Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Oregon Attorney General's Race and Veteran/Conservatorship Ward Ben Alfano

Most of us, I believe, confront the ballot with prism in hand, the imperfect lens through which we measure the quality of the candidates and the relevance of the election.

In the Oregon attorney general's race between Ellen Rosenblum and Dwight Holton, your prism may be marijuana, prosecutorial passion or John Kroger.

My prism is  Ben Alfano.

In the last two months of the veteran's life, which I chronicled in February, Alfano was wrenched from the assisted-living facility he loved and dumped in a Gresham dementia-care unit. Alfano died there on Feb. 26, 2011, an especially bitter turn for four of his children, who had complained about conservator and guardianship issues for years.

Those objections were typically met with smug disdain, or worse, by the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs, and its well-paid bodyguard at the Department of Justice.

When Alfano's two sons sought a change in conservators, ODVA Director Jim Willis wrote a letter to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., saying Steven Alfano had no legal status in his father's case, when he, in fact, had Ben's legal medical power of attorney, and accusing him of a "financial conflict of interest."

When Alfano's children sought help from state Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, Kathy Andreas -- ODVA's conservatorship manager -- responded to Steven Alfano's meticulous detailing of the family's problems with the agency as follows:

"It obviously took Steven many hours to organize and document his findings. That could explain why he has been spending less time lately with his father."

There's more where that came from, believe me.

When the four children looked to the state for help, they discovered that D. Kevin Carlson, one of Kroger's senior assistants, was not only defending ODVA but billing Ben Alfano's estate for his legal muscle and expertise.

Over the last two years, Carlson billed the estate more than $45,000. He also recommended in March that a Washington County judge reserve "at least $150,000" of what remains in the veteran's estate to deal with the children's federal civil rights' claims against ODVA and the guardian, Chris Farley.

We have, then, another glaring example of the AG's office defending state agencies to the extreme even when they're in the wrong.

Full Article and Source:
Justice and the Oregon Attorney General's Race Between Dwight Holton and Ellen Rosenblum

See Also:
Following Benjamin Alfano's Money

Editorial: Nursing Homes May Be Inevitable; Abuse Is Not

When I served as special counsel to the U.S. Senate Aging Committee, we investigated fraud and abuse in public assistance programs. Medicaid provided health care to those that could not afford it and Medicare funded seniors’ medical needs. Both systems were rife with corruption and abuse.

Our undercover operations proved that not only was the medical care poor but government programs were being ripped off by unscrupulous providers. When it came to nursing homes, only one, in all we investigated, delivered appropriate care.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Homes May Be Inevitable, Abuse Is Not

Caring for Elderly Parents Catches Many Unprepared

Last July, Julie Baldocchi's mother had a massive stroke and was paralyzed. Baldocchi suddenly had to become a family caregiver, something that she wasn't prepared for.

"I was flying by the seat of my pants," says Baldocchi, an employment specialist in San Francisco. Both of her parents are 83, and she knew her father couldn't handle her mother's care.

The hospital recommended putting her mother in a nursing home. Baldocchi wasn't willing to do that. But moving her back into her parents' home created other problems.

With help from the Family Caregiver Alliance, she eventually hired a live-in caregiver. "But even if you plan intellectually and legally, you're never ready for the emotional impact," Baldocchi says. In the first two months after her mother's stroke, she lost about 30 pounds as stress mounted.

More than 42 million Americans provide family caregiving for an adult who needs help with daily activities, according to a 2009 survey by the AARP. An additional 61.6 million provided at least some care during the year.

And many are unprepared.

Full Article and Source:
Caring for Elderly Parents Catches Many Unprepared

Man Accused of "Milking" Aunt's Accounts of $500K

A Hatfield man has admitted to embezzling more than $500,000 from his elderly aunt for whom he was power of attorney, money he claimed he partly used to attempt to start a music business.

Francis X. Stagliano, 53, pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Court to multiple felony charges of theft by unlawful taking or disposition in connection with incidents that occurred between January 2006 and August 2011.

