porn charges

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Once a Soldier....ALWAYS a Soldier

Every year, NASGA likes to post this picture for Veterans' Day as we believe it says it all better than any graphic we've ever seen. 

Our elderly Veterans gave their youth to service of our country.  Now they need our country to protect them as they face a new enemy.  This time the enemy is elder and guardianship abuse.

We are delighted to see this wonderful picture memorialized in cake!

Pause today and give thanks to our Veterans!

See Also:
Watch "The Unforgivable Truth" documentary
NASGA: Veterans in Peril The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (The EARN Project)

Leave No Vet with a Pet Behind

In the United States, more than half a million people are homeless - and nearly fifteen percent are veterans.

Many of these veterans rely on pets as companions to make it on the streets. Homeless shelters in many communities are a resource for vets who need food and shelter while they work to find employment and get off the street. 
Unfortunately, a large majority of veteran-assisted homeless shelters do not allow pets on their property. 

So homeless vets with pets are faced with an unimaginable decision each night - either stay with their pet outside and brave the cold for the night, or check into the shelter and leave their pet to die.

Heroes Never Die.

Veterans Boogie Down at the Airport

The Ladies of Liberty sang The Andrews Sisters greatest hit "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" for our Veterans. Marin Perryman and Paul Kopey are both World War II veteran and they are having great time dancing at the airport waiting for the plane to arrive.

YouTube: Veterans Boogie Down at the Airport

Saturday, November 10, 2018

ACLU Threatens to Sue Nursing Home for Refusing to Help Patients Kill Themselves

A retirement home connected to the Catholic Church is being threatened with legal action for not allowing its patients to commit suicide under Hawaii’s new assisted suicide law.
Though there are social service programs and 24-hour hotlines dedicated to preventing healthy, young people from committing suicide, there is a growing movement in America to push suicide on those who are old or sick. They euphemistically call it “aid in dying,” though people do not have to be dying to qualify for assisted suicide.

Earlier this year, Hawaii became the sixth state to legalize assisted suicide, joining California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. The law is slated to go into effect in January.

Those who oppose suicide in all its forms are being targeted by powerful liberal groups.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Kahala Nui retirement home in Honolulu demanding that it comply with the new anti-life law, the AP reports.

The elderly care home recently notified patients that they will not be allowed to commit assisted suicide there, according to the report. The Catholic Church, which owns the land where the nonprofit elderly care home is located, opposes assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion and other life-destroying practices.

The ACLU claims that amounts to discrimination.

Here’s more from the report:
Mateo Caballero, the legal director of the ACLU of Hawaii, said the home was discriminating against those who weren’t Catholic and was telling residents they have to conform to the Catholic Church’s teachings.
“I couldn’t think of a more clear violation of the Fair Housing Act and Hawaii’s own anti-discrimination laws,” he said.
Caballero said he’s not aware of another case in which a retirement home prevented its residents from using a medically assisted suicide law.
Caballero said he wants the home to send another note to residents rescinding its May 11 memo and inform residents it was wrong. Caballero said he hopes the ACLU can work with the home on the issue. If not, he said the ACLU would weigh its options, including a potential lawsuit.
A spokesperson for the home said they do not discriminate against patients based on religion, race, sex, color or anything else. Executive Director Wendy Wong said they have asked their legal counsel to look into the ACLU’s demands.

The Hawaii law allows adults with a terminal diagnosis of six months or fewer to ask a doctor for prescription drugs to kill themselves. But the law — and the six others like it in the U.S. — is riddled with loopholes that fail to protect elderly and disabled people from abuse.

Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group that opposes assisted suicide, has documented on-going abuses of assisted suicide laws in Oregon and Washington, the first two states to legalize the deadly procedure. The group said both states prescribe the lethal drugs to people who are not terminally ill nearly every year.

There also are confirmed stories of patients being denied medical treatment coverage and offered assisted suicide drugs instead.

Stephanie Packer, a mother of four struggling with terminal scleroderma, is one of them. The California woman said her state Medicare plan initially refused to pay for her medical treatment but offered to pay for assisted suicide drugs instead. She has lived five years longer than doctors predicted, the National Catholic Register reported in June.

