Thursday, August 13, 2020

Son shares grave warning, alleges negligence, abuse at Greenville senior living facility

by Madeleine Hackett

Click to Watch Video
GREENVILLE, S.C. — A lawsuit filed last month alleges negligence and abuse inside Rolling Green Village, a memory care assisted living facility located on Hoke Smith Boulevard in Greenville.

According to the lawsuit, Doris Robson, a memory care patient, suffered numerous suspicious injuries which were caused by abuse and/or neglect from Rolling Green Village. The lawsuit states that those injuries include rib fractures, collapsed lung, dehydration, weight loss, humiliation and loss of dignity.

Madeleine Hackett
doris robson in hospital with punctured lung
Doris Robson’s son tells WYFF News 4 that it was a black eye that ultimately spurred him to place a camera inside his mom’s room.

“When I saw her black eye, which was a perfect shiner… a perfect circular shiner around her eye... it looked like someone had took a boxing glove and punched her straight in the eye, and that’s when I said ‘OK, enough.’”

When Robson asked staff about the injuries, he said managers at the facility evaded his questions.

“When I started questioning the staff about it, it was more of a ‘Well, we don’t know what happened, this could have happened at night…’” Robson said.

So Robson purchased a Nest camera from a local store and placed it inside his mother’s room.

“I placed it in there, I didn’t tell anybody about it in there. I didn’t hide it. I didn’t announce it, but I didn’t hide it…” Robson said. “If you saw it, it would be in plain view, it was atop her bookshelf.”
According to the lawsuit:

“When Iain Robson obtained the video, he found evidence of multiple staff members handling Doris Robson very roughly and abusing/neglecting her in her room. As a result, Iain Robson contacted the administration again at the Defendants’ facility and notified them and the police department was also notified whereupon the police arrested and charged two of the Defendants’ employees in connection with their actions and neglect of Doris Robson. On May 21, 2019, the nurse practitioner assessed and evaluated Doris Robson in part due to the neglect and abuse reported by Iain Robson and noted that there were multiple areas of discoloration about her body including, but not limited to, bruises and skin tears to her mid-back, discoloration to her left hip which extended to the knee, bruising and discoloration to her right hip, right forearm, and left foot.”

Rolling Green Village issued this statement to WYFF 4:

“The safety and security of our Rolling Green Village family is paramount, and we’re devastated this happened to one of our residents. In no way should this reflect the character of the professionals at our community, or the quality of the services we’ve provided over the course of the last 30 years.

“It’s our standard policy to conduct thorough background checks on all employees prior to hiring them. We found nothing criminal in their past. The employees charged in this investigation have been terminated.

“We followed all of the proper legal and law enforcement procedures in this case. Our team appropriately notified the Department of Health and the Sheriff’s Department within the time limits required by the regulations.

“While the investigation is still underway, we will refrain from any additional comment at this time.”

To read the full lawsuit, you can visit:

Full Article & Source:
Son shares grave warning, alleges negligence, abuse at Greenville senior living facility

Michigan families fight to see seniors amid COVID-19, even in hospice care

Fears of COVID-19 have shut down visitation in long-term care facilities across Michigan — even, at times, in hospice. (Shutterstock image)
by Robin Erb

Late-stage Alzheimer’s disease has switched off nearly all of her mother’s memories — that’s cruel enough. Darlyn Townsend is now learning to accept that her mother is in hospice, too.

But the fact that Townsend can’t hold her 86-year-old mother’s hand, comb her hair, pick out a favorite pink nail polish, or play her favorite Perry Como tunes — that’s simply unforgivable, she says.

Like many nursing homes around Michigan, MediLodge at The Shore in Grand Haven has banned visitors because of COVID-19 concerns.

“I asked them about visitation,” Townsend told Bridge. “They aren’t going to do it. Not inside, not outside, not anything.

“I can’t even crack her window.”

Some 32,000 Michiganders in long-term care facilities will soon enter their sixth month of being cut off from friends and families who, for the most part, are unable to visit them due to statewide coronavirus restrictions. While some facilities allow limited visits, others continue to ban visits altogether, regardless of whether the resident has the virus. It’s a painful but necessary precaution, they say, to protect residents and staff from COVID-19.

Perhaps no families are more desperate than those whose loved ones are living out their final days. Representatives of the hospice industry and the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program say some families have been turned away from nursing home doors, even as family members were dying.

