Saturday, June 13, 2015

Couple Free At Last From Clark County Nevada Guardianship Program!

Free at last. That's the case for one family after a two-year battle to get out of Clark County's guardianship system.

Hugs and tears outside Family Court after a guardianship hearing that paved the way for Julie Belshe to take the last steps in bringing her torn apart family back together.

 "It's overwhelming for me. It really is. It's beyond words," Belshe said, holding back tears.

 "Just like a rope around my neck has been removed," added her mother, Rennie North.
Source: Couple Free At Last From County Guardianship Program

Brooke Astor heir Anthony Marshall leaves sons out of his will; millions will go to second wife and her children

Anthony Marshall, who died in November at 90, disinherited his sons, who accused him of abusing his philanthropist mother Brooke Astor. His second wife Charlene will inherit his millions.

The grandsons of philanthropist Brooke Astor say they won’t contest their father's will, which left his many millions to his second wife and her family.

"I just talked to my brother. We are moving on. We're not going to contest the will," Philip Marshall, 62, said in a telephone interview from his home in Massachusetts.

A will for Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, was filed Tuesday in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court.

Marshall, who died in November at 90, left everything to his wife, Charlene, and her three children from a previous marriage. He specifically says in the six page document that he is leaving nothing for Philip Marshall or his twin brother, Alexander, who lives in Vermont.

Philip Marshall — along with two of Astor's friends, society bigs Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller — blew the whistle on his father in 2006, telling authorities that Anthony Marshall abused his mother, a beloved philanthropist who died a year later at 105.

An investigation led to the criminal prosecution of Marshall and Astor's estate planning lawyer. They were accused of manipulating Astor — who had Alzheimer's — into signing wills that took millions from public charities and put it in Marshall's pocket.

Ultimately, Marshall was convicted of stealing $14 million from his mother by spending lavishly on Charlene and paying himself millions in commissions to sell Astor's artwork and manage her affairs.

He served two months of a one- to three-year sentence, the sentence cut short because his bad health.

Philip Marshall said he tried several times to reconnect with his father after the criminal case but was not successful.

And he said he wasn't surprised by the terms of his father's will.

"I knew the minute I tried to help my grandmother that I would be disinherited ... it was of no consequence to me. I would do so again — I would help my grandmother irrespective of the consequences to me."

The value of Marshall's estate is unclear. In Surrogate Court documents, his lawyers say his estate is worth less than $10,000 but that does not include real estate or assets in trust funds.

Brooke Astor's $100 million estate was divided up in May 2012 when a Westchester court made Marshall accept a 50% cut in his share of his mother's estate. The other half went to pay restitution for his crimes. He was left with an inheritance of $14 million.

That same month, Marshall signed the will which disinherited his sons and their children, leaving everything to Charlene, her children and grandchildren.

Charlene Marshall's inheritance includes all of Marshall's books, artwork and jewels that he inherited from his mother. She also gets income from a trust fund and whatever was left in an alimony trust fund that was set up for Marshall's first wife, Thelma, who died in February.

Philip Marshall on Wednesday marveled at the fact that his grandmother, who used her money for years to try to improve the quality of life for people, is continuing this tradition by lending her stature to the cause of elder justice and quality of life at the end of life.

"All social justice causes need a narrative ... a face. My grandmother has given a face to elder justice," he said.

Marshall said that since her death, he has set up a website called Beyond Brooke to chronicle the work he is doing to give visibility and power to the elderly who are abused by loved ones, caretakers, lawyers and other professional on whom they depend and trust.
Full Article & Source:
Brooke Astor heir Anthony Marshall leaves sons out of his will; millions will go to second wife and her children

"Miss Piggy" to inherit Astor family millions

Charlene Marshall & the late Brooke Astor

Rescuing his grandmother Brooke Astor cost him a cool, $9 million inheritance — but he’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Philip Marshall says he still has no regrets, nine years after blowing the whistle on his father Tony for swindling the beloved Manhattan philanthropist and secluding her in squalor on Park Avenue — even though the move left him high and dry in the dad’s vengeful will.

“Basically, we saved my grandmother and that was my goal,” Philip told The Post.

“And if it was at the cost of anything I was ever to inherit, I just don’t care. I would do it all again,” said Philip, who advocates nationally for fighting elder abuse.

Tony took his revenge in his will.

As first reported in The Post Wednesday, Tony cut his only two children, Philip and Alexander, and their children — his own grandkids — out of his will.

Anthony Marshall
Instead, he bequeathed the entirety of the estimated $14.5 million fortune he’d inherited from Astor to his widow, Charlene and her children.

Gallingly, Astor’s last millions will be enjoyed by a woman hated by Astor.

Charlene was described during Marshall’s 2009 criminal trial as her husband’s greedy muse — one of Astor’s nurses dubbed her “Miss Piggy” and Astor herself called her,“That bitch” and snarked, “She has no class and no neck,” testimony revealed.

Philip, a Massachusetts professor, and his brother, Alex, a Vermont photographer, had been set to inherit $10 million each under Astor’s will. But that will was voided due to improprieties exposed in large part by the brothers.

Phillip Marshall & Alexander Marshall
Instead, each got a $1 million inheritance directly from Astor.

“I think it’s incredibly honorable of Philip and Alex,” said Meryl Gordon, author of Mrs. Astor Regrets.

“They didn’t want to benefit from their father’s death. And the case was never about money,” said Gordon, whose latest book, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, details still more alleged elder abuse.

