Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year's Eve! 25 Life Lessons We Can All Use, From a 99-Year Old Very Wise Great Grandpa

When you need advice, you ask someone who knows best. When you need life advice, you go to someone who's seen it all. And who could be better than a great-grandfather with 99 years of life experience under his belt?

Recently, Pop Sugar's Macy Williams wrote about her nonagenarian great-grandfather, known in the family as "Grandpa Cheese," and his life lessons we can all apply. Williams calls him an "inspirational man."

Grandpa, whose real name is Andy Anderson, is chock full of advice. After all, he's had quite the incredible life. He never went to college, but ended up being the national dairy manager for grocery store chain Safeway. He also was married for nearly 70 years -- until his wife passed away. He said it was love at first sight.

He's looking forward to his 100th birthday next May, which he hopes to spend with his family (while enjoying some hot buttered rum and brie cheese, he tells us). "I feel pretty good about getting older. I may be 99, but I am still learning and experiencing new things everyday. You never stop learning. Age is not just a number, it's a badge of all my life experiences," he told Huff/Post50 in an email.

The most important thing he's learned? "Family is precious. Family is the most influential element of your life from the moment you're born until the moment you die. Your family shapes who you are as a person." Beautiful.
Here's Grandpa Cheese's full list of 25 life sessions, as told to PopSugar:
  1. Always maintain a good sense of humor.
  2. Never be too good to start at the bottom.
  3. Exercise every single day, even when you don't feel like it.
  4. Don't spend more money than you make.
  5. Drink orange juice every day.
  6. Love at first sight is not a fable.
  7. Having a bad job is better than having no job at all.
  8. Eat around the mold; don't go wasting food.
  9. Your family is the most precious thing you will ever have in life.
  10. Eat sausage every day — it worked for me.
  11. Your life is delicate, and if you neglect yourself, you'll spoil. That's what cheese taught me.
  12. Don't ever be afraid to be your true self.
  13. Everyone has too many clothes. Wear what you have and quit buying more.
  14. You must be able to forgive, even if it's difficult to do.
  15. Save your money now and spend it later.
  16. Love is not always easy; sometimes you have to work at it.
  17. Find something comical in every single situation.
  18. If you're faced with a problem, don't delay trying to figure it out. But if there's no way to figure it out, you have to forget about it.
  19. Make sure you're doing what you love; don't be afraid to follow those dreams you have for yourself.
  20. Education is important, but not necessary. Life can be an education in itself.
  21. Explore your world and stay curious.
  22. Try not to take yourself so seriously.
  23. My full name is William Bradford James Anderson, and my initials always remind me to ask myself, "Why be just anybody?"
  24. Have common sense. Think about the most reasonable answer to every situation. If you don't have common sense, you're a bust.
  25. Life is a gift that you must unwrap. It's up to you to determine if what's inside will lead you to happiness or dismay. You have the power to make that decision for yourself.

    Full Article and Source:
    25 Life Lessons We All Can Use, From a 99-Year-Old Very Wise Great Grandpa

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Babette Bach: Improving guardianship

As the recent articles in the Herald-Tribune's series "The Kindness of Strangers -- Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida" point out, exploitation against our elderly is far too common. The worst cases start with some common factors covered by the Herald-Tribune's series: failing to notify the next of kin of proceedings, poor legal representation, poor guardian performance and misrepresentation of the facts.

Guardianship is a serious proceeding that requires extensive fact gathering. Unfortunately, this is legally intensive. To do a great job takes time, yet wasting of assets on attorney and guardian fees is also a challenge. So there is a tight rope of effective advocacy and its cost. Our guardianship system has few resources for poor and indigent elders.

Solutions: Lawmakers and elder care advocacy organizations are pursuing several solutions. The Florida Joint Public Policy Task Force for the Elderly and Disabled, The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys and the Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar have been instrumental in helping Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) draft legislative reforms in House Bill 5, which makes numerous improvements centered around the ward and sets performance standards for guardians.

Better funding and more home-based social services are longer-term solutions.

Potential for Abuse: For many years in Sarasota and Manatee counties, the person who petitioned for guardianship "suggested" to the court which attorney should represent the alleged incapacitated person (AIP) needing the guardian. This led to petitioners' attorneys picking a buddy to represent the alleged incapacitated person, with the obvious result of poor advocacy. In essence, the case was "fixed."

Full Article & Source:
Babette Bach: Improving guardianship

AL woman pleads not guilty to exploitation charges

An Albert Lea woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to taking money from accounts of at least a half dozen people with disabilities at a local care provider and spending the dollars on marijuana and personal goods.

Stephanie Lynn Behrends, 28, was charged in Freeborn County District Court with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and with check forgery. Both are felonies. She gave her plea before Judge Steven Schwab.

A jury trial has been scheduled for July 14, though her next court appearance comes in mid-March.

Behrends was a program coordinator at REM Woodvale in Albert Lea at the time of the alleged misuse in 2011 and 2012. The facility houses people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Court documents state a program coordinator is in charge of managing and keeping records of the residents’ finances. There was reportedly more than $4,000 in missing and unaccounted for funds under Behrends’ control.

The criminal complaint states staff at REM Woodvale began to suspect Behrends was stealing funds from residents in the fall of 2011 when conducting monthly financial audits. There were numerous missing receipts.

The complaint says administrators began reviewing the financial records more in depth in May 2012 after a weekend staff member discovered that all of the residents’ checkbooks, savings books, ledgers and cash pouches were missing from a locked cupboard in an apartment Behrends was assigned. The documents were in Behrends’ office.

Court records state upon further review administrators found that Behrends had not made any entries in the residents’ ledgers since several months prior and that the dates recorded for bank deposits and withdrawals were often inconsistent with bank records.

Three residents had received overdraft notices, and Behrends had reportedly written out numerous checks for cash, the court files allege.

Administrators also found inconsistencies in some of the purchases reported. For example, a Walmart receipt was submitted for one resident for about $140. The receipt indicated purchases of tank tops, crop tops, polo shirts and capri pants, though the resident wore only sweatshirts and sweatpants, state the court files.