Darlyn Townsend stands outside the
nursing home looking at her mother,
Ann Yanna, whom she has been unable
 to visit in person, even though Yanna is
 in hospice. The nursing home, like
others around the state, have banned
 visitors as a way to guard against
 COVID-19 infections. (Photo courtesy
 of Darlyn Townsend)
Early in the pandemic, a few nursing homes briefly refused entry even to hospice nurses, according to Barry Cargill, executive director of Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association.

“The next concern was to get family and loved ones in so they could be with that person,” he said. “It has been really hard … In many cases, families are not allowed to see their [relative]. Sometimes, they can’t even go to a window” to see them. 

“We’ve had family members who can’t visit their spouse,” said John Person, executive director of Hospice of Lansing, which runs an eight-person hospice residence and also provides care at long-term facilities. “This might be anecdotal, but my sense is that it is relatively common.” 

Some facilities have begun allowing visits, empowered by the discretion offered in guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on June 30, said Alison Hirschel, director of the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative.

In it, MDHHS director Robert Gordon clarified that facilities “may” — but are not required to — allow visitation in certain circumstances, such as for residents in hospice, but only if it is scheduled and social distancing and other safety measures are followed.

In March, when the new coronavirus began to devastate Michigan, a total lockdown on nursing homes made sense, Hirschel said.

“We’d never seen anything like COVID before and it was so terrifying and so devastating that it makes sense” that senior facilities focused exclusively on stopping the virus, she said.

But five months later, “we realized that the meaning of life is much fuller than just protection against infection.”

Federal guidance during the pandemic — reinforced by state orders — have left decisions up to facilities, said Lori Smetanka, executive director of the Washington-based National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a national nonprofit that represents residents and consumers of long-term care and services.

Across the country, she said, there are reports of residents dying alone while families are barred from facilities. Some families are allowed in — but kept on time limits or limited to a single visit.

“The facilities are given all the discretion about whether [visitors] can come in, when they can come in, how long they can stay, and whether they can come back … A lot of it is almost inhumane. It’s arbitrary,” Smetanka said.

“That’s no way to establish policy and person-centered care.” 

In Michigan, the MDHHS order allows — but does not require — visits when a resident is in “serious or critical condition or in hospice care.”

As a result, facilities have varied policies on what kinds of visits they will allow, she and Cargill said.

“It’s heartbreaking to me when someone can’t see their spouse at the end of life. That’s immoral to me,” said Person of Hospice of Lansing. 

In his facility, families are asked to designate a representative for regular visits, and those visitors must abide by screening requirements, he said. Others may visit in the final days of life, he said.

There are 158 hospice programs in Michigan that provide services at homes, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals. Hospice of Lansing is among 17 such programs that also operate a stand-alone hospice facility, according to data provided by Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Early in the pandemic, Person said his agency was “more aggressive” in trying to get families into third-party facilities, “but we weren’t getting anywhere.” Confrontation simply led to more tension and less cooperation.

‘Actively dying.’

Advocates for residents in long-term care facilities say their concern goes beyond the feelings of isolation. A lack of visitors — relatives, friends, specialists — means there are no extra eyes inside a facility to make sure residents receive proper care, said Salli Pung of Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman, whose office also has received numerous complaints.

“We are hearing that many facilities are not allowing residents enrolled in hospice to receive a visitor until they are actively dying,” she said.

Darlyn Townsend said that’s what she was told about when she could visit her mother: “like if her oxygen or blood pressure starts to change,” she said she was told. But that’s beyond the point when visits would be most helpful to her mother, said Townsend, 65, of Coopersville.

MediLodge officials declined to comment. 

Townsend said her bright-red bag — the one with the lotions and polishes and hair brush that she usually took to care for her mother, Ann Yanna — has sat unused for months. 

On July 31, she said she sat on the phone on the other side of her mother’s MediLodge window, talking with the hospice nurse at her mother’s bedside. Her mother was shaking and distraught, she said. The hospice nurse put Townsend on speaker so she could sing her Como’s “Catch a Falling Star.”

Only then, Townsend said, her mother’s body stilled.

The hospice nurse told Townsend her mother is still eating, so she wants to take her mother another slice of her favorite: key lime pie.

“There may be so little left of her and the time she has,” Townsend said. “Can I not be part of that?”

Isolation vs. infection

Long-term care facilities — as well as Michigan’s hospice residences — say they must weigh the emotional and physical price of isolation against the threat of infection that visitors pose to residents and staff.