In separate incidents, Oregon cancer patients Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup also were denied medical treatment by their state health insurance plans and offered doctor-prescribed suicide instead.

Family members also have witnessed their loved ones being pressured to consider suicide instead of medical treatment. Oregon resident Kathryn Judson said doctors tried to pitch assisted suicide to her sick husband while she was out of the room one day. Judson said they switched doctors, and her husband lived for five more years.

Full Article & Source:
ACLU Threatens to Sue Nursing Home for Refusing to Help Patients Kill Themselves

Ex-lawmaker who bilked elderly widows out of $3.5 million wants new trial

The former legislator found guilty Wednesday of bilking two elderly widows, one in Belfast and one in France, out of more than $3.5 million and of not paying income taxes will seek a new trial, his attorney said.

Robert Kenneth Lindell Jr., 53, of Cloverdale, California, was convicted of theft by unauthorized taking, a securities violation in connection with the alleged fraud, three counts of theft of federal income tax funds, and five counts each of intentional evasion of income tax and failure to pay Maine income tax.

Lindell, formerly of Frankfort, last year pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Lindell will continue to be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail, where he has been since May after he violated his bail conditions after being free for a year.

The jury of five men and seven women returned the verdict at about 9 p.m. Wednesday at Penobscot Judicial Center after deliberating for more than eight hours, according to the Maine attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case. The trial began Oct. 30.

Lindell’s attorney, Zachary Brandmeir, said Thursday that his client was disappointed in the verdict.

“We anticipate filing a motion for a new trial based upon our previous objections,” he said Thursday in an email. “Our theory was that the prosecution’s case, although based upon a large volume of documents, was grounded in assumptions and incomplete.

“Mr. Lindell testified credibly at hearing,” the defense attorney said. “We believe the jury took hours to deliberate because of the large volume of exhibits and complexity of the factual issues. We are hopeful that we will be able to secure Mr. Lindell another opportunity to challenge these allegations.”

Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The jury found Lindell drained nearly $3 million from the estate of the Belfast widow, who died in 2012 at age 92. Her estate should have totaled about $5.5 million, according to the prosecution.

He was accused of stealing about half a million dollars from the woman in France, who was a longtime family friend. She testified through an interpreter at the trial.

The tax charges stemmed from Lindell not reporting the stolen money on his federal and state tax returns.

The prosecutor told the jury in his closing argument that Lindell gained the trust of both women, then slowly drained their accounts between 2010 and early 2017. Bernstein described the women as being “financially isolated.”

Lindell spent the money to buy and renovate a house in California wine country, and to pay credit card bills for expensive travel and dining in the U.S. and Europe. He also paid for his child’s private high school and college tuition.

“He used these women’s money as his personal piggy bank,” Bernstein told jurors.

Defense attorney Harris Mattson of Bangor said in his closing argument that Lindell had the authority to move money in and out the women’s accounts and trust funds. Mattson also said Lindell’s more than $400,000 in management fees were reasonable and that the California home was a legitimate investment.

“Every one of the state’s charges is crippled by reasonable doubt,” Mattson told jurors.
Lindell served in the Maine House of Representatives as a Republican from 2004 to 2006, when he was defeated in his re-election bid.

His Maine securities disciplinary record included sanctions in 2002 and 2013. Both actions ended in consent orders, according to court documents.

Lindell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the most serious charge of Class B theft. He also could be ordered to pay restitution and back taxes.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-lawmaker who bilked elderly widows out of $3.5 million wants new trial

See Also:
No bail for ex-Frankfort lawmaker accused of bilking two elderly women of millions

Trial begins for ex-lawmaker accused of bilking elderly widows
Trial begins for former Frankfort lawmaker accused of bilking money

The Harvard Doctor Changing Nursing Homes Forever

Dr. Bill Thomas, a Harvard trained physician, wants you to know one very important thing about life and aging: “growing older is a good thing.”