Judge Garrett D. Page deferred sentencing so that court officials can complete a background investigative report about Stagliano, who remains free on bail pending sentencing. Stagliano faces a possible maximum sentence of 17 ½ to 35 years in prison on the charges.

With the charges, prosecutors alleged Stagliano stole money from various bank and investment accounts held by the victim, ranging from $47,356 to $179,882, for a grand total of $504,721, between 2006 and 2011.

Full Article and Source:
Hatfield Man "Milked" Accounts of Elderly Aunt

Friday, April 27, 2012

North Carolina Guardianship Proposal

New Hanover County's Department of Social Services serves as the court-appointed guardian for 66 elderly and disabled people to ensure their health, safety and well being.

On July 1 that number could swell to at least 81, or by 22.7 percent, if a court-ordered plan by the state Department of Health and Human Services is approved by the General Assembly.

Under a draft guardianship proposal, county departments of social services in North Carolina would be tasked with providing or contracting for guardianship for people with mental health issues, developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues.

The guardianship cases previously were handled by state mental health agencies such as the Southeastern Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services in Wilmington.

In a statement about the reasoning behind the switch from mental health to DSS for guardianship, DHHS Assistant Secretary Beth Melcher said, "… the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have determined there would be a conflict of interest if these agencies continued to serve as public guardians while also managing the financial aspects of their clients' care."

Currently there are 1,691 people across North Carolina who receive guardianship services through the public mental health system. The average annual cost to provide guardianship to each of those people was $2,543.

Full Article and Source:
General Assembly to Consider Guardianship Proposal

Longtime Probate Judge Won't Run for Re-election

To many people mourning a death or facing life’s hard decisions, he introduces himself as Bill Self.

Not Judge Self.

It’s meant to make people who’ve already suffered a loss feel a little more comfortable as they enter his office at the Bibb County Courthouse.

For more than two decades, Bibb County Probate Judge William J. “Bill” Self II has held uncontested hearings in the warmth of his office because for him, the job isn’t just to handle weighty court matters such as probating wills or deciding if warring family members should end medical life support for a loved one.

“For many people, it’s the first and only time they come to court,” he said. “They’re nervous.

Self, 63, announced that he won’t seek re-election when his term expires this at the end of 2012.

Self added a fiduciary compliance officer to his staff about 20 years ago to keep tabs on money spent by guardians and conservators appointed by the court. The compliance officer also checks to see if court orders are carried out.

Full Article and Source:
Longtime Bibb County Probate Court Judge Says He Won’t Run for Re-election

Financial Advisors and Insurance Agents Cautious About Selling to Person With Possible Dementia

Lake County, California, is said to be known for a few things besides having the state’s largest freshwater contained lake—pear production, bird watching, wineries, recent meth lab busts and Glenn Neasham, the convicted insurance agent who thought, he claims, he was selling a good product to a competent senior.

In the wake of Neasham’s felony conviction for theft, a jail sentence to go along with it, and his ongoing legal battle to get that conviction overturned, financial advisors and insurance agents are wondering if they might also fall into the same legal hole that Neasham cannot seem to escape. While the chances are slim for a replication of all of the factors and personalities in Neasham’s case to reassemble themselves elsewhere, there is no safe harbor in current law to prevent a jail sentence for an agent who sells an annuity to a customer who may turn out to have dementia or Alzheimer’s at the time of the sale.

As most readers who have followed the case know, a 12-person jury found former insurance agent Neasham, now 52, guilty of felony theft on Oct. 23, 2011 for selling an annuity to a then-83 year-old woman named Fran Schuber.

As ProducersWEB writes, Judge Richard Martin denied the motion for a new trial in February, refused to drop the felony charge to a misdemeanor and sentenced Neasham to probation and 300 days in jail. Martin stayed all but 90 days of the sentence. Neasham, out on bail, plans to appeal.