HCR Manorcare, a large national chain with facilities in Michigan, continues to prohibit general visitation. Loved ones must schedule visits with hospice patients and staff must supervise to ensure they abide by six-foot social distancing. Visitors must wear “full airborne [personal protective equipment] for one visitor after they have passed the screening process.  Visits last 15 minutes and there can be no touching,” spokeswoman Kelly Kessler said in an email to Bridge Michigan.

MDHHS chief Gordon’s guidance in June giving facilities discretion in setting visitation rules gives facilities leeway to consider many factors in their decisions — the spread of COVID-19 in the community as well as their own supplies of personal protective equipment and ability to isolate an infected patient, said Cargill, at the state’s hospice association.

“Gordon’s orders do not ease restrictions, but simply provide the clarity to what is allowable and how long-term care facilities should be managing the excepted visits,” said Melissa Samuel, president of the Health Care Association of Michigan, HCAM, which represents hundreds of long-term care facilities.

Tom Selznick of Livonia, a long-time family doctor who specializes in geriatric medicine, said he can’t blame facilities that invoke strict visitation rules. 

Selznick has spent much of his career working with patients in long-term care. He often advises families to care for dying relatives at home when possible. That’s even more important during a pandemic, he said.

Caring for patients at home whenever
possible is even more important during
a pandemic, said Tom Selznick,
a longtime family doctor and specialist
in geriatric  medicine. (Photo courtesy
 of Beaumont Health)
“Nursing homes are always in the hot seat. They’re being scrutinized. Facilities are concerned that all they need is one facility-acquired infection and it’s all over the news … They don’t want lawsuits and the state to come down on them.”

But social interaction is more important than even the best medicines in a person’s final days, Selznick said.

“When you’re toward the end of life and even if you have dementia, you need that family interaction. You don’t want to feel you’ve been abandoned,” he said.

That leaves industry trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, as it sorts through a barrage of guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and local and state health departments, said Person, at Hospice of Lansing.

“Finding the best practices — we’re all struggling with that,” he said.

Representatives of the hospice industry, including those from Harbor Hospice, which cares for Townsend’s mother, say they often rely on virtual visits — cellphones or computer tablets, for example — with family members when the patient is in a nursing home which the family can’t enter.

Still, families are “desperate, … angry, upset and scared,” said the hospice association’s Cargill.

“They’re a whole lot of people out there struggling for answers.”

Full Article & Source:
Michigan families fight to see seniors amid COVID-19, even in hospice care

Augusta woman arrested for elderly exploitation

Latasha Monique Staten - (Richmond County Sheriff's Office)
By Jozsef Papp

An Augusta woman was arrested last week for exploiting an elderly woman.

Latasha Monique Staten, 37, was charged with exploitation of elderly or disabled person and financial transaction card fraud. According to arrest warrants, Staten used the elderly woman’s bank card to buy merchandise from several businesses in the amount of $533.

She used the card without the authorization of the cardholder and with the intent to defraud the victim, the warrants state. Staten was the victim’s personal caretaker and used the card around nine times for personal purchases, when she was only supposed to use the card for purchases for the victim.

Staten is being held at Charles B. Webster Detention Center on a $5,700 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Augusta woman arrested for elderly exploitation

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Investigation finds massive fraud in Indiana nursing home industry

The FBI, treasury and other law enforcement officers conduct an investigation at the Carmel home of then-American Senior Communities CEO James Burkhart in 2015. (IndyStar Photo Charlie Nye)
A secret internal investigation of fraud at Indiana’s largest nursing home system alleges more schemes, more conspirators and far greater financial losses than anything previously disclosed.

After the FBI raided the office and Carmel home of then-American Senior Communities CEO James Burkhart in 2015, Burkhart and four associates were charged. They pleaded guilty in 2017.

Federal prosecutors said the five men set up shell companies to inflate costs and pay themselves kickbacks on vendor contracts for landscaping, food, medical supplies and more. In all, $19 million was stolen, prosecutors said.

Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County, the county’s public health agency and owner of the homes managed by ASC, recovered $15.5 million and says it was “made whole.”

But there’s more to the story. Here’s what you need to know:

Company launched secret investigation

After the FBI raided Burkhart’s office and home, American Senior Communities quietly hired a team of Chicago attorneys that included former federal prosecutors.

What the public never knew was that ASC’s internal investigation turned up far more fraud allegations. IndyStar obtained a copy of the company’s confidential 277-page presentation to federal prosecutors, which was produced in 2016. It describes more than half a dozen schemes that were not included in the criminal case and identifies 20 alleged conspirators or “key players” who were never prosecuted. It also estimates far greater losses of at least $35 million.