He’s been in the news quite a bit regarding his somewhat radical, yet very positive, first-hand perspective of aging. A Washington Post article featured this one man crusade to change negative attitudes about aging and help people to think of “post-adulthood” as a time of enrichment:

“Thomas believes that Americans have bought so willingly into the idea of aging as something to be feared that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy leading to isolation, loneliness and lack of autonomy,” the article stated. In 1991, Thomas became the medical director of a nursing home in upstate New York. He found the place, as the Post put it, “depressing, a repository for old people whose minds and bodies seemed dull and dispirited.”

In 1991, Dr. Thomas found himself the medical director of a nursing home in upstate New York and in the words of the Washington Post article, he felt the place a: “depressing, a repository for old people whose minds and bodies seemed dull and dispirited.”

So, what did Thomas do to change the resident’s lives forever and spark a movement in aging? The Washington Post explains: “[Dr. Thomas] decided to transform the nursing home. Based on a hunch, he persuaded his staff to stock the facility with two dogs, four cats, several hens and rabbits, and 100 parakeets, along with hundreds of plants, a vegetable and flower garden, and a day-care site for staffers’ kids.

“All those animals in a nursing home broke state law, but for Thomas and his staff, it was a revelation. Caring for the plants and animals restored residents’ spirits and autonomy; many started dressing themselves, leaving their rooms and eating again. The number of prescriptions fell to half of that of a control nursing home, particularly for drugs that treat agitation. Medication costs plummeted, and so did the death rate.”

“He named the approach the Eden Alternative — based on the idea that a nursing home should be less like a hospital and more like a garden — and it was replicated in hundreds of institutions in Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia as well as in all 50 U.S. states (the animal restriction in New York was voted down).”

Thomas has also pioneered small, intimate residences that he calls Green Houses, where residents have their own bedrooms and bathrooms.

The result:“Within six weeks, they had to send a truck around to pick up all the wheelchairs,” Thomas told the Post. “You know why most people [in nursing homes] use wheelchairs? Because the buildings are so damn big.”

So take heart, here’s living proof that age is truly just a number! And, that what we need most is loving contact throughout our lives, whether from people or animals and our minds and spirit play a large role in our happiness and longevity.

Full Article & Source:
The Harvard Doctor Changing Nursing Homes Forever

Friday, November 9, 2018

Woman, 81, testifies to abuse by City Heights caregiver

Shirley Montano listens in a court, where she is accused of holding a disabled woman prisoner for 23 years in a small room at a City Heights home in order to collect the victim̢۪s monthly Social Security benefits. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

An 81-year-old infirm woman repeatedly broke into tears as she testified Wednesday that her neighbor, a professional caregiver, barely fed her, withheld water and cut off her contact with her daughter and friends two years ago.

A prosecutor asked Lorraine Vega why she didn’t request more food from her caregiver, Shirley Montano.

“I was afraid to,” Vega replied, before pausing and crying quietly. “I was afraid she’d yell at me.”

Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Zipp asked Vega why she was afraid.

“I don’t remember,” said Vega, who now lives with her daughter in Phoenix.

Lorraine Vega who in a previous case was abused by Shirley Montana, sobs during her testimony Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Vega, seated in a wheelchair, had a hard time hearing but appeared to answer questions as best she could in a San Diego Superior Court hearing known as a conditional exam.

Such exams are given to prospective trial witnesses to capture their testimony in case they are unavailable later — possibly because of death or a military deployment.

Vega’s testimony was lined up in advance of a Jan. 16 preliminary hearing for Montano, 52, who is charged with murder, kidnapping, elder abuse and false imprisonment in a case involving two other alleged victims.

Further charges against her are kidnapping for ransom, theft from an elder and perjury for allegedly falsifying an application for federal housing aid.

She faces life in prison if convicted of all charges.

Prosecutors allege that Montano imprisoned, starved and beat a woman for 23 years. The motive was to collect the woman’s $910 monthly Social Security benefits, Zipp said.

Montano also allegedly kept a disabled man in such horrible conditions that he died in her care. The murder charge stems from his death.

At Montano’s arraignment on the charges in August, Zipp referred to the female victim only as Josefina, 59, and did not name the male victim. In that hearing, Zipp outlined horrific conditions Josefina lived in at Montano’s City Heights apartment.