Full Article & Source:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wards of indicted guardian are missing items, relatives say

Julie Crum just wants the couch, rocking chair and riding lawn mower back, because they belonged to her father before dementia and depression overtook him.

She’s fighting through Franklin County Probate Court to get them from a Columbus lawyer who was recently indicted and is accused of stealing $41,000 from people he was appointed by the court to protect.

Paul S. Kormanik was supposed to be their guardian. Guardians control nearly every aspect of the lives of people the courts call wards.

Crum’s family is one of at least two accusing Kormanik of stealing belongings, family heirlooms and cash from his wards.

The families became suspicious after they read the five-part Dispatch series “Unguarded,” which detailed a statewide probate system in which a lack of court oversight allows unscrupulous guardians to prey on people they swore to protect. The series is available online here.

Among the worst, according to prosecutors and criminal investigators, was Kormanik.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said recently that Kormanik chose “to financially exploit Ohio’s vulnerable citizens.”

Kormanik had been responsible for the lives of nearly 400 people in central Ohio. He had amassed those wards through years of court appointments and a series of judges who were looking for easy answers to handle the increasing number of people who needed a guardian to make personal, medical and financial decisions for them.

Full Article & Source:
Wards of indicted guardian are missing items, relatives say

Costs for live-in health aides in Bergen and Passaic counties set to rise

It hasn’t been easy for Linda Leeder’s family to honor her 92-year-old father’s wish that he remain in his home, despite his advancing Alzheimer’s disease.

To raise money for the live-in aide he requires, his kids secured a reverse mortgage on the home he’s lived in for 55 years. The Franklin Lakes woman figures the financing arrangement will pay for three to four years of home care.

But hotly contested federal labor regulations taking effect Thursday could mean the aide who cares for Leeder’s father will have to be paid overtime for more of her working hours, instead of a flat daily rate.

“I think this will massacre the live-in industry,” said Lenny Verkhoglaz, principal owner of Executive Care, the Hackensack-based employer of the aide.

Verkhoglaz estimates that the cost of a round-the-clock live-in aide — about $67,000 a year — could increase by $10,000.

“Families won’t be able to afford the increases we’d have to charge,” said Verkhoglaz, who estimates that 80 percent of his clients in Bergen, Passaic and three other counties pay out of pocket, often exhausting life savings or home equity.

Worker groups and aging advocates contend that the federal government’s move to put such hourly and live-in aides on par with other protected employee groups will help build a more stable workforce. That, in turn, could lead to less turnover and burnout in a field that will need to expand with the aging of the baby boomer population — a generation more likely to demand home care over institutional care.

“If the business model of the home-care industry is so shaky that they can’t afford to pay people according to federal law, then I think that needs to be considered,” said Sarah Leberstein, staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project.

The group is one of several labor organizations that pressed the Obama administration for the new rules, which are the subject of a two-pronged legal challenge.

The debate over whether live-in home-care workers should be entitled to overtime pay for the hours they are not asleep or on a meal break has simmered for years. The controversy promises to stretch into another year, now that industry groups won a slight reprieve this week from a federal judge who struck down some of the changes scheduled for Thursday.

At issue is a 40-year-old provision of federal wage and overtime laws known as the “companionship exemption.”

The provision, enacted in 1974 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, meant that live-in or hourly domestic workers who “provide fellowship, care and protection” to an elderly or infirm person were not entitled to the minimum wage and overtime protections that other domestic workers had.

For nearly a decade, worker advocates have lobbied to do away with the exemption, which they say harkens to an era when relatives informally hired a neighbor or an acquaintance to serve as companions to the elderly. Today, home care is increasingly provided by for-profit elder-care chains that count on a cheap workforce to do a job that has become far more physically and emotionally taxing.

Full Article & Source:
Costs for live-in health aides in Bergen and Passaic counties set to rise

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Family, anguished by guardian Mary Rowan’s refusal to let them visit Nora Rodman, 84, who is dying, contacts VOD after reading Robinson story

“My mom died 7 years ago. My grandma is the last piece of her I have left. I just want me and my kids to spend the time she has left with her.”

“My grandma calls out our names all day”

Update on Gayle Robinson case: Judge orders 6-month co-guardianship including Rowan Dec. 9

Nora Rodman
Wayne County, MI—After reading VOD’s story on guardian Mary Rowan’s abuse of her ward Gayle Robinson, a third family has contacted VOD about Mrs. Nora Rodman, 84, another ward of Rowan’s.

They say Rowan is barring Mrs. Rodman’s daughters, grand-children, and great-grandchildren from seeing  her in hospitals and nursing homes. Ms. Rodman is likely dying.

“When my mom called Qualicare she was told that my grandma is not allowed to have any visitors. My grandma is in her last days with end stage CHF and renal failure. My grandma calls out our names all day and we do not understand how [Mary] Rowan can ban our family when it is clearly not in my grandma’s best interest.”

Rowan told one family member that she herself has not seen Mrs. Rodman, although guardians are required to visit every three months. She was appointed Aug. 4, 2014.

Mrs. Rodman had just been released from Providence Hospital after various other placements in nursing homes and hospitals, and is now at Qualicare on E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Family members believe Rowan is causing her needless suffering through prolonged medical procedures.

Wayne County Probate Court Judge June E. Blackwell-Hatcher, the daughter of Robert Blackwell, appointed Rowan as guardian in Mrs. Rodman’s case Aug. 4, 2014.

Mrs. Rodman’s granddaughter Amanda Ulmen was in tears as she discussed Rowan’s refusal to let her see her grandmother in the hospital. Since Rowan is listed as guardian in hospital records, hospital personnel must abide by her decisions.

“My mom died seven years ago,” Ulmen said. “My grandmother is the last piece of her that I have left. I just want me and my kids to spend what time she has left with her. Two of my aunts went to see her yesterday and were refused time with her also. This is heart-breaking, sickening, and outrageous.” (Continue reading)

Full Article & Source:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wayne Residents Among Six Home Health Agency Employees Charged with Scamming Medicaid

Press release:
Six current and former home health agency employees have been charged by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for scamming Medicaid, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

Recently, Anatoli Rountsev, 52, of Totowa, pleaded guilty to charges that he caused bills to be submitted to the Medicaid program for services that were never provided.

