Monday, November 23, 2020

Northeast Ohio family warns of elder financial exploitation during the pandemic

In a 3News exclusive, investigator Rachel Polansky talks with a Northeast Ohio man who says his family was swindled out of almost one million dollars.

by Rachel Polansky

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — The pandemic is isolating many elderly Americans -- as family members distance themselves, in an effort to keep everyone safe.

But that means these seniors are becoming easier targets for scammers.

In a 3News exclusive, investigator Rachel Polansky talks with a Northeast Ohio man who says his family was swindled out of almost one million dollars.

Ronnie's Story:

When Michael Pekar talks about his brother Ronnie, he focuses on the simpler, happier times.

Credit: Michael Pekar
Young Ronnie Pekar

“Mainly we went fishing, we bought a boat so we went boating,” said Michael Pekar. 

Sadly, the last three years have been anything but that.

“I've been running in circles trying to straighten out what this woman did,” said Pekar.

A few months before Ronnie died from cancer, Michael says a neighbor got involved with his brother's finances. Michael says she gained power of attorney and began draining Ronnie’s life savings.

Credit: Michael Pekar
Ronnie Pekar

“This was money my mother made. She made and she saved it for us, not for this woman. And this woman up and stole it,” said Pekar.

That's when Pekar visited attorney Frank Manning, who discovered the full extent of the damage.

“We stumbled upon and discovered a large sum of about $1.6 million had been transferred from him and his family names into other people's names,” said attorney Frank Manning.

Manning filed a civil complaint against the neighbor, and eventually recovered $700,000 dollars for the family, but he says almost $1 million of Ronnie's savings is gone for good.

Warning Signs:

How can you make sure something like this doesn't happen to one of your loved ones?

Manning says watch for warning signs. Those include:

-Isolation: If an elderly person is isolated or limited in their mobility, it makes them think differently. This can lower their guard and allow them to establish trust levels with people they would not normally interact with.

-New People in their Lives: Are new people suddenly interjecting themselves into the picture and giving advice on financial or legal matters? Are new folks paying their bills, or driving them to the bank, lawyer or financial adviser’s office? It could be a neighbor, niece, nephew or other family member. It may start as a genuine offer of help, but a sudden interest where there wasn’t before could be a red flag.

-Changes to Legal or Financial Documents: Sudden changes to legal or financial documents, or suddenly missing documents, are definite red flags. Documents could include estate documents, insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. Making multiple unexplained trips to attorneys or financial advisers without notice is a warning sign. Or, switching advisers without consent because “Mary or Bob said we should switch” is a red flags.

-Encountering a Gatekeeper: If a new “friend”, “helpful” neighbor or long-lost relative comes into the picture and restricts access to an elderly relative or won’t allow you to speak to the family member without them being present, should raise a red flag.

-New Phone Numbers or Email Addresses: Red flags include suddenly changing or turning off cell phone numbers or email addresses, another person answering their phone or oddly-worded texts or email responses. This may indicate that someone else has access to them and is “managing” communications.

And don't forget to check in on your loved ones regularly, especially right now, because increased isolation often forces people to rely on others.

“Elderly people are more susceptible in general, but COVID-19 is a terrifying experience,” said Manning.

And, what the family says happened to Ronnie Pekar is not unique.

According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected or financially exploited.

“I don't think I'm the end of this and I don't think Ronnie is the end of this. I think she did it before and I think she's gonna do it again,” said Pekar.

Full Article & Source:

Man, 81, uses antique shillelagh to chase ruse burglars from Niles home: ‘I was trying to find some type of persuasive weapon’

By Jennifer Johnson
Dan Donovan, joined by his wife, Barbara, holds the antique shillelagh he used to chase burglars from the couple's Niles home on Nov. 4.
Dan Donovan, joined by his wife, Barbara, holds the antique shillelagh he used to chase burglars from the couple's Niles home on Nov. 4. (Jennifer Johnson / Pioneer Press)

When intruders targeted Dan and Barbara Donovan’s Niles home earlier this month, they picked the wrong couple to burglarize.

Instead of fleeing the modest brick house with valuables, the three men ran in fear as Dan, 81, chased them out the door with an antique shillelagh, a wooden Irish walking stick that once belonged to his grandfather.

