Saturday, March 19, 2016

Litchfield woman accused of draining $200K-plus from elderly mother's accounts enters Alford plea

Ann Marie Zillmer
LITCHFIELD — A Litchfield woman accused of financially exploiting nearly $220,000 from her elderly mother, a vulnerable adult, entered a plea agreement Wednesday in Meeker County District Court.

Ann Marie Zillmer, 56, asserted an Alford plea Wednesday. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to the crime but acknowledges there is enough evidence to lead a jury to convict. It is recorded as a guilty plea.

She was charged in September with six felony counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. As part of the plea agreement, four of those counts will be dismissed.

Zillmer also agreed to a stayed sentence, restitution and capped probation at five years.

According to the criminal complaint on the charges, authorities first became aware of potential misuse of funds when Zillmer’s mother was evicted in February 2015 from an adult care facility in Winsted.

Zillmer had pulled her mother out of the facility because her mother’s accounts were greatly depleted, with a large portion going toward the care facility and “most” of the funds for her mother’s benefit, she told authorities.

She explained the situation to a Meeker County detective: She had been told by an attorney that she could charge her mother’s account a monthly rent to compensate for the months her mother had lived at her home.

The detective and Meeker County Social Services began an investigation, serving subpoenas on the two banks holding accounts belonging to Zillmer’s mother.

A review of the accounts showed recurring transfers of thousands of dollars, over $185,000 total, into an account belonging to the Darwin bar and restaurant Zillmer owns.

In addition, $34,000 had been funneled into an account in an Illinois bank to pay a loan taken out by Zillmer and her husband.

The transfers allegedly took place from July 2011 to February 2015. Court records show a total of $219,786.84 was transferred into Zillmer’s accounts over those four years.

She told the detective in March 2015 that her bar and restaurant business was in financial trouble and that she had made numerous transfers to its account to help save it.

Zillmer was established as her mother’s attorney-in-fact in August 2007, authorizing her to carry out financial and business transactions.

However, according to the criminal complaint, the attorney provision did not authorize Zillmer to transfer her mother’s property to herself.

Zillmer is set to be sentenced May 13 in Meeker County District Court.

Full Article & Source:
Litchfield woman accused of draining $200K-plus from elderly mother's accounts enters Alford plea

CANHR's California Legislative Objectives for 2016

CANHR is sponsoring or co-sponsoring the following bills for the 2016 legislative session.

SB 33 (Hernandez): Medi-Cal Recovery Reform
This bill would limit Medi-Cal recovery for those who are 55+ years of age to only what is required by federal law, and eliminate optional recovery for other services; eliminate recovery on surviving spouses’ estates; allow hardship exemptions for homesteads of modest value. SB 33 is co-sponsored by Western Center on Law and Poverty. Status: SB 33 is pending on the Assembly floor..

SB 924 (Roth): Insurance: Annuity Transactions
Under existing law insurance companies must comply with specific requirements regarding the purchase, exchange, or replacement of an annuity recommended to a senior consumer. The insurance company must have reasonable grounds to believe that the annuity transaction would be suitable for the senior based on certain information including: age, annual income, and whether the consumer has a reverse mortgage. This bill would add the requirement that an insurance company ascertain whether the purchase of an annuity is connected to an attempt to qualify for a government benefit. If a senior is trying to qualify for a government benefit, then the insurance company must determine whether or not it is a suitable transaction. Status: SB 924 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Insurance.

SB 938 (Jackson): Ensuring Appropriate Care for Conservatees with Dementia
This bill would help ensure appropriate care for people with dementia who are conserved. It requires greater detail from a conservatee’s treating health care provider to demonstrate that a proposed psychotropic drug prescription is appropriate and the least intrusive treatment alternative before a court can approve the use of psychotropic drugs for a conservatee with dementia. The bill also updates the definition of dementia to reflect the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classification of “major neurocognitive disorders.” Status: SB 938 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Please send letters of support to:

Senate Judiciary Committee State Capitol,
Room 2187
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 445-8390 CANHR Support

AB 1655 (Dodd): Medi-Cal: personal needs allowance
This bill would increase the personal needs allowance for Medi-Cal beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities from $35 to $80 per month, and would require the department to annually increase this amount based on the percentage increase in the California Consumer Price Index. Status: Referred to Assembly Committee on Health.