Josefina was kept for years in a small room, beaten, intimidated, made to lie in soiled diapers on a urine-soaked mattress and prevented from contacting anyone on the outside, Zipp said.

At her most emaciated level, the 5-foot 6-inch woman weighed 81 pounds, the prosecutor said.

Before Wednesday’s hearing got underway, Zipp said she wanted Vega’s testimony on the record because of the similarities between what Vega and Josefina endured.

Vega fell and broke her hip at her home in May 2016. She said Montano, a neighbor she knew slightly, volunteered to care for her.

But, Vega said, Montano barely helped her.

“If I was lucky, once a day, a container of frozen yogurt,” Vega said. “Once in a while she gave me a bottle of water — not every day. She canceled my (doctor) appointments.”

Montano’s lawyer, Shannon Sebeckis from the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, got Vega to acknowledge there were times when she spoke to her daughter and to friends, and that Montano arranged for workers to make repairs at Vega’s house.

Police came to her house in July, and Montano was charged with elder abuse of Vega. Montano pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in custody.

While in jail, she asked a neighbor to check on Josefina, and soon afterward authorities began investigating that as an elder abuse case, Zipp said. She said Josefina had suffered some sort of disability around age 36 that put her under Montano’s control.

Josefina has since been relocated to a safe residence, Zipp said.

Full Article & Source:
Woman, 81, testifies to abuse by City Heights caregiver

Adam Lopez arrested for theft, financial exploitation

District 186 School Board Vice President Adam Lopez was arrested Wednesday morning.

Sangamon County State's Attorney Dan Wright issued a press release, which said Lopez is facing charges of theft and financial exploitation of the elderly.

A Sangamon County grand jury handed down the five-count indictment Wednesday morning and Lopez was later arrested by U.S. Marshals.

"This was a collaborative investigation by the US Attorney's Office, Sangamon County State's Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Illinois Department of Insurance and the Springfield Police Department and I want to commend all of those agencies on a very through, collaborative investigation," Wright said.

Lopez is being held in the Sangamon County Jail on bond in the amount of $1.5 million.

His arrest follows an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Illinois Department of Insurance and the Springfield Police Department.

The indictment alleges Lopez knowingly exerted unauthorized control over more than $1 million that was entrusted to him by several individuals as an investment professional. 

According to a press release, Lopez intended to deprive the individuals of the funds, permanently.

The investigation has been ongoing since September of 2018 and is continuing as additional victims are identified.

If convicted, Lopez could face up to 30 years in prison.

"These types of financial crimes, especially by someone in a position of trust of confidence will be prosecuted vigorously. The harm caused by these activities is immeasurable and those responsible will be brought to justice," Wright said.

Dan Wright issued a statement regarding Lopez's case and commended the hard work of all who were involved in the investigation thus far.

"Individuals who commit these types of financial crimes in a position of trust or confidence will be vigorously prosecuted. The harm caused by these activities is immeasurable and those responsible will be brought to justice," Wright said.

Lopez's personal office was searched by Springfield Police on October 31 after police obtained a search warrant. 

Earlier in October, the District 186 Superintendent told us the school board is also conducting a forensic audit looking into the Adam Lopez basketball tournament.

Adam Lopez is currently the District 186 School Board Vice President.

When asked for comment on the arrest, District 186 Spokesperson Bree Hankins tells us, “The District is not involved in any investigation involving Adam Lopez or any of his personal matters. We have no further comment on his personal matters.”

In regards to his position on the school board, Hankins said he is an elected official and the board does not have the authority to remove an elected board member. The Regional Office of Education is the only entity that has that authority.

We have reached out to Lopez's Attorney, Daniel Noll.

Jeff Vose, the Sangamon County Regional Superintendent of Schools said in regards to Lopez being removed from the board, a school board member for failing to do their job and the way that plays out is if they don’t show up and that is the only way he can be removed. If Lopez misses three to four months of meeting then he can be removed. He can’t be removed for alleged criminal misconduct. Just like any other citizen who is being accused of a crime and they get due process. If Lopez is to be convicted and is proven guilty then he would automatically be removed from the school board.