“I hit the one guy on the back of his head,” Donovan, a former Marine, recalled. “I’m certain he had a headache.”

It was late afternoon on Nov. 4 when the couple, 50-year residents of Niles, heard a knock at their door and found a man wearing a reflective vest and a face mask standing outside. The visitor, who was carrying what appeared to be tools, said he was there to check their “fuse box” due a recent fire in the area.

Barbara Donovan said the visit did not immediately seem unusual.
“We had received a letter from the electric company the day before,” Donovan said, explaining that the letter indicated work would be taking place in their area and would include power outages. “So when he said he was with the electric company, we let him in.”

What the couple didn’t immediately realize was that the man wasn’t a utility worker — and he wasn’t alone. As he led the couple into the basement of their home, two additional people sneaked inside through the now unlocked door.

Downstairs, Barbara Donovan began to feel suspicious about the man who was looking over her electric circuit panel.

“I kept backing up and he kept saying, ‘Come over by me,’” Barbara said. “He said, ‘If you’re home alone, you won’t know what to do,’ and kept telling me to come closer to him. I thought that was kind of weird.”

Suddenly, Barbara heard the squeak of floorboards above her head.

“I yelled, 'Danny! Somebody’s in our bedroom!” she said.

Barbara bounded up the steps, followed by her husband and the so-called utility worker. When they reached the main floor, the Donovans discovered there were more than just the three of them inside.

“I started chasing them to get them out of my house,” Dan Donovan said.

That’s when he grabbed his grandfather’s shillelagh, which was propped up in the corner of the couple’s dining room.

“I was trying to find some type of persuasive weapon,” Donovan said. “So I picked up the Irish shillelagh and that turned out to be the equalizer because I managed to chase them out of the house.”

One of the men was carrying what Donovan recognized to be a pillowcase from bedroom. Shouting and swinging the shillelagh, Dan Donovan said he struck the man in the back of the head with the end of the walking stick, but he didn’t drop the pillowcase. He followed his partners in crime outside, but Donovan continued his pursuit. Barefoot, he approached the SUV they had parked in his driveway and began hitting it with the walking stick.

“I managed to get a good swing at the windshield and the rear window,” he said. “I think I cracked them both.”

In the meantime, Barbara Donovan said she was on the phone to police, who arrived shortly after the intruders fled the scene.

In all the excitement, and due to the darkening skies, Donovan acknowledged he was unable to get the license plate number or the make and model of the SUV.

Niles police, in their report of the incident, categorized what happened to the Donovans as a “ruse entry,” a common scam in which thieves, posing as utility workers, landscapers, other types of workers or neighbors, approach a home and lure the residents outside or into another part of the house while their partners sneak in and search for jewelry, cash and other small valuables.

The Donovans say they still aren’t quite sure what, if anything, the burglars stole, but they do know their pillowcase was taken and their bedroom drawers had been removed and rummaged through.

“They just scared the heck out of us,” Barbara said.

The couple acknowledged they feel somewhat chagrined that they didn’t catch on right away that they were victims of a scammer. Even their children, they say, ask them why they let the first man inside. Barbara points to the letter they received the day earlier from ComEd, though she now wonders if that, too, was part of the scam.

For his part, Dan Donovan praises his wife for quickly catching on to what the scammers were up to. The incident has taught him to be more alert, he said, and he urges others to do the same.

And while he doesn’t consider himself a hero, Barbara does.

“I felt a lot better when I saw him with the shillelagh because he was chasing them out of the house,” she said.

“Hopefully they got nothing more than a headache and hopefully they pursue another occupation,” Dan Donovan said.

Full Article & Source:

Nursing Homes Issue Desperate Call For Help As They Say Staff On Brink Of Burnout

By: Erick Payne
Click to Watch Video

TULSA, Okla. -

Nursing home leaders are desperately calling for emergency funding and support due to COVID-19 as professionals said their nurses and staff are on the brink of burning out.

Nursing home leaders said they're doing as much as they possibly can to fight the surge.

Joan Walters' family member is living at the Beacon Ridge Senior Mental Health Center in Sapulpa.

"We are blessed with having our loved one there," Walters said.