SB 939 (Monning): CCRC Refunds
This bill would require the continuing care retirement facility to pay the full lump-sum payment that is conditioned upon resale of a unit to the resident within 14 days after resale of the unit and would require the CCRC, for contracts signed after January 1, 2016, to pay at least 20% of the full lump-sum payment to the resident within 120 days after a formerly occupied unit has been vacated. Among other provisions, the bill would require the facility to make the lump-sum payment to the resident’s estate if the resident is deceased. Status: Senate Human Services

AB 1779 (Gatto): Nonprobate transfers: revocable transfer on death deed
Existing law creates the revocable transfer on death deed (revocable TOD deed), which can transfer real property on the death of its owner without a probate proceeding. AB 1779 would clarify that a beneficiary of a TOD may include an entity such as a trust. CANHR opposes the TOD, which is an instrument that will likely make many elders even more susceptible to undue influence and elder abuse. These deeds are subject to estate recovery, which means that the low-income elders who are likely to execute TODs in lieu of hiring an attorney, will also be more likely to be on Medi-Cal and thus subject their estates to recovery. CANHR opposes this bill unless amended to specifically exclude TODs from the beneficiary’s recoverable estate. Status: SB 1779 has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

For details on specific bills, go to:

CANHR (California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform)

Friday, March 18, 2016

These children of celebrity dads are changing laws!

Peter Falk

When Catherine Falk asked to see her ailing father, her stepmother shut the door in her face. When Kerri Kasem arrived to take her dying father to a hospital, her stepmother met her in the driveway — and hurled raw hamburger at her.

The confrontations sparked headlines because the women's fathers were well-known public figures — actor Peter Falk and legendary DJ Casey Kasem. Both died while costly family legal squabbles raged over the visitation rights of their daughters and other relatives.

"It cost me $400,000 to see my father," Kerri Kasem recalled recently as she rushed to catch a flight to New Mexico and testify before the Legislature in Santa Fe. Her Kasem Cares Foundation is backing a bill she said would make it easier for friends and relatives to visit ailing elders.

"I don't want others to go through what we went through," says Kasem, 43, "emotionally and financially."

On the same day, Catherine Falk, 44, was heading to Utah and a legislative appearance to promote a similar visitation bill supported by the Catherine Falk Organization.

Though Falk and Kasem work independently, they've become a powerful one-two punch for reforming visitation laws, stumping for change in more than 30 states. Falk says her proposed legislation is now being considered in 10 states; Kasem's bill has already been adopted in three — California, Iowa and Texas.

The two agree their efforts are getting notice because of their celebrity fathers, and have little problem with such an advantage. "This isn't the Casey Kasem Bill, or the Mickey Rooney Bill, or the B.B. King Bill," Kasem said, referring to other personalities who went through similar elder battles. "It's the Visitation Rights Bill, and it affects thousands in the U.S."

Kasem and Falk are contacted regularly by people with horror stories to share, such as the Colorado woman who described her mother's common-law husband as an abusive alcoholic who prevented the rest of the family from seeing her, then beat her. The mother ended up in a rehab facility after a fall and the daughter was not allowed to visit. Not long after, the daughter learned her mother had died.

Though the coroner was called, she said, there was no autopsy and her mother's body was cremated.

"I do not know where her remains are," the woman said.

The Falk and Kasem bills focus on visitation rights and seek to provide intervention for seniors being physically or financially abused. The ultimate goal is a uniform federal law, since the bills vary state to state in language and differ in respect to guardianships.

Catherine Falk, daughter of Peter Falk, testifies before state lawmakers in Washington state. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

California's Legislature, for example, unanimously approved a Kasem-backed bill that enables courts to order conservators to allow phone calls, mail and visits from relatives. Previously, a long and costly fight was likely when adult children challenged a conservator who was forbidding family contact.

Though similar, Falk's legislation sets legal standards for conservators, including a duty to inform relatives of a subject's illness or death, and allows "reasonable visitation" access. Disputes would be resolved in a streamlined court process to determine whether such a visit would be harmful to the senior. Conservators could also be fined for failing to act.

But not everyone thinks the proposed laws are necessary, or even a good thing.

At a January legislative hearing on Kasem's bill in Washington state, Megan Farr, an attorney representing the elder law section of the State Bar Assn., said the state had sufficient existing statutes to address isolation and abuse. And Steve Lindstrom, from the Washington Assn. of Professional Guardians, cautioned lawmakers not to "overly complicate what is already a fundamentally good law."

Celebrity DJ Casey Kasem and wife Jean Kasem in 1987.(Associated Press)

Falk said she was never notified when her father began suffering from advanced dementia, possibly related to Alzheimer's disease, and then she was barred from visiting. When he died at the age of 83, she and her sister said they learned of his death from the media and were never informed when he was buried at Westwood Memorial Park.