ASC would not comment on its investigation. The office of U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler also declined to comment.

Alleged participants included Indiana Attorney General’s relative

Among those identified in ASC’s internal investigation was Rob New, a former Fishers businessman who coached boys basketball at Scecina Memorial High School. The company’s analysis claimed he participated in alleged schemes that resulted in millions of dollars in losses. And in court filings last year in its civil lawsuit against Burkhart, the company again accused New of participating in fraud schemes with Burkhart. New is not a defendant in the case.

New has never been charged with a crime. He denies any wrongdoing and his attorney called the allegations in the lawsuit against Burkhart “meritless and spurious.” Last year, New sold his Fishers mansion for $3 million to NBA star Gordon Hayward and now lives in a luxury high-rise condo near the beach in Naples, Florida.

Another person named in the company’s investigation is Gretchen Zoeller, the cousin of then-Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. His agency was part of the criminal investigation and he accompanied prosecutors when charges against Burkhart and others were announced. He told IndyStar he was unaware his cousin was involved in the nursing home scandal at the time.

ASC is now suing Gretchen Zoeller for her alleged role in the schemes. She, too, has not been charged with a crime, and denies participating in any fraud.

Public agency quietly settled fraud claims

Although the nursing home buildings are privately owned, and managed under contract by ASC, the businesses are technically owned by Marion County’s public health agency and funded mostly with Medicaid and Medicare tax dollars.

The leader of that agency, the Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County, is Matthew Gutwein. He knew about the findings from ASC’s internal investigation but quietly signed an agreement with the company in 2017 that allowed it to keep operating the homes.

The agreement, which was never publicly announced, recovered only $15.5 million — far short of the estimated losses identified in ASC’s own investigation. It also contains several secrecy provisions that helped keep a lid on the suspected scope of the fraud, IndyStar found.

A lawyer for HHC defended the deal, arguing that it made the government whole and outweighed the cost and uncertainty of additional litigation. HHC said ASC’s secret report was preliminary and the estimated losses it claimed were inflated because not every allegation could be substantiated.

Concerns about federal money loomed over fraud case

Gutwein’s decision to quickly settle the fraud allegations came at a time when he was deeply concerned that the scandal could threaten a much larger source of money for his agency.

As IndyStar reported in March, HHC and more than 20 other county hospitals across Indiana have bought up nearly every nursing home in the state, at least on paper, to take advantage of a program that provides extra Medicaid funds to government-owned facilities. The money is intended to provide care for vulnerable nursing home residents, but HHC and others exploited rules that allowed them to legally divert much of it to their hospitals instead, leaving Indiana with the worst elder care system in America, according to AARP.

The fraud case represented a major threat to the program, which provides about $180 million a year for HHC. In a victim impact statement, Gutwein wrote, “just as fraud and abuse erode the public’s trust, they can also affect the views of legislators and policymakers who, in response, could choose to cut back or even eliminate the federal supplemental program.”

HHC said its decision to settle with ASC had nothing to do with protecting the lucrative Medicaid funds. “Any suggestion that HHC chose to settle with ASC to avoid scrutiny is both offensive and meritless,” HHC said in a statement.

Public left in the dark

ASC has settled outside of court with at least five individuals or companies it suspected of fraud. But because of its agreement with the county agency, those settlement agreements — including the amount of money recovered — remain a secret.

As a result, the public may never know how much taxpayer money was recovered.

Meanwhile, HHC continues to do business with at least one of the people identified in ASC’s investigation. The agency pays New about $5.5 million a year to lease nine nursing homes and an assisted living facility.

Full Article & Source:
Investigation finds massive fraud in Indiana nursing home industry

New York’s true nursing home death toll cloaked in secrecy


FILE - In this June 15, 2020, file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo removes a mask as he holds a news conference in Tarrytown, N.Y. New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the highest in the nation, could actually be a significant undercount. Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who died in hospitals. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
 NEW YORK (AP) — Riverdale Nursing Home in the Bronx appears, on paper, to have escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, with an official state count of just four deaths in its 146-bed facility.

The truth, according to the home, is far worse: 21 dead, most transported to hospitals before they succumbed. 

“It was a cascading effect,” administrator Emil Fuzayov recalled. “One after the other.”

New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the highest in the nation, could actually be a significant undercount. Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. 

