Saturday, February 7, 2015

Tara Wilson: The Long Lasting and Lifetime Effect of Guardianship Abuse

Watching my mother being abused by a horribly corrupt judicial system, uncaring politicians, greedy attorneys and family members that are supposed to love one another has truly been a life changing experience for me. I worked hard to save her from being placed in nursing homes. The first two times I managed to bring her home; the third time was just too much for her and the fear took her life. 

My grandchildren, as young as they are, remember their great-grandma. The guardian, Mary Giordano, did everything she could to isolate my mother from them and from me. They do not yet know what happened but they will. This is not a deep dark family secret; it is America’s dirty little secret. 

While for me the tears still appear at the oddest moment, the what ifs still linger in my mind and at times keep me up at night, the long lasting effects of guardianship abuse was also life changing for my daughter. It is often said that some good ultimately comes out of bad and in my Mom’s case, I believe this to be true.    
by Tara Wilson

November 6, 2014
Normally, as parents to young children we are concerned with protecting our little ones; whether that is from falling, the common cold, or which guardian would raise them in the event of our incapacity or passing.  As our children get older and learn to protect themselves, we are often reminded that we need to look out for our other loved ones as well.  So while our children are becoming more independent, our aging parents and grandparents are in need of more support and protection.  We fall into that “sandwich generation” where we are caring for our children and our own parents.

When I was pregnant with my son I began to notice that my grandmother was starting to forget more and more.  I vividly remember the day that I thought, she needs help now.  I was sitting at my office desk overlooking the Boston Harbor late one morning and picked up the phone to call her as I always did.  She was watching “The Price Is Right” with volume so high that it sounded as if the tv was in my own office, not her kitchen 250 miles away. My grandmother, who worked as a teller at Chemical Bank and who managed her family’s finances like a cross between a CFO and extreme couponer for over 50 years, told me she missed a credit card payment.  While the credit card fee was only $29.00 and the interest was minimal for her purchases at Kohl’s and Macy’s, it was unheard of for her.  I offered to call the credit card company and the fees were waived within minutes.  However, this was the beginning of the end for the financial astuteness that ruled her life.

My grandmother signed a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy when she realized she couldn’t quite handle everything.  While I tried to give my grandmother other advice, my grandmother believed she would be fine with the minimal planning she put in place before I entered law school; she and my grandfather had prepared simple wills naming each other as beneficiaries and their three children as successors.  Unfortunately, within a few months, my grandmother got very sick and my mother’s siblings had a very different view on how my grandmother should be cared for (or not cared for as the case may be).

Full Article and Source:
The Long Lasting and Lifetime Effect of Guardianship Abuse

See Also:
How New York's Elderly Lose Their Homes to Guardianship

NASGA:  Dorothy Wilson, New York Victim

NASGA Member Diane Wilson, Dorothy Wilson, Tricked and Dumped in a Facility, Begs to Go Home

SD: Bill to Form Task Force to Study Elder Abuse Passes Committee

A bill that would create a state task force dedicated to studying elder abuse has passed its first committee.

The proposal brought by Sen. David Novstrup would establish an interim committee to study the issue and prevalence of financial, emotional and abuse of elders in the state.

The bill was spurred by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court David Gilertson. Gilertson urged lawmakers to take up the study in his State of the Judiciary speech this year.

He says elder abuse is more common than most people think and that states nationwide are starting to take action on the issue.

The bill to create to the elder abuse task force passed out of the Senate Retirement Laws committee unanimously Wednesday. It now goes to the Senate floor.

Bill to Form Task Force to Study Elder Abuse Passes Committee

Woman Charged with Stealing $138k From Vulnerable Adult

A Rochester woman accused of stealing more than $138,000 from an elderly woman has been charged with six counts of felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

The investigation began Oct. 6, when the woman and her daughter told law enforcement that they had recently discovered the victim's bank accounts were empty. They suspected Kaiser — who had power of attorney to make financial decisions for the woman — had spent the money on herself.

Kaiser had provided the family with a financial statement that purported to show there were still funds in the account; according to the criminal complaint. Authorities were advised by a bank representative that the document was likely fraudulent.

According to the criminal complaint, $61,000 was taken in 2012; more than $51,615 was taken in 2013; and nearly $19,000 was taken through September 2014.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Charged With Stealing $138,000 From Vulnerable Adult

Friday, February 6, 2015

Woman in Guardianship Series, "The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida" is Free!

All the rights that most adults take for granted — to spend their own money, to travel, to vote, to marry, to enjoy dinner out at a Red Lobster — once again belong to Linda Bous.

