Saturday, March 3, 2012

Following Benjamin Alfano's Money...

I don't know if there will ever be a final accounting in the passing of Benjamin Alfano.

But I have a copy of the final bill.

And Ben Alfano is still picking up the tab for the fastidious services rendered in his name by the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, guardian Chris Farley, attorney Richard Pagnano and Oregon's Department of Justice.

Follow the money? That is a particularly painful journey in the Alfano case because it is difficult to believe the 72-year-old veteran would have wanted so much of his estate -- which totaled $407,000 in August 2010, six months before his death -- to be invested in the legal battle with his four youngest children.

Once ODVA was named Alfano's conservator in 1998, the agency charged him a 5 percent "conservatorship fee" on his various sources of income, including his VA pension.

"It was never our contention their fees were unreasonable," said Steven Alfano, Ben's son. "It was our contention that if you're getting paid, you should do the job right. If you do it the wrong way, then we'll object."

And when the children objected -- to the ODVA's campaign for a professional guardian or that guardian's decision to move their father out of the assisted living center he loved -- ODVA fought back with their father's money.

In the ODVA's September 2011 "final accounting" of Alfano's estate, the agency lists total disbursements of $188,121 in the past year.

True, more than $55,000 was paid out to Raleigh Hills Assisted Living and Ana Coco, Alfano's personal caregiver. The bill for the cemetery plot and funeral home topped $15,000.

The rest of the money?

$26,784 to Farley's firm, Farley Piazza & Associates.

$27,642 to the law firm of Cartwright Whitman Baer, home to Farley's attorney, Sibylle Baer.

$19,022 to the firm of Richard Pagnano, Alfano's court-appointed attorney.

$2,302 for conservator fees.

$23,876 for ODVA's "attorney general fees," meaning assistant attorney general D. Kevin Carlson. (In the previous year, by the way, Carlson billed Alfano's estate $21,762 for "reasonable legal fees." Pagnano's firm rang up $28,184 in charges, much of that for the contested hearing in which Washington County Circuit Judge Rita Batz Cobb appointed Farley guardian.)

In Alfano's final year on the planet, in other words, the lawyers, conservator and guardian collected more than $99,600 to "defend" his interests. Throw in those 2009 legal fees and the bill exceeds $149,500.

But that's not the worst of it.

Of the $262,000 that remains in Ben Alfano's estate, Carlson is asking the Washington County court to "reserve" $120,000 in anticipated legal fees for the ODVA and Farley.

Full Article and Source:
Following Benjamin Alfano's Money

See Also:
Benjamin Alfano's Final Weeks Spent in Isolation

Editorial: Restaurant Battle Provides Useful Lesson

The family dysfunction leading to the sale of the Victor Café, the South Philadelphia landmark where your waitress is likely to sing you an aria, offers a cautionary lesson about the elderly and their finances.

You could write an opera about it, with this tragic plot:

Café owner Lola DiStefano, 89, didn't talk much with her six children about her estate and wound up transferring the landmark café to an attorney she barely knew. For about three years, her children squabbled, as many do, over what was best for their mother. One daughter placed DiStefano in an assisted-living facility, saying her mother had started a fire in her home, left gas burners on, fallen, and gotten lost. The daughter accused her siblings of bleeding her mother's assets dry.

Another daughter took DiStefano out of the assisted-living facility and introduced her to the lawyer who wound up getting control of the restaurant. Yet another daughter said her sister had fired her from the restaurant. Ultimately, the youngest son gained control of the restaurant to take the burden off DiStefano and assure her an income. But this result came after years of wrangling, and a fortune spent on lawyers.

Elder-care experts advise parents to talk to their children at length about their assets and intentions while they are lucid, but also have a will, and let everyone know what's in it to avoid confusion.

Full Article and Source:
Inquirer Editorial: Restaurant Battle Provides Useful Lesson

Four South Jersey Nursing Homes Get Low Marks

Four nursing homes in South Jersey are among 564 nationwide that for the past three years have received a one-star government rating — the lowest in a five-star rating system.

