Saturday, June 22, 2024

'This is civil death.' Advocates disappointed as guardianship bills now in limbo

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — It was a disappointing day in Lansing for advocates of guardianship reform. A Senate committee did not vote on several bills that would change Michigan’s guardianship laws.

The 7 Investigators have been exposing serious problems in the current guardianship system since 2017.

These guardianship reform bills have been on the table in one form or another since 2021.

On Thursday, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee ended her committee hearing without taking a vote on the proposed changes. With the Legislature about to take several weeks off for summer break, the fate of these bills is unclear.

The 7 Investigators have shown you for years how loopholes in Michigan’s guardianship laws have hurt local families.

“This is not a system designed to help — this is prison,” Niki Disner said about her experience being under guardianship in Oakland County.

“Kept them hostage, took them from their families, locked them behind a 6-and-a-half-foot privacy fence and just drained their estate, researched how to sell off their property,” Gretchen Sommer said after a judge appointed a professional guardian for her aunt and uncle instead of a family member.

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force has worked for five years to create legislation to increase protections for vulnerable adults. If you’re declared legally incapacitated, you lose the right to make your own medical and financial decisions, and that’s not all.

“Where you live, who you visit, whether you live or die under a do-not-resuscitate order… every consequential decision that we make as adults is eliminated. This is civil death. You are completely robbed of your liberty,” said Michigan Elder Justice Initiative attorney Nicole Shannon.

In front of the Michigan Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Thursday afternoon, elder law advocates and family members of people put under guardianship testified in support of the bills.

“The system is not working for the people at its center. I’m asking you to find the courage today, in this room, with this vote that has been missing for the last 30 years on guardianship reform and to pass House Bill 4909 and 4912 out of committee today. We cannot wait,” Shannon said.

“We want guardians who aren’t appointed 800 wards at a time… And we want guardians appointed only to the people who truly need them,” said Michelle Roberts, executive director of Disability Rights Michigan.

The bills would provide several protections including making sure probate judges put their reasons on the court record if they choose a professional guardian over a family member. They would also require more detailed reports from those assigned (Guardians ad Litem) to evaluate whether someone needs a guardian.

“The vulnerable adults of Michigan need for you to understand how the unintended consequences of the legislation as written today combined with the continued lack of proper funding to serve indigent clients will negatively affect the quality of the services that they receive,” said Diana Matay from the MGA.

The MGA is the same group that was kicked off the Elder Abuse Task Force in 2023 after the 7 Investigators revealed their lobbyist was caught on tape mocking the AG’s efforts to add more oversight in the law by calling her task force a “task farce.”

“This is just one more example of how the system is failing,” said Chandra Drayton, whose mother Ernestine died while under the care of a professional guardian.

In a written statement, Committee Chair Senator Stephanie Chang said:

"I am supportive of the guardianship reform bill package and have been working closely for many months with the bill sponsor and several key stakeholders on the details of the bills. We have had robust committee hearings on the bills and plan to have more in order to hear from all parties and those wishing to speak. The stories from individuals impacted by the flaws in the guardianship system have compelled us to action and I am committed to seeing this bill package through to the finish line."

The 7 Investigators asked Chang if she will hold a vote before summer recess. This was the response received late Thursday:

“The bills are a top priority for me and committee members and we look forward to continuing in the committee process as soon as we can. The legislature is likely to be on summer recess after the budget process is complete, so we will see what we are able to do. Again, it's a priority and we are continuing to take in feedback from groups and hear from impacted families.”

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'This is civil death.' Advocates disappointed as guardianship bills now in limbo

12 Celebrities Who Have Battled Dementia

by  Chanel Vargas

For those living with dementia, or those with loved ones experiencing dementia, the condition can be overwhelming and have a profound effect on overall quality of life. The same can be said for celebrities living with dementia, as well as their family, friends, and caregivers. Bruce Willis, Wendy Williams, and Mavis Leno are among a handful of celebrities who have publicly shared their dementia diagnoses, giving insight to their personal health struggles and raising awareness of the all-encompassing condition. 

A broad term, dementia describes a group of symptoms that affect a person’s memory, reasoning, thinking, and social abilities, according to Mayo Clinic. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that’s caused by complex changes to the brain following cell damage, per the Alzheimer’s Association. Other types of commonly diagnosed dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia.

While genetics and age increase the risk of a person developing dementia, numerous other factors — including depression, head trauma, inadequate diet and exercise, and low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients — all play a key role in determining an individual’s risk for developing dementia. Symptoms can present as memory loss, difficulty speaking or processing language, visual and spatial confusion, poor coordination, anxiety, depression, and more. 