That statistic could add thousands to the state’s official care home death toll of just over 6,600. But so far the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to divulge the number, leading to speculation the state is manipulating the figures to make it appear it is doing better than other states and to make a tragic situation less dire.

“That’s a problem, bro,” state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat, told New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker during a legislative hearing on nursing homes earlier this month. “It seems, sir, that in this case you are choosing to define it differently so that you can look better.” 

How big a difference could it make? Since May, federal regulators have required nursing homes to submit data on coronavirus deaths each week, whether or not residents died in the facility or at a hospital. Because the requirement came after the height of New York’s outbreak, the available data is relatively small. According to the federal data, roughly a fifth of the state’s homes reported resident deaths from early June to mid July — a tally of 323 dead, 65 percent higher than the state’s count of 195 during that time period.

Even if half that undercount had held true from the start of the pandemic, that would translate into thousands more nursing home resident deaths than the state has acknowledged.

Another group of numbers also suggests an undercount. State health department surveys show 21,000 nursing home beds are lying empty this year, 13,000 more than expected — an increase of almost double the official state nursing home death tally. While some of that increase can be attributed to fewer new admissions and people pulling their loved ones out, it suggests that many others who aren’t there anymore died.

However flawed New York’s count, Cuomo has not been shy about comparing it to tallies in other states.

Nearly every time Cuomo is questioned about New York’s nursing home death toll, he brushes off criticism as politically motivated and notes that his state’s percentage of nursing home deaths out of its overall COVID-19 death toll is around 20%, far less than Pennsylvania’s 68%, Massachusetts’ 64% and New Jersey’s 44%.

“Look at the basic facts where New York is versus other states,” Cuomo said during a briefing Monday. “You look at where New York is as a percentage of nursing home deaths, it’s all the way at the bottom of the list.”

In another briefing last month, he touted New York’s percentage ranking as 35th in the nation. “Go talk to 34 other states first. Go talk to the Republican states now — Florida, Texas, Arizona — ask them what is happening in nursing homes. It’s all politics.”

Boston University geriatrics expert Thomas Perls said it doesn’t make sense that nursing home resident deaths as a percentage of total deaths in many nearby states are more than triple what was reported in New York.

“Whatever the cause, there is no way New York could be truly at 20%,” Perls said.

A Cuomo spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for comment. New York’s Department of Health said in a statement that it has been a leader in providing facility-specific information on nursing home deaths and “no one has been clearer in personalizing the human cost of the pandemic.”

A running tally by The Associated Press shows that more than 68,600 residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term facilities across the nation have died from the coronarivus, out of more than 164,000 overall deaths.

For all 43 states that break out nursing home data, resident deaths make up 44% of total COVID deaths in their states, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Assuming the same proportion held in New York, that would translate to more than 11,000 nursing home deaths.

In this April 17, 2020, file photo, emergency medical workers arrive at Cobble Hill Health Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
To be sure, comparing coronavirus deaths in nursing homes across states can be difficult because of the differences in how states conduct their counts. New York is among several states that include probable COVID-19 deaths as well as those confirmed by a test. Some states don’t count deaths from homes where fewer than five have died. Others don’t always give precise numbers, providing ranges instead. And all ultimately rely on the nursing homes themselves to provide the raw data.

“Everybody is doing it however they feel like doing it. We don’t have very good data. It’s just all over the place, all over the country,” said Toby Edelman of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit representing nursing home residents.

New York health chief Zucker explained during the legislative hearing that New York only counts deaths on the nursing home property to avoid “double-counting” deaths in both the home and the hospital. And while he acknowledged the state keeps a running count of nursing home resident deaths at hospitals, he declined to provide even a rough estimate to lawmakers.

“I will not provide information that I have not ensured is absolutely accurate,” Zucker said. “This is too big an issue and it’s too serious an issue.”

Zucker promised to provide lawmakers the numbers as soon as that doublechecking is complete. They are still waiting. The AP has also been denied access to similar nursing home death data despite filing a public records request with the state health department nearly three months ago.

Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, said it is unethical of New York to not break out the deaths of nursing home residents at hospitals. “From an epidemiological and scientific perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to count them.”

Nursing homes have become a particular sore point for the Cuomo administration, which has generally received praise for steps that flattened the curve of infections and New York’s highest-in-the-nation 32,787 overall deaths.