The results are based on a USAToday analysis that reviewed ratings for 15,700 nursing homes by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The percentage of homes assigned only one star of a five-star system fell to 35 percent from 40 percent while the number of four-and five-star rated homes rose.

Full Article and Source:
Four South Jersey Nursing Homes Get Low Marks

Friday, March 2, 2012

Frivolous Charges: The Secret Life of the Gary Harvey Case

Attorneys are paid to find excuses why cases are not worthy of consideration, so motions to dismiss are not uncommon or unexpected. However, in the case of Gary Harvey, it can become quite amusing to find attorneys claiming there is no basis for accusation presented in behalf of the ward of the court by his wife Sara.

Where do these people get off thinking that Sara is a non-issue and her concerns frivolous as she strives to look out for his best interest, while it appears the others have let him down? More importantly, where do they get off thinking the court, especially “all” courts, should agree with them?

My understanding is that there is a standing court order that Sara is to be kept abreast of all medical decisions related to her husband, and yet she hasn’t been; not readily so. I guess court orders are only considered relevant when the finding is considered so by the other side–the side that has ganged up against her and therefore ganged up against Gary.

In all the years that I have been aware of and following the Harvey case, I’ve tried to figure out how “the other side,” court & pals have justified so many things that have occurred. I’ve failed.

I ask myself what possible good can come from Gary Harvey’s isolation. How does it benefit him? What am I missing? I haven’t a clue.

How was Gary Harvey considered safe behind a closed door, when he cannot call for help if in distress? Common sense would suggest otherwise, no matter how the other side might protest.

It’s too traumatic for Gary to travel to be evaluated by experts, but okay to keep making those surgery & infection runs? I’m to believe this? Would any be surprised to learn that I don’t?

What is the secret life behind the Gary Harvey case?

What goes on behind the closed doors and what makes it so important to punish Sara & Gary Harvey?

Full Article and Source:
Frivolous Charges: The Secret Life of the Gary Harvey Case

Nursing Facility Sued Over Resident's Alleged Brain Injury

The son of an elderly St. Clair County woman says his mother was left with a severe brain injury because she was neglected by her East St. Louis nursing home.

Willie Burns, as guardian of the estate and person of Annie L. Burns, filed a lawsuit Feb. 14 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Virgil Calvert Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Inc.

Willie Burns says his mother was a resident of the Virgil Calvert Nursing and Rehab Center from May 2008 through April 2010. He says that during that time, Annie was allowed to fall several times while under the direct supervision nursing home staff, even though workers allegedly knew Annie was a likely fall victim.

When his mother did fall, Willie Burns claims the nursing home staff or administrators did not notify him or Annie's doctor in a timely fashion.

In April 2010, Annie was admitted to St. Louis University Hospital with several brain injuries allegedly caused by her frequent falls. Willie accuses the nursing home of abusing and neglecting his mother, violating Illinois' Nursing Home Care Act. He seeks more than $50,000 in damages, plus court costs, on behalf of his mother.

Full Article and Source:
Virgil Calvert Sued Over Resident's Alleged Brain Injury

Group Home Worker Indicted

Melinda Burns, 25, was indicted by a Hunterdon County Grand Jury on Feb. 16 on a charge of theft by unlawful taking, third degree.

Burns was a group home employee and allegedly stole money from the bank account of a woman entrusted to her care.

An investigation by Delaware Township police and the county Prosecutor’s Office was launched in April after a discrepancy was found in the woman’s financial records, said Patrolman Mark Kobner.

He said that Burns worked full-time at the group home, which he declined to identify, and provided care for the young woman, who was born with a syndrome marked by physical, mental and behavioral problems.

Full Article and Source:
Group Home Worker in Hunterdon Indicted on Charge of Stealing From Woman in Her Care

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Benjamin Alfano's Final Weeks Spent in Isolation

Benjamin Alfano, in the end, had MS and dementia. While he never lost his passion for gnocchi, he often forgot what he ate for breakfast.

Chris Farley, his court-appointed guardian, was characteristically blunt: Ben, she wrote, was "completely unable to act in his own best interests. He lacks the judgment and insight to keep himself from harm."