Rountsev pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to one count of second-degree health care claims fraud. As part of the plea agreement, the State recommended that he serve three years in state prison and pay restitution in the amount of $12,598. His sentencing is scheduled for March 27, 2015.

Rountsev admitted that between January 2008 and June 2009, he caused 463 false claims to be submitted to Medicaid for services that he did not provide. Rountsev failed to provide home health aide services for Medicaid beneficiaries on hundreds of claims since he was actually at another, unrelated job, and therefore unable to have performed any of the services, Hoffman said. The investigation determined that, as a result, Medicaid paid out $12,598.

Rountsev was a certified homemaker home health aide at Confident Care Corporation, a company that is headquartered in Hackensack and has ten satellite offices throughout New Jersey, as well as offices in Florida.

He is one of six current or former employees of Confident Care to be charged by OIFP for scamming Medicaid in a similar fashion. The others include:
  • Vladimir Faerman, 66, of Hawthorne, charged in October with 175 counts of second-degree health care claims fraud, second-degree theft by deception and third-degree Medicaid fraud. Faerman allegedly caused fraudulent claims totaling $87,616.23 to be submitted to the Medicaid program for work he never actually completed.

  • Elhan Gurban, 52, of Fort Lee, charged in July with 45 counts of second-degree health care claims fraud and one count each of third-degree Medicaid fraud and third-degree theft by deception. Gurban allegedly caused 1,413 false claims to be submitted to Medicaid, which paid out $64,125.

  • Roman Abashkin, 32, of Wayne, charged in July with 24 counts of second-degree health care claims fraud and one count each of third-degree Medicaid fraud and third-degree theft by deception. Abashkin allegedly caused 212 fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicaid, which paid out $6,664.

  • Semen Rybalov, 68, of Wayne, charged in July with 15 counts of second-degree health care claims fraud and one count each of third-degree Medicaid fraud and third-degree theft by deception. Rybalov allegedly caused 45 false claims to be submitted to Medicaid, which paid out $2,180.

  • Naum Lavnevich, 56, of Oakland charged in June with 154 counts of second-degree health care claims fraud, one count of third-degree Medicaid fraud and one count of third-degree theft by deception. Lavenich allegedly caused 178 false claims to be submitted to Medicaid, which paid out $5,614.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll‑free hotline at 1‑877‑55‑FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.

Full Article & Source:
Wayne Residents Among Six Home Health Agency Employees Charged with Scamming Medicaid

Armengau, 5 other lawyers face misconduct charges

Six Columbus-area lawyers, including one convicted of raping a client, face professional-misconduct charges before the disciplinary arm of the Ohio Supreme Court.

The filing of the cases before the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline seeking action against the lawyers’ licenses was announced this week by court officials.

A probable-cause panel recommended that suspended Columbus lawyer Javier Armengau be permanently disbarred following his conviction for raping one client and sexually assaulting two other women.

Armengau, 52, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Aug. 26. But, the disciplinary complaint against him further accuses Armengau of a laundry-list of misconduct involving at least a dozen cases.

The complaint accuses him of conflicts of interest, charging excessive fees, making false statements, failing to return client funds, dishonesty, incivility, false advertising and client trust-fund violations.

Six other local lawyers also face charges before the disciplinary board.

Stephen E. Hillman, of Dublin, was cited for misconduct involving federal income tax violations from 2009 to 2011. He was placed on six months of house arrest this year and ordered to pay $133,899 to the IRS.

Full Article & Source:
Armengau, 5 other lawyers face misconduct charges

Friday, December 26, 2014

Texas Guardians Sue the Department of Aging and Disability Services

After months of protesting and petitions, guardians of disabled Austin State Supported Living Center residents – ordered to transfer their loved ones from the place they call home – have taken their fight to court.

In June, families received a letter from the Department of Aging and Disability Services, notifying them it would be closing seven cottages at the West 35th Street SSLC, due to staffing shortages. Seventy-one residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities would need to either find placement at a community home or move to an SSLC outside of Austin – most likely Bren­ham or San Antonio, placing the disabled up to 90 miles away from their support networks. (See the Chronicle's Sept. 19 cover story "Evicted and Helpless.") The Sunset Advisory Commission separately recommended closing the Austin SSLC altogether, largely for cost-saving reasons; the final decision will be made by the Legislature. Some caretakers of severely disabled residents are concerned that the vulnerable SSLC residents would not be able to survive in a community/group home setting.

Today, of the 71 residents asked to leave the SSLC, 34 are going to a residence in the community and 24 are transferring to other SSLCs. But according to DADS spokesperson Melissa Gale, 13 have chosen "other options" – including 11 who have requested an administrative hearing to contest the proposed transfer, and guardians Stephen Wallace and Forrest Novy, who have each filed lawsuits to challenge the decision made by state health officials.

Fighting to keep his severely autistic son, Justin, at the SSLC, attorney Wallace filed suit against Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek, Deputy Commissioner Chris Traylor, and DADS Assistant Commissioner Scott Schalchlin in U.S. Western District Court in late August, alleging violations of equal protection and due process. State officials offered only two alternatives before "forced eviction": move to a community setting or to the SSLC in Brenham. Absent any compelling reason based on Justin's actual needs, Wallace charges, the option to remain at the Austin SSLC wasn't even on the table. "The state actors, without proper planning or preparation, seek to commence life-changing and possibly life threatening alterations to this severely handicapped individual's services," writes Wallace.