She added, “Philip’s life has really changed from this — he still sometimes cries when he talks about his grandmother and what happened to her and how helpless he felt for such a long time.”

The sordid tale of squalor amidst riches began back in 2006, Philip had been dismayed for years as he watched his beloved grandmother remain shut up in her drab and drafty Park Avenue apartment, sleeping in torn nightgowns and eating pureed peas and carrots on a urine-stained couch.

Tony had fired her French chef, cut back on her meds, nursing staff and doctors visits, and had shuttered her beloved Westchester estate, where she’d always said she wanted to die.

It was Philip who mustered Astor’s A-list of powerful pals: David Rockefeller, Henry Kissenger and Annette de la Renta, and sued for guardianship.

The resulting criminal investigation disclosed that — with Charlene’s encouragement — Tony had tried to loot his mother’s estate out of $60 million.

Through “,” Philip has testified on elder abuse before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and has lectured on the topic across the country for law enforcement, legal and civic organizations.

Full Article & Source
"Miss Piggy" to inherit Astor family millions

Tallahassee Woman Accused of Elder Exploitation

A caretaker is accused of using an elderly man's credit cards to pay thousands of dollars worth of her own bills.

Ekemi Tinson is facing charges of exploitation of the elderly.

A Tallahassee Police Department investigation revealed Tinson used an 88 year old man's credit card to pay her insurance and cable bills and they suspect she used it to buy groceries too. Arrest papers say the man also co-signed her application for a car loan.

Tinson told police she had the man's permission, but he must have forgotten. Court papers say Tinson admitted she used the man's credit card to make about $4,000 dollars worth of personal purchases, but says the money was considered "a loan" and she had already paid back some of the money.

The elderly man's son alerted police after reviewing his father's credit card statement.

Full Article & Source:
Tallahassee Woman Accused of Elder Exploitation

Friday, June 12, 2015

I-TEAM Update: MO Man Files Federal Lawsuit, Claims 'False Imprisonment' in Guardianship

KFVS12 News The St. Francois County man whose guardianship case I profiled in the fall of 2013 filed a federal lawsuit, claiming he was falsely imprisoned and his civil rights were violated.

Richard Wann's case names numerous defendants, including St. Francois County, Public Administrator Kenneth Rohrer, and the attorneys and judge on his case along with the local hospital and nursing home he lived in for eight and a half months.

Richard Wann
According to court documents, Wann was admitted to the hospital for a colonoscopy but instead of being released to return home, he was "admitted to the geriatric ward based on a false assessment of his mental state."

"Thus began the nightmare of involuntary imprisonment," Wann's attorney Stephen Banton alleged.

Wann is seeking a jury trial and any damages the court deems appropriate.

Banton filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on June 8, 2015.

I-Team Update: Man Files Federal Lawsuit, Claims False Imprisonment in Guardianship

See Also:
I-Team Investigation: Stuck in the System
I-Team Investigation Stuck in the System, Part Two

Woman appears in court in financial exploitation case

CALEDONIA — A La Crescent woman accused of spending nearly $5,000 of someone else's money made her first appearance Wednesday in Houston County District Court.

Linda Thesing, 61, faces four counts of felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. She's been released on her own recognizance and is due back in court Aug. 4.

The investigation began in March, when Houston County Human Services received a report about possible maltreatment of an elderly man with dementia.

The man was in jeopardy of being evicted from the care facility where he lived; Thesing, who was responsible for his finances, "was intentionally ignoring correspondence," the complaint says.

Thesing met with law enforcement officials and a social worker in April, and reportedly told them procrastination and a lack of experience were the reasons she wasn't taking care of things.

According to court documents, Thesing said she "had no good reason (to spend the money). It was stupid and I didn't even need it."

A total of $4,365 was spent from April 2014 to April 2015.

Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Full Article & Source: 
Woman appears in court in financial exploitation case

Learn about elder financial abuse at seminar

Perhaps not surprisingly, financial exploitation is the fastest-growing form of elder abuse. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and the Senior Law Center will host a "financial wellness" fair from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at First Corinthian Baptist Church, 5101 Pine St. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m.

At the seminar "Healthy Mind, Healthy Wallet," seniors will be able to ask questions about how to keep their money and assets safe, learn about the latest financial scams and how to make good financial decisions as they age, and find out which resources might be available.

The Senior Law Center's Dana Goldberg will be one of the featured speakers.
If you can't attend, call the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging for more information. PCA also operates a website devoted to senior-scam prevention,
An estimated 19,000 Philadelphians age 60 and older are financially exploited each year. For every case reported, an estimated 44 go unreported, said Joseph Snyder, director of PCA's Older Adult Protective Services.

Signs of elder financial abuse include changes in typical checking and banking patterns, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money, and sudden insufficient funds. Often, adult children or spouses are the perpetrators.

Confidential calls to report elder abuse may be made by anyone, including the older adult in need. In Philadelphia, all forms of elder abuse can be reported to PCA's Older Adult Protective Services 24/7 by calling the PCA help line at 215-765-9040.

You can also call the Senior Law Helpline (877- 727-7529 or 215-988-1242) or visit the center's offices at Two Penn Center, 1500 JFK Blvd., Center City.

The financial-wellness fair is presented by the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force, a group of local agencies that aims to prevent, detect, investigate, recover assets, and prosecute financial elder abuse; train law enforcement, social workers, banks and community agencies about elder financial abuse; and raise awareness of elder financial abuse.