Full Article and Source:
Who Will Be the Next Glenn Neasham?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TN House Passes Conservatorship Protections

In brief discussion before the 95-0 vote, Rep. Gary Odom, a Nashville Democrat, said the bill would require those petitioning to place someone in a conservatorship to disclose their relationship to the target of the petition and to disclose whether they had a criminal record.The bill already has passed the Senate and is expected to go to the governor later this week.Alexia Poe, spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said that the governor would review the measure when and if it gets to his desk, but added that she expected he would sign it.She said she understood the bill’s sponsors worked with the state Department of Human Services in drafting the measure.Odom said the bill would give judges key information about the motives of the petitioners and conservators.He said that still further protections are needed and those will be the focus of a study before the next legislative session.

Full Article and Source:
TN House Votes Conservatorship Protections

Zsa Zsa Gabor Conseratorship Battle Heats Up

Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband Frederic Prinz Von Anhalt has fired back at his stepdaughter Francesca Hilton, continuing their legal battle over the actress' conservatorship.

Both parties are demanding control over the 95-year-old actress' financial affairs and medical care. In March, Hilton's attorney filed a claim at a city court requesting that an independent conservator handle Gabor's affairs, rather than Von Anhalt. A hearing is set for May 2.

"We are just seeking to bring her finances and healthcare out in the open, so to speak, within the confines of a conservatorship proceeding, so that independent third parties will determine that she is getting the best care she can," the lawyer told's parent company, KABC Television.

On April 20, Von Anhalt filed a formal objection with the Superior Court of Los Angeles, claiming that Hilton is the last person who should care for her ailing mother, due to her "past conduct."

In the legal documents obtained by TMZ, Von Anhalt blames Hilton for the estate's financial problems and claims he does everything he can to care for Gabor, including hiring help and "prudently" monitoring finances.

Hilton, a Los Angeles comedienne whose official first name is Constance, has squabbled with Von Anhalt for decades and has at times insulted him on stage at her stand-up comedy shows.

Full Article and Source:
Zsa Zsa Gabor's Husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt Battles Stepdaugher Over Conservatorship

Judge Adds Britney Spears' Fiance to Conservatorship

Britney Spears' fiance has received a judge's approval to join her father as a co-conservator and help manage the singer's personal affairs.

A judge in Los Angeles approved a request Wednesday by Spears and her court-appointed attorney to add Jason Trawick to the case.

He joins Spears' father Jamie Spears in controlling several decision-making aspects of the singer's personal life but will not have a role in managing her assets.

The 30-year-old singer remains under a court-ordered conservatorship that has been in place more than four years after a series of high-profile incidents of erratic behavior and her messy divorce.

Spears did not attend Wednesday's hearing, much of which was closed to the public.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Adds Spears' Fiance to Conservatorship

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NY State Introduces Bill to Strengthen Legal Protections Against Elder Abuse by Caregivers

Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, was joined by advocates for the elderly as he announced legislation aimed at protecting senior citizens from abuse by caregivers.

Under current law, the term “caregiver” only applies to paid or court-ordered aides. Morelle’s bill expands that definition to include all individuals, including volunteers and family members, responsible for the health and well-being of an elderly person.

“Anyone who neglects, injures, defrauds or otherwise harms a senior entrusted to their care must face the consequences of their actions, and we must give law enforcement the tools to make that happen,” Morelle said.

“With this, we close a dangerous loophole that leaves far too many of our elderly vulnerable to abuse, a situation more common than the public may realize.”

Morelle said his bill is based in part on a recent study conducted by Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc., in conjunction with the New York City Department for the Aging and Cornell University. The report found that 141 out of 1,000 older New Yorkers have experienced abuse since turning age 60, and that nearly 90 percent of those responsible were not paid health care workers.

“The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence study Lifespan released in 2011 confirmed that elder abuse occurs in every neighborhood regardless of demographics. The study also confirmed that in the majority of abuse and financial exploitation cases, the perpetrators are family members, friends and neighbors – often, allegedly, helping to ‘care’ for the victim,” said Ann Marie Cook, Lifespan President and CEO.