Full Article & Source:
Adam Lopez arrested for theft, financial exploitation

Massachusetts Launches Elder Financial Abuse Training Program

William Galvin, Massachusetts’ top securities regulator
A new training program is being offered in Massachusetts by the Securities Division to train the state’s law enforcement personnel on financial fraud and elder financial abuse.

Combating Elder Financial Abuse and Securities Fraud, according to the division, “highlights common schemes and hallmarks of financial abuse that harm older adults and other vulnerable populations.”

The free program, announced by Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s top securities regulator, provides training and resources on how to recognize warning signs and report suspected problems to collaborating agencies such as the Massachusetts Securities Division.

Focusing on the impact of elder financial fraud and exploitation, it includes common misconceptions about vulnerable adults. The training will also cover topics related to financial abuse, common financial scams, and securities fraud perpetrated against older adults.

“It is important for my office to collaborate with law enforcement throughout the commonwealth to combat elder financial abuse and securities fraud,” Galvin said in a statement.

Those seeking additional information regarding the Combating Elder Financial Abuse and Securities Fraud program or who may wish to set up training in their community may contact the Massachusetts Securities Division at 617-727-3548.

Full Article & Source:
Massachusetts Launches Elder Financial Abuse Training Program

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Woman arrested for neglect of elderly victim

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A woman, being sought on felony elderly neglect charges by Washington County Sheriff’s Office, was apprehended early Wednesday morning.

Just after 6 a.m., November 7, 46-year-old Stephanie Hutchinson of Bonifay, FL, was located in Bay County and taken into custody on two active felony warrants.

At the request of healthcare personnel, WCSO deputies responded to a welfare check on Johnson Road in September of 2018. The elderly victim was found to be in poor health and covered in feces and urine upon arrival.

During the investigation, Hutchinson was named as the legal caregiver of the victim and an arrest warrant was obtained.

Hutchinson, who has been booked on one count of neglect of an elderly person and the outstanding warrant for violation of probation, was placed on probation in 2017 following an arrest for selling methamphetamine.

Full Article & Source:
Woman arrested for neglect of elderly victim

Ending elder abuse starts with being present

Ohio law recently expanded the number of individuals required to report suspicion of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation.

An 85-year-old woman has lived alone for nearly five years since her husband died. She has two children who have busy lives and children of their own.

They visit only on special occasions or holidays. They don’t call very often in between working full time and transporting the kids to soccer practice and music lessons.

An 83-year-old woman has lived alone for 5 years. One of her two adult children visits once a week and calls to check on her each morning.

Though the two descriptions are similar, one of the women is more at risk to becoming a victim of elder abuse.

Stark County Probate Judge Dixie Park said isolation is the biggest factor that puts an elderly person at risk for abuse or financial exploitation. For at least eight years, Park has been raising awareness about elder abuse and encouraging local law enforcement and community leaders to protect the elderly.

At the end of September, Ohio law expanded the number of individuals required to report suspicion of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. Some examples include pharmacists, dialysis technicians, firefighters, first responders, bank employees and financial planners.

“I’ve seen some really hideous things happening to elderly people,” Park said. “That’s one of the reasons I feel so strongly about raising awareness to elder abuse and people with disabilities.”

A growing issue

Since Park took office in 2004, she has seen the number of guardianship cases rise from nearly 1,200 in 2004 to more than 1,800 this year. Many cases are filed as a result of the elderly person being exploited.

Park recalled a case where a woman was taken advantage of by someone living with her who claimed to be doing construction on her home. Instead, he swindled her out of nearly $200,000.

Though Park does what she can to help, many times the damage has already been done by the time the case reaches her in probate court. To help educate others in the community, Park coordinated a seminar last month to discuss the importance of protecting the elderly and signs of abuse and financial exploitation.

“It’s a community issue, and that’s why we’ve been trying to raise awareness to it,” she said. “It continues to grow. There’s a high percentage that goes unreported. We need to keep track of one another and protect one another.”