Full Article & Source:
Learn about elder financial abuse at seminar

Resource Fair Helps Bring Awareness to Elder Abuse (PHOTOS)

Rhoda Baruch, of Chevy Chase, shared her experience as a victim of financial exploitation during the World Elder Abuse Day Senior Safety Forum on June 10 at the Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton.

Elder abuse 6In front of a full house made of seniors, social workers, family members, law enforcement, county and state officials, Baruch said, “I’m not proud of this moment. I feel very foolish that I was made a victim. … I was very trusting.”

Baruch had someone living in her house for five years. It was her aid, her helper as Baruch called.
“The first two years she had been hired to take care to my husband when she was in a very fragile stage and he died three years ago. Since then she became my aid. … This aid was so wonderful to me and so helpful and so kind that it was very hard for me to understand and to accept that she was the criminal,” she said.

The helper withdrew $500 dollars from Baruch bank account on numerous occasions.

“She went to my purse. Took out my ATM bank card and withdrew the money,” she said.

Data from a recent research shows that one in 10 older Americans is abused each year and that for every case reported there are approximately 23 that go unreported. The research also found that only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is reported, according to county officials.

According to a news release, a recent estimation discovered that elder victims of financial exploitation lost $2.9 billion in one year. In Montgomery County, the 60+ population exceeds 175,950 or about 18.1 percent of the County’s total population of over one million and is increasing faster than the total population.

During this forum, more than 40 organizations participated in an effort to educate seniors and family members on elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, and financial exploitation.

Montgomery County Police Thomas Manger said the focus is on financial exploitation and asked residents to report and be vigilant.

“This is so important that we raise awareness about elder abuse, about the abuse of vulnerable adults everywhere and I think that when you hear the numbers of cases that come to our attention in comparison to the number of cases that actually exist you know how important education is to this effort,” Manger said.

Baruch’s former helper was arrested at the Canadian border and was brought back to Montgomery County.

“Police contacted the bank and showed the pictures of her aid at the atm machine. … I had been betrayed by somebody I was so trusting on. Somebody I needed so much, depended on so much. And it was a devastating moment in my life I even hate to think about it,” Baruch said.

Full Article & Source:
Resource Fair Helps Bring Awareness to Elder Abuse (PHOTOS)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

LOVE AND MERCY: Brian Wilson’s Corrupt Guardianship

by Joe Roubicek

LOVE AND MERCY has finally been released, a story of how the gifted Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys became a middle aged “broken, confused man under the pharmacological and legal thrall of therapist Dr. Eugene Landy,” as the critics put it.

Take away the status and unique qualities of Brian Wilson and you are left with the typical scenario of corrupt guardianships that are going on all around us every day.

I would highly recommend this movie, but PLEASE read the following excerpts from “Guardian Angels Inc. The Vile Business Of Corrupt Guardianship.” so that you might appreciate the consistency in methodology of these culprits.

On Corrupt Guardianship
Page 11-12

Similarly, despite the original intent of guardianship -- to protect the life of the ward while preserving the ward’s assets – it too has often become corrupted to the point where the ward is silenced without legitimate legal representation.

Then, like the “Trojan Horse” of Greek mythology, attorneys and guardians use the ruse of good intent “in the best interest and well-being of the ward,” to attack and plunder estates while victims are isolated, taken hostage, drugged, imprisoned and even murdered.

Their estates are either brazenly stolen, or quietly depleted through a pretentious process of “servicing” the guardianship. When paid by the hour, these professionals make more by working at solving problems than by actually solving them. 

This corrupt process has been identified by activists as, “Isolate, Medicate and Take the Estate.”

See Also:
Announcing the Release of Joe Roubicek's New Book, "Guardian Angels inc. - The Vile Business of Corrupt Guardianship

Guardianship protections signed into law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Imagine having to pay someone to open your mother's or father's mail, even though they live just down the street. That's just one of the horror stories that state lawmakers heard from Floridians whose parents have been placed in a guardianship.

A new law on the books hopes to remedy the problem and others.

Doug Franks has to pay an hourly rate to visit his mother, Ernestine. He's part of a growing national movement seeking changes in guardianships.

"We, simply, the families are isolated so they don't know what's going on," Franks said. "Their wards, the people who have suffered a civil death, who have no rights, are then taken advantage of financially."

The Frankses' nightmare is being played out in thousands of families across Florida.

"They charge to open a letter $80," Franks said.

Legislation taking effect July 1 hopes to put the brakes on questionable guardians.

"If a guardian exploits their ward, there will be criminal penalties. They can go to jail," said Rep. Kathleen Passidomo.

The new law also puts restrictions on judges who appoint guardians.

Franks has tried to get the courts to reopen his mother's case, without luck.

"In Mr. Franks' case, we are hopeful he can go to the court and say, 'I object to what's going on here,' and the courts, based on the new statute, will hear him out," Passidomo said.

Even supporters say the legislation signed by the governor solves only half the problem.

State Sen. Nancy Detert introduced legislation to license public, for-profit guardians. It didn't pass.

"Nobody is regulating what they do, and they can take your mail, take your money and be in charge of your health care, cut you off from your relatives, and there is nobody who can say they can't do it," Detert said.

But for the next year, public, for-profit guardians will be unregulated. Detert's advice is for families to beware.

The number of public, for-profit guardians has grown from 23 to more than 450 in the last five years.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship protections signed into law

Admissions to Nashville nursing home suspended

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner has suspended new admissions to a nursing home in Nashville.