Other guardians contesting the eviction say they're also considering legal action. Jeanette Ball, the 90-year-old mother of a 43-year SSLC resident with brain damage and seizure disorders, said she doesn't feel her son would be able to receive equal care in a community setting and that she would not be able to make the 80-mile journey to San Antonio to visit him. "It's his home. These are the only people he knows, besides family members," said Ball. Autistic and blind Bradley Brisbane's mother, Emma, says her son has lived at the Austin SSLC for more than 40 years, and she fears for his safety if transferred. Carol Cook, a single mother of an SSLC resident with behavioral disorders and uncontrollable seizures, is also challenging the transfer. "Someone else is making these decisions and I don't have a choice," said Cook. "I think that's the worst thing."

The lawsuits, while delaying the transfers, may simply prolong the inevitable. "We know it's a David versus Goliath battle; we know we might be grasping at straws," said Justin's mother, Debra Wallace. "But what else are we supposed to do? Just give up?"

Guardians also wonder if these agency plans have been in the works well before the eviction notices. For years, the developer who owns land 75 feet from the cottages sought rezoning for multifamily housing, and in 2007, Texas Land Com­mis­sioner Jerry Patterson urged the Austin City Council to rezone the land, and the state to sell or lease the "underutilized" SSLC property to "maximize" the land value of the 95-acre tract of potentially prime Westside real estate. In May 2014, Council finally agreed to townhouse and condo zoning for the adjacent tract. A month later, state officials notified SSLC residents of the closure.

Full Article and Source:
Guardians Sue DADS

Mental Health Court Waiver Denied for Georgia Probate Judge Mays

A request for a waiver that would have allowed Rockdale County’s Probate Court judge to preside over an adult mental health court has been denied.

Probate Judge Charles K. Mays Sr. was notified in a letter from the Judicial Council of Georgia on Dec. 1 that the request was denied based on “failure to meet the requirement of ongoing judicial interaction.”
The letter goes on to point out that standards require that a Superior Court judge preside over felony courts or a judge from another class of court if that judge is designated by the chief judge of the judicial circuit.
Mays has been attempting to establish an adult mental health court for more than six months, even though he is not an attorney and does not qualify to preside over such a court. He initially applied in March for a grant of more than $360,000.
In a June 6 letter from Rockdale Chief Superior Court Judge Irwin to Rockdale County’s Finance Department, obtained by the Citizen through an Open Records request, Irwin wrote that the Probate Court in Rockdale County has no jurisdiction to operate an accountability court. Irwin also stated that he did not sign any grant proposal seeking funds for an accountability court.
According to the Judicial Council letter, in order to receive state appropriations for an accountability court, the court must be certified or have a received a waiver, for good cause, from the council.
Mays is embroiled in a legal battle related to his efforts to start and oversee an adult mental health court. Earlier this year he hired Freya Pearson as a consultant preparing grant applications for accountability courts, according to Pearson’s attorney, Michael Waldrop.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holidays can be very hard on the elderly, especially those living in facilities

Make Christmas Special this Year!

Let the forgotten know they are remembered 
 that someone truly cares!

If you can't visit...

Give the next best thing...

Give a Merry Christmas call!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sheriff Seeks Victims of Financial Exploitation

Joseph Perou - (courtey: Phelps County Sheriff's Dept.)

ROLLA, Mo. - The Phelps County sheriff is asking anyone who may have been victimized by a man jailed in Rolla on charges of financial exploitation of the elderly and forgery to contact his office.

Sheriff Rick Lisenbe said in a news release Thursday, “If you have had any type transaction with (Joseph Matthew) Perou and believe it may be fraudulent, call the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department at (573) 426-3860.”

Perou is in the Phelps County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bond in connection with the exploitation charges and $100,000 on the forgery case.

The charges stem from what the sheriff called phony or fraudulent construction contracts and a forged check. He said Perou was a suspect of multiple fraudulent construction contracts throughout the Phelps County area since January.

Full Article & Source:
Sheriff Seeks Victims of Financial Exploitation

Sentence hearing held for Orillia couple found guilty of elder abuse

Sentence hearing
Click Above for Video

An Orillia couple found guilty of not providing proper care for an elderly woman will soon learn their fate.

A sentencing hearing in the case was held in a Barrie courtroom on Friday.

Both the Crown and the defence made their pre-sentence submissions and because of the seriousness of the case the Crown is seeking a significant prison sentence.

The maximum is five years in jail; the Crown wants 18 months to two year plus probation for two more years.

Both defence lawyers are asking for a condition sentence with probation.

Diane Davy and her husband James Davy were convicted with failing to provide the necessities of life for Diane’s mother – 76-year-old Viola Simonds.

Simonds was found in her bed in the couple’s home covered in vomit, urine and feces suffering from a broken hip. She died a few months later.

Three family members offered victim impact statements Friday in court.

Sue McConnell, Simonds' daughter-in-law, said her kids were not able to get to know what kind of a woman she was and she prays that she has found peace.

When asked by the judge if they had anything to say James Davy said no and Diane Davy said she never meant any harm and did what she could.

The judge is expected to hand down his sentence in mid-January.

Full Article & Source:
Sentence hearing held for Orillia couple found guilty of elder abuse

Two men set to be sentenced after filming shocking abuse of elderly people in Lowestoft and Gorleston

Ipswich Crown Court, where the two men will be sentenced next month

Two men who hoped to make money out of filming elderly people being verbally abused are to be sentenced in January.

Ian Hatwell was filmed by Scott King as he went up to elderly people and swore at them and blew an airhorn in their faces.

The elderly victims were said to have been shocked and sickened by the abuse they suffered at the hands of Hatwell as he was filmed by King.

Today, both men pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court to using threatening behaviour and sentence was adjourned until January 12 to allow a pre-sentence report to be prepared on King and for the film footage to be seen by the sentencing judge.

At an earlier hearing, Lowestoft Magistrates heard that Hatwell, 31, of Compass Street, Lowestoft, and Scott King, 29, of Clarkson Road, Norwich, targeted elderly victims in 2011 to make a DVD of their reactions as a quick way to make money.

Their crimes came to light after officers found the DVD, which had 16 minutes of footage of mainly Hatwell abusing victims as King drove him around in a car and recorded him on camera.

A laptop computer was then found with further shocking images.