Ahead, see what celebrities living with dementia — and their family and friends — had to say about the diagnosis and its impact on their cognitive and psychological health. 

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12 Celebrities Who Have Battled Dementia

Friday, June 21, 2024

'I'm on a warpath,' judge stunned to see more fraud against vulnerable in six months than last decad

In her 44-year career, Judge Kathleen Gomes has ruled on NFL player Michael Orr's and Sherra Wright's conservatorship cases, but the judge says everyday vulnerable people are being targeted more than ever. She also shares her thoughts on the recent land grab of Elvis' Graceland.

Source:
'I'm on a warpath,' judge stunned to see more fraud against vulnerable in six months than last decad

Franklin County business owner faces charges of financial exploitation


Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has announced that a grand jury in Franklin County has returned charges against Daniel E. Harrison, 40, for allegedly defrauding consumers through his business, Extreame Lawn and Landscape. Harrison faces three counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person and three counts of deceptive business practices.

“As Attorney General, I will always hold accountable those who target innocent Missourians,” said Attorney General Bailey. “We will continue to work around the clock to obtain justice for any Missourian who has been ripped off.”

The charges allege that between February 2022 and August 2022, Harrison’s business falsely promised to engage in home and business renovations for consumers in exchange for upfront payments. Once paid, Harrison either abandoned the projects after performing negligible work or without completing any work or delivering any materials.

The case is being prosecuted and investigated by the Attorney General’s Office.

Consumers who believe they may have been scammed by a contractor should file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office by calling the Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or by submitting a complaint online at ago.mo.gov.

Attorney General Bailey reminds the public that charges against Harrison are allegations and, as in all criminal cases, the defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.

The indictment can be viewed here.

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Franklin County business owner faces charges of financial exploitation

Older adults at elevated risk of financial exploitation, AARP report indicates

by Adam Healy


Older adults’ risk of being financially exploited underscores the need for tools to help them and their caregivers keep their money safe, according to a new report published by AARP.

“Over the past decade, criminals have become increasingly sophisticated, posing new risks to the hard-earned savings of American adults,” Jilenne Gunther, the national director of AARP’s BankSafe initiative, said in a statement. “Our data shows that older adults find age-friendly banking services and a highly skilled workforce substantially more appealing than they did ten years ago.”

AARP surveyed 2,014 US adults, of which half were between the ages of 18 and 49 and half were over 50. Among all respondents, 48% reported that they have been a victim or intended victim of financial exploitation, such as scams or fraud. Older adults were more likely to lose a substantial amount of money; 22% of victims over 50 years old indicated that they have lost more than $5,000 as a result of financial exploitation, compared to 13% of victims under 50.

AARP’s report builds on previous research it conducted in 2014. Increasingly many seniors are using online banking tools, highlighting the need for new tools to combat scams and fraud, according to AARP.

For older adults, the need for secure and accessible financial resources is crucial, according to AARP. More than 90% of respondents over 50 indicated that they want highly-trained employees at financial institutions to help prevent exploitation, extra monitoring for unauthorized withdrawals and notifications for unusual account activity. 

Caregivers also play a part in keeping older adults’ finances safe. Among the respondents 50 years and older, three quarters called for special services that allow caregivers to provide better financial assistance. The most popular services, favored by more than 80% of older adults surveyed, included phone calls, emails and text alerts for caregivers when suspicious account activity or large withdrawals are reported by an aging loved one’s financial institution.

This story originally appeared in McKnight’s Home Care

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Older adults at elevated risk of financial exploitation, AARP report indicates

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Daughter Sues Florida Nursing Home Over Mother's Neglect Leading To Death


By Florida Record

A grieving daughter has taken legal action against a Florida nursing home, alleging severe negligence that led to her mother's death. Analisa Edell filed the complaint on June 7, 2024, in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County, Florida, accusing FI-Boca Raton, LLC, doing business as Boca Raton Rehabilitation Center, of multiple violations and negligence.

The lawsuit centers around Susan Edell's time at Boca Raton Rehabilitation Center, where she was admitted in early 2023 due to total disability. According to the complaint, the facility failed to provide adequate care and neglected its statutory obligations under Florida Statute Section 400.022. "At no time prior to January 2023 did the Defendant document or notify the guardian or family members that Ms. Edell was suffering from a serious wound," states the filing. The plaintiff alleges that this lack of communication and care led to an unstageable sacral wound going untreated.