A statement from the state Health Department says Donelson Place Care and Rehabilitation Center was ordered on June 4 to stop taking new admissions based on conditions at the facility during a complaint visitation and a following visit on May 19. The statement sent Wednesday says the order will remain effective until problems have been corrected.

According to the statement, surveyors found violations of standards that include administration, nursing services, social work services and resident rights.

Dreyzehner also imposed a monetary penalty of $3,001.

Donelson Place has the right to request a hearing over the matter.

Full Article & Source:
Admissions to Nashville nursing home suspended

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Homeless Nashville Man Placed in Conservatorship

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Ronald Carter, a 64-year old homeless Nashville man, has been a patient at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center for well over a month but the health care facility has initiated legal action that could soon bring about his forced discharge.

Carter, according to court filings, was admitted to the facility on April 26 suffering from pneumonia. He had prior admissions at Vanderbilt in June, October and November of last year, records show.

John Howser, medical center spokesman, said in a Friday email response to questions that Carter was a Vanderbilt patient and that his current condition was stable.

He said that privacy laws barred him from releasing additional information. 

 The legal action initiated by Vanderbilt on May 28 was made under the provisions of a new law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 which made a series of changes in the state statutes governing conservatorships. Most of  the changes had been recommended by the Tennessee Bar Association following a series of statewide hearings.

It was a last minute amendment to that bill, however, that gave health care facilities a special route to seek the discharge of patients on an expedited basis.

Court records show that almost immediately after the new law became effective Nashville area hospitals, including Vanderbilt,  began filing petitions to have temporary healthcare conservators appointed for some of their patients. The majority of those patients were homeless and nearly all were subsequently discharged to nursing homes and other health care facilities.

In its petition filed by attorney Monica Edwards, Vanderbilt stated that their social workers believed Carter had been homeless for 20 years and, though he had said he had relatives in Tennessee, he gave no information about their whereabouts. Nor could Vanderbilt locate any relatives.

Stating that Carter's cognitive function is "profoundly impaired," the hospital center said that an emergency conservator was needed to arrange for his discharge or transfer.

The filing states that on one of his prior visits to the emergency room, Carter was brought to the facility by a nurse for the Room in the Inn, a Nashville center for the homeless.

Inn officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Probate Judge David R. Kennedy appointed April Jackson to serve as Carter's attorney ad litem or advocate and she subsequently filed a motion to require that Carter be allowed to attend a June 3 hearing on whether the conservatorship should be extended.

Records indicate the hearing was then transferred from the courthouse to the medical center.

Following the hearing Kennedy issued a ruling in which he acknowledged that Carter and Jackson opposed the extension, but he concluded that continuation of the conservatorship was appropriate.
Jackson, declined to comment and Edwards did not respond to a request for comment.

Anthony Burns, who was appointed as Carter's emergency temporary healthcare fiduciary also did not respond.

Full Article & Source:
Homeless Nashville Man Placed in Conservatorship

Watching the Guardians: Volunteers sought to protect N.J.'s most vulnerable

Newark - As she digs into each case file, Patricia Nichols opens a window into the life a person who was incapacitated to the point where a legal guardian was appointed to manage their affairs.

Inside the county surrogate's offices in Essex and Hudson counties, Nichols spends several hours each month inputing data from case documents into a statewide database to track guardianships across New Jersey.

With each computer entry, Nichols said she knows the state's most vulnerable citizens are "now going to be part of a monitoring system that's going to take care of them, that's going to do nothing but be good for them."

Nichols said she knows she's "helping somebody somewhere down the road."

An attorney with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, Nichols is one of the roughly 70 volunteers across the state who are participating in the Guardianship Monitoring Program.

But with thousands of guardianship cases to monitor, there is a need for more volunteers to join the program, according to Kristi Robinson, chief, civil practice liaison for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

In recent years, the number of guardianships established annually has increased, going from about 1,900 in 2006 to roughly 2,600 in 2014, Robinson said. The number of guardianships will continue to grow as the elderly population in New Jersey increases in the coming decades, she said.

"We expect that guardianships are going to continue to rise as well and, with that, there's a need to monitor them, because the court recognizes its responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable," Robinson said.

OPINION: Much to be done in fight against Alzheimer's disease

In New Jersey, incapacitated individuals who receive guardianships include those suffering from mental illnesses and elderly citizens suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Guardians, who control the individuals' assets and make all financial decisions on their behalf, must report annually on the financial status and the general well-being of the individuals. But in some cases, guardians have been caught stealing from the incapacitated individuals.

Under the monitoring program, which was launched in January 2013, volunteers examine documents and input information into the electronic database as part of an effort to ensure guardians are meeting their reporting requirements and handling cases properly.

As volunteers make recommendations for potential follow-ups, judiciary staff members will review cases identified as possibly problematic and then certain cases may ultimately be referred to a judge, Robinson said.

Given how the maintenance of guardianship cases varies from county to county, the database provides a uniform way of monitoring the cases, Robinson said. The database begins with cases where guardianships were established in 2010, she said.

"The volunteers are on the front lines," Robinson said. "In reviewing the reports, they serve as the first eyes and ears."

"Fundamentally our volunteers are those who are really committed to assisting the courts in helping to protect those who cannot protect themselves," she added.

Due to the sheer volume of cases, historically there has been little to no oversight of guardianships, according to some volunteers.

Once a guardianship was approved, "then the file sits in the office of the surrogate," said Alvin Weiss, a program volunteer in Essex County and a former assignment judge in the county.

"Nobody goes back and monitors each of the individual cases," Weiss said. "You're talking (about) thousands of cases."