Stark County Judge Frank Forchione said he has seen the number of elder abuse cases rise within the past four or five years, parallel to the opioid epidemic. It is common in cases involving elderly victims that a younger family member steals money, credit cards or jewelry to help fuel a drug habit.

Many of these cases go unreported because the victim feels ashamed or embarrassed they were duped, or because they are afraid to report it. Some fear being placed in a nursing home if the abuse is reported, or fear no one will be around to take care of them if they speak out.

The demographics of the United States account for another reason elder abuse cases ae up — there are simply more elderly now. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65 by 2030. By 2035, there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.  (Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Ending elder abuse starts with being present

Tulsa Police: Caregiver Spent $1.3M Taken From Elderly Man On Casinos, Cars

TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa police have arrested a man charged with exploiting an elderly man out of more than a million dollars. The victim was 88 years old and died after the investigation began. He'll be laid to rest Saturday.
Financial crimes detectives say this is a heartbreaking case, but unfortunately, it's one they see all too often; when someone takes advantage of an elderly person. But, in this case, it was to the tune of more than a million dollars.

John Simmons retired as a public relations executive. He served on many boards and family and friends say he loved the theatre and traveling.

"The sad part is, your golden years are supposed to be wonderful," said Lee Warner, Simmons’ friend.

Police said Jess Jones befriended the victim, moved into his home, and started spending his money. A family friend contacted adult protective services who called the police.

"We quickly realized hundreds of thousands of dollars being taken out of the man's retirement account and checking account," said Detective Matt Rose.

The affidavit said Jones, who's unemployed, bought a Porsche and 2 Mercedes, spent $644,000 on credit cards and made $486,000 in cash withdrawals over three years, took trips, and gambled at area casinos.

It said medical staff was concerned about his lack of care, being left in bed for long periods of time with no food or water and not being cleaned.

"We kept telling John, ‘what has he ever done for you except spend your money’," said Warner. 
Police said friends and family often feel helpless in these situations, but they can help.

"We're one of the only departments in the nation that has a senior service unit. We dedicate one volunteer and two full-time detectives to work on cases like this," said Detective Rose.

Jones is charged with abuse,exploitation, and neglect of a vulnerable adult. He is being held in Tulsa County Jail on a $10,000 bond. We did not hear back from his attorney.

Detectives said if you suspect something like this is happening to someone you know, it's important you call them right away. - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

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Tulsa Police: Caregiver Spent $1.3M Taken From Elderly Man On Casinos, Cars

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A better system? Despite change, some still see elderly guardianship problems

*This story was corrected on Oct. 30, 2018

Since her father’s brush with involuntary adult guardianship last year, Hillary Hogue has been on a mission to stop what she said is corruption in the 20th Judicial Circuit’s guardian and probate court.

Hogue lives in Naples, but she said she takes trips around the five counties of the circuit to search for victims of abusive guardianships.

“This is the perfect place for such crimes as Florida is a retirement capital,” Hogue said. “This has become an industry that is fueled by ruthless greed.”

Guardianship reform has been a hot topic across the nation in the last few years, and Florida recently made changes to give the state greater oversight of the system.

As a result, a first-of-its kind administrative hearing in Palm Beach County may bar a guardian from practicing after the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG), along with the Clerk of Court Inspector General, conducted an investigation into her practices. The Palm Beach Post reported the OPPG is seeking sanctions against guardian Betsy Savitt which have the potential to bar her from practicing in the county and may include repayment of up to $190,000 in guardianship fees.

Hogue believes the problem is just as bad in Southwest Florida and stated attorneys and judges are complicit in guardians’ attempts to control the lives of their elderly wards and deplete their savings.

However, Sara Miles, spokesperson for the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Charlotte County, said the allegations of corruption are unfounded and untrue.

“Our judges work diligently to ensure due process and fairness,” Miles said. “The Legislature has recently enacted new guidelines and requirements and a complaint procedure for people to use as a means of maintaining checks on guardians.”