Bous, 67, did not hesitate today when 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Charles Williams asked her if she wanted to say anything at the hearing to restore her rights and terminate a full adult guardianship of more than nine months. 
A small and soft-voiced woman born in Scotland, she spoke out clearly and briefly about the injustices she believes were done to her.
Distraught from her husband's death in January 2014, Bous had been found by a medical team to be lacking capacity to make her own decisions and was placed by her emergency temporary guardian in an assisted-living facility. In October, her desperate phone call to the Herald-Tribune set in motion the legal process that led to her freedom today. 
“It was a terrible loss, to lose my husband and best friend of almost 30 years,” Bous told the judge. “But if I had had my rights at that time, none of this would have happened.”
The Sarasota resident acknowledged that when someone from the Department of Children and Families visited her home, she was ill and needed assistance. But with help, she said, she could have handled the paperwork for her husband's estate and resumed her life without him.
Before today's hearing, Bous' court-appointed attorney, Marc Soss, returned her house keys and some identification cards. Williams ruled that Bous' guardian must provide a full accounting of all her belongings.
“The system does have checks and balances, and you have an excellent lawyer in Mr. Soss,” Williams told Bous, adding, “Good luck.”
Bous' former guardian, present with her attorney, also wished her luck when the hearing ended. Bous responded with a wry smile. But then she planted a kiss on the cheek of Soss as he gave her copies of documents in her case file — papers she had never been allowed to see.

Full Article and Source:
Woman in Guardianship Series is Free 

See Also:
Woman in "Kindness of Strangers:  Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida" May Get to See Her Home

No Police Accountability in Police Shooting of Illinois 95-Year-Old WWII Vet

By John Kass
IF you've ever heard the sound of a broom on a shop floor, sweeping up right before closing time, you would have heard it in the raspy voice of Cook County Associate Judge Luciano Panici reading his decision in the Wrana case. 

It wasn't crumbs or dust bits or sawdust from under the chopping block. Instead, he was sweeping accountability for one human life, and perhaps saving another life in the process. 

That was the effect of his decision in the case of Park Forest police Officer Craig Taylor, charged with felony reckless conduct in the July 2013 shooting of John Wrana, the 95-year-old World War II veteran who died after being shot four times at close range with beanbag rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun.

"It is a tragedy whenever there is loss of life that follows a confrontation," Panici began, reading from his papers in a South Side voice, a voice like my own, our vowels aligned by neighborhood. 

Panici had frowned from the moment he began presiding over the case. But on Wednesday he'd stopped frowning. He offered no admonition to the police officers involved.

And Taylor walked. 

"The force used by Craig Taylor was not excessive," Panici said. "There was nothing reckless. There was nothing criminal about his actions." 

There were five cops in Wrana's room at the Victory Centre assisted living facility. Wrana had a knife and a shoehorn and a cane. They had guns and a riot shield and Tasers and muscle and youth and that 12-gauge Mossberg pump-action police shotgun loaded with beanbag rounds.       

They're called "less-lethal" rounds, since the rounds aren't designed to penetrate the skin and explode, but merely to thump the body and put it down. Police in Ferguson, Mo., are experimenting with similar technology, where anger and fire and protests and looting erupted after the police killing of Michael Brown. 

But there were no protests for John Wrana, were there? World War II veterans didn't form up and scream. That's not their way. They're old and dying every day. And then there was that bit from Taylor's defense counsel, Terry Ekl, who said he was sick and tired of hearing about Wrana's war service. 

Ekl is an excellent lawyer, one of the best around, with amazing skills of argument. He's so good he could argue a 5-pound chunk of bologna right through the smallest buttonhole on your lapel, and you wouldn't even taste it.

"I've heard enough about World War II," Ekl said during the trial. "It's nothing but an attempt to create more sympathy for Mr. Wrana." 

But John Wrana didn't get any sympathy, did he? Not really.

He was old and delirious, suffering from a suspected urinary tract infection, which can lead to delusions. He didn't want to be taken to the hospital. He waved a knife and a shoehorn at cops. He swore at them. And they said they were afraid for their very lives. 

They didn't give him sympathy. They didn't give him respect. And at trial, his service to his country was deemed irrelevant. 

But they did give John Wrana something: 

They gave him four beanbag rounds to the abdomen, chest and arms at a range of 6 to 8 feet, with Taylor racking rounds and pulling the trigger, pumping and firing and pumping and firing. 

Part of the old man's intestinal wall ruptured, and he bled out. 