Now the database can function as a central registry for guardianship cases, allowing officials to identify cases where reports have not been filed and monitor the cases, Weiss said.

With paid staff members focused on their existing tasks, Weiss said volunteers like himself are able to assist with building up the database.

"It's an absolute necessity that you get volunteers...This helps improve the system," Weiss said. "It's a benefit to the public."

For more information on the Guardianship Monitoring Program, go here.

Full Article & Source:
Watching the Guardians: Volunteers sought to protect N.J.'s most vulnerable

Marshall County Guardianship Program helps care for elderly citizens

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – There are so many elderly people who get abused, neglected or don’t have anyone to properly care for them. They deserve better. The Marshall County Guardianship Program is filling in that gap.

The Marshall County Guardianship Program is helping older adults, who have been deemed incompetent by the probate court. The non-profit provides legal volunteer guardians to serve and support the person.

“It’s our citizens of Marshall County and a lot of them are elderly,” says Andrea LeCroy, the organizations secretary and treasurer. “They have been such an asset in our county for their lifetime. We want to take care of them.”

For LeCroy, it’s more than an obligation. “It’s an honor to be able to do this for them,” she says.

LeCroy is a charter member of the Marshall County Guardianship Program, which started in 2009. Volunteers, who must undergo an application process and background check, are paired with an incapacitated person.

“They get to build a relationship with their wards,” explains Board President Rachel Syx. “We try to place our applicants/volunteers with people they would get along with and enjoy going to spend time with.”

Syx says volunteer guardians do many of the same things a family member would do.

“Some of our volunteers take their wards out to lunch, take them shopping, go to the grocery store and do things they want to do just to live a normal life,” explains Syx. “If they’re in a nursing home and not so mobile, then they will go visit them once a week or so and make sure they have everything they need and make sure they’re being taken care of.”

The organization operates out of LeCroy’s space in the probate office at the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville. That’s where our $319 would come in handy.

“Thank you so much,” says LeCroy. “That will go to such great use for our program. I appreciate you all so much.”

LeCroy says the money helps them move toward some big goals they have like setting up their own independent phone line and getting their own office space. For more information or to apply to be a volunteer, call 256-571-7764, extension 3.

Full Article & Source:
Marshall County Guardianship Program helps care for elderly citizens

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

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PA group takes first steps to protect seniors

An advisory council moves quickly to implement initial measures to benefit seniors in the courts and financial matters.


Statewide reforms to improve protections and justice for older Pennsylvanians are in the works.

A state Supreme Court committee is examining the proposed expansion of a rule that allows the courts to preserve testimony of victims who might not be available to testify if a case languishes in the system.

The rule may be expanded to include victims whose age or illness, like dementia, might make it impossible for them to have their day in court.

The committee is also weighing the value of adding a box to a standardized arrest form that would indicate whether the victim is elderly, which could help to expedite those cases.

The state House Committee on Aging and Older Adult Services is considering a number of proposals that would enhance the safety net for seniors, including one that would mandate banks to report suspected financial exploitation of the elderly.

Another would establish a registry of people against whom allegations of elder abuse have been substantiated, to prevent known abusers from getting jobs where they would be alone with seniors.

Amendments to the Older Adults Protective Services Act could be sent to the House for consideration by fall, said Rep. Tim Hennessey, the Republican committee chairman representing Chester and Montgomery counties.

Much of the action is being driven by an advisory council that was formed about six months ago to implement recommendations made by the Supreme Court’s Elder Law Task Force.

Pennsylvania, with more than two million seniors, has the fourth largest percentage of elderly in the country. As the population ages, they become more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and the court system becomes more difficult to navigate.

“It certainly presents issues that are unique to the court system,” said Superior Court Judge Paula Francisco Ott, who leads the advisory council. “We need to be certain that we address those issues ... in a manner that recognizes some of their limitations that have come with age and that we’re sensitive to them.”

The Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, mostly composed of judges, lawyers and senior advocates, began meeting shortly after the task force delivered its 130 recommendations in November.

The council has been identifying the most practical suggestions that can be implemented at little to no cost in order to make swift progress.

The group also formed a subcommittee on funding to analyze the costs of other initiatives and to identify potential funding sources.

“All these issues always come down to a funding discussion, and we don’t know where we are on [the state’s] overall general funds budget, so it’s a little difficult to say we’ll have money available for anything that the council wants to recommend,” Hennessey said.

Homeless at 90

When Karen Buck, executive director of the SeniorLAW Center in Philadelphia, thinks of why she has contributed time to the council’s work, she remembers a 90-year-old World War II veteran in Pennsylvania who was financially exploited.

He had been a relatively affluent and healthy man, but the turmoil left him homeless and frail.

To make matters worse, Buck said there were several delays to the trial. “The defendant was trying to live him out,” she said.

Buck said this situation is exactly why the rules on preserving testimony need to be expanded and encouraged in court proceedings involving seniors.

A requirement for banks to report suspected abuse or exploitation could also save seniors before they find themselves in this veteran’s situation.

Council members Hennessey and Ronald Costen, an attorney with Temple University’s Institute on Protective Services, said banking industry officials have resisted the designation as mandatory reporters because of the potential liability if bank employees were to fail to monitor and report.

But both men insisted that it was an important step to protect older adults. “You need to look at the records of older adults in real time, when the abuse or theft is occurring, so you can slow it down or stop it,” Costen said.