Walters said it's been tough during the last several months of the pandemic, but they are very appreciative of the nurses and staff.

"I think they do everything possible and have certainly tried to keep the pandemic from coming in," Walters said.

However, as cases of COVID-19 surge in communities across the U.S., nursing home leaders said their nurses and staff are feeling burnt out.

"Every building is having surges, so every building is having staffing issues, every building is having fatigue and people that just want to leave," Diakonos Group COO Kimberly Green said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 4,000 long term care residents in Oklahoma have tested positive for COVID-19. 535 of those residents have died. More than 2,300 staff members have tested positive, and four of them died.

Green said just before this interview, she learned 10 staff members in one building had tested positive. She said other nursing home providers are dealing with the same issues.

"We have to have help,” Green said. “This industry will crumble. It's crumbling around us right now.”

Green said they're begging for money and protective gear from the state, and federal government.

It's help that Joan Walters said she hopes nursing homes get.

"I think they have gone all out to protect their people, my hats off to them," Walters said.

The Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps is asking for volunteers to help staff nursing homes because of infections.

Full Article & Source:

Sunday, November 22, 2020


A music video highlighting the mind crippling disease dementia. An estimated 50 million people worldwide have been diagnosed and this number is expected to double in the next 20 yrs. Dementia does more than just ruin the minds of those diagnosed but also devastates the lives of caregivers and entire families as well. 


Not just COVID: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows

James Gill


When COVID-19 tore through Donald Wallace’s nursing home, he was one of the lucky few to avoid infection.

He died a horrible death anyway.

Hale and happy before the pandemic, the 75-year-old retired Alabama truck driver became so malnourished and dehydrated that he dropped to 98 pounds and looked to his son like he’d been in a concentration camp. Septic shock suggested an untreated urinary infection, E. coli in his body from his own feces hinted at poor hygiene, and aspiration pneumonia indicated Wallace, who needed help with meals, had likely choked on his food.

“He couldn’t even hold his head up straight because he had gotten so weak,” said his son, Kevin Amerson. “They stopped taking care of him. They abandoned him.” 

As more than 90,000 of the nation’s long-term care residents have died in a pandemic that has pushed staffs to the limit, advocates for the elderly say a tandem wave of death separate from the virus has quietly claimed tens of thousands more, often because overburdened workers haven’t been able to give them the care they need.

Nursing home watchdogs are being flooded with reports of residents kept in soiled diapers so long their skin peeled off, left with bedsores that cut to the bone, and allowed to wither away in starvation or thirst. 

Youtube video thumbnail
More than 90,000 long-term care residents have died of the coronavirus in the United States. But experts say tens of thousands more have died from neglect and sorrow related to the pandemic.

Beyond that, interviews with dozens of people across the country reveal swelling numbers of less clear-cut deaths that doctors believe have been fueled not by neglect but by a mental state plunged into despair by prolonged isolation ̶ listed on some death certificates as “failure to thrive.”

A nursing home expert who analyzed data from the country’s 15,000 facilities for The Associated Press estimates that for every two COVID-19 victims in long-term care, there is another who died prematurely of other causes. Those “excess deaths” beyond the normal rate of fatalities in nursing homes could total more than 40,000 since March.

These extra deaths are roughly 15% more than you’d expect at nursing homes already facing tens of thousands of deaths each month in a normal year.

“The healthcare system operates kind of on the edge, just on the margin, so that if there’s a crisis, we can’t cope,” said Stephen Kaye, a professor at the Institute on Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the analysis. “There are not enough people to look after the nursing home residents.”

Comparing mortality rates at homes struck by COVID-19 with ones that were spared, Kaye also found that the more the virus spread through a home, the greater the number of deaths recorded for other reasons. In homes where at least 3 in 10 residents had the virus, for example, the rate of death for reasons besides the virus was double what would be expected without a pandemic. 

That suggests the care of those who didn’t contract the virus may have been impacted as healthcare workers were consumed attending to residents ill from COVID-19 or were left short-handed as the pandemic infected employees themselves.

Chronic understaffing at nursing homes has been one of the hallmarks of the pandemic, with a few homes even forced to evacuate because so many workers either tested positive or called in sick. In 20 states where virus cases are now surging, federal data shows nearly 1 in 4 nursing homes report staff shortages.