In his decision, it was clear Judge Panici bought into the defense's argument that Wrana prompted his own death by refusing surgery that could have repaired the rupture.

True, Wrana refused it, personally and through his stepdaughter. But focusing on that alone is dealing with only half the truth of the situation. 

Wrana had asked the doctor if he could be guaranteed he wouldn't end up on a ventilator in a vegetative state, and the stepdaughter has told me that the doctor would not make that guarantee. 

So John Wrana said to let him go. And that's what they did. They let him go. He didn't want it that way. But he didn't want to end his days with tubes down his throat. 

But in court and out of it, I got the sense from the legal experts that Wrana had killed himself. 

If only he'd obeyed officers. If only he hadn't become angry when they shot the Taser at him and failed. If only he hadn't waved that knife or the shoehorn that the terrified cops thought was the machete of a jungle ninja warrior. 

If only. If only. 

Then maybe they wouldn't have shot him down in his own room and then handcuff him to a chair and taken photos of him bleeding on the carpet. 

The problem with this case from the beginning was that Taylor was alone in court. But he wasn't alone in Wrana's room. 

They were other cops with him, formed up in "stack" formation behind the guy with the riot shield, so they could rush the old man two weeks shy of his 96th birthday, that deadly ninja who terrified them so. 

By charging only Taylor, and not his superior, the whole thing seemed unfair. 

I didn't want Taylor to go to prison. 

But I don't think he should be a police officer — any more than the commander who set up the stupid attack plan. 

A guilty verdict could have ruined Taylor's life, and those of his wife and children, and I didn't want that either. 

But there's got to be some accountability for what happened to John Wrana. 

And there is none. 

All accountability, all official shame, all official sorrow, it was all just swept away, by those broom stalks in Judge Panici's voice. And that's the tragedy.
No Police Accountability in Police Shooting of WWII Vet, 95

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Woman in "The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida" May Get to See Her Home

Linda Bous, 67, has been living since May in a locked assisted-living facility where her court-appointed guardian placed her — but this could be the day her life begins to open up again.

In its December series, “The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida,” the Herald-Tribune described her struggle to have her rights restored. Restricted to using the facility’s shared telephone and unable to retain a lawyer, she called the newspaper in October and asked for help.

This afternoon she is scheduled to leave her tiny room in the facility, and see her Sarasota home again for the first time in more than eight months.

No new documents have been filed in her case, but according to her court-appointed attorney, Marc Soss, 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams will waive the hearing to restore Bous’ rights, and a “joint stipulation” has been prepared in which her guardian would agree to a full restoration.
This would leave Bous once again in charge of her own destiny, free to begin the long process of reclaiming her assets and her personal life after more than nine months as a ward of the state. She hopes to live with her sister-in-law, Jane McElree, while she reassembles the pieces of her existence.

Since April — when she was still reeling from the death of her husband in January — Bous has been under guardianship, with no right to make decisions for herself. A court ruling declared her to be incapacitated after a hearing in June that she did not know she could attend, held after she had already been removed from the house she and her husband had shared.

Even now, it is not clear who owns the three-bedroom house on a quiet, leafy street in Sarasota. Bous’ husband of nearly 27 years — Joseph Anton Bous, a longtime coach in Sarasota schools — died at the age of 66, leaving no will, and the house is in his name. Bous’ guardian was made personal representative of his estate, which has not been settled.

Her husband’s death left Bous devastated for months, unable to eat properly or even pay the bills. Someone apparently placed an anonymous call to Adult Protective Services, the state agency charged with cases of elder abuse or neglect. Bous remembers a nice man who came by and arranged to have her electricity turned back on.

Bous said this fall that when she first talked with her court-appointed emergency guardian, Ellen Himes, her impression was that she was going to the facility for a few weeks’ rest and recuperation.

“We were sitting out in front of my house,” Bous recalled, “and she said, ‘There’s a place I know of and they have a room that’s open, and maybe you should go there just for a little while. It will help you feel better. Take a few clothes.’ ”

Himes said in December that she could not discuss Bous’ case specifically. But she said helping a ward make the transition from an unsafe environment often requires tact.

“I never tell them that they’ll never go back to their homes,” she said. “I try to guide them around it in a better way, like, ‘You’re going to go live in a resort now,’ as opposed to, ‘You’re not going back to your house because it’s too big and you can’t handle it anymore.’ ”

Bous says now that she worries about the condition she will find her house in, and what has become of her three cats.