Full Article and Source:
Morelle Announces Bill to Strengthen Legal Protections Against Elder Abuse in New York State

Caregiving for Loved Ones New Normal for Boomers

Money was no object when the time came for Joan Lunden to find a senior care facility for her 88-year-old mother.

For years, the former host of "Good Morning America" had been a long-distance caregiver to her mother and brother in California, providing them with emotional and financial support from New York. After her brother's death from complications from type II diabetes, Lunden needed to find a new home for her mother, who was suffering from the onset of dementia.

It was 2006 when Lunden flew from New York to Sacramento and drove around in search of a new home for her mom. She settled on an apartment in one of the fanciest senior communities in town, where her mother, Gladyce Lunden, would have the option of entertaining guests in her home or meeting other residents in a ballroom-style dining space.

It didn't take long for Lunden to realize that she'd chosen a place for the mother she knew 15 years ago, not the one who had been depending on her brother for the last decade. Gladyce Lunden didn't want to spend time with other residents, nor was she capable of living on her own.

"On paper, it was spectacular, but it didn't serve her needs at all," Lunden said. "She was completely stressed out and her emotional situation was deteriorating because she didn't feel safe... she couldn't operate on her own on a daily basis."

It took several falls, a few broken bones and three more moves to find the right place. She now shares a ranch-style home with four others in a small residential care facility. There's a health care aide on site at all times to help her get dressed or take care of daily needs.

"She needed more hands-on, day-to-day care," Lunden said. "I didn't understand that because I wasn't living with her."

Trying to create the best possible quality of life for an aging relative is "the new normal" for 43.5 million Americans caring for someone older than 50, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.

It's not just their parents: With about 10,000 baby boomers hitting age 65 each day, they're becoming caregivers and also those needing care. With people living longer than ever, this is the first generation that might care for its parents as long as it cared for its children, experts said.

Full Article and Source:
Caregiving for Loved Ones New Normal for Boomers

Caregiver Deemed Competent

A 72-year-old former caregiver, now living in Arizona, is mentally competent and does not need a guardian to deal with accusations she schemed to benefit financially from the estates of the late June M. Farrington and her surviving brother, Worth Farrington, a court-appointed attorney said.

Joan Morgante’s mental competency had come under question as her relationship with both Farringtons was scrutinized.

“It is clear and convincing to me that presently she is not an incapacitated person,” attorney Arcangelo J. Petricca said in court papers.

Petricca had been asked by Erie County Surrogate Barbara Howe to report on her condition.

Petricca’s finding means Morgante could be compelled to testify if June Farrington’s contested multimillion-dollar estate is not resolved through a settlement.

Morgante, formerly the Farringtons’ caregiver, has been accused of participating in a “wrongful scheme” to steer their money to their former estate lawyer, Stephen M. Newman, and herself, at the expense of charities that had counted on collecting her assets.

Full Article and Source:
Caregiver is Called Competent

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Expert: ND Prospective Wards Should Have Lawyer to Protect Rights

Having a court-appointed guardian take charge of a person's life means fewer legal protections and potentially graver consequences than being sent to prison, said a medical school professor who is studying North Dakota's guardianship system.

The consultant, Winsor Schmidt, told the North Dakota Legislature's Human Services Committee on Tuesday that North Dakotans in guardianship proceedings should have the right to a lawyer and a jury trial on whether the guardianship is necessary. State law now gives them neither.

In a guardianship case, a judge decides whether the person is capable of making decisions about his or her life. If they are not, a judge appoints someone to make those decisions for them.

"You lose all of your rights. You become a non-citizen," Schmidt said in an interview.

The committee hired Schmidt, a professor at the University of Louisville's medical school, to study North Dakota's guardianship system, and he presented his preliminary report on Tuesday.

His recommendations included providing an attorney at public expense if someone can't afford to hire a lawyer for guardianship proceedings.

"With the criminal justice system, if you're found guilty, at least you know there's a term, and you get out of jail," he said. "With guardianship, it's indeterminate. Once you're (judged to be) legally incompetent, you're incompetent from then on."