The images showed Hatwell going up to elderly people in the street and abusing them, knocking on people’s doors and blowing an airhorn straight into occupants faces, setting off a rape alarm in Tesco and throwing liquid into an elderly person’s face,

One image shows an elderly woman in Kessingland being abused and told “to have a short life”.
A victim statement said the woman “felt sick at what she had been called”.

Another victim, identified by police, was a security guard at the Pontins holiday centre in Pakefield who had a hearing aid and was seen having an airhorn blown into his face as he was filmed.

The incident left the man “shocked”.

A third victim was seen to have liquid thrown at him as he was working on a wall in Florence Road, Pakefield.

The court was told PC Kevin Durrant had investigated the images and he had found the footage “completely abhorrent”.  (Read more)

Full Article & Source:
Two men set to be sentenced after filming shocking abuse of elderly people in Lowestoft and Gorleston

Monday, December 22, 2014

Guards for guardians?

Recognize potential for greed to warp the process

There are, sadly, all too many ways to exploit the elderly, from complex investment scams to simple theft. That is one big reason guardianship laws were created -- to protect a vulnerable population. But a recent Herald-Tribune series exposed the reality that guardianships themselves sometimes become a form of abuse -- draining elders' crucial financial assets in the twilight years.

Though such cases don't represent the majority of guardianships, there are enough troubling examples to paint a clear picture of a system needing reforms. Steps should be pursued that would reduce escalating legal costs, strengthen independent oversight, resolve family conflicts before they get to court, and -- when feasible -- choose protections that are less invasive than full guardianship.

As the Herald-Tribune's Barbara Peters Smith reported in her series "The Kindness of Strangers," Florida's guardianship statute "is considered one of the best in the world, but its practical application has been criticized by advocacy groups and elder law scholars as paternalistic, ruthless and even corrupt."

Taking away control

The series focused on cases in which elders were swept (often with little or no warning) into a court system that deemed them "incapacitated," taking away their opportunity to control their own lives. 

Their assets were sold off or depleted in order to pay for care, nursing homes, attorneys' fees and such -- services that are often necessary when people present a danger to themselves or others. Yet there is a risk that less charitable motives -- such as gaining income from the ward's assets -- can enter into the push for guardianship. Failure to properly inform the ward, or relatives, of the legal process can further thwart an individual's right to dispute the action.

Full Article & Source:
Guards for guardians?

Readers respond to 'Kindness of Strangers' series

Enlightening. Scary. And sad.

These three words crop up often in the dozens of emails and phone calls I have received since the Herald-Tribune's publication of "The Kindness of Strangers," a look at elder guardianship in Florida.

The stories of people trapped and bewildered by a system designed to help them are certainly sad and scary — but I was especially happy to hear from people who are also focused on learning more about this overlooked aspect of elder justice, and arriving at workable solutions.

Some ways to make the process of protecting incapacitated elders less intrusive and more fair were touched on in Part 3 of the series.

But I've also heard from readers who want to know what they personally can do to protect themselves or loved ones from enduring the same legal tangles as the Floridians we profiled.

Having proper legal documents is a necessary first start. But when a petition for emergency temporary guardianship is filed, sometimes these written wishes can be set aside by the court, if there is any claim against their validity.

One attorney I spoke to suggested making a video of yourself while you are still fully in possession of your mental faculties. This vivid evidence that you were of sound mind and free of undue influences when you made decisions about who should handle your health care and finances, she said, can be very compelling to a judge.

And, of course, there is no substitute for clear, frank communications with your family and others you will rely on as you age. Avoiding conflict now, and making your intentions clear to everyone involved, will help your loved ones form a united front if they are ever called on to speak in your behalf.

One interesting response to our series came from Laurie Anspach, the executive director of the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights of Florida. This organization champions mental health rights, and has worked to curb the overmedication of children.

But Anspach said she sees parallels in the cases of adult wards who are medicated in long-term care facilities.

"We get a lot of hotline calls from family members whose parent has been committed through the Baker Act, and a guardian is appointed," she said.

One tactic CCHR is exploring could help delay the rush to guardianship that includes a court-ordered mental assessment. Anspach's group, consulting with attorneys, has prepared a document that withholds consent for this exam. The form is modeled on one that parents can use to refuse medical access to their children, and it is intended for use by an elder's designated health care surrogate.

"We have given it out to elders, but it's in the pilot stage," Anspach says. "I don't have any evidence yet that it's been used."

You can download the "Non-Consent Form for Elderly" at the group's website.  (Read more)

Full Article & Source:
Readers respond to 'Kindness of Strangers' series

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pasadena, TX Presbyterians Want State Agency to Return Church Assets, Allow Minister Visits

Members of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, TX are protesting the Texas Dept. of Aging and Disability Services' (DADS) lack of oversight of what they claim are their church assets, along with the four-year retention of an elderly ordained Presbyterian pastor.

Rev. John Stout,a former NASA chaplain and disabled WWII vet, helped form the 40,000-member Apollo Prayer League. APL worked with Apollo 14 astronauts to land the King James Version of the Holy Bible on the moon in 1971. The League operated under the auspices of Faith Presbyterian Church as a 501(c)3.

Now, 91, Stout, the League and the church figure prominently in a book about their roles in getting the first Bible to the moon onboard a spacecraft. "The Apostles of Apollo: The Journey of the Bible to the Moon..." by Carol Mersch.

According to court records, in October 2010, DADS took possession of Stout's assets, including various space memorabilia -- dozens of valuable lunar bibles in microfiche form that had gone to the lunar surface or circled the moon. A similar one was auctioned by Heritage Galleries in May.

The pastor and his wife, Mary Helen, were declared "incapacitated" wards of the state and relegated to the Heritage Villa Nursing Home, Dayton, TX, as federally-supported Medicaid residents. (Texas Case No. CV25849, 344th District Court. Texas Dept., 02/09/10, Order Appointing Permanent Guardian of the Person and Estate.