Full Article and Source:
Woman in Guardianship Series May Get to See Her Home

Ann Freedman: California's Assisted Suicide Bill Has No Safeguards for Elder Abuse or For Those Who Change Their Minds

On the surface, if you only consider the wishes of a single individual, assisted suicide legislation might seem reasonable, and the media flurry surrounding the case of Brittany Maynard has made it seem that way.

But it is important to look at the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy for all Californians, particularly those who might not have a strong support system; access to health care, palliative care and hospice; or the benefit of a loving, caring family. Assisted suicide legislation has many unintended consequences that can impact the vast majority of us.

As a former hospital social worker for many years, my primary concern is for individuals who might feel pressured into ending their lives. Elder abuse in the United States is rampant, and the vast majority of the perpetrators are family members. I have worked with wonderful, supportive family members, but not all that I have worked with were like this. Some were abusive and stole money from their disabled and elderly relatives.

Nothing in the proposed assisted suicide law protects patients when family pressures, whether financial or emotional, distort the ill person’s choice. And nothing prevents an heir, who stands to benefit from the patient’s death, from helping the patient sign up for the lethal dose.

No assisted suicide “safeguard” can ever protect against coercion. In this era of managed care, will those living with a disability and the seriously ill be more likely offered lethal prescriptions in place of medical treatment? A prescription for 100 Seconal tablets costs far less than most medical treatments, especially considering the cost of long-term care for someone living with a disability.
This scenario has already become a reality in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal.

The oncologist for cancer patient Barbara Wagner prescribed a specific chemotherapy to extend her life, which was her choice. Her insurance provider, Oregon’s state-run health plan, denied coverage of the treatment but offered, in writing, to pay for her assisted suicide. The same thing happened to Randy Stroup, also of Oregon. When assisted suicide is legal, it becomes just another treatment option.

Full Article and Source:
California's Bill Has No Safeguards for Elder Abuse for Those Who Change Their Minds

Read more here:

Read more here:

Tom Benson's Family Files Suit Against Saints, Pelican's Owner LA/TX

A day after revealing that Tom Benson announced his wife, Gayle, would seize control of the NFL's New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans upon his death, his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, and other family members have filed a lawsuit to block the change.

The news was first reported by Jeff Duncan of, who said the lawsuit deems Benson mentally incompetent and claims Gayle Benson is “manipulating” her husband. Benson, 87, married Gayle, who is 20 years his junior, in 2004.

Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV provides Benson’s response to the lawsuit:

Full Article and Source:
Tom Benson's Family Files Suit Against Saints, Pelican's Owner LA/TX

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ex-health care provider pleads not guilty in elder abuse case

Labarbara Deshay Currin
FLORENCE — A former employee at a Florence nursing home accused of abusing an elderly patient pleaded not guilty, officials said.

An attorney representing Labarbara Deshay Currin, 27, 608 N. Third St., Pulaski, Tennessee, waived her formal arraignment Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree elderly abuse and neglect.

A Lauderdale grand jury indicted Currin, who formerly lived on East Tombigbee Street in Florence, in December.

After the arraignment hearing, Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Gil Self placed the case on the May 18 criminal court docket.

Authorities said Currin is accused of abusing a 96-year-old patient while she was a health care provider at Glenwood Nursing Home in Florence, where she formerly worked.

The abuse reportedly occurred Aug. 10 and was reported to authorities by Glenwood officials, according to Florence police Detective Kevin Jackson.

According to the indictment, Currin did “intentionally abuse” and caused physical injury to the woman by “grabbing or twisting her arm, hitting and thumping her on the head.”

Glenwood officials said at the time of the arrest that they have a “zero tolerance policy with regard to abuse” and that Currin was immediately suspended while the allegations were investigated.

Billingsley said according to reports, the woman had multiple knots on her head and a bruise on her arm.

Currin is accused of becoming aggravated with the woman and hitting her.

Warrants were issued for Currin’s arrest in August. Members of the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Region Fugitive Task Force located her in Pulaski on Dec. 8 and arrested her.

She is out of jail on bail totaling $6,000.

Second-degree elder abuse is a Class B felony and is punishable by 2-20 years in prison if convicted.

Full Article & Source: 
Ex-health care provider pleads not guilty in elder abuse case

See Also:
Former nurse is charged

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NY: Chief Justice Lippman Backs Reform of Grand Jury, Attorney Discipline

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said Friday he is preparing proposals to change the state's multi-jurisdictional attorney discipline system and reform disclosure rules for grand juries to make their work more transparent.
Lippman declined to give details of his proposals in an interview after his speech, but said they would be forthcoming during his State of the Judiciary address in Albany on Feb. 17.