On New York’s Long Island, Dawn Best saw that firsthand. Before COVID-19 arrived at Gurwin Jewish Nursing Home, she was pleased with the care her 83-year-old mother Carolyn Best received. She enjoyed activities, from tai-chi classes to visits from a pony, and was doted on by staff.

Dawn Best says her mother never contracted COVID-19 but died instead of dehydration, perhaps because the staff was so consumed with caring for COVID-19 patients that no one made sure she was drinking enough fluids.

But when the lockdown started and the virus began to spread in the home, Best sensed the staff couldn’t handle what they had been dealt. The second time her mother, a retired switchboard operator, appeared on screen for a scheduled FaceTime call, she looked awful, her eyes closed as she moaned, flailed her arms above her head and just kept repeating “no.” Best insisted a doctor check her out.

A few hours later, the doctor called, seemingly frantic, saying she only had a moment to talk.

“The COVID is everywhere,” Best remembered her saying. “It’s in every unit. The doctors have it, the nurses have it and your mother may have it.”

In the end, 59 residents at Gurwin would be killed by the virus, but Best’s mother never contracted it. She died instead of dehydration, her daughter said, because the staff was so consumed with caring for COVID-19 patients that no one made sure she was drinking.

“My mom went from being unbelievably cared for to dead in three weeks,” said Best, who provided medical documents noting her mother’s dehydration. “They were in over their head more than anyone could imagine.”

Representatives for Gurwin said they could not comment on Best’s case. The home’s administrator, Joanne Parisi, said “COVID-19 has affected us all” but that “our staff at Gurwin has been doing heroic work.”

West Hill Health and Rehab in Birmingham, Alabama, where Wallace lived prior to his Aug. 29 death, said he was “cared for with the utmost compassion, dedication and respect.” Wallace’s son provided medical documents outlining the conditions he described.

The nursing home trade group American Health Care Association disputed that there has been a widespread inability of staff to care for residents and dismissed estimates of tens-of-thousands of non-COVID-19 deaths as “speculation.”

Dr. David Gifford, the group’s chief medical officer, said the pandemic created “challenges” in staffing, particularly in states like New York and New Jersey hit hard by COVID-19, but added that, if anything, staffing levels have improved because of a drop in new admissions that has lightened the patient load.

“There have been some really sad and disturbing stories that have come out,” Gifford said, “but we’ve not seen that widespread.”

Another industry group, LeadingAge, which represents not-for-profit long-term care facilities, said staffing challenges are real, and that care homes are struggling in the face of federal inaction to provide additional stimulus money to help pay for more workers.

“These incidents, stemming from the challenges being faced by too many committed and caring nursing home providers during this pandemic, are horrific and heartbreaking,” said Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge’s president. “I hope that these tragedies will wake up politicians and the public.”

When facilities sealed off across the country in March, advocates and inspectors were routinely kept out too, all while concerning reports trickled in, not only of serious injuries from falls or major medical declines, but of seemingly banal problems that posed serious health issues for the vulnerable.

Mairead Painter, Connecticut’s long-term care ombudsman, said with dentists shut out, ill-fitting dentures went unfixed, a factor in mounting accounts of malnutrition, and with podiatrists gone, toenails went untrimmed, posing the possibility of painful conditions in diabetes patients.

Even more widespread, as loved ones lost access to homes, was critical help with residents’ feeding, bathing, dressing and other tasks. The burden fell on aides already working tough shifts for little pay.

“I don’t think anyone really understood how much time friends and family, volunteers and other people spent in the nursing home and supplemented that hands-on care,” Painter said.

Strict rules barring in-person visitation persist in many homes, but as families and advocates have inched back inside, they’ve frequently been stunned by what they found.

June Linnertz poses with photos of her father at her Chaska, Minn., home.

When June Linnertz returned to her father’s room at Cherrywood Pointe in Plymouth, Minnesota, in June for the first time in three months, she was struck by a blast of heat and a wall thermometer that hit 85 degrees. His sheets were soaked in sweat, his hair was plastered to his head and he was covered in bruises Linnertz would learn came from at least a half-dozen falls. His nails had been uncut so long, they curled over his fingertips and his eyes crusted over so badly he couldn’t get them open.