Maryland passed a law in 2012 requiring banks and credit unions to report suspicions of financial exploitation for people 65 and older. If they fail to report it within 24 hours, the banks face penalties of up to $5,000.

Test runs

The council is also keeping tabs on two pilot programs that could eventually serve as models in the state and possibly the nation.

In Philadelphia County, council member President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper has launched a pilot elder court in recent months. She said the court is collecting data on older victims and observing what accessibility problems they have, such as whether they can see and hear in the courtroom.

They are also training judges and lawyers to provide additional support services and considering how to prioritize cases involving seniors without violating due process for others.

“We’re discovering we do have some resources already available for elders, but we need to coordinate them so people are aware of them and help elders access them,” Woods-Skipper said.

A pilot guardian training program in York County has also yielded some valuable lessons in what families and professionals need to know before they take on the financial and personal decisions of an elderly or disabled person who is deemed incapacitated.

“We want to make certain they understand the scope of responsibilities, including filing reports,” Ott said. “We need to know whether they’re not filing because they don’t understand the process or because they’re not paying attention to the incapacitated person.”

Ott said they would like to develop a video tutorial to show to guardians.

Many of the task force suggestions focused on regulating court-appointed guardianships. The task force said the state should require criminal background, firearms and credit checks of guardians, and increased monitoring of the reports guardians must file.

These matters have not yet been addressed, but the council has focused on a life-changing moment for some seniors. When a judge determines an elder is incapacitated, they must surrender nearly all rights to another person.

To ensure the judge has the appropriate information to make that call, the council has developed a standardized form for healthcare providers to fill out for the courts. For the form to be used statewide, it needs to be approved by a Supreme Court rules committee, which is currently reviewing it.

Raising awareness

Education and training is a priority of the council, said council member President Judge George Zanic of Huntingdon County.

In the coming months, he said the council will be making presentations to judges, clerks of court, prosecutors, law enforcement and protective services groups.

They are raising awareness about a variety of strategies to protect seniors, like how to effectively notify elders about scams and encouraging prosecutors to freeze assets in financial exploitation cases to make restitution more likely.

“We have to strike a balance between protecting our seniors and protecting their independence,” Zanic said. “This topic is not simple at all. It is overwhelming because it covers so many areas, and I don’t think any one person is an expert on all of elder justice.”

Full Article & Source:
PA group takes first steps to protect seniors

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Residents: 2014-2015 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report

The 2014-2015 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury (Grand Jury) received a complaint regarding the purported failure of law enforcement’s use of California Penal Code Section 368 in reporting incidences of elder and/or dependent adult abuse, especially when the alleged abuse was mental or emotional. The complaint suggested that law enforcement agencies whose policies did not include a specific reference to Penal Code 368 were more likely to treat elder and/or dependent abuse as social service, not criminal, issues.

The Grand Jury investigated agencies in Santa Clara County (County) for the following:

• Do county law enforcement manuals contain the policies, rules, and procedures to be used by officers in the field specifically reference Penal Code Section 368 or sufficiently encompass its intent?

• Is there uniformity among County law enforcement agencies as to how to address elder and dependent adult abuse?

• Is the training that county law enforcement officers receive regarding elder and dependent adult abuse sufficient?

• Are there adequate avenues for reporting elder and/or dependent adult abuse so that the Office of the District Attorney (DA’s Office) is able to prosecute appropriate cases?

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Residents:  2014-2016 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report

Judge Hits TX Oil Heir, Albert G. Hill III, With $40.9M Judgment

In the latest chapter of the saga of wealthy oil heir who resists paying his legal bill, Dallas U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay declined Albert G. Hill III's request to ignore a mandate from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that orders Hill to pay more than $28 million to two Texas law firms.

The grand total that Hill now owes Houston's Campbell Harrison & Dagley and Dallas' Calloway, Norris, Burdette & Weber—including pre- and post-judgment interest—is $40.9 million, according to a June 3 judgment Lindsay signed in the long-running attorney fee battle in Campbell Harrison & Dagley v. Hill.

Hill and his wife have spent years battling a number of former attorneys who helped Hill access his trust fund in litigation that settled globally for approximately $188 million. [See "BAM! Counsel Win $21 Million in Fees From Clients Who Wouldn't Pay," Texas Lawyer, Jan. 20, 2013.]

When Hill refused to pay Campbell Harrison and Calloway Norris, the firms compelled arbitration and won more than $3 million in hourly-rate fees and approximately $25 million in contingency fees from a panel of arbitrators. Lindsay originally vacated the contingency fee portion of the award last year, but the Fifth Circuit reversed the ruling in April after finding that Lindsay was not allowed to substitute his judgment for the arbitrators in the case. [See "Oil Heir Ordered to Pay $28M to His Lawyers," Texas Lawyer, April 13, 2015.]

In a response he filed last month, Hill opposed the entry of judgment and requested a stay in the case by arguing that the Fifth Circuit got it wrong. Hill also noted in his response that he intends to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in the case. [See "Oil Heir Al Hill III Keeps Fighting, Hires Another Lawyer," Texas Lawyer, May 28, 2015.]

Monday, June 8, 2015

Columbo's Daughter Pushes for Bill That Protects Rights to Visit Sick Parents (and NASGA Supports Catherine Falk's Mission and "The Peter Falk Bill")

It's the quirky Christmases Catherine Falk remembers the most.

"To us, he wasn't 'Columbo.' He was dad," she told of her famous father Peter Falk.