Yet one month after Farley shipped the 72-year-old amputee to Park Forest Care Center for Christmas, Alfano did what anyone in his right mind would do:

He bolted.

In one last desperate grab for freedom, Ben scurried out the door of the dour nursing home on his scooter, racing down four blocks of Northeast Beech Street before the care center posse reined him in just shy of 82nd Avenue.

One week later, Alfano was locked away in the Alzheimer's unit at Powell Valley in Gresham.

Four weeks later, he was dead from a shattered heart.

The loneliness and isolation Ben Alfano endured in those final weeks still haunts his four youngest children, given that it was engineered by the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs and their father's court-appointed guardian and lawyer.

In the four years Alfano lived at Raleigh Hills Assisted Living, those children -- Steven, David, Mary and Lisa -- were faithful stewards. Judy Bridges, the Raleigh Hills administrator at the time, said the sons were particularly devoted: "They were always there. Steven always took Ben to his appointments. Steven made all the arrangements, not the VA."

Richard Pagnano, Ben's court-appointed attorney, and Farley, the guardian, didn't believe that involvement served their client's interests. In February 2009, Pagnano wrote letters to Ben Alfano's doctors warning them not to disclose medical information "to any third parties, including the former temporary guardian, Steven Alfano."

Full Article and Source:
Steve Duin: Benjamin Alfano's Final Weeks are Spent in Isolation, Cut Off from His Family (Part 2)

See Also:
The Story of Benjamin Alfano and the Debate of Who Controls End-of-Life Decisions

With Alzheimer's, Dementia on the Rise, More Family Members Step Up as Caregivers

Those working on the front lines of the fight against Alzheimer's and dementia see an out-of-control truck veering toward the American population. And they're concerned that too few people seem to notice it.

There are now 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's and estimates say that will double by the year 2050. Closer to home, there were about 20,000 diagnosed dementia patients in South Central Wisconsin in 2010, and that will jump by about 4,000 by 2025.

It's not just the people with dementia who are cause for concern. There's the question of who is going to take care of them.

Tracy Earll, executive officer of the Alzheimer's Association of South Central Wisconsin, said it takes an average of three people to care for one patient each day, "And it's a 36-hour-a-day job."

There are now 15 million unpaid caregivers, mostly family members, and twice that number will be needed by 2050 when baby boomers are in their last years. Equally ominous is dwindling government support to help families provide care.

"This situation could cripple the Medicare system," Earll said. "The drugs (to treat Alzheimer's) are not very good at all. If there's no cure in 20 years this will be extremely, impossibly expensive."

So while money for research is being chased, others are working to help the unpaid caregivers cope with the job they didn't sign up for, and are usually poorly equipped to handle. One such source is the Alzheimer's & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, which provides education and support from the beginning to the end of what they call "the journey."

Full Article and Source:
With Alzheimer's, Dementia on the Rise, More Family Members Step Up as Caregivers

AZ: Senior Citizen Abuse Under Investigation

A 73-year-old Phoenix man has been accusing of sexually abusing a woman at the Paradise Valley Senior Center.

Eduardo Ravasco is facing two counts of sexual abuse. According to court documents, he touched a woman underneath her clothes without her consent while she was seated inside the library at the Paradise Valley Senior Center on Monday.

Full Article and Source:
Senior Citizen Abuse Under Investigation

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Care Home Operator Gets One-Year Prison Term for Exploitation

The Honorable Judge Richard Pollack sentenced an Oahu woman to a one-year prison term for her part in a financial exploitation scam that cost an 84-year old Oahu man more than $200,000.

Nora Bell, 46, of Ewa Beach, ran the “Classic Residential Care Home” on Hookele Street in Waianae. The victim, who suffers from age related dementia, entered the care home in 2004. Over a one-year period beginning in April 2007 and as the victim’s dementia worsened, Bell and an accomplice, Joel Tacras, carried out a scheme to systematically withdraw cash from the victim's bank accounts, and redeem his treasury bonds, all without his knowledge. By July 2008, Bell had taken nearly all of the victim's savings and cashed in his treasury bonds.