A controversial March 25 order to send recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals into nursing homes that was designed to free up hospital bed space at the height of the pandemic has drawn withering criticism from relatives and patient advocates who contend it accelerated nursing home outbreaks.

Cuomo reversed the order under pressure in early May. And his health department later released an internal report that concluded asymptomatic nursing home staffers were the real spreaders of the virus, not the 6,300 recovering patients released from hospitals into nursing homes.

But epidemiologists and academics derided the study for a flawed methodology that sidestepped key questions and relied on selective stats, including the state’s official death toll figures.

“We’re trying to find out what worked and what didn’t work and that means trying to find patterns,” said Bill Hammond, who works on health policy for the nonprofit Empire Center think tank. “You can’t do that if you have the wrong data.”
AP reporters Jim Mustian and Marina Villeneuve, and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report.

Full Article & Source:
New York’s true nursing home death toll cloaked in secrecy

Navy veteran saved by Chihuahua after having a stroke

By Cortney Moore

A North Carolina Chihuahua is credited with saving his owner’s life last week, according to a report from WCTI.

Eighty-six-year-old Navy Veteran Rudy Armstrong survived a stroke after his little dog Bubu ran to get help. Armstrong lives alone with his furry companion in a houseboat in Oriental, a town in Pamlico County, but Bubu was able to lead a nearby dockmaster back to Armstrong's home to assist the sick vet.

Navy Veteran Rudy Armstrong, 86, suffered a stroke in his North Carolina home. (CarolinaEast Heath System)
“I sat down in my chair, drank my coffee, and the next thing I know it was after lunch," Armstong told WCTI about his ordeal, "I couldn’t even get my hand to move and my foot wouldn’t move.”

He also explained that he had instructed Bubu to get help from a dockmaster named Kim when he couldn’t reach his phone to call emergency services.

“I didn’t want to be there for a couple of days before somebody would come by, so I said, ‘Ok Boo-Boo, go get me some help,'” Armstrong said.

Kim called 911 after discovering Armstrong and paramedics rushed to the scene.

Armstrong was taken to the CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern.

On Friday, Armstrong and Bubu were reunited in the garden of the CarolinaEast Rehabilitation Hospital. Pictures of the heartfelt reunion were shared on the hospital’s Facebook page.

Armstrong and his pet dog Bubu got reunited five days after the Navy veteran suffered a stroke. Bubu ran and got help, which ultimately saved his life. (CarolinaEast Heath System)
"Rudy, who has sailed all over the world and has stories for days, was very [appreciative] of the care he has received here, but is not a fan of our turkey sausage,” CarolinaEast’s post reads. “We thank him for his service to our country and for allowing us the privilege of caring for him and sharing his story of Bubu, the miracle pup!”

Armstrong could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson at the rehab hospital said he is doing well and is receiving three hours of therapy a day.

Rudy and Bubu’s reunion was a special moment for the rehab staff that was able to witness it, the spokesperson said.

“He is recovering slowly but surely and looks forwards to getting back to his three-bedroom floating house with his best girl, Bubu," the spokesperson told Fox News. "He says he feels much better after getting to love on her in our Rehab Garden last week.”

Full Article & Source:
Navy veteran saved by Chihuahua after having a stroke

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Lakeland man who visited wife for last goodbye dies of coronavirus

Sam Reck made headlines less than a month ago when he donned PPE to say goodbye to his wife.

by Jennie Hook (10 Tampa Bay), Jillian Olsen

LAKELAND, Fla. — Sam and JoAnn Reck spent nearly every day of their 30-year marriage together.

Now, the Lakeland couple has lost both of their battles with COVID-19.

JoAnn lived at Porter McGrath to receive treatment for dementia, while Sam lived next door at Florida Presbyterian Homes in an apartment they used to share. But when the coronavirus pandemic began, visits to senior care homes were restricted.

The couple and their family had to get creative to keep the visits going. That included JoAnn using her walker to visit Sam on the balcony of their apartment, having chats through Amazon's Alexa and video messages.

JoAnn ended up testing positive for coronavirus, and her condition quickly deteriorated. Sam said he needed to find a way to see his wife in person to say a final goodbye.

"I told Sam that I did not want him to go because he was a 90-year-old man and he's basically walking into a den of lions, 'cause that's a COVID room," JoAnn's son from her first marriage, Scott Hooper, said. "At first, he agreed, but then he later said 'Scott, I have to go, I have to go see your mom'."