A DADS guardianship supervisor testified that Stout had indeed been held incommunicado in that facility. According to court documents, his computer was taken away; his mail censored; incoming and outgoing phone calls prohibited, along with stamps or writing materials, and only pre-approved visitors. Betty Duke,81, an Elder and Treasurer of Faith Presbyterian, she and a group of church parishioners visited the nursing home on Sept. 5 to visit Stout and console him in the loss of his wife, Helen, of 71 years. However, the home's administrator, Dexter Guice, denied access to the group on the grounds for "his (Stout's) own protection."

Duke mailed complaint letters Sept. 12 on church letterhead to DADS guardian Vicki Jones of Houston; DADS Commissioner John Weizenbaum, Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, TV news commentator Glenn Beck and others.

In her letter, she questioned DADS compliance with Abbott's on-line definition of elder abuse. 

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Pasadena, TX Presbyterians Want State Agency to Return Church Assets, Allow Minister Visits  

Protect older loved ones from theft

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give an older loved one doesn't come with a bow on top. It's your alert, caring eye for signs of possible abuse.

Adult children who worry their parents may be financially exploited by a relative, caregiver or friend can often spot signs when the family gets together for the December holidays. While elder fraud is often committed by relatives of the victim, relatives are also the ones most likely to come to the rescue, suggests Jim Rothrock, commissioner of the Dept. of Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

Anne See, a public benefits and elder law paralegal at Blue Ridge Legal Services, says her case load of late bears that out.

Typical financial exploitation cases

Financial exploitation of older adults can involve theft in many forms: income, cash, accounts, assets, or property, See says.

"I had a case with an elderly gentleman who was being cared for by a relative who abandoned him to a nursing home," said the paralegal. "The relative continued to get his checks. It was the man's son who found and brought his father home, and asked us to try to get the money back."

A most common situation See encounters is the misuse of an older person's money by someone who's living with them.

"They have access," she explained. "They're on the bank account. But they use it for themselves rather than the family member."

One of her current cases involves a woman in an assisted living facility whose daughter is taking her mother's income.

"It's sad. The daughter's words to me were, 'My mother never took care of me when I was little, and I need to take care of my child, so I'm going to use the money," See said.

She also finds many older people signing over their homes to children who promise to care for them, and then don't.

Some seniors come to her wanting to change their power of attorney because they've discovered it's being misused. The power of attorney to make our medical or financial decisions when we're no longer capable is a powerful instrument. You must be fully competent to give someone that power, and fully competent to change it, See says.

Unfortunately, the exploitation often occurs when the person has grown less capable. In that case, Blue Ridge Legal Services tries to help concerned family members petition the court to become their loved one's guardian and conservator.

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Protect older loved ones from theft

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Health News Flordia: Elders Trapped by Guardianship

Florida's elder guardianship program is meant to help vulnerable elders.

But Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Barbara Peters Smith recently published a series that shows the rapidly expanding system run in Florida’s probate court system ignores the rights of some.

She spoke with Health News Florida Editor Mary Shedden about the year-long investigation.

BARBARA PETERS SMITH: The series is called “The Kindness of Strangers” -- and that’s a big fear that anybody would have that instead of living with their loved ones or somebody they trust, that they would end up at the end of their lives being not just cared for by strangers but having all their decisions made by somebody who essentially doesn’t know them.

MARY SHEDDEN: These were individuals who were living independently, maybe, went to the hospital for an operation and then things spiraled out of control. They’ve lost apartments, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars to legal fees.

SMITH: Yes, and I should say that some wards are able to live in their own homes. The (court-appointed) guardian decides what that ward can afford. When a guardian is appointed, he or she comes in and the first thing they do is have all of the mail come to them instead of the ward. Then they take over all the bank accounts. They  do an inventory and they liquidate all the assets. They sell the house, the car, everything. Then they decide how nice a place this ward can afford. Can there be home care? In some cases, there is home care, but it is not home care of the person’s choosing.

SHEDDEN: It truly is someone they’ve never known, that they don’t have relationship with, making decisions because of a family feud or because there is no one.

SMITH: The Florida statutes gives preference to families as guardians. But in 2003, there were I believe there were 23 professional guardians in the state. And now there are 440. It’s definitely a growth industry.

LISTEN to the entire interview

The Kindness of Strangers

Officials: Stealing money from elderly a common abuse

YAKIMA, Wash. — A 90-year-old Sunnyside woman who had almost $20,000 stolen from her checking account is a victim of one of the more common forms of elder abuse, according to one expert.

“Financial exploitation is a significant issue,” said Lori Brown, director of Southeast Washington Aging and Long Term Care, an area agency on aging. “It is the primary issue relating to adult protective services.”

Brown and a Yakima County sheriff’s detective recommend that people find a trustworthy person — or more than one — to handle the finances of elderly relatives who may not be able to do it themselves.

Christina Contreras, 39, of Sunnyside was recently arraigned in Yakima County Superior Court on a single count of first-degree theft related to 57 unauthorized withdrawals from the woman’s checking account. Contreras worked as an in-home caregiver for the woman since August 2012, according to an affidavit filed by Sunnyside police.

Brown said in some cases it is a family member who is taking money from the elderly victim. She said the person may have relied on the grandparent or parent for money in the past, and dependency has turned into exploitation.

Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Mike Russell said his office has handled many similar cases. Part of the challenge, Russell said, is that an elderly person with memory issues may not remember if he or she authorized a family member or friend to spend money in a particular way.

Advocates for the elderly will be pushing the Legislature for funding to enhance aging services to address issues such as financial exploitation, Brown said.

She said people should consider alternatives to guardianship, which requires going to court, to help an elderly relative manage his or her affairs. A durable power of attorney that would allow a trusted family member or friend to handle financial matters is one alternative.

Russell said a simple way to reduce the risk of financial exploitation is to have more than one person working together on the finances, creating greater accountability.

The Sunnyside woman discovered the theft in May, when she asked a neighbor for help with a bank statement, according to the affidavit. The statement showed withdrawals made through an ATM, which the woman said she never used and did not know what an ATM was, the affidavit said.