Forty-six adult guardianship cases have been filed in Charlotte County in 2018 so far, but no one tracks how many adults are actually under the care of a guardian. The clerk of court closes the cases once a guardian has been appointed, according to Clerk Roger Eaton. In Sarasota County, 111 guardianship cases have been filed since Jan. 1.

How guardianship works

Adult guardianship happens when the court finds an individual’s ability to make decisions is so impaired that it gives the right to make those decisions to another person. According to Florida law, guardianship is only warranted when no less restrictive alternative is available, such as durable power of attorney, trust, health care surrogate or proxy, or any other form of pre-need directive.

Anyone can file a petition to find an individual incapacitated and have a guardian appointed. Sometimes family is unable to care for an individual, or family members who can’t agree on a loved one’s care may go to the court for a third party decision. However, the petition could be filed by anyone who claims the individual is unable to care for themselves.

There are three types of guardians: family, public, and professional.

Despite the name, family guardians aren’t necessarily performing guardianship services for a parent or grandparent. ‘Family guardian’ simply designates a guardian with three or fewer wards under their care. Professional guardians have more than three wards, and guardianship is their profession.

Gina Rossi, executive director for the Florida State Guardianship Association, said some professional guardians enter the field after becoming the guardian for a family member, while others come through social work or finance fields.

“If you want to become a professional guardian you have to take a 40-hour, in-person course,” she said. “After that, there’s an extensive background check with includes FBI fingerprinting, an expansive credit check, and the Florida guardianship examination. Then if you pass, you are bonded, and you take all that information to the Office of Public and Professional Guardians.”

According to Ashley Chambers, spokesperson for the Department of Elder Affairs which houses the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG), the state has the least control over professional guardians, who are paid out of the ward’s assets. Until recently, the guardianship office in the Department of Elder Affairs was called the Statewide Public Guardianship Office.

Now, the OPPG can discipline professional guardians, but their interaction is still limited. While professional guardians register with the OPPG, they conduct their business on their own.

“We have no oversight over professional guardians,” Chambers said. “The only thing we have to do with professional guardians is we do some of their training and keep a registration list.”

In fiscal year 2016-2017, there were approximately 550 professional guardians registered with the OPPG.

Public guardians, who are typically professional guardians who agree to take on guardianship cases for indigent persons, provided services for more than 3,000 indigent wards in fiscal year 2016-2017.

Recent changes

In 2016, facing news reports and personal accounts of guardians taking advantage of the elderly, the Florida state Legislature granted the OPPG statutory power to investigate and discipline professional guardians, changing the name of the Statewide Public Guardianship Office to the Office of Public and Professional Guardians.

“That was the huge change,” Chambers said. “It completely changed the scope of the office. In 2016, the law was signed to give us authority to investigate all the accusations against certain professional guardians. The Legislature acted in order to give us a disciplinary role.”

A statewide toll-free hotline was developed to receive complaints made against registered professional guardians, as well as a website to submit complaints online. As of December 2017, the OPPG had received more than 80 legally sufficient complaints against registered professional guardians. The complaints are investigated by the Clerks’ Statewide Investigations Alliance, and the findings are turned over to the Department of Elder Affairs to decide on next steps.

“There is a range,” Chambers said. “It can be something like a letter of concern, like, ‘We’ve found x, y, and z. This is a letter of concern. It looks bad. It looks like you might not know the procedure.’ And then the higher end of it is an administrative complaint.”

In an administrative complaint, the OPPG could seek anything from restitution for the victim up to revocation of a guardian’s registration, so they can no longer practice.

According to Gina Rossi, most guardians were in favor of the new process and the Florida State Guardianship Association even helped the OPPG write the code of conduct for guardians.

“The standards, generally speaking, raised the profession of guardianship and most guardians, that’s what they want,” she said. “They want the work they do to be reflected in a standard of practice. Guardians felt like this is what they’ve been doing all along, but now it’s part of the law.”

Too little, too late?

Despite the new standards and complaint process, Hogue and others say they felt helpless when their loved ones were placed in guardianship, and some are still fighting the system even after a loved one’s death.