Sam went to the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. His family shared a video of his goodbye to JoAnn. You can hear Sam, clad in PPE, say:

"I'm finally getting to hold your hand after all these months," as he gave JoAnn's hand a squeeze.

"Hi honey, hi darling, yeah it's Sam. You don't recognize me with all this junk on my face."

And, "I love you, sweetheart. I love you so much."

JoAnn, 86, died a few days later on July 12, 2020. Now three weeks later, family says Sam, 90, has also died of coronavirus, according to The Ledger and JoAnn's son, Scott.

In a Facebook post, Hooper says "After Sam tested positive for COVID, I asked him if he regretted his visit to the hospital. Without pause he replied, ‘Not one second.’ He said no matter what happens, he was very happy he had the opportunity to say goodbye and hold her hand one more time.” 

Family members tell The Ledger both Sam and JoAnn's cremated remains will be buried together in a memorial garden at Florida Presbyterian Homes.

Sam & JoAnn

Full Article & Source:
Lakeland man who visited wife for last goodbye dies of coronavirus

Financial advisor found guilty of stealing $1.1M from clients sentenced to 9 years in prison

How to help your family members avoid similar scams

MILFORD, Ohio — Gregory Oliver, owner of Oliver Financial Services in Milford, will spend the next nine years behind bars after he was found guilty of stealing from 18 of his clients, including seniors.

Ohio Department of Insurance Investigators discovered that Oliver did more than advise his clients, claiming he took more than $1.1 million from his clients through fraud and coercion between 2011 and 2018. He was charged with six counts of theft in February.

Cathy Rolfes said her two cousins and their deceased mother were taken for roughly $300,000.

“She trusted (Oliver) as if he were her son. I mean, he attended her funeral. He kind of presented himself as a member of the family,” Rolfes said.

Now, she considers that “family member” a con-artist.

“One of my cousins in particular, he really put themselves in a position of being her power of attorney, her executor,” she said. “He transferred the title of her house into his name and put it into an irrevocable trust. The legal ramifications of that we are still trying to work through.”

Rolfes worked with the Ohio Department of Insurance Investigators and reached out to attorneys at Pro Seniors, a non-profit group trying to help them recover the stolen money. On Monday, Rolfes attended the hearing when Oliver was sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to pay more than $990,000 in restitution to the victims.

“I do feel like justice was served ... I think the judge truly understood the severity of what he did," she said.

Department of Insurance Assistant Director of Fraud and Enforcement Michelle Rafeld said Oliver’s sentence sends a clear message that stealing from consumers, especially seniors, will not be tolerated.

"The majority of agents are good agents and aren't defrauding their clients. But we will aggressively take action on those who choose to break the law," she told WCPO.

Since many similar situations involve complex financial crimes, Rafeld said some cases can take several years to fully investigate.

"Our investigative staff are well trained in gathering and analyzing information in order to determine if a crime has been committed," she said.

Miriam Sheline, managing attorney at Pro Seniors, said the financial exploitation of seniors is all too common. The attorneys have worked with Rolfes' cousins to file civil lawsuits against Oliver to try and recoup some if not all of what was taken from them.

“This individual was a family friend for many years, and yet he was doing improper things," Sheline said. "You can’t trust someone to the point of just turning over control to everything in regard to your finances.”

The best protection is prevention, Sheline said.

“What we can do is stop the bleeding, stop the damage going forward. But once it is out the door, it is very hard to get it back,” she said.

For more help, Ohio seniors age 60 or older may call to schedule a free phone appointment with an attorney on the Pro Seniors Legal Helpline at (513) 345-4160.

Find more resources on the Pro Seniors website or on Broker Check, a free Financial Industry Regulatory Authority tool to research the background of financial brokers, advisers and firms.

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Financial advisor found guilty of stealing $1.1M from clients sentenced to 9 years in prison

Governor Ducey Announces Task Force On Long-Term Care


PHOENIX⁠ — Governor Doug Ducey today announced the establishment of the Task Force On Long-Term Care. The task force will focus on developing recommendations and metrics on how and when visitation within long-term care facilities can be safely resumed and what steps facilities can take before then to help residents and their loved ones maintain contact.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have focused on protecting those most at risk, especially our seniors and vulnerable adults,” said Governor Ducey. “Many of us have family and loved ones in these facilities and are looking for guidance on when it may be safe to visit them again. This task force will bring together public health officials, medical experts, senior advocates, private sector leaders, legislators and family members to help us chart the path forward and develop sound policy as it relates to long-term care facilities. My thanks to all members of this Task Force for your work to protect our seniors while ensuring they can remain connected to family and loved ones.”