Full Article and Source:
Care Home Operator Gets One-Year Prison Term for Exploiting One of Her Residents

Joint Effort Will Fight Fraud Against Military Members

A new federal-state effort will fight fraud against members of the military. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Department of Defense, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were joined by the New York Attorney General to announce the development of a database to combat consumer financial frauds directed at military members, veterans, and their families.

The Repeat Offenders Against Military (ROAM) Database will track completed enforcement actions against companies and individuals who repeatedly scam military personnel.

“As a former Ohio Attorney General, I know how frustrating it is to expose a scam and then see it take root in another state. The ROAM database will help law enforcement crack down on frauds that cross state lines,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “ROAM is a huge step forward in our mission to improve consumer protection for the military community.”

Joint Effort Will Fight Fraud Against Military Members

Liliane Bettencourt Exits Family Business

Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of cosmetics giant L’Oreal and France’s richest woman, has quit the board of the family business and will be replaced by her grandson.

The move comes a few months after it was found that the 89-year-old is suffering from “mixed dementia” and “modestly severe” Alzheimer’s. She was put under the guardianship of her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and grandsons in October last year.

Full Article and Source:
Bettencourt Exits Family Business

See Also:
L'Oreal Heiress Loses Attempt to Free Herself From Daughter's Guardianship

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AZ: Who Will Protect Ailing Lady Who Gave Her House Away?

[H]ow did a frail old lady named Pauline come to be giving away her house to a stranger? And not only a stranger but the person who owns the state-licensed assisted living facility that was supposed to be taking care of her?

“That’s not how the system is supposed to work,” attorney Tom Asimou said. “People don’t go to the hospital, get discharged to an assisted living facility with 40 complaints and then 40 days later more than half their net worth is taken from them.”

Asimou sounded the alarm last week and to its credit, Maricopa County’s probate court sprung into action to try to protect Pauline, who has been diagnosed with dementia. Whether there is anything the court can do is an open question.

The bigger one is how a place like Golden Creek Assisted Living Home — with 40 citations in two years and a lawsuit alleging the 2010 wrongful death of one of its residents — is still operating, still getting patients from one of the state’s most prestigious hospitals.

Full Article and Source:
Who Will Protect Ailing Lady Who Gave Her House Away?

Editorial: Legal Assisted Suicide is a Recipe for Abuse

Editor, the Tribune: I am an attorney in Washington state, where assisted suicide is legal. I am also president of Choice is an Illusion, a not-for-profit corporation opposed to assisted suicide.

I disagree with Sandy Davidson ("Missourians should have a right to die") that assisted suicide laws should be enacted in Missouri. Washington's assisted suicide law is similar to a law in Oregon. These laws are promoted as providing patient choice. They are instead a recipe for elder abuse.

Under both the Oregon and Washington laws, an heir, who will financially benefit from the patient's death, is allowed to actively help the patient sign up for the lethal dose. An heir can even talk for the patient during the lethal dose request process. This situation invites patient coercion, not patient choice.

More important, once the lethal dose is issued, there is no oversight, not even a required witness at the death. This creates the opportunity for someone who will benefit from the death to administer the dose without consent.

For more information about problems with legal assisted suicide, please visit

~Margaret Dore

Long-Term Hospital Patient Returning to Poland

Barbara Latasiewicz, a Polish immigrant who has lived in a La Grange hospital for 2 1/2 years, will return to Poland under an arrangement approved by a Cook County judge.

She could be flown back to Poland as soon as Tuesday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Latasiewicz, 60, has been in the United States illegally after overstaying a visa. She ended up at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital in September 2009 after suffering a massive stroke while cleaning a home.

Her caretakers have been unable to find a place for her long-term care. She has no insurance or family that will care for her, and she doesn't qualify for public aid.

The hospital has been taking care of her for more than two years even though it is a short-term care facility. Her care has cost the hospital about $1.3 million, according to the spokeswoman.

But early this month the hospital was able to arrange placement for Latasiewicz in a stroke specialty unit at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, officials said. She has a brother in that city who can visit her.

Despite objections from the Office of State Guardian, which is Latasiewicz's legal guardian, Judge Cheryl Cesario agreed that Latasiewicz should not stay at the La Grange facility.