Police checked the bank records and found ATM withdrawals from Nov. 5, 2013, to May 27, 2014, when Contreras was no longer employed by the woman, the affidavit said. Security camera photos from the ATM show Contreras making all but one of the transactions; the single transaction was made by another, unidentified person.

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Officials: Stealing money from elderly a common abuse

Friday, December 19, 2014

Avoid the guessing game in search for nursing home

Ron Clark of Davidsville visits with his mother, May Clark, 88
The responsibility of finding the right long-term care facility for his mother, whose memory is clouded by dementia, gnawed at Ron Clark.

Though he sometimes asks 88-year-old May Clark if she remembers him, she seems to know when her son needs consoling. She grips his thick palm, weathered from years as a power plant mechanic, and the familiar touch evokes a smile of relief.

“It’s a shock when you realize you have to put your mother in a nursing home,” he said, pausing to corral his emotions. “You know you have to do it, you don’t know where to turn …. It’s one of the most excruciating things to do, but you have to make a decision.”

Most people will face this responsibility for a friend or family member at some point in their lives as people live longer. It’s particularly likely in Pennsylvania, which has the fourth largest percentage of residents 65 and older in the country.

Often, the search leaves people dizzy with choices and worried that their selection could end up being harmful to a loved one. The horror stories of mistreatment or worse are well known.

But now there are more helpful tools than ever as government agencies face the need for improved systems of looking at care and help for families making these decisions.

The federal government is improving its ratings system of nursing homes throughout the country. In January, staffing information and quality measures that used to be self-reported by nursing homes for the Nursing Home Compare tool will instead be pulled from auditable reports.

That information will expand on the full text of inspection reports that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS] began releasing in 2012.

However, elder-care advocates and long-term care officials caution consumers against using only online tools to choose a facility. They say the No. 1 priority should be to visit a facility, not just once during the day, but a few more times, during meals and at night.

It can become a job on its own, and it has for some people, like Eileen Graham, an elder-care adviser in Southwest Pennsylvania who helped the Clarks of Davidsville find a personal-care home for their mother.

Ron Clark and his wife, Rosalyn, told Graham they valued safety and cleanliness, and hoped for a nearby facility that had the comforts of home. They also wanted it to specialize in working with residents with dementia.

Graham considered the pros and the cons of several facilities, took tours and then shared her notes with the Clarks. She also helped them access benefits for spouses of veterans. She charges $85 to $125 an hour.

Together, they decided on the Amber Hills unit of the Cambria Care Center in Ebensburg, about 25 minutes away from their Somerset County home.

“There’s a lot of stigma, that nursing homes are dark and gloomy,” Graham said. “It’s never going to be perfect ... but there are really great facilities out there.”

Where Pennsylvania stands

The most comprehensive tool to determine what nursing home may be suitable is the online Nursing Home Compare.

Users can see what health violations nursing homes have had, how many hours of care they provide daily to each resident and how many residents develop pressure sores or use antipsychotic medication.

The data also tell a story about Pennsylvania nursing homes in general.

For instance, the news website ProPublica used the data to show that Pennsylvania nursing homes have one of the lowest average rates of serious deficiencies per home in the country. In addition, 28 states have had more Medicare or Medicaid payments suspended because of violations.

On the other hand, CMS data show more than half of long-term residents become incontinent, which surpasses the national average, and Pennsylvania is home to the facility with the second-highest fine amount in the country, according to CMS.

That title is held by the Golden LivingCenter in Lancaster, which was fined more than $582,000 between January 2013 and February 2014 for persistently poor care.

For two years, it has been a Special Focus Facility, meaning it’s subject to more frequent inspections and escalating penalties, according to CMS. In November, CMS listed it among facilities that have shown improvement.

Executive Director Stephen McShane wrote in an email that the home takes “immediate action” when deficiencies are found, and he has hired additional staff and new leaders. The home is currently in compliance with all standards, he said.

With 699 nursing homes in Pennsylvania, according to Nov. 19 data, each home has averaged eight deficiencies per year over three years and three months of mandated annual inspections and complaint investigations.

The national average is six to seven deficiencies per inspection, according to CMS.

Five Harrisburg nursing homes had the highest average rate of deficiencies among the state’s 10 most-populous cities, at 16 violations per nursing home per year. It is followed by Lancaster and Scranton with averages of 10 deficiencies per home annually.

Pittsburgh matched the statewide average of eight, and Philadelphia was slightly higher with each nursing home cited with an average of nine violations a year.

PublicSource used federal data that reports the city based on the nursing home’s postal code to determine this.

While the number of deficiencies can show a pattern, it’s the type of deficiency that truly matters to Ron Barth, president and CEO of LeadingAge PA, a trade association that represents 365 not-for-profit senior service providers.

“You can get a deficiency because literally there were three burnt-out light bulbs in the facility, or you can have a deficiency because people aren’t getting fed,” he said.

The deficiencies are rated on a scale of A to L, with L being the most severe. About 85 percent of Pennsylvania violations were graded as Ds and Es, meaning there was no actual harm, just the potential for it.

Eight nursing homes were responsible for the 11 most severe violations in the state.

Forbes Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare of Pittsburgh accounted for three Ls, and Harrison Senior Living of Christiana, Pa., in Lancaster County got two scarlet letters. An L grade means the violation put several or all residents in immediate jeopardy.

Forbes earned its Ls in June for fire safety violations: Not inspecting or testing generators, not maintaining sprinkler systems, and there was no approved program for fire alarm systems. The home reported it made corrections in July.

Eric Dudik, the current administrator, declined to comment because he wasn’t at the home at the time.

In March, inspectors reported that Harrison Senior Living failed to supervise residents at risk of wandering off the premises and neglected to take action after noticing a strong gas odor. It was also cited for not having a current emergency plan. The home told inspectors it updated procedures by May.

“Our mission is to provide a high level of care for our residents,” said Harrison Saunders, chief operating officer of Harrison Senior Living. “We’re thankful to have the light shed on these deficiencies so we can correct them and turn them around, and we certainly have.” (Continue reading)

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Avoid the guessing game in search for nursing home

Business owner charged with financial exploitation

GRAND RAPIDS — A Nashwauk man is being accused of swindling more than $1 million from his late uncle who suffered from dementia.