For several months, long-term care facilities including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities have strictly limited visitation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among residents whose age and condition make them especially vulnerable to the illness. While the limited visitation requirements have helped protect health and safety, it has impacted residents and their loved ones and their ability to stay connected.

Responsibilities of the Task Force On Long-Term Care include:
  • Making recommendations about how and when in-person visitation can safely resume at long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities,
  • And making recommendations on how best to keep families informed about their loved ones in long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities.
“Safely reuniting families with loved ones in long term care facilities is a critical component of Arizona’s response to COVID-19,” said Dana Kennedy, AARP State Director and member of the Task Force On Long-Term Care. “By establishing a task force with such broad and diverse representation of impacted interests, AARP is encouraged that a timely and responsible solution will be developed that will simultaneously protect public health, family members and their loved ones, as we bring families back together in the safest way possible.”

Below is the list of members being appointed to the Task Force On Long-Term Care:
  • Senator Kate Brophy McGee
  • Senator Tyler Pace
  • Representative Regina Cobb
  • Representative Joanne Osborne
  • Senator Lela Alston
  • Representative Jennifer Longdon
  • Christina Corieri, Senior Policy Advisory, Office of the Governor 
  • Colby Bower, Assistant Director of Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs, Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Jakenna Lebsock, Assistant Director, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System
  • Virginia Rountree, Deputy Director of Programs, Arizona Department of Economic Security 
  • Dana Kennedy, State Director, AARP Arizona
  • Dave Voepel, CEO, Arizona Health Care Association 
  • Pam Koester, CEO, Arizona LeadingAge
  • Rocky McKay, President, Arizona Assisted Living Homes Association
  • Karen Barno, President and CEO, Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America
  • Justin Stein, District Director of Operations, Brookdale Senior Living
  • Scott McCutcheon, Chief Operating Officers, LivGenerations
  • Tiffany Wilkins, Vice President for Operations, Spectrum Retirement
  • Donna Taylor, Chief Operating Officer, LifeStream Complete Senior Living
  • Joseph E. LaRue, CEO, Sun Health
  • Gaile Dixon, President, Dream Catcher Assisted Living 
  • Heather Friebus, Administrator, Devon Gables Rehab Center
  • Mason Hunter, President, Haven Health Group
  • John Albrechtsen, President, Bandera (Ensign’s Arizona-based portfolio subsidiary)
  • Becky Hill, family member
  • Tonsa Price William, family member 
  • Diane Drazenski, family member

On March 11, 2020, Governor Ducey issued Arizona’s Declaration of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first action he took was issuing an Executive Order aimed at protecting populations at high-risk of serious complications from this virus. Under the order, the Arizona Department of Health Services issued emergency rules for skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities and assisted living facilities to implement visitor policies designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including:
  • Instituting policies to require screening and triage before entry by staff, visitors, vendors, and contractors;
  • Establishing disinfectant schedules for frequently touched surfaces;
  • And establishing policies of distancing patients who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from other patients in common areas.
Governor Ducey on March 25 announced that Arizona received more than $5.3 million in grant funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to help Arizona communities provide meals for older adults. The dollars have supported both meal delivery programs and programs serving senior centers.

Governor Ducey on April 2 signed an Executive Order allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of maintenance medications for a 90-day supply and an additional 90-day supply if needed. This action allows elderly and at-risk Arizonans to refill a prescription while limiting their exposure to COVID-19.

The Governor on April 7 signed an Executive Order strengthening protection in residential and nursing care facilities. The order requires all staff to use appropriate personal protective equipment, implement symptom checks for those entering the facility, and offer electronic communication if visitation is restricted and more.

The Governor on May 15 announced $300,000 in funding from the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund for organizations across the state that support senior citizens, the homebound and those who are medically fragile. The funding supports organizations that have provided much needed aid to vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19, by assisting with grocery shopping, meal deliveries, transportation to medical appointments, emergency errands and social interaction during a time of physical distancing.

Additionally, Governor Ducey on June 17 announced an additional $10 million for more masks and PPE in long-term care facilities to contain and mitigate spread of COVID-19. On June 29, the Governor announced a new grant program for long-term care facilities. Through the program, facilities will receive $10,000 for the purchase of electronic devices to facilitate video conferencing with residents and their families.

Full Article & Source:
Governor Ducey Announces Task Force On Long-Term Care