In providing glimpses of the initiatives to members of the New York State Bar Association's House of Delegates at the New York Hilton Midtown, the chief judge said his proposals would address what he called the most pressing problem facing the bar and the courts: public confidence in the criminal justice system and the courts.

"This crisis threatens, really, everything we stand for," Lippman told the state bar leaders.

"It is so important to the future of justice in our state, and I urge the state bar to look top to bottom at criminal justice reform to ensure that we continue to have the confidence of the public," he said. "I would urge the house and the association to not be bystanders in the dialogue that's going on about making sure that the criminal justice system is transparent and fair to all."

Full Article and Source:
Lippman Backs Reform of Grand Jury, Attorney Discipline

Guardianship bill clears panel

New protections could be coming for Floridians who end up under a guardian’s supervision because of illness or mental incapacitation.

The proposed law still has a long way to go, but it received unanimous support Thursday from a Florida House panel.

“This is a very emotional issue. You can hear the anguish in voices of the family members who are appearing before us,” said Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples lawyer and Republican who is crafting the legislation. “I want to take the emotion out of it and create a bill that works and that will make our guardianship process better.”

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee strongly backed Passidomo’s bill (HB 5), while a similar bill (SB 360), sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, is pending in the Senate.

The legislative action follows a December series in the Herald-Tribune — “The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida” — that detailed cases of people who believe they were denied due process in court and afterward.

The series highlighted the potential for conflicts of interest among judges, attorneys, guardians, health care providers and other business people who work closely within the system. Because wards’ cases are confidential, there is often little opportunity for oversight.

Sam Sugar, an Aventura physician who founded Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, called the House bill “a very good step in the right direction.”

Sugar said one of the measure’s strengths is that guardians who abuse their wards could face criminal charges. He said he would like to see a stronger role for local state attorneys.

Among the new provisions in the bill is a requirement that families receive at least a 24-hour notice before an emergency guardian is appointed — although the bill does provide for that requirement to be waived in some cases.

The bill also would prohibit the emergency guardians — in most cases — from becoming the permanent guardians. Passidomo said that provision is aimed at ending the practice of “trolling,” in which would-be guardians seek an emergency appointment that they then can convert into a permanent guardianship.

Another problem cited by advocates are “stay-away orders” that prevent family members from having any contact with the ward — based on the claim that family members could be harmful to the ward.

Alan Sayler of Pinellas Park said the stay-away orders are “one of the biggest problems” in the system and that they “isolate from the family and there’s no relief for that.”

Sayler said there needs to be more legal justification for imposing those orders on the families. “They should have to come forward and present evidence and state why they think this is harmful to the ward,” he said.

Under the bill, families would be able to petition the court for a review of visitation rights. But Sugar urged Passidomo to make the reviews mandatory if requested.

The bill will require guardians to keep more accurate records about their wards. But Sugar and the other family advocates said secrecy is a big problem in the system.

“Frankly we’re all flying in the dark here,” Sugar said. “Nobody in this room can tell me how many guardianships there are in the state of Florida.”

Passidomo said she has been meeting with a group of elder-law attorneys, advocates and others since the summer in developing the legislation. The House also held a workshop on the bill earlier this month.

She said she remains open to all the suggestions in improving the legislation as it moves through its next two committees — the Judiciary Committee and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee — and then to the House floor.

“I want this bill to be the best bill we can pass,” Passidomo said. “I may not agree with everything but I’m going to listen.”

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship bill clears panel

Oglethorpe County woman charged with exploiting elderly Danielsville man

Crystal Reid
A former employee of a restaurant in Danielsville is charged with stealing more than $20,000 from an elderly man with mental disabilities, whom she befriended through her workplace, according to a Danielsville Police Department report.

Oglethorpe County resident Crystal Dawn Reid, 32, of Hammond Court, is charged with felony theft by deception and exploitation of an elderly and disabled person. The victim, a 74-year-old man who lives in downtown Danielsville, frequented the Subway restaurant in Danielsville, where he met Reid, according to Police Chief Brenan Baird.

“She worked at the Subway and that’s how she came to know him. They didn’t know each other prior to that,” Baird said.

Over a period of six months, Reid took about $21,115 from the man and used it for herself and her family, according to the incident report. After police began investigating the complaint, they were able to retrieve $4,900 cash and seize a car purchased with money she took, police said.

Authorities didn’t offer details on how Reid got money from the victim.