The stepmother, Shera Danese Falk, said in court that she had taken proper care of her husband as his appointed caregiver, with nurses subbing for her around the clock when she was away. She argued that Peter Falk had a strained relationship with his daughter dating back to a 1992 lawsuit when she demanded her father pay her college expenses, as required by his divorcee agreement with Alyce Falk. Catherine admitted they had a falling out over the suit but had since reconciled.

Kasem's situation was extreme enough that it made headlines.

Her father, the legendary DJ and longtime "American Top 40" host, was removed from a Santa Monica hospital in 2014 by second wife Jean Kasem, an actress who had a small role in the TV comedy "Cheers." Disconnected from a feeding tube and barely able to walk or speak, Casey Kasem was taken to Las Vegas, then to Washington state and a hospital in Gig Harbor, near Tacoma. There, at age 82, he died from complications of Lewy body dementia, similar to Parkinson's.

That followed a drawn-out legal challenge and an odd encounter at a home in Port Orchard, Wash., where Casey Kasem had been taken. Kerri Kasem said when she arrived with an ambulance and court order to see her father and take him for a welfare check, Jean Kasem threw a pound of wrapped, uncooked hamburger at her, according to court records. "In the name of King David," Jean reportedly yelled. "I threw a piece of raw meat into the street in exchange for my husband to the wild rabid dogs."

Later, Jean Kasem reportedly flew the celebrated DJ's body to Canada and then Norway, where he was buried — the end of an eight-month, 8,000-mile odyssey.

The Los Angeles district attorney's office investigated Jean Kasem for neglect and elder abuse, but concluded there wasn't enough evidence to support criminal charges. Deputy Dist. Atty. Belle Chen stated in a memo that Jean Kasem had made "continuous efforts to ensure that Mr. Kasem was medically supervised." Relocating him to Washington was an effort to protect his privacy, Chen said.

Peter Falk and Casey Kasem are remembered by stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But their daughters are hoping for a more lasting tribute — 50 new state laws in their honor.

"What happened was wrong," said Catherine Falk, "but that would help make it right."

Anderson is a special correspondent based in Seattle.

Full Article & Source:
These children of celebrity dads are taking their stepmoms to court

2 Former Finance Professionals Charged With Exploiting Seniors

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – State commerce officials are advising senior citizens and their families to be vigilant over their bank accounts after two former finance professionals were charged with exploiting senior clients.

Fifty-four-year-old Paul Bardine, of Minnetrista, and 45-year-old John Heath, of Edina, are charged in separate cases, but each faces a count of theft by swindle.

In addition, Bardine is also accused of insurance fraud, as well as stealing more than $270,000 from several clients, including a 79-year-old woman and couple in their 70s.

Heath faces an additional count of identity theft in a case where he’s accused of stealing more than $220,000 from an 88-year-old client with Alzheimer’s disease.

“These cases are a distressing reminder that seniors are often targeted for financial exploitation, and this threat is expected to grow as the senior population itself grows,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, in a statement. “I encourage Minnesota seniors to closely monitor their finances, talk with family members and contact the Commerce Department if anything seems suspicious.”

Authorities say Bardine was a former insurance agent who persuaded several clients to cash out annuities he’d sold them and invest in one of his companies. Bardine then used the money for personal expenses.

As for Heath, a former financial adviser, authorities say he cashed out an annuity owned by his client with Alzheimer’s disease by posing as him in official documents.

Anyone who believes they might be victims of Bardine and Heath is asked to call the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau at 651-539-1617.
Full Article & Source:
2 Former Finance Professionals Charged With Exploiting Seniors

Senate Bills Passed, Aimed to Help End Elderly Abuse

A 2015 study done by the Department of Social Services found that by 2035, elders will make up around 30% of the population in cities like Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Two bills passed in the latest legislative session that are aimed to help protect this growing population.

In the last 5 years, the Department of Social Services has received 661 adult protective service calls and has made 92 charges in adult abuse in the last 10 years.

Now, in the latest legislative session two bills, senate bill 19 and 54, passed to help end elder abuse.

"People can use that weakness to kinda prey on them, if you will, and they don't always know where that's going to come from," said Jason Valder, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Sioux Falls.
The abuse can range from physical and emotional to financial and even sexual.

And owner of Home Instead Senior Care Jason Valder says sometimes, the elderly don't know it's going on.

"There'll be contractors coming to the door, there'll be obviously people with phishing scams and emails," Valder explained. "We see folks getting duped by people over the phone, is where we see the most of it."

He noted that most people don't necessarily think of financial abuse when it comes to elder abuse.

But with the help of two senate bills, Senate Bill 19 and Senate Bill 54, he hopes to see that change.