The father, 78-year-old James Gill, screamed, thinking he had gone blind, and Linnertz grabbed an aide in a panic. She snipped off his diaper, revealing genitals that were deep red and skin sloughing off.

Two days later, Gill was dead from Lewy Body Dementia, according to a copy of his death certificate provided to the AP. Linnertz always expected her father to die of the condition, which causes a progressive loss of memory and movement, but never thought he would end his days in so much needless pain.

This April 17, 2020, photo provided by June Linnertz shows her father, James Gill.

“What the pandemic did was uncover what was really going on in these facilities. It was bad before, but it got exponentially worse because you had the squeeze of the pandemic,” Linnertz said. “If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would have been in there … This wouldn’t have happened.”

The assisted living facility’s parent company, Ebenezer, said: “We strongly deny the allegations made about the care of this resident,” adding that it follows “strict regulatory staffing levels” required by law.

Cheryl Hennen, Minnesota’s long-term care ombudsman, said dozens of complaints have poured in of bedsores, dehydration and weight loss, and other examples of neglect at various facilities, such as a man who choked to death while he went unsupervised during mealtime. She fears many more stories of abuse and neglect will emerge as her staff and families are able to return to homes.

“If we can’t get in there, how do we know what’s really happening?” she said. “We don’t know what we can’t see.”

The nagging guilt of unnecessary death is one Barbara Leak-Watkins understands. It was just in February that her 87-year-old father, Alex Leak, went for a check-up and got lab work that made Leak-Watkins think the Army veteran, contractor and farmer would be with her for a long time to come.

Sisters Barbara Leak-Watkins, right, and Alberta Lynn Fantroy pose with photos of their late father, Alex Leak Jr., at Watkins' home in Greensboro, N.C.,

“You’re going to outlive all of us,” Leak-Watkins remembered the doctor saying.

As nursing home outbreaks of COVID-19 proliferated, Leak-Watkins prayed that he be spared. The prayer was answered, but Leak was nonetheless found unresponsive on the floor at Brookdale Northwest in Greensboro, North Carolina, his eyes rolled back and his tongue sticking out.

After he arrived at the hospital, a doctor there called Leak-Watkins with word: Her father had gone so long without water his potassium levels rocketed and his kidneys started failing. He’d be dead two weeks later of lactic acidosis, according to his death certificate, a fatal buildup of acid in the body when the kidneys stop working. For a man whose military service so drilled the need for hydration into him that he always had a bottle of water at hand, his daughter had never considered he could go thirsty.

“The facility is short-staffed ... underpaid and overworked,” Leak-Watkins said. If they “can’t provide you with liquids and fluids to hydrate yourself, there’s something wrong.”

Two buttons handed out to mourners at Alex Leak Jr.'s graveside service sit on an ottoman in his daughter's home in Greensboro, N.C.

The daughter is considering filing a lawsuit but a North Carolina law granting long-term care facilities broad immunity from suits claiming negligence in injuries or death during the pandemic could stymie her efforts. Similar laws and executive orders have been enacted in more than two dozen states.

The owner of the father’s facility, Brookdale Senior Living, said it couldn’t comment on individual cases but that “the health, happiness and wellbeing of each of our residents will always be our priority.”

Around the country, the heartache repeats, not only among families who have already buried a member, but also those who feel they are watching a slow-moving disaster.

In Hendersonville, Tennessee, Tara Thompson was able to see her mother for the first time in more than six months when she was hospitalized in October. The 79-year-old had dropped about 20 pounds, her eyes sunken and her legs looking more like forearms. Doctors at the hospital said she was malnourished and wasting muscle. There were bedsores on her backside and a gash on her forehead from a fall at the home. Her vocabulary had shrunk to nearly nothing and she’d taken to pulling the blankets over her head.

The facility Thompson’s mother lived in had been engulfed in virus outbreaks, with more than half its residents testing positive and dozens of employees infected, too. She never caught it, but shaken by the lack of care, Thompson transferred her mother to a new home.

“It has nothing to do with the virus. She’s declined because she’s had absolutely no contact with anybody who cares about her,” she said. “The only thing they have to live for are their families and, at the end of their life, you’re taking away the only thing that matters to them.”