On January 28, 2023, Susan Edell suffered an unwitnessed fall at the facility but fortunately did not sustain serious injuries. However, her condition worsened over time due to inadequate care. By July 25, 2023, her coccyx wound had grown larger because staff failed to turn and reposition her as required by standard care procedures. The situation escalated on August 16 when she was sent to Boca Raton Regional Hospital with shortness of breath and diagnosed with pneumonia and a Stage IV pressure wound on her sacrum.

Despite being readmitted to Boca Raton Rehabilitation Center on August 28 after receiving a feeding tube, Susan Edell's condition continued to deteriorate due to ongoing neglect. She was readmitted to Boca Raton Regional Hospital on October 2 with pneumonia and sepsis linked to her worsening sacral ulcer. Tragically, she died from infection and dehydration on January 7, 2024.

The complaint accuses FI-Boca Raton of failing in numerous areas: providing adequate health care and protective services; treating residents courteously; preventing physical abuse and neglect; implementing proper policies for fall prevention; executing a Care Plan for turning and repositioning intervals; documenting these actions; using pressure-reducing devices; and taking precautions against bedsores.

As a result of these alleged failures, Analisa Edell claims her mother suffered significant pain and suffering before her death. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages exceeding $100,000 for medical bills, funeral expenses, mental anguish experienced by both Susan Edell during her lifetime and Analisa Edell following her mother's death.

Representing Analisa Edell is Jeffrey M. Fenster from Fenster & Cohen P.A., while the case will be presided over by Judge Joseph Abruzzo under Case ID: 502024CA005347XXXAMB Div: AK.

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Daughter Sues Florida Nursing Home Over Mother's Neglect Leading To Death

A California senior lost $700K to scammers. Now she’s asking the state to slow bank transfers

by Ryan Sabalow

A bill by Napa Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd aims to keep seniors from being scammed.

In summary

A California bill would temporarily halt large transactions if a financial institution suspects elder fraud. Will the bill prevent seniors from accessing their bank accounts for legitimate expenses?

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Alice Lin’s husband died, and she found herself alone and caring for a disabled son. Then two years ago, the 81-year-old Alhambra woman said she started getting texts from a stranger on a messaging app.

Over the course of a series of friendly chats, he convinced her to wire $720,000 — her entire life savings — to a cryptocurrency app.

So she did – in seven separate in-person transactions at her local bank over three weeks. Her life savings disappeared, along with the man who scammed her. For a time, she said she contemplated suicide. But then she got angry – at her bank.

“Despite many red, red flags, my bank failed to consider that I might be a victim of elder fraud,” Lin told the California Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee this week. “And they did not even contact my daughter, who is the joint account holder on the account.”

In the months since, Lin started working with Consumer Attorneys of California to sponsor Senate Bill 278, a measure aimed at preventing elder fraud scams like the one that drained Lin’s investment accounts.  

The bill, by Napa Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd, would require that financial institutions delay transactions of more than $5,000 by at least three days if they “reasonably” suspect an elderly person is a victim of fraud. Banks would be required to train their employees to spot red flags, such as an unusually large and sudden transaction. Banks would also have to take steps to inform an elderly customer’s designated “emergency financial contact” or joint account holder – someone like Lin’s daughter – of a suspected fraudulent transaction.

“Elder financial abuse is everywhere,” Dodd told the banking committee. “Losses exceed $23 billion annually. Once a senior falls prey to financial fraud, they may never recover.”

Dodd’s bill passed the Senate this spring with support from every prominent senior advocacy group in California, including the AARP. The measure originally faced intense opposition from the state’s banking and business lobbies, though they’ve since softened their stance after the bill was recently amended. 

The financial institutions cite worries that they’d be forced into defacto conservatorships that would give them too much control over an elderly customer’s finances. The restrictions would also limit how quickly customers get their cash for legitimate expenses.

It was a concern shared by Roseville Republican Sen. Roger Niello who cast the lone “no” vote when the bill was before the Senate’s judiciary committee last month.

“As the bill exists now, it seems to me we run the risk of more conflict between seniors and their financial institutions than we do limiting elder abuse,” said Niello, who used the opportunity to give Dodd, 68, a good-natured ribbing about his age.

“I want you to know you don’t look a day over 90,” said Niello, who is 76 and the third-oldest member of the Legislature.

Dodd told the Assembly committee that the bill has been amended to limit the liability banks could face “when they do the right thing to protect elderly people, their customers.”