Already a law, Senate Bill 19 made slight changes to Chapter 22-46-9 in the codified law which would require anyone who knows of abuse to report it within 24 hours or be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. The new changes specified who is required to report the abuse.

"We're bringing more effort and energy to the topic of elder abuse and that we're making it easier to prosecute the people, making the punishments harder," explained Jason Valder, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Sioux Falls.

While Senate Bill 54 would adopt statutory recommendations made by the Elder Abuse Task Force.

The task force was created back in 2015 and the list of changes they made in a short amount of time isn't going unnoticed, especially by Jason Valder, "Certainly done their due diligence and gotten things accomplished. With the two bills passing, in such a short time, I commend them on their efforts."

Valder says the caretakers employed by Home Instead Senior Care go through background checks. A way, he says, to reduce the risk of elder abuse from his staff.

If you know of abuse or want to learn more about the signs of elderly abuse, the Department of Social Services offers many signs and resources. The Elderly Abuse Hotline is 605-773-3656.

Full Article & Source:
Senate Bills Passed, Aimed to Help End Elderly Abuse

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Randy Meisner Fights Kids Over Conservatorship Plans

Eagles co-founder Randy Meisner is fighting his estranged children's efforts to place him under their conservatorship.

The veteran rocker's relatives have been concerned for his mental wellbeing after his wife Lana shot herself during a domestic dispute at their Studio City, Los Angeles home on 6 March (16) - two days before Meisner's 70th birthday.

Authorities subsequently ruled Lana's death was accidental, amid reports suggesting Meisner, who has previously battled drink and drug addictions, was struggling to cope with the tragedy.

His estranged kids are allegedly hoping to have him placed under their conservatorship, but the former Eagles bassist is objecting to their plans and he has filed legal papers in a Los Angeles court outlining his own request.

In the documents, obtained by, Meisner admits he needs help as he is in a "profound state of grief", and he is asking a judge to name a "trusted friend" and his financial advisor as his conservators.

It's not the first time Meisner has faced a conservatorship. Last year (15), a judge appointed a temporary conservator to oversee his medical care after his longtime pal, James Newton, claimed the star had become a victim of spousal abuse and was being kept in a constantly drunken state by his wife, Lana.

Newton also alleged Meisner, who had previously been diagnosed as bipolar, had threatened to overdose on pills. The musician and his spouse, who he wed in 1996, denied the allegations.

Full Article & Source:
Randy Meisner Fights Kids Over Conservatorship Plans

Daughter accused of helping to exploit parents

STUART, Fla. —A Martin County woman who is accused of scamming her parents is behind bars facing elderly exploitation charges.

Sgt. Yesenia Carde of the Martin County Sheriff's office said the victims are financially cleaned out.
"They had enough, they had enough," Carde said.

Over a period of a year, the elderly male victim in the case would head to a local grocery store on Kanner Highway in Martin County and use the ATM to withdraw money, according to an arrest affidavit. The victim would give the money to a courier.

But he would later learn it was all a scam.

The victim's daughter admitted to using a courier scam to trick her parents into paying the defendants $30,000 to $40,000 over the last nine to 10 months, reportedly to feed her drug habit, according to the sheriff's office.

"This couple, they were approached by the daughter and they cared for her, they love her and they wanted to take care of her but she embezzled quite a bit of money with the other co-defendants from them," Carde said.

When the money ran out, two of the defendants thought the couple and their daughter needed motivation, so they would continue paying, according to documents.

They reportedly kidnapped the three, drove them to a wooded area near western Palm Beach County and made them get on their knees. Then they allegedly threatened to "shoot them in the water and let the gators eat them," authorities said.

The three were returned to their home, and days later the elderly couple contacted the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

"Right now their main concern is fear of retaliation, obviously, hence why they won't come forward to speak to anybody else at this time. I can tell you that they were even having a hard time just getting food," Carde said.

There are four defendants in the case. They are the elderly victims’ daughter, Nicolas Reeds, Kenneth Ellershaw and Eric Fredericks.

All four face elderly exploitation charges.

Reeds and Ellershaw also face kidnapping charges.

The couple lost about $189,000 within a year, authorities said.

Full Article & Source:
Daughter accused of helping to exploit parents

Editorial: Aid for frail elders; gun bills blocked

Strong, but not enough

The adult guardianship reform bill — approved by the Legislature in the just-completed session and signed into law last week by Gov. Rick Scott — mandates landmark protections for the frail elderly in Florida.

Yet the new law is only one step toward effective oversight of the extensive system of caring for adult wards. More steps must be taken.

The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, builds on a law Detert helped pass last year that aimed to curb abuses in adult guardianship, including regulating public guardians appointed to care for poor elders who are physically or mentally incapacitated.