Due to his mental capabilities, the suspect didn’t think anyone would believe she was taking his money, according to Baird.

Full Article & Source:
Oglethorpe County woman charged with exploiting elderly Danielsville man

Warrior woman charged with using elderly relative's credit card for more than $20,000 in shopping sprees

Nakia Michelle Marsh
Gardendale Police have arrested a woman from Warrior, charging her with running up a bill of more than $20,000 on the credit card of an elderly woman.

Nakia Michelle Marsh, 37, was arrested on charges of financial exploitation of an elderly person, first-degree theft of property and two counts of identity theft.

The investigation began in November of last year, when the department was first notified of the possible fraud. Detective Jimmy Unangst determined that Marsh was the person responsible for more than 100 fraudulent charges on the victim's card. The charges ranged from utility bills to trips, car payments and visits to the beauty salon.

The victim is related to Marsh, GPD Lt. Bryan Lynch said in a press statement.

Marsh was arrested on Thursday. She is held in the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $400,000 bond.

Full Article & Source: 
Warrior woman charged with using elderly relative's credit card for more than $20,000 in shopping sprees

Monday, February 2, 2015

To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients

Dino and Lillian Palermo
Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she did.

Mr. Palermo, who was the lead singer in a Midtown nightclub in the 1960s when her elegant tango first caught his eye, now regularly rolls his wife’s wheelchair to the piano at the Catholic nursing home in Manhattan where she ended up in 2010 as dementia, falls and surgical complications took their toll. He sings her favorite songs, feeds her home-cooked Italian food, and pays a private aide to be there when he cannot.

But one day last summer, after he disputed nursing home bills that had suddenly doubled Mrs. Palermo’s copays, and complained about inexperienced employees who dropped his wife on the floor, Mr. Palermo was shocked to find a six-page legal document waiting on her bed.

The Palermos at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home

It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.

Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step. Guardianship cases are difficult to gain access to and poorly tracked by New York State courts; cases are often closed from public view for confidentiality. But the Palermo case is no aberration. Interviews with veterans of the system and a review of guardianship court data conducted by researchers at Hunter College at the request of The New York Times show the practice has become routine, underscoring the growing power nursing homes wield over residents and families amid changes in the financing of long-term care.

In a random, anonymized sample of 700 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan over a decade, Hunter College researchers found more than 12 percent were brought by nursing homes. Some of these may have been prompted by family feuds, suspected embezzlement or just the absence of relatives to help secure Medicaid coverage. But lawyers and others versed in the guardianship process agree that nursing homes primarily use such petitions as a means of bill collection — a purpose never intended by the Legislature when it enacted the guardianship statute in 1993.

At least one judge has ruled that the tactic by nursing homes is an abuse of the law, but the petitions, even if they are ultimately unsuccessful, force families into costly legal ordeals.

“It’s a strategic move to intimidate,” said Ginalisa Monterroso, who handled patient Medicaid accounts at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home until 2012, and is now chief executive of Medicaid Advisory Group, an elder care counseling business that was representing Mr. Palermo in his billing dispute. “Nursing homes do it just to bring money.”

“It’s so cruel,” she added. “Mr. Palermo loves his wife, he’s there every single day, and they just threw him to the courts.”

Brett D. Nussbaum, a lawyer who represents Mary Manning Walsh and many other nursing homes, said Mr. Palermo’s devotion to his wife was irrelevant to the decision to seek a court-appointed guardian in July, when the billing dispute over his wife’s care reached a stalemate, with an outstanding balance approaching $68,000.

“The Palermo case is no different than any other nursing home bill that they had difficulty collecting,” Mr. Nussbaum said, estimating that he had brought 5,000 guardianship cases himself in 21 years of practice. “When you have families that do not cooperate and an incapacitated person, guardianship is a legitimate means to get the nursing home paid.”

Guardianship transfers a person’s legal rights to make some or all decisions to someone appointed by the court — usually a lawyer paid with the ward’s money. It is aimed at protecting people unable to manage their affairs because of incapacity, and who lack effective help without court action. Legally, it can supplant a power of attorney and a health care proxy.

Although it is a drastic measure, nursing home lawyers argue that using guardianship to secure payment for care is better than suing an incapacitated resident who cannot respond.

Mr. Palermo, 82, was devastated by the petition, brought in the name of Sister Sean William, the Carmelite nun who is the executive director of Mary Manning Walsh. “It’s like a hell,” he said last fall, speaking in the cadences of the southern Italian village where he grew up in poverty in a family of eight. “Never in my life I was sued for anything. I just want to take care of my wife.”