Full Article and Source:
Expert: Person Having a Guardian Appointed by ND Court Should Have Laywer to Protect Rights

Senate Aging Committee Hearing Spotlights Need to End Fragmented SNF Policymaking

Emphasizing the need to end fragmented policymaking for the U.S. skilled nursing facility (SNF) sector to help sustain quality gains and boost cost efficiency, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care (AQNHC) praised U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) for convening today's [4/18]Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, and said repeated SNF Medicare funding cuts are no replacement for intelligent reforms that help coordinate care for an aging, increasingly disparate, higher acuity patient population.

"Because Medicare and Medicaid together pay for the care of three out of every four SNF patients, it is crucial to assess not just the impact both programs have on the ability of providers to continue delivering high quality patient care, but also how to improve cost savings by better coordinating today's fragmented, siloed policymaking process," said Alan G. Rosenbloom, President of the Alliance. "Funding reduction after funding reduction is no substitute for rational policymaking that can help patients and help stabilize a key U.S. health sector already slated to absorb $48 billion in funding cuts between FY 2012-21."

Full Press Release and Source:
Senate Aging Committee Hearing Spotlights Need to End Fragmented SNF Policymaking

NH Guidance Counselor Accused of Assaulting Elderly Relative

Hopkinton school officials say they are unsure if the district will seek dismissal of a guidance counselor accused of repeatedly punching and kicking his 74-year-old relative in a Manchester parking garage.

Gene Fox, who has worked at the town's middle / high school for seven years, was placed on paid administrative leave Sunday after being charged with the assault. Superintendent Steve Chamberlin said yesterday the district is still gathering information about the incident, adding that it's too early to know what action will be taken.

Full Article and Source:
Officials Mull Counselor's Dismissal

Monday, April 23, 2012

Widow's Guardian Sues Holocaust Center Over $1-Million 'Pledge'

Relentless harassment, intimidation and deception are how the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center sought to collect an "invalid" $1-million pledge from an incapacitated 89-year-old widow, according to a new lawsuit.

Ada Feingold, of Plantation, and her guardian, Zipora Geva, of Aventura, have had enough and are now asking the courts to intervene.

"We want to put an end to this," said attorney Rebecca Fischer, who represents Geva. "It has become clear that there's not going to be a resolution and rather than have this hanging over the ward's or guardian's heads we decided to take action."

The lawsuit asks that Feingold's alleged pledge be ruled "invalid and unenforceable for lack of a valid contract"; that the center be found negligent for improperly using the $260,000 Feingold did donate; and for the return of 13 paintings created by Feingold's late husband, Julian.

Filed Thursday in Broward Circuit Court, the suit requests a jury trial and damages in excess of $15,000.

Former state Sen. Steve Geller, who represents the center, said the lawsuit was news to him.

"Haven't seen it yet, don't know what's in it, can't comment on it," Geller said. "I'm very surprised about the lawsuit, because I was under the impression that things were being resolved in an amicable fashion."

At the hands of the center and its representatives, Feingold has "suffered monetary loss, mental anguish and psychological injury," the suit says.

In its quest for Feingold's money, the lawsuit says, the center and its representatives have asked Feingold for her credit card number and deducted $5,000 from the account, encouraged Feingold to alter her will and break the guardianship, and actively sought to alienate Feingold from her family and caregiver.

Full Article and Source:
Widow's Guardian Sues Holocaust Center Over $1-Million 'Pledge'

Scammed Veteran Gets Help Managing Finances

It just didn’t sit well — a veteran who’d faced Nazi flak in a B-24 Liberator to defend America facing eviction from public housing — so Chris Murray decided to get involved.

Now Mr. Murray, who serves on Ridgefield’s Board of Education, is in the process of being made a conservator who will oversee 88-year-old Roger McCollester’s finances.

He is starting to raise money for a fund that will pay off debts Mr. McCollester accumulated after falling victim to a scam artist, and ensure the former bomber pilot may remain in his apartment at the Ridgefield Housing Authority’s Congregate Housing on Prospect Ridge.