The regulations and oversight are now extended to private guardians, requiring them to undergo background screening and meet training requirements. The new law also establishes a state Office of Public and Professional Guardians to monitor the system, investigate complaints and take disciplinary action.

Detert points out that Florida now has “the strongest laws” in the country for protecting adult wards, and we hope our state continues to set an example for dealing with a nationwide problem.

But even Florida’s laws aren't as strong as they should be. The Legislature should continue to build on the foundation that Detert and other lawmakers have laid.

The major flaw with the new law is the minimal funding allocated: $822,000 to establish the state monitoring office and hire six full-time employees. In a state of 20 million residents, 20 percent of whom are 65 or older, those resources seem far from adequate.

Compare the statewide program with the guardianship-monitoring system recently established in Sarasota County. The county, with a population under 400,000, has its own full-time employee — and some experts suggest that’s not enough.

Not all counties in Florida are populous enough to require a full-time guardianship monitor, but larger counties serving cities like Miami, Orlando or Tampa would probably need several to provide adequate oversight. And the statewide expense for such a system would be commensurate.

There’s no question that new regulations and the statewide monitoring program mark crucial progress. But more steps — and a realistic assessment of the funding necessary — are needed to provide the most effective protection of Florida’s adult wards.

Dodging bullets

Floridians concerned about the state’s loose gun laws and the threat of deadly weapons proliferating in public places owe a debt of gratitude to state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

The Miami Republican used his power as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to block the Senate’s consideration of “open-carry” and “campus-carry” gun bills passed by the Florida House.

The open-carry proposal would allow owners of concealed-carry permits to openly display their weapons in public. The campus-carry bill would let permit holders bring their guns onto college campuses. A third bill, which would have allowed the permit owners to bring weapons to meetings of local governmental bodies or the Legislature, also died during the session.

Diaz de la Portilla deserves congratulations for standing up to the powerful National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, which strongly supported the proposals and have tended to get their way in the Legislature in recent years.

The chairman obviously listened to the college administrators, faculty, students and police who opposed campus carry, and the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which fought open carry. In addition, the League of Women Voters and other nonprofit political groups mounted an effective campaign against both measures.

This year, Florida — already notorious for its “stand your ground” self-defense law and lax concealed-carry permit requirements — stood its ground in support of gun safety.

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: Aid for frail elders; gun bills blocked

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Florida guardianship reform passes; seniors protest at courthouse

In the wake of numerous reports of abuse of incapacitated seniors by court-appointed professional guardians, the Florida House on Wednesday sent a bill to Gov. Rick Scott that for the first time would exert regulatory authority over a burgeoning industry that some critics dub “elder cleansing.”

On the same day, protesters marched outside of the Palm Beach County Courthouse in Delray Beach, calling for judicial reform.

The Legislature’s action follows media reports about professional guardians more interested in draining the savings of incapacitated seniors through fees for themselves and the cadre of elder law attorneys who represent them. The Palm Beach Post’s series Guardianship: A Broken Trust in January brought to public attention the role of the judiciary in guardianship of the elderly — many with dementia — who no longer can care for themselves.

As a result, Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath transferred Circuit Judge Martin Colin out of the Probate & Guardianship Division. Colin’s wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, works as a professional guardian, compiling complaints from families of taking tens of thousands of dollars in fees without court approval. The chief judge required the south county judges to recuse themselves from her cases.

Under guardianships, seniors found by the court to be incapacitated often lose all legal rights to make decisions for themselves. When a family member is not available or they can’t agree on what to do, a judge can appoint professional guardians to make decisions on finances, medical care and housing for the senior.

Power to discipline
The legislation creates an Office of Public and Professional Guardians and for the first time requires standard practices and rules for professional guardians be created. It also gives the office enforcement power, including the ability to revoke a guardian’s registration.
Anybody can become a professional guardian with such vast powers over a senior’s life simply by going through a credit and criminal background check and 40 hours of training. The ranks of these professionals have risen from 108 in 2003 to 457 last year, according to the Department of Elder Affairs.
Guardianship reform started last year when lawmakers, among other changes, imposed criminal penalties for exploitation or abuse.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Florida guardianship reform passes; seniors protest at courthouse

Elderly Man With Alzheimer’s in ICU after Cops Brutally Beat Him for Breaking Into His Own House

Colorado Springs, CO — Colorado Springs Police are in hot water with a possible lawsuit over the brutal beating in July of a 72-year-old man who has Alzheimer’s.

Albert Schmeiler’s mother-in-law, Margot Alvarez, witnessed the attack and said it was absolutely unnecessary for officers to punch, kick, and slam her son-in-law to the ground. 