A court evaluator eventually reported that Mr. Palermo was the appropriate guardian, and questioned why the petition had been filed. But the matter still dragged on, and Mr. Palermo, who had promised to pay any arrears once Medicaid completed a recalculation of the bill, grew distraught as his expenses fighting the case reached $10,000.

In the end, Medicaid’s recalculation put his wife’s monthly copay at $4,558.54, almost $600 less than the nursing home had claimed, but still far more than the $2,642 Mr. Palermo had been paying under an earlier Medicaid calculation. As soon as the nursing home cashed his check for the outstanding balance, it withdrew the guardianship petition.

“They chose to use a strong-arm method, asking for somebody to be appointed to take over her funds, hoping for a rubber stamp to do their wishes,” said Elliott Polland, Mr. Palermo’s lawyer.

Many judges go along with such petitions, according to lawyers and others involved in the process. One judge who has not is Alexander W. Hunter Jr., a longtime State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx and Manhattan. In guardianship cases in 2006 and 2007, Justice Hunter ordered the nursing homes to bear the legal costs, ruling they had brought the petitions solely for the purpose of being paid and stating that this was not the Legislature’s intent when it enacted the statute, known as Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law.  (Continue Reading)

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To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients

Dothan man heads to prison, faces 2nd trial for exploiting the elderly

Williams admitted a few weeks ago that he exploited the elderly in Coffee County, and court documents show he took $8,000.00 from a woman who paid him to do yard work.

"Willie entered what we call a best interest plea. It was just in his best interest to go ahead and take this deal,” said Clay Wadsworth, Williams' attorney.

Williams was sentenced to 20 years and was ordered to serve three years in prison, followed by probation. If he doesn't comply with court orders and pay the money back he could go back to prison.

"We just had some issues with the case, and Mr. Williams understood what was going on, and with him being a habitual offender, it was just in his best interest to go ahead and take this plea,” Wadsworth said.

"We're satisfied, the victim and her family are satisfied, and we are very serious about people that exploit our elderly. We feel like we're going to prosecute them every chance we get,” said John Folmar, the assistant district attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit.

Williams must now be tried in Geneva, where he's accused of doing the same thing to two other women.

"Often times, the elderly are more trusting, often times, they have pools of money, hard earned savings they need for their care, and we're serious about people that come and take advantage of them," Folmar said.

And while Williams' sentence could have been more harsh, Folmar said it sends a message: taking advantage of senior citizens isn't taken lightly.

Williams will stand trial in Geneva County in March.

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BYU autism conference offers help

PROVO -- There is a no-man’s land in which a child is no longer a child, but has yet to become an adult.

For many it is a brief period of time. For those with autism it can last a lifetime.

Brigham Young University offered a conference on best practices for autism as it relates to adolescents. It was held Friday at the university’s conference center.

A session addressed the transition process in education, including post-secondary education supports and programs. One presenter spoke about legal issues, particularly when the autistic individual is reaching the age of 18 when most consider him or her an adult. How an individual with autism relates to law enforcement was also addressed, as were services for adolescents on the autism spectrum disorder and how they relate to family members.

Most of the attendees were from the professional world -- physicians, nurses, psychologists, school psychologists, educators, and speech and language pathologists were among those specifically invited. Presenters came from universities and the legal and law enforcement worlds.

At least one had first-hand knowledge of the subject. Lisa Thornton is an attorney and the mom of an 11-year-old who has the disorder.

“Parents do everything we can,” she said. “Most families don’t know how to plan for the transition time when they are 18 or 22.”

She pointed out some of the options available to those on the spectrum. Those include attending college and serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both educational institutions and the LDS Church have options available for afflicted students. Utah Valley University in Orem, Scenic View in Provo and The Curtis Center, soon to open in Lehi, are examples.

Legal documents Thornton recommended were a special needs trust, letters of guardianship, power of attorney, advance health care directive, will, revocable trust and a life care plan or letter of intent. She is willing to send copies of the special needs trust and letter of intent to those who email her at

When someone turns 18, he or she is considered an adult. Three months prior to that time, those who feel a need to create a guardianship for a disabled individual should begin the process, Thornton said.

There are two types of guardianships -- limited and full. Just as autism has a spectrum of how severely people may be affected, there is a spectrum of needs that an autistic adult may have.

Utah generally tends to favor limited guardianships, but about 90 percent of the guardianships for a disabled child who has turned 18 are full guardianships, Thornton said.