“Roger’s a friend of mine, and I did not know about his circumstances until I read it online,” said Mr. Murray, who saw a story from the March 15 Ridgefield Press on

“He is a friend of mine,” Mr. Murray continued. “We had him for Thanksgiving last year, and my son had escorted Roger to the Veterans Day events at East Ridge (Middle School) last fall.

“I decided to intervene, and I met with Roger within days of the article, and Roger agreed, readily so, to my help,” Mr. Murray said.

Full Article and Source:
Scammed Veteran Gets Help Managing Finances

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Editorial: Hurting The Ones We Protect

As the Tennessean reported Sunday, our system of taking care of people when they are at their most vulnerable, when they are unsure and scared, is in need of repair.

The case of Jewell Tinnon, who two years ago was comfortable in her own paid-for home and now scratches by in public housing, may be extreme, but if the emails, letters and phone calls that have come to the newspaper in the last two days are indication, it is not.

Ms. Tinnon, and others like her, suddenly find themselves under conservatorship. Given to the care of a guardian to make decisions about where they live, who treats them, and what future they have. Their home and other assets can be sold to pay for care, and pay for the conservator.

Each state is responsible for creating rules, processes and laws to ensure those that cannot manage on their own are cared for. And like most systems it works for the large majority of people that need it. But also like most systems, it breaks down under stress.

The conservator industry, and it looks and acts like one, needs to examine itself. When the process ignores durable power of attorney, or valid statements from doctors in its rush to judgment, or when it can’t distinguish the difference between someone who is temporarily addled from someone with Alzheimer’s — and ignores their pleas for review — then it is time for reform.

It may be appropriate that conservators charge from $150 to $300 an hour, but there is no review of those bills. There may be good reasons to limit appeals, but a patient’s request for removal from guardianship should be documented and reviewed by the court.

While most of the individuals who wind up with a conservator are properly, and perhaps well, served, and while court appointed conservators have large, unwieldy caseloads, those responsible should endeavor to treat their charges with the respect they themselves would choose to have.

Davidson County Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy, who handles conservatorship cases has reminded attorneys of their obligations, but we should examine ways to improve the system and remove the processes that lead to tragic decisions.

Hurting The Ones We Protect

Editorial: Conservatorship Works

As a 17-year private geriatric social worker and local advocate for the elderly, the glimpse into our state’s issues regarding when and how conservatorships are granted is long overdue. While these two individuals and their attorneys question the necessity and validity of a conservator, many other frail, at risk, mentally and physically impaired senior adults are often never given a chance to escape the fate of their impairment.

If they are not offered legal representation to hold state agencies accountable, who can leave them in deplorable conditions with obvious judgment and cognitive impairment claiming that they could put a word or two together, for example, it negates their chance for help.

Are we so fearful of liability that we turn a “blind eye” and become complacent and lacking in accountability? While our judge, doctors and care agencies are questioned, let’s challenge these advocacy groups and lawmakers who have spoken out on this particular case to consider how additional protective measures, although well intentioned, will add additional delay to any chance of rescue for others. If there is any doubt, we too have front page worthy pictures that have not made it to press... just yet.

Tonya Zuckerman

Editorial: Conservatorship Works

LA: Seniors Speak Out Against Elderly Services Merger

Hundreds of senior citizens packed themselves into the state capitol to make their voices heard.

“We’re not broken! Don’t fix us,” Kitty Askew says. She was up at 5:00 in the morning to take a bus ride to Baton Rouge from Cameron Parish to protest against Senate Bill 690.

That bill looks to merge the Government’s Office of Elderly Affairs with the Department of Health and Hospitals’ Office of Aging and Adult Services. GOEA includes the Council on Aging.

"We’ve been on our own for all these years! We haven’t asked anybody for anything and now, they want to lump us in with everybody,” Askew says. “It’s not going to work.”

She and the many other people worry that merging the two agencies for the elderly will negatively impact the Council on Aging.

Full Article and Source:
Senior Citizens Speak Out Against Elderly Services Merger