“The minute [CSPD officers] got out of the car, I told them he has Alzheimer’s, he’s confused, he’s hallucinating, he’s 72-years-old,” Alvarez explained to KKTV 11 News

According to the police report obtained by the outlet, officers were initially responding to a call that Schmeiler was breaking into a house. Though his sister-in-law was renting the property at the time, Schmeiler is the owner.

Schmeiler’s nephew was at home alone inside the house when police answered the call. Two responding officers separated the confused man from his nephew and Alvarez.

According to the Colorado Springs Independent, the officer dealing with Schmeiler didn’t understand the man’s agitation with comments he couldn’t ‘break in’ the house he owned. When the officer attempted to place handcuffs on the man, he allegedly attempted to strike the officer. 

The unnamed officer struck back, confused at the aggressive move, punching and kicking Schmeiler in the face and body several times before ultimately “taking a running start” and knocking him to the ground.

The officer’s attack left the 72-year-old unconscious, laying on the ground bleeding out.

Alvarez said Schmeiler suffered multiple brain injuries, cuts, and bruises — and had to spend a week in the intensive care unit. After recovering, Schmeiler was arrested on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest, and taken to jail. 

Though the charges were eventually dropped after evaluations by several doctors, the incident has had tragic repercussions for the man.

Schmeiler’s family told KKTV that since the beating, his dementia and Alzheimer’s have worsened. He now also suffers frequent headaches. 

Ironically enough, Colorado Springs Police were among several area departments which recently participated in training to handle incidents involving people who may have mental health issues. 

“To approach [someone possibly suffering a mental disorder] in a very aggressive way could escalate the situation,” explained Lori Jarvis of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the advocacy group which devised the training session. “There are other ways to talk folks down, to talk them through a mental health or substance abuse emergency.”

That training, unfortunately, came too late for Schmeiler and his family. Their lawsuit seeking an amount reportedly in excess of $100,000 in damages for Schmeiler’s three brain injuries, has not yet been officially filed.

Full Article & Source:
Elderly Man With Alzheimer’s in ICU after Cops Brutally Beat Him for Breaking Into His Own House

Attorney General Jackley praises legislature’s commitment to fight elder abuse

PIERRE, S.D. - Attorney General Marty Jackley praises the South Dakota Legislator’s approval of resources to help fight elder abuse in South Dakota.

“All too often our seniors suffer physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation,” said Jackley. “The important work of the South Dakota Elder Abuse Task Force helped identify areas of concern that our Legislature has now prioritized by providing resources for the Attorney General to fight elder abuse in South Dakota. The Attorney General will use this opportunity to work with local law enforcement and other state and public entities to identify, investigate, and prosecute elder abuse cases and increase services to victims.”

The South Dakota Elder Abuse Task Force was created by the South Dakota Legislature in 2015 at the request of South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David E. Gilbertson. The Task Force considered recommendations from nationally recognized experts. The experts told the Task Force that elder financial exploitation and abuse cases are complex, urging South Dakota to utilize law enforcement and prosecutorial specialists to handle elder financial exploitation and abuse cases. The Task Force adopted the experts’ recommendations as part of the Task Force report and legislative package.

Nationwide elder abuse is on the rise with up to a million elders being abused or neglected annually. Instances of reported abuse/neglect are between 1 in 14 and 1 in 23. In the area of elder financial exploitation, only 1 in 25 is reported and it is estimated that $2.6 billion in financial exploitation occurs annually.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney General Jackley praises legislature’s commitment to fight elder abuse

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Nursing home abuse case ends with LPN's conviction

CLANTON, AL (WSFA) - A former employee of a Chilton County nursing home facility has pleaded guilty to abuse of one of the residents she was tasked to care for, confirms Attorney General Luther Strange's office.

Katherine Blevins Lenoir, 53, of Maplesville, entered her plea Wednesday to one count of reckless abuse of a protected person, a class C felony.

Lenoir was a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, at Don Hatley Healthcare and Rehabilitation of Clanton, when she admitted to inadvertently administering a large dose of a narcotic pain medication to a female resident. The victim was supposed to be taking cough medicine.

Prosecutors said Lenoir's actions crossed into criminal territory when she set about manipulating treatment records to inaccurately show she'd given the correct medication instead of immediately notifying facility management of what had happened.

The victim suffered an overdose of the narcotic and nearly died, according to prosecutors. She was found by a nurse on a later shift and rushed to a hospital's intensive care unit. She was later released.
An investigation started after the AG's office says the nursing facility's management promptly reported the incident.