She urged parents of children on the autism spectrum to get help to ascertain their condition.

“I see my daughter differently from what others see her,” Thornton said. “You might want to talk to a school psychologist, counselor, physician or other to get a full picture.”

Thornton summed up how she and many parents feel.

“I want my daughter to live her life to the fullest, but I want her to have a safety net for when she falls,” she said.

The conference appeared to be a success, said one of the organizers, Terisa Gabrielsen.

“We are very pleased with the turnout and the quality of the presenters,” she said.

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BYU autism conference offers help

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Legal Guardian Indicted On Theft, Records-Tampering Charges

An attorney who served as a legal guardian for hundreds of people in central Ohio has been indicted on charges alleging theft, records-tampering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The Franklin County prosecutor says 65-year-old Paul Kormanik is accused of taking large amounts of money from his wards and obtaining free funeral services for some clients by concealing their accounts.

The indictment announced Wednesday against Kormanik includes two previous felony theft charges to which he pleaded not guilty in October. The nine new counts include felony charges of theft from an elderly or disabled person, tampering with records and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

A court official says no court date has been set.

Kormanik’s attorney Richard Kline declined to comment Wednesday.

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Legal Guardian Indicted On Theft, Records-Tampering Charges

Caregiver accused of stealing $6,500 from elderly woman

Christen Chamberlin
A caregiver was accused of fraudulently cashing 15 checks and stealing more than $6,500 from an elderly woman, Washoe County Sheriff's deputies said in a news release Wednesday afternoon.

Christen Chamberlin, 20, faces several counts including exploitation of an older and vulnerable person, forgery and larceny less than $3,500 from a person 60 or older, among other charges.

The fraud was discovered after the victim noticed inconsistencies in her bank account. She then called Chamberlin's employer and the sheriff's office.

The arrest was one among several in the past year, deputies said.

In September, detectives arrested Cherie Endicott of Sparks on several charges for stealing nearly $50,000 from an elderly woman's bank account. Endicott had pled guilty in Sparks Justice Court, authorities said.

In November, Brian Dare of Reno was also arrested and accused of altering and cashing checks from an elderly woman. Dare was being held in the Washoe County Detention Facility and is awaiting trial.

"This arrest sends a message that the sheriff's office is determined to bring justice to those who would victimize the vulnerable in our community," Sheriff Chuck Allen said in a statement. "I commend the victim for having the courage to come forward, congratulate our deputies for a successful investigation and encourage anyone who is concerned about the safety and security of an elderly person to notify law enforcement immediately."

The name and age of the victim was not immediately released pending an investigation. Deputies said they don't know of any other victims as of Wednesday afternoon.

Chamberlin's bail was set at $50,000.

Anyone with information are asked to contact the sheriff's Detective Division at 775-328-3320 or Secret Witness at 775-322-4900.

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Caregiver accused of stealing $6,500 from elderly woman

WA Groups Work to Increase Penalties for Elder Exploitation

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Cases of elder neglect and financial exploitation are on the rise - and they're getting a closer look from Washington lawmakers January 28.

Legislation getting its first hearing in Olympia raises the stakes and penalties for those who are caught neglecting or taking advantage of a vulnerable adult. Cathy MacCaul, AARP Washington advocacy director, said House Bill 1499 makes the criminal charges more serious, which backers hope will be a deterrent. For instance, she said, the bill would make it easier to prove theft.

"What we want to do is really elevate that to a Class 6 felony, which will basically entail significant jail time," she said. "There are predatory people who take advantage of elderly. We want people to know that, here in Washington state, that's unacceptable."

The bill creates the crime of "theft from a vulnerable adult," with a higher sentence range for people who steal a felony-level amount of money. Currently, people convicted of theft can serve weeks or up to three months in jail. MacCaul said the tougher penalties reflect the fact that these types of crimes put an older person's life at risk, not only their financial health.

The legislation also would increase the statue of limitations for financial exploitation to six years. Senior deputy prosecuting attorney Page Ulrey, who prosecutes elder-abuse cases for King County, said these crimes often are committed by someone the person trusts who manages to nab their life's savings.

"The victim may have dementia or they were reluctant to report, or they didn't even know that the crime was happening to them," she said. "Because the statute of limitations for theft right now is only three years, we have faced situations where we've been unable to file charges because too much time has passed."

The bill has seven co-sponsors and is in the House Committee on Public Safety. No organized opposition has surfaced, although defense attorneys could take issue with the proposed changes.

The bill is online at

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WA Groups Work to Increase Penalties for Elder Exploitation