“Failure to thrive” was among the causes listed for Maxine Schwartz, a 92-year-old former cake decorator whose family had been encouraged prior to the lockdown by how well she’d adjusted to her nursing home, Absolut Care of Aurora Park, in upstate New York. Her daughter, Dorothy Ann Carlone, would coax her to eat in the dining room each day and they’d sing songs and have brownies back in her room. Several times a week, Schwartz walked the length of the hallway for exercise.

When the lockdown began March 13, Carlone feared what would happen without her there. She pleaded to staff: “If you don’t let me in to feed her, she won’t eat, she will starve.”

On March 25, when a staffer at the home sent a photo of Schwartz, Carlone was shocked how thin she was. Carlone was told her mother hadn’t been eating, even passing up her favorite brownies.

Two days later, Carlone got an urgent call and when she arrived at the home, her mother’s skin was mottled, she was gasping for breath and her face was so drawn she was nearly unrecognizable. An hour later, she died.

Dawn Harsch, a spokeswoman for the company that owns Absolut Care, noted a state investigation found no wrongdoing and that “the natural progression of a patient like Mrs. Schwartz experiencing advanced dementia is a refusal to eat.”

Carlone is unconvinced.

“She was doing so good before they locked us out,” Carlone said. “What did she think when I wasn’t showing up? That I didn’t love her anymore? That I abandoned her? That I was dead?”

Before the lockdown, Carlone’s mother would wait by an elevator for her to arrive each day. She thinks of her mother waiting there when her visits stopped and knows the pain of the isolation must have played a role in her death.

“I think she gave up,” she said.

Full Article & Source:

Nearly 800 nurses strike at St. Mary Medical Center in Bucks County

LANGHORNE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Hundreds of nurses walked off the job at Saint Mary's Medical Center in Langhorne, Bucks County on Tuesday morning after negotiations broke down last week and as COVID-19 cases are surging once again.

Then nurses cite staffing and retention concerns.

"You can't be working with this kind of staffing," Anne DeMille told her fellow nurses on the picket line. She's been working at the hospital for 41 years and says she doesn't recognize her workplace anymore.
"Last year on my 40th anniversary, I drove in here at 5:30 in the morning and I looked at the hospital and I thought 'who does this?'" she said.

"We felt we have to come out for the patients , especially going into the second wave, so that they're safe," according to Mother-Baby nurse Beth Redwine.
The strike of nearly 800 nurses is being organized by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.

PASNAP, which represents 8,500 nurses and healthcare professionals across the state, said 85 percent of the St. Mary nurses voted in favor of a strike authorization at the end of October. St. Mary nurses joined PASNAP in August 2019.

"The nurses feel they have no other means of making Trinity listen than to strike - for themselves, for their patients, and for what is coming over the next several months," PASNAP said in a statement prior to the strike.

The nurses were planning a two-day strike but are not being put on the hospital schedule to work until Sunday.

The hospital hired replacement nurses while the nurses strike.

"A lot going on, on the inside that's not safe. We are out here for safety," PASNAP president Maureen May told Action News.

The nurses said negotiations began more than a year ago and stalled during the first wave of the pandemic.

The parties resumed negotiations over the summer, but the nurses say talks fell apart after St. Mary and PASNAP could not come to an agreement on safe staffing levels and wages that would recruit and retain vacancies.

PASNAP said health care workers are fleeing to other nearby hospitals 20 minutes away where they can make $6 to $7 more an hour.

The nurses at St. Mary said that since Trinity Health took over the hospital, staffing levels have dropped and have been at unsafe levels.

Medical-surgical nurse Bill Engle has been with the hospital for 17 years. Engle said when Trinity Health Systems took over the hospital several years ago, staffing levels began to drop.
"Up on the floors, we are looking for certain ratios. On the Medical Surgery Telemetry Unit, it should be four to one, five to one. There are days we have six patients each, seven patients each," Engle said.