"He wasn't in character. He was the character. He was genuinely this bumbling, goofy, absent-minded guy who was so funny and loved his family," Catherine Falk, remembered with a laugh. "We'd give him these Christmas presents and he'd put them in his trunk and forget about them. Then the next Christmas would come around and he'd open the trunk of his Mercedes and there they'd be, all the present from last year."

The all-around funny family man would go on to create many happy memories with those closest to him. But when he got sick, things got complicated. His children accused his wife of alienating him. They said they weren't allowed to talk to see him and were denied any information about his health. It's a case that's being played out in thousands of households in America.

Across the country, there's been a sharp rise in adult children being denied access to their ailing parents. Several states are starting to take notice and moving forward with legislation that would open up visitation rights to children.

Full Article and Source:
Columbo's Daughter Pushes for Bill That Protects Rights to Visit Sick Parents

JOIN the Catherine Falk Organization's Facebook Page

Know the Signs of Elder Abuse: Gerald's Story

YouTube: MyMovie1

Recommended Website: Medical Whistleblower

Medical Whistleblower was founded by Dr. Janet Parker, a Veterinarian who reported Fraud, Abuse and Neglect in the Medical Community.

The organization is dedicated to advocacy and the emotional support of all Medical Whistleblowers regardless of their professional background or licensing status.

A Medical Whistleblower is a person who has come forward to report Medical Fraud, Abuse or Neglect to State, Federal or International governmental authorities.

Medical Whistleblower provides advocacy for all regardless of national origin, religious faith, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or age. Anyone with access to information related to medical fraud, abuse and neglect can be a Medical Whistleblower.

Medical Whistleblower advocates for those who have already made that choice and those still considering their future path. There is no cost to request support from Medical Whistleblower.

Medical Whistleblower is not a counseling service and does not provide legal advice or representation. We are an advocate for change and provide meaningful information related to the Medical Whistleblower’s experience and networking contacts for further support.

The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people."
~Helen Adams Keller

Medical Whistleblower

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Senate Committee Examines Issues Surrounding Hospital Observation Status

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging recently held a hearing to examine the financial implications of hospital observation status on Medicare beneficiaries, the relationship between Medicare Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) behavior and the spike in hospital observation stays, and legislative and administrative efforts to address problems associated with these issues.

Committee members on both sides of the aisle agreed that misaligned incentives within the RAC program and excessive auditing by RACs have been driving the increase in observation stays.  Observation status can have financial implications for Medicare beneficiaries such as higher cost-sharing, and hospitals also risk burdensome audits and loss of reimbursement when they admit patients for short, medically necessary services.

Dr. Jeetu Nanda, System Medical Director for Informatics and Physician Compliance at SSM Health, who testified at the Challenging the Status Quo: Solutions to the Hospital Observation Stay Crisis hearing on behalf of the American Hospital Association (AHA), explained that hospitals are placed in an “untenable position” as they provide the best possible care to patients while striving to comply with complex Medicare payment policies.  Dr. Nanda encouraged policymakers to support key improvements to the RAC program such as those contained in the Medicare Audit Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 2156), legislation that would make the audit and appeals system more practicable for both providers and patients.

In his testimony before the Committee, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Deputy Administrator and Director Sean Cavanaugh acknowledged the need to fix issues related to the short hospital stay payment policy, including CMS’ “two-midnight” rule, and said the agency expects to continue the discussion in the proposed 2016 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule that will be released this summer.  HANYS continues to work with CMS to address these issues and with AHA and others to build support in Congress for the Medicare Audit Improvement Act of 2015.    Contact: Elyse Oveson

Full Article & Source:
Senate Committee Examines Issues Surrounding Hospital Observation Status

See Also:
How to Avoid Two Words That Cost Thousands in Medicare Bills:  Under Observation"

Preventing elder abuse is a community initiative with a community solution

Financial exploitation is among most common forms of elder abuse.

I proudly display a bumper magnet that reads “No Excuse for Elder Abuse,” which rings true to my passion for preventing elder abuse. I often tell my colleagues and family and friends that the state of Maine is among the states in the nation with the oldest residential population, which always surprises them.

In fact according to U.S. News & World Report, seven states have a median population age above 40: Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It’s pretty amazing to think about Maine like Florida in this regard. I ask you: “What will you do with this newfound knowledge? Will you become an advocate for the elderly?” I did.

My grandmother, who lives in Florida, was victimized, and my living in Maine made it extremely difficult to help her. She lived alone while enduring the early stages of dementia, which made driving difficult. She had a handsome and friendly next door neighbor she would speak highly of, who offered to help her out. He certainly did help her out, while helping himself to the tune of $20,000. It took our family some time to realize what was happening to her finances and to convince her to let us help her; however, by then much damage had already been done.

What if I had known the warning signs and red flags for financial exploitation? What if I had been able to act sooner? What if someone at her local bank could have helped her? Would any of these have made a difference? I say yes.

Financial exploitation is among the most common forms of elder abuse. In fact, financial exploitation is self-reported more than emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect at a rate of 41 per 1,000 surveyed. There is a significant cost associated with financial exploitation, which robbed elders of an estimated $2.9 billion in 2009, the most recent year for which we have data.

It is imperative that education and awareness are the primary focus for our elderly residents, anyone who works with these individuals, and family members of older adults. Preventing elder abuse is a community initiative with a community solution. Prevention needs to include our law enforcement, health care providers, churches, banks and credit unions and victim advocates. It is imperative to support and fund grassroots efforts that involve a variety of disciplines working together toward ending elder abuse in Maine.