Lenoir, who no longer is employed at the facility, faces up to 10 years in prison. She'll learn her fate in a May 11 sentencing hearing.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home abuse case ends with LPN's conviction

Senator demands stop to abuse of nursing home residents on social media

Sen. Tom Carper
March 11, 2016 -A U.S. senator has asked government regulators what, if anything, they’re doing to stop nursing home workers from taking degrading and dehumanizing photos of residents and posting them on social media.

In a letter sent Tuesday, March 8, to the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., referenced a ProPublica story from last year that identified about three dozen inappropriate posts by employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Some included naked photos and videos of residents, many of whom have dementia.

 “This type of abuse is unacceptable and falls short of our moral obligation to the ‘least of these’ in our society,” Carper, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “We all want our loved ones to receive the quality of care and attention they deserve from the professionals to whom we entrust their care.”

The Office for Civil Rights is the agency that enforces the federal patient privacy law known as HIPAA. It can impose both civil and criminal penalties for violations, but it rarely does so, we reported last year.

Carper asked the office how many complaints it has received related to social media use in nursing homes. He asked how many have resulted in civil penalties or a referral to the Department of Justice. And he wanted to know if the office planned to issue guidance to nursing homes on the use of social media and HIPAA, more formally the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Deven McGraw, the office’s deputy director for health information privacy, said in an email Tuesday that the office would reply to the senator’s letter but that “there is nothing I can release to you at this point.”  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Senator demands stop to abuse of nursing home residents on social media

Golden Triangle Woman Accused Of Bilking Elderly

COLUMBUS, MS (WCBI) – A Columbus woman is accused of taking more than $17,000 in property from an elderly citizen .

 25 year old Whitney Anne Ford worked as a caretaker for the victim in the case when the embezzlement took place. Police are now working with area pawnshops in an effort to recover some of the items taken. Ford’s bond is set at $25,000 dollars on the felony embezzlement charge.

Full Article & Source:
Golden Triangle Woman Accused Of Bilking Elderly

Monday, March 14, 2016

The haunted twilight of Richard Simmons

Richard Simmons opened his front door, frail and trembling. Mauro Oliveira, a visual artist who was also Simmons’ masseur and former assistant, greeted him on the front porch, concerned about his friend. After receiving an ominous phone call from Simmons, Oliveira had driven his truck to the Hollywood Hills, past the two metal gates that Simmons had left ajar for him, and into the driveway. He reached the porch through the white columns that recalled an antebellum Southern mansion, and past Simmons’ bronze statue of a regal Dalmatian.

Wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants, a gaunt Simmons led Oliveira through the foyer, and into the living room. “Mauro, we can no longer see each other,” Simmons told him in a quiet, defeated voice.

It was April 2014. Oliveira, a 49-year-old from Brazil with the burly arms and trim physique of a gym rat and close-cropped black hair, had met Simmons 13 months earlier, and the two became fast friends. But he was catching a weird vibe lately, and hadn’t seen him in a while, before the then 65-year-old Simmons summoned him to the mansion, saying only that they needed to talk.

“What’s going on, Richard?” Oliveira asked. “Why are you saying that?”

“I don’t know,” Simmons replied. “I just want to be by myself, and I want to be in the house, and we’re never going to see each other again.”

Simmons’ home is a mixture of classical architecture and design that recalls his New Orleans youth.
He collects offbeat pieces, including a menagerie of dolls highlighted by a rare Barbra Streisand model and the colorful work of Mexican painter and sculptor Sergio Bustamante. As they spoke, he and Oliveira stood near an ornate grand piano.

“Let’s talk it over,” Oliveira said. “I want to sit here, and make sure you’ll be OK. Let’s go upstairs, I’ll give you a massage and relax you.”

Simmons called up to Teresa Reveles, his live-in housekeeper of nearly three decades. “Mauro is going upstairs with me,” he said.

“No, no, no!” Reveles shouted from the second floor, according to Oliveira. “Get out! Get out!”

Oliveira looked at his friend, who told him in a soft voice, “You’ve gotta go.”

Oliveira leaned in toward Simmons. “Is she controlling your life now?”

As Oliveira tells it, Simmons looked down, and with one resigned word confirmed his worst suspicions: “Yes.” This was the last time he saw his friend.

With Reveles shrieking behind him, Oliveira hustled out to his truck, picked up his cell phone, and asked an intermediary to contact Simmons’ older brother, Lenny. He and Lenny did not have a close relationship, but Oliveira knew of nowhere else to turn.

Oliveira is calm as he recounts this story, but irritation enters his voice as he recalls a threat leveled that day, nearly two years ago. “Later that evening, Richard called me and said that his manager and Teresa wanted to put a restraining order against me — you can see how controlling they are — and I said, ‘What restraining order? You are the one who called me. I’m not invading your privacy, or your house.’ That was the end of that. No restraining order was put against me.”