In response, St Mary released the following statement, saying "qualified, professional agency nurses will be hired" while the nurses are on strike:

Unfortunately, the November 12 bargaining session between St. Mary and PASNAP ended without an agreement, and PASNAP rejected increased wage offers made by St. Mary on November 13. The bargaining unit members will go ahead with their planned strike on November 17 and while we are disappointed at their decision to strike, we recognize their legal right to do so. While they strike, St. Mary is laser-focused on ensuring we continue to provide care for our community, especially in light of the pandemic's trajectory -- case counts, hospitalizations, and community transmission have all increased in our region. Qualified, professional agency nurses have been hired to provide care during the strike in collaboration with the remainder of our exceptional clinical teams; they are experienced and skilled in working with COVID+ and all patients needing healthcare services. The hospital will schedule returning strikers beginning on November 22, to allow a safe transition in patient care from replacement nurses back to St. Mary nurses. St. Mary remains committed to bargaining in good faith to reach agreement on a fair, consistent and sustainable initial contract for St. Mary nurses, and we hope negotiations will resume in the near future.
Full Article & Source:

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Texas doctor sues Adult Protective Services staff over elder exploitation report

By David Yates

HOUSTON - The physician who sued a Houston probate judge over her guardianized mother’s will has also filed a complaint in federal court against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services accusing the state agency of equal protection and due process violations.

Dr. Sheila Owens Collins named as defendants Adult Protective Services (APS) Director Jamie Masters, APS Supervisor Lydia Bias, and her niece Aisha Ross, alleging defamation, retaliation as well as unconstitutional policies, procedures, and practices, according to a press release.

“APS has a system in place to assure more experienced investigators get appointed for difficult cases, especially where there are forensic accounting issues,” Plaintiff’s attorney Martin J. Cirkiel wrote in the complaint. “But Defendant Bias did not sufficiently supervise staff to assure this occurred and rather appointed an inexperienced investigator.”

A neonatologist on staff at a Clearlake hospital and other hospitals nationwide, Dr. Owens Collins accuses Ross, her niece, of filing a false report with APS alleging that the physician was financially exploiting her mother Mrs. Hattie Owens.

“Aisha Ross took advantage of the obvious lack of experience of the investigator and totally contaminated the process,” the complaint states. “Not surprisingly, the first investigatory report from APS came back with a finding that Dr. Collins had financially exploited her mother.”

Ross allegedly used the APS finding to file for permanent guardianship of her grandmother Mrs. Hattie Owens.

“[Ross] cited the alleged exploitation of Mrs. Owens by Dr. Collins as the primary rationale for the application,” Attorney Cirkiel wrote in the lawsuit. “It totally polluted the guardianship proceeding with the guardian, attorney ad litem and Judge turning against Dr. Collins.” 

As previously reported in the SE Texas Record, Dr. Owens Collins sued Harris County Probate Judge Michael Newman last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleging unlawful treatment, rascality, and unfair judicial practices that violated Mrs. Owen’s final wishes before she died under court-appointed guardianship. 

On Nov. 3, the Honorable Judge Newman recused himself from underlying litigation involving the estate of Mrs. Hattie Owens.

“Dr. Collins filed a response to the application which disputed the need for a guardianship,” Attorney Cirkiel states in the plaintiff's pleading. “First, that the durable power of attorney and joint account were less restrictive means adequate to meet [Mrs. Hattie Owens’] needs. Additionally, that because Ross had a long criminal history of shoplifting and time in jail, it disqualified her from serving as guardian in the event the court determined the need for temporary or permanent guardianship.”

Dr. Owens Collins’ APS lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Texas in Austin, requests that the state agency’s failure to have a full appeal system in place be declared unconstitutional and that a declaratory judgment be issued ordering the APS to develop such an appeal process.

“Dr. Collins got in touch with Defendant Bias in the hope she could help facilitate the appeal process,” Dr. Owens Collins’ attorney states. “Rather than doing so, Bias threatened Dr. Collins that if she proceeded with the appeal she would assure the findings would definitely be reported to the Medical Board, the Houston Police Department and Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Sometime thereafter, the Houston APS Office did change the finding of exploitation to unable to determine but that finding requires reporting to the medical board and many other governmental entities.”

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Indiana National Guard deployed to every nursing home in the state

Soldiers will serve in nursing homes through the end of the year.

by Rich Nye

FRANKLIN, Ind. — In three waves over the last three weeks, Indiana National Guard soldiers received training and were assigned to assist long-term care facilities throughout the state. The final wave started working in nursing homes Monday. Each facility receives between 1-3 soldiers.