I didn’t know such groups existed until I was asked to join the Education and Awareness Committee, which is part of the Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention. This group has provided me a means to promote elder abuse prevention throughout the state. Its grassroots efforts and interdisciplinary collaborations helped to foster an environment that embraced the Senior$afe project, which has become a trusted resource for many Maine financial institutions.

Senior$afe is a collaborative project between Maine financial institutions, Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation and the Office of Aging and Disability Services. Senior$afe is an informative brochure, accompanied by training for frontline bank and credit union staff, that teaches Mainers about protecting their money and financial accounts from scams, exploitation and identity theft. This brochure provides the reader with resource contact numbers, assessing vulnerabilities and some quick tips on protecting their finances. This information is applicable to all ages, but has a focus on the seniors in our state.

We all have the basic right to age with dignity and to do so with the assurance of our safety, whether it is physical, emotional, mental or financial. I want us all to promote a culture of loving community and our older Mainers. Many of our community members are already older adults and we all will be elders one day. The time to make a difference is now. Let’s start treating our future selves and Maine’s older adults with the dignity and love they deserve.

Full Article & Source:
Preventing elder abuse is a community initiative with a community solution

Wyoming Elderly Tough It Out Even As Younger Generations Migrate Away

103 year old Harry Russell Jr. and his caregiver, Rose Norris

These days, most rural communities in the U.S. are elderly communities. 15 percent of Wyoming’s population is over 65 and a high percentage of them live on ranches and in small towns. But with younger generations leaving the ranch for more urban jobs, there are few staying behind to take care of their elders. They could move to nursing homes, but many of Wyoming’s seniors are often insistent--they want to stay home, even if it means a snowmobile ride out in the winter.
It’s an ordinary Tuesday at the senior center in Dixon, population 97. After lunch, Harry Russell sits down with his friends for a game of cribbage. What’s not ordinary though is that Harry Russell is 103 years old and still lives by himself on the ranch he worked his entire life. After the game, Russell’s caregiver drives him home a few miles outside of town. From his window, he has a view of Baker Peak where his family homesteaded land in the late 1800’s.

“I got a good life,” Russell says. “I’ve got friends around me. The only thing I don’t have is my saddle horse. I’m not busy working. I like to work.”

His Caregiver Rose Norris agrees.

“He does his dishes, he cooks, he takes care of his personal hygiene. He takes seed out to the birds. Up until a couple years ago, he grew a garden.”

But Russell has had several incidents that forced him to use his emergency button to dial local dispatch. Recently, he caught the flu and couldn’t breathe and ended up in the hospital for weeks.
And then just a few weeks ago…

“I took a shower and was putting on my underclothes,” Russell says. “I slipped and fell down and could not get back up. So I knew I could reach that button so I did. It wasn’t long I had help. So now I put my underclothes on in the bedroom.”

It’s because of accidents like these that Russell recognizes he needs a caregiver to help clean his house and drive him to town. He has three children, but the closest lives in Gillette, five hours away. One even lives in New Zealand.

Caregiver programs like this are popular with seniors who don’t want to, or can’t afford to, live in a nursing home. But in rural Wyoming, this does present challenges. Wyoming Aging Division Director Tim Ernst gives an example of a man in his 80’s who lives 35 miles from the closest town.

“They had to snowmobile up there a couple times just to make sure he was okay,” he says.

Ernst says the man didn’t want meal delivery or other help.  He asked for only one thing…

They don't say nursing home to me. As long as I can still talk, I'm my own boss for a while. 
“We were able to hire somebody and cut a winter’s worth of wood for him because that was his only source of heating in his home.”

Ernst says the cost of a few cords of wood is significantly less than a nursing home, which can cost up to $8,000 a month. He says, sure, ethical questions arise, letting elderly live alone so remotely. But his agency’s philosophy is: seniors are still adults with certain rights.

“When they say, I’m not going to come down, I’m not going to move from the community,” Ernst raps on his desk for emphasis, “we have to respect that decision. Everybody has the choice to make a bad decision.”

In tiny Dixon in southern Wyoming, most people agree letting seniors age at home is the right choice. Jody Willy is the director of Village Program in the Little Snake River Valley. It’s a national project to help elders age at home. The closest nursing home is 40 miles away and it’s in Craig, Colorado. She says institutionalization is a killer of rural elderly.

“I’ll be honest with you, there's not very many good outcomes,” Willy says. “Six months to a year is the longest I’ve had one of our residents that came out of our program go to the nursing home, and that’s about the longest they live.”

She says her program could help even more seniors stay home, but the Dixon health clinic recently closed down its hospice care program that sent qualified nurses to help people stay home to die.

Lenard Kaye is the director of the University of Maine’s Center on Aging. He says such gaps in care are a national problem.

“The bad news is that in rural communities, our formal network of health and human services is uneven at best and resources are scarce.”

But Kaye says it wouldn’t take much for programs like the one in Dixon to change that.

“Local communities need to take action,” Kaye says. “They need to be advocates for themselves. Frequently, the kind of programs we’re talking about can be organized and maintained at very little cost.”

Kaye says it takes a whole community to help seniors like Harry Russell live out their lives in the place they love. And as far as Russell is concerned, he’s not moving to a nursing home anytime soon.

“They don’t say nursing home to me,” Russell says. “As long as I can still talk, I’m my own boss for a while.”

The Little Snake River Valley Village Program hopes to return hospice services to the area and build an assisted living facility in coming months. 

Full Article & Source:
Wyoming Elderly Tough It Out Even As Younger Generations Migrate Away