"This court finds without question that it is absolutely improper for a person to live in a hospital room," the judge said.

Full Article and Source:
Long-Term Patient in La Grange Returning to Poland

Monday, February 27, 2012

YouTube: "Stop Connecticut's Exploitation of Elders, Governor!"

Stop Connecticut's Exploitation of Elders, Governor!

AZ Caretaker Accused of Beating Patient

A worker at a home for disabled adults is behind bars, accused of brutally beating a patient.

The patient suffered severe injuries -- including broken ribs and a punctured lung. Police say Edward McClure went up to the victim on Tuesday while he was sitting in the common area of the group home in Phoenix.

McClure is accused of inappropriately touching the man, grabbing him by the throat, throwing him down, and punching him several times.

The resident suffered multiple rib fractures, and a collapsed lung.

McClure is 6'4", 400 pounds and the victim is 150 pounds with a history of mental disability and epilepsy.

Full Article and Source:
Caretaker Accused of Beating Patient

Grannycam Captures Theft

An elderly man discovered his home health aide was stealing from him when his friend set up some “granny cams” to catch her in the act.

Carmen Vera, 42, was arrested and charged with theft.

The 73-year old victim said Vera, a home health aide employed by All About Care in Brick, had worked for him since December. Since then he noticed about $900 missing from both his armoire and wallet.

A close friend set up two secret cameras around the man’s bedroom to capture, in video form, any activity occurring in there.

Police said he had about 13 minutes of footage showing Vera “... clearly stealing.”

Full Article and Source:
'Granny cams' Capture Home Health Aide Stealing From Vineland Patient

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Story of Benjamin Alfano and the Debate About Who Controls End-of-Life Decisions

Repeat after me: "How is this possible?"

That is the question you will ask yourself, more than once, as we detail the last two troubling months in the life of Benjamin Alfano.

In the space of eight weeks, how is it possible that a veteran with full benefits could be trucked out of the Raleigh Hills assisted living facility he loved -- on Christmas Eve, no less -- and end up desperate and wounded in a locked-door dementia-care unit in Gresham?

Stripped of his telephone.

Restricted to one daily visit from his children.

Drenched in his own urine.

How is it possible that a "protected" person -- in the painfully ironic parlance of the Oregon courts -- and one faithfully attended by a conservator, a guardian, a lawyer and a sizable bank account could be tossed about in such a perfect storm, a tempest that culminated in Alfano's death Feb. 26, 2011, one year ago today?

That's the question four of Alfano's children are still asking, four children who remained intensely involved to the bitter end in their father's life.

A commitment to their father, by the way, that is still held against them by the overlords at the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, the Washington County Circuit Court and Oregon's Department of Justice.

If blame is difficult to assess in the closing chapter of Alfano's story, the fault lines are clearly visible in the vitriolic debate about who is best qualified to make decisions -- and control the finances -- when the elderly cannot be trusted to make those decisions for themselves.

Full Article and Source:
The Story of Benjamin Alfano and the Debate About Who Controls End-of-Life Decisions (Part 1)

The Dying Wish of William Payne - 351 Years Later

With only eight days to live, a wealthy, ailing Massachusetts merchant wrote in his will 351 years ago that he was leaving a spectacular 35-acre seafront property for the benefit of public school children, decreeing the land should never be sold or wasted.

The dying wish of William Payne, one of the state's earliest settlers, created the nation's oldest charitable trust and eventually led tenants to build 167 cottages — most of them used by summer vacationers — on the land he left for the seaside city of Ipswich. The rent money has generated some $2.4 million to help fund public schools over the last 25 years.

Now, the trustees want to tear up the will, convert the property into condominiums and sell them to the tenants to settle a 2006 lawsuit filed by the tenants over rent increases. But hundreds of Ipswich residents have gone to court to block the settlement, saying it violates the sacred intent of Payne's will and shortchanges the schools.

Full Article and Source:
351-Year-Old Will Sparks Bitter Dispute in Mass.

Nurse's Aide Left 95-Year-Old in Car in Casino Parking Lot: Cops

Nurse's Aide Busted For Leaving 95-Year-Old in Car Casino Parking Lot