State Sen. Bill Dodd speaks during the first day of session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 3, 2024. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

That eased some of the concerns from the 13 financial and business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, that are listed as opponents to Dodd’s bill.

“We think what’s in front of us right now, while it’s going to be a heavy lift for credit unions, the good outweighs the work that’s going to go in there,” Robert Wilson, a lobbyist with the California Credit Union League, told the banking committee this week. “This is going to protect seniors.”

Wilson and other bankers remain leery of how Dodd’s measure would be enforced – a matter that Dodd says will get cleared up by the time the bill reaches the Assembly Judiciary Committee next week.

Full Article & Source:
A California senior lost $700K to scammers. Now she’s asking the state to slow bank transfers

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Justice Department Finds State of Missouri Unnecessarily Institutionalizes Adults with Mental Health Disabilities in Skilled Nursing Facilities in Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Improperly Relies on Guardianship

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs 
 

The Justice Department announced today its findings that the State of Missouri violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by unnecessarily institutionalizing adults with mental health disabilities in nursing facilities. The investigation also examined the role of guardianships in such institutionalization.

The Justice Department determined that there is reasonable cause to believe Missouri violates the ADA by failing to provide the community-based services adults with mental health disabilities need in order to remain in their communities. It also found that the state is improperly relying on guardianship and that this leads to people entering nursing facilities even though community-based services are appropriate for their needs.

“People with mental health disabilities should not have to be confined to a nursing facility because they cannot access the community-based services they need,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will safeguard the rights of people with disabilities to participate fully in their communities. The state’s reliance on guardianships that serve as a pipeline to nursing facilities, rather than engaging people in community-based mental health services, has led to violations of the ADA.”

The department’s investigation found Missouri fails to provide community-based mental health services for many people with mental health disabilities who need them, including services such as:

  • Assertive Community Treatment;
  • Case management;
  • Supported employment;
  • Mobile crisis response;
  • Crisis stabilization services;
  • Permanent Supportive Housing;
  • Peer support; and
  • Supported Decision-Making.

Instead, the state makes nursing facility services for these people. Missouri can reasonably modify its system to remedy this violation by expanding community-based services and implementing processes to ensure that individuals can receive those services rather than entering nursing facilities.

Individuals with information relevant to this matter can contact the department by leaving a voicemail at 833-610-1242 or emailing Community.Missouri@usdoj.gov. The Justice Department will hold two virtual community meetings on Tuesday, June 25, at 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET and Wednesday, June 26,at 12 p.m. CT/1 p.m. ET. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to learn more about the findings. Please register to join these meetings by clicking on the respective link. If you need an interpreter or accommodation to attend, please email Community.Missouri@usdoj.gov.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt/rights-persons-disabilities and www.ada.gov.

View the findings report here.

View the notice letter here.

Updated June 18, 2024

Source:
Justice Department Finds State of Missouri Unnecessarily Institutionalizes Adults with Mental Health Disabilities in Skilled Nursing Facilities in Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Improperly Relies on Guardianship

Elder abuse investigation center launched for Central Virginia

Attorney General Jason Miyares | Attorney General Jason Miyares Office

By Legal Newsline

Attorney General Miyares Announces Elder Abuse Investigation Center for Central Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – Attorney General Jason Miyares today announced the creation of the Elder Abuse Investigation Center for Central Virginia to address and combat the growing issue of elder abuse and neglect. Statistics show that one in ten Americans over 65 have been victims of elder abuse, yet only one in 24 cases are reported to the authorities.

Operating as a specialized unit within the Office of the Attorney General, the Elder Abuse Investigation Center aims to enhance and streamline collaboration among Central Virginia jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute instances of elder abuse in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and private residences. This includes physical assaults, neglect, sexual assaults, violent crimes, and suspicious deaths.

This initiative will see a coalition of law enforcement agencies, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and elder advocates from Richmond, Colonial Heights, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hopewell, Hanover, Powhatan, and Goochland Counties working together. Additional jurisdictions are expected to join the effort in the near future.

Although other regions of Virginia have similar elder abuse investigation coalitions, such as the Peninsula Elder Abuse Forensic Center, this will be the first initiative in Central Virginia.

As Attorney General, Miyares has taken several new steps to fight back against elder abuse in Virginia, including advancing the Senior TRIAD program, streamlining consumer protection resources, and advising the General Assembly in crafting legislation to increase penalties for criminals and scammers who target vulnerable older Virginians.

For more information about the resources offered by the Office of the Attorney General to prevent and address instances of elder abuse and neglect click here.

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Elder abuse investigation center launched for Central Virginia