"Our guardsmen are reacting very well,” said Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, Indiana National Guard Adjutant General. “As a matter of fact, it's been a very unique experience for them and a very broadening assignment for them, and they are enjoying what they are doing because they feel like they're making a difference."

The Indiana National Guard is now deployed to every long-term care facility in the state, 534 in total. Soldiers will serve in nursing homes through the end of the year. Most are assigned to facilities within 50 miles of their home.

Two guardsmen started working Monday at Otterbein SeniorLife in Franklin. The facility has about 450 residents. Sixty residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 have died. Currently no residents are positive, but four staff members are out with COVID symptoms. So, the assistance from Sgt. Justin Rector and Specialist Josue Reyes is welcomed.   

"We definitely embrace it and we're appreciative,” said Rob Newcomer, executive director of Otterbein Franklin SeniorLife. “They are two fine young men. They're very respectful, very polite and actually they're almost like one of our employees now."

Credit: WTHR
Temperature check being done at Otterbein SeniorLife in Franklin, Indiana.

The soldiers monitor the front doors at Otterbein and screen everyone coming into the facility for COVID symptoms. Soldiers do not provide care for residents but handle other duties to allow staff to focus on care. Other facilities are using soldiers to take PPE inventory, sanitize entrances and common areas, and monitor outside visits for social distancing.

Credit: WTHR
More than 400 members of the Indiana National Guard trained at Camp Atterbury to help long-term care facilities with the pandemic.

"With the guardsmen and the time that they're putting in, that's essentially 16 hours that I can redeploy that employee and have them do something else that benefits the residents,” Newcomer said.

More than 1,300 soldiers are now serving in nursing homes throughout Indiana.

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COVID-19: NJ Long-Term Care Residents Who Go Home For Holidays Might Not Get Right Back In

by Jerry DeMarco 

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli Photo Credit: NJSP
New Jersey's health commissioner urged families not to take residents out of long-term care facilities for the holidays -- and warned that they might not get right back in if they do – as the number of COVID-19 cases statewide continue to spike.

Guidelines issued by Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli include a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any long-term care resident, either in their own room or in an observation room, once they return to the facility after a family visit.

For that reason, Persichilli urged the facilities to create a “reservation list,” as well as a waiting list, based on the number of residents who can be quarantined at a time.
Administrators were also told to tell families that residents who leave without a reservation or while on a waiting list “may not be guaranteed readmittance to the facility at the end of their visit.”

“We remain concerned about the number of outbreaks we are seeing in long-term care,” Persichilli said, “so we need to be especially vigilant to protect this population.

“Small family gatherings are a significant driver of increasing cases, and bringing your loved ones home could put them at risk,” she added.

Residents of these facilities “are being treated for conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to suffering the most serious complications of COVID-19 infection, including death,” the commissioner wrote in a letter to facility administrators across the state.

“To protect the health of this vulnerable population,” she “strongly recommended” that families not take residents out of the facilities for “holiday celebration events or gatherings.”

Instead, Persichilli recommended “visitation outdoors or possibly indoors in facilities that meet the requirements for indoor visitation.

Long-term care facilities also should “plan to accommodate increased virtual communications for residents,” she said.

The facilities “need to develop a plan for holiday visits and gatherings” that estimate the number of residents who can be placed into a 14-day quarantine from Nov. 25 through Dec. 31, the commissioner added in her “guidance” letter.

They should also “create a reservation process tied to the number of individuals the facility can quarantine on their return,” she wrote. “A waiting list should be created once the reservation list is full.

“However, residents and families should be informed that residents who leave without a reservation or while on a waiting list may not be guaranteed readmittance to the facility at the end of their visit.

“Residents and families must certify that they will follow masking, social distancing and hand hygiene practices, and that they will notify the facility if anyone who attended the holiday gathering tests positive for COVID-19 or exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of the resident’s visit/stay outside the facility,” Persichilli added.

A link to the entire guidance letter is below.

CLICK HERE for: NJ Long-Term Care Holiday Visiting Guidelines

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