Punta Gorda resident Cristi Kessler is still involved in litigation in her father’s guardianship case in Collier County, even though he passed away last year. Kessler has been unable to get back a special medical bed for her veteran husband’s throat cancer, which she says has been locked down with her father’s property. The bed, intended to help her husband breathe at night, had been loaned to her father when they learned he was sleeping on a 40-year-old mattress.

“This is nothing more than abuse by a probate guardian to a veteran who served his country honorably and lovingly cared for his father-in-law,” she said.

Another Charlotte County woman’s mother-in-law died under the care of a guardian who denied family’s wishes, documented in emails in the court file. Though she declined to share her story, court documents record a disagreement over whether the ward should have been placed in a stroke center, rather than the hospice care the guardian chose.

In Hogue’s situation, she said every 20-minute conversation with her father’s guardian or court appointed attorney would rack up unreasonable bills. Her sister filed the initial petition alleging their father was incapacitated, while Hogue states that petition was full of lies. She says her father never had the opportunity to defend himself, but was instead placed under an emergency temporary guardianship until he could be evaluated for competency.

After the petition was filed, three examiners evaluated Mr. Hogue, one of whom was a gynecologist.

Chambers said while that might seem strange, it’s common for examiners to come from a variety of backgrounds, and all court-appointed examiners receive special training to evaluate competency. Members of the examining committee must receive a minimum of four hours training, per Florida statute.

Ultimately, a professional guardian was not appointed, though Hogue claims both the temporary guardian and her father’s court-appointed attorney pushed for one. Instead, Hogue and her sister agreed to an order which allows Mr. Hogue to live with Hillary while his accountant serves as his power of attorney.

Now, several months after the process has ended, her father is still afraid to leave the house, and her young son fears the “guardianship police” will come take his grandfather away. Still, she considers herself lucky her father got out so easy.

A guardian’s perspective

Gina Rossi said while she doesn’t have knowledge of specific cases, most guardians take their jobs very seriously, and few people realize the amount of scrutiny they are under. Any medical decisions are discussed with family, doctors, nurses, and hospital ethics teams — “everybody you would listen to if it was somebody in your family,” she said.

When it comes to money, guardians must submit detailed financial reports to the court on a yearly basis, which are closely audited by the clerks of court. People might think of guardians as rogue individuals taking control of a ward’s life, Rossi said, but none of the decisions made by a guardian are made in a vacuum.

“A guardian cannot just come in and spend all your money,” she said. “I guess there’s always cases of people being really bad people, but generally speaking the system is not set up so that’s easy to do. You’re literally stealing in front of a judge. That takes a lot of nerve.”

After a ward’s death, Rossi said sorting out the property can be a lengthy process due to the court overseeing the accounting.

“Every case is so different,” she said. “Occasionally, someone will be like, ‘Oh no, that’s my ring, my mom promised it to me,’ but the guardian would not be in a position to give it away.”

In addition to education and networking for guardians, the Florida State Guardianship Association works to educate the public on alternatives to guardianship and how to avoid it.

“We would just encourage people to be educated about guardianship to find out exactly what it is and make sure that all your documents are in place, that you’ve done the best to care for yourself so you won’t need a guardianship,” Rossi said.

She also wants people to know guardians aren’t villains.

“I know so many guardians who have totally changed people’s life, took them from a terrible situation to a safe situation where they had a great quality of life,” she said.

Since creating the complaint investigation process, the state has received 126 guardianship complaints across the state. The administrative complaint against Betsy Savitt is the only one yet to be filed, though Chambers said there may be others going that direction. However, for the five complaints involving professional guardians in Charlotte and Sarasota counties, no disciplinary action was warranted based on the investigate findings, according to the OPPG.

“As a department, if you ever hear of any requests for help from a constituent complaining for something that is putting an elder in jeopardy, that concerns us,” she said. “Now that we have the authority to investigate complaints when they come in, we take that seriously because protecting vulnerable adults is of the utmost priority for the department.”

*In a previous version of this story, the Office of Public and Professional Guardians was incorrectly referred to as the Office of Public and Private Guardianship.

Full Article & Source: 
A better system? Despite change, some still see elderly guardianship problems