Patrick V. Pecchia, 55, made his first appearance Monday in Itasca County District Court in Grand Rapids on one felony count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

He obtained power of attorney for his ailing uncle, Joseph L. Pecchia, in 2007 after Joseph began suffering from dementia.

Patrick Pecchia used the money to gamble, buy a new car and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card bills from 2007 until Joseph, a longtime Nashwauk resident, passed away in 2011 at age 79, according to the criminal complaint.

The complaint includes copies of canceled checks, purchases and payments made by Pecchia through his uncle’s accounts, including:

• $10,700 to purchase a new snowplow that Pecchia used to clear snow at his businesses.
• $29,295 to purchase a new Chrysler 300 car.
• $48,000 in transfers from the uncle’s account to his bank account.
• $40,844 in VISA bill payments.
• $107,062 to himself in cashier’s checks.
• $119,501 in checks for “questionable gambling.”
• $146,207 to Discover Credit Card.
• $203,701 in counter checks.
• $258,993 to Capital One Credit.
• $50,000 to an account in the name of Pecchia Boys, Inc.

The complaint also details that upon his uncle’s death, Pecchia wrote checks from his uncle’s account to accounts Pecchia had set up under the names of his sons. Investigators said Pecchia’s sons seemed “shocked” and apparently knew nothing about the uncle’s checks, according to the complaint.

Several other checks from his uncle’s account were cashed with many of them noted as gambling money. Pecchia said that he would take his uncle gambling, and that he would cover the cost of his own expenses during the trips.

Medical records clearly show that the uncle would not have benefited from traveling to a gambling location to the extent of the withdrawals that were made or that he would have been physically capable of traveling, according to the criminal complaint.

Pecchia is the owner of Pecchia Boys, Inc, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State website. He is also listed as the owner of the Nashwauk Bottle Shop, Pecchia Clean Car Wash and Nashwauk Little Store.

Judge Jon Maturi Monday released Pecchia on conditions that he stay in contact with his attorney, report for booking at the Itasca County Jail and remain law abiding. His next appearance is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Phone messages left Tuesday for both Pecchia and his attorney, John Undem, were not returned.
The crime is a felony that could bring a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

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Business owner charged with financial exploitation

Newton woman charged with elderly exploitation

Houston County Sheriff’s investigators recently arrested a woman, charging her with financial exploitation of the elderly.

Court records show sheriff’s investigators arrested Terri Reeves Doughtie, 51, of Newton, on Tuesday, and charged her with felony exploitation of the elderly.

Records show investigators charged Doughtie with allegedly committing exploitation of the elderly by taking $4,685.19. Records show deputies charged Doughtie with stealing the money from the victim between Dec. 21, 2011 and Dec. 10 of this year.

Doughtie was released from custody at the Houston County Jail after posting $30,000 bail.

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Newton woman charged with elderly exploitation

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Congratulations to 2015 duPont Award Winner WFTS Tampa for: Incapicated: Florida's Guardianship Program

WFTS-TV, Tampa

Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship Program

An investigative team uncovers rampant abuse and fraud by court appointed guardians

WFTS-TV’s ABC Action News I-Team zealously followed up on a tip by launching an in-depth
Incapacitated_florida_s_guardianship_program-_dupont_awardsinvestigation into Florida’s court-appointed guardianship program, which affects tens of thousands of people. The resulting series of reports exposed astonishing stories of elderly people stripped of their rights and property by self-serving “guardians.” Their homes, personal property and vehicles were often sold for a small percentage of their actual worth and then resold by guardians’ friends for huge profits. The team first followed 99-year-old Willi Berchau, who had been locked into a dementia ward after being determined “incapacitated’ three times by panels hired by the court. It was immediately clear that Berchau was not incapacitated, but was an intelligent, alert remarkable man. The reporters searched through records, spoke with family members and confronted some of the guardians with clear evidence of their misdeeds. As a result, this summer a new guardianship reform bill led to legislative changes to help protect others. 
Adam Walser, investigative reporter; Fran Gilpin, investigative producer; Randy Wright, I-Team photographer; Doug Iten, executive producer of Special Reports.

2015 DuPont Awards
Note:  NASGA congratulates Investigative Reporter Adam Walser and the fantastic staff of the ABC Action News I-Team for this prestigious award and we extend our deepest gratitude for their hard-hitting investigative series on the subject of guardianship abuse.   

The power of the press not only freed wrongfully guardianized  Willi Berchau, but it informed the unwary public who may not have ever heard of adult guardianship abuse, and now - thanks to this fine reporting, can take measures to protect themselves.  Thank you, ABC Action News I-Team!

Governor to discuss financial exploitation law

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Maggie Hassan is going to be discussing a measure she signed into law that strengthens the penalties for financially exploiting the elderly and other vulnerable New Hampshire citizens.

The bill establishes clearer definitions of the crime of financial exploitation, which includes intentionally abusing the trust of an elderly or impaired adult to gain access to their money and assets.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2015, makes it a crime to use the person's money or assets for personal gain rather than to provide them with food, clothing, shelter and other care.

Penalties range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the amount of money diverted. The law also requires anyone convicted to make restitution.

Hassan was scheduled to discuss the law Monday morning at the Statehouse.

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Governor to discuss financial exploitation law

Personal injury lawyer is indicted, accused of stealing $600K in client settlements

A 62-year-old New York City personal injury lawyer has been indicted on charges that he stole more than $600,000 from client settlements in less than six years, the Manhattan district attorney announced Monday.

Stephen Krawitz is charged with a scheme to defraud and grand larceny after allegedly providing no money at all to 16 clients for whom he negotiated settlements and wrongfully withholding money from at least two other clients. The indictment and filed court documents also say there was a shortfall in his attorney trust account, according to a press release from the DA’s office.

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Personal injury lawyer is indicted, accused of stealing $600K in client settlements