Oliveira has spoken briefly about his privileged access to Simmons during this dark period, but never in this much detail. He recently underwent a heart procedure, which he blames on Simmons-related stress, and is reluctant to invite further strain. But he agreed to elaborate on a Hollywood mystery that has previously been told only in a few cryptic tabloid items.

Richard Simmons has vanished from public view, and many who know him best say they haven’t had any contact in more than two years. All repeat the same message, some anonymously and some on the record: Simmons stopped returning calls and emails more than two years ago, behavior that is highly out of character, and his housekeeper is blocking access to him at home. Indeed, for a generous and intensely social public figure, one who taught classes at his Beverly Hills gym until a few years ago; has sold more than 20 million exercise videos, including the mega-popular “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” series; appeared many times on David Letterman’s shows, “General Hospital,” his own talk show and infomercials; and was a seemingly ubiquitous presence for decades, the silence is striking.  (Continue Reading)

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The haunted twilight of Richard Simmons

EXCLUSIVE: Richard Simmons Speaks Out: 'No One Should Worry About Me'

Richard Simmons spoke exclusively to ET on Sunday, addressing recent reports about why he had not been seen in public in more than two years.

"I am not kidnapped," the 67-year-old fitness guru told ET's executive producer, Brad Bessey, by phone. "I am just in my house right now."

"No one should be worried about me," Simmons said. "The people that surround me are wonderful people who take great care of me."

On Saturday, the New York Daily News published a long report citing on and off the record sources who expressed concern for Simmons' well-being.

Simmons called the report "very hurtful."

"I love all the people who worry about me," Simmons said. "But it was time for me to take some time to be by myself. For the last 40 years I have been traveling, teaching classes, and I had a knee injury, so I had a knee replacement, which was very difficult for me… I have really just been taking it easy, staying at home, working out in my gym and doing the things I haven't done in a very long time."

According to Simmons, he's been keeping in shape despite concern that he might need another knee replacement. In response to speculation he has avoided going out because he has gained weight, Simmons said, "I still weigh 150. I work out every day. I have a gym at the house, and I am very healthy."

Simmons was last photographed in January 2014 by TMZ.

In November 2014, reports of Simmons' knee injury surfaced. Simmons took to Facebook then to thank his fans for their "outpouring of love and concern."

"I have had a tough time dealing with this injury, as it is keeping me from doing what I truly love to do and that is to teach classes around the world," he wrote. "Make sure you keep Sweatin'!"

The Sweatin' to the Oldies creator made his last public appearance in December 13, 2013, at SPARKLE: An All-Star Holiday Concert at ACME Comedy in Los Angeles.

"This is how I want to live my life right now," Simmons told ET on Sunday. "And to all the people that are worried about me, please don't be. If I was in any trouble, if I was hurting in any way, I would reach out. It is time right now for Richard Simmons to take care of Richard Simmons."

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EXCLUSIVE: Richard Simmons Speaks Out: 'No One Should Worry About Me'

Abbeville woman gets probation after $40,000 exploitation of elderly mother

An Abbeville woman received probation Friday after she paid $12,000 in restitution toward the $40,000 total owed back to her 68-year-old mother, the victim in her exploitation of the elderly case.

Assistant Henry County District Attorney Sam Clenney said 50-year-old Karen Elizabeth LaRoche received five years of probation from Circuit Court Judge Larry Anderson. The court had already issued LaRoche a five-year prison sentence for the felony financial exploitation of the elderly charge filed against by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

Clenney said the court did not address the issue of probation until a significant portion of the restitution had been paid. He said LaRoche had already paid $4,000 toward the restitution, and she brought in another $8,000 on Thursday.

Clenney said the court ordered LaRoche to pay $250 a month as part of her probation toward the remainder of the $40,000 owed to the victim in restitution.

Henry County Sheriff’s investigators arrested LaRoche in October 2014 on the felony charge.

Sheriff’s Investigator Sgt. Steve Sanders told the Dothan Eagle after he made the arrest that the victim in the case is the suspect’s 68-year-old mother, who had given power of attorney over to LaRoche after the victim was hospitalized.

“She used power of attorney to steal her mother’s money,” Sanders said upon LaRoche’s arrest. “The daughter went and used her mother’s money to go on a shopping spree.”

Sanders said the sheriff’s office was notified by other relatives after the victim started receiving credit card bills and collection notices for purchases she did not make.

Court records show the charge involved LaRoche moving $30,697.50 out of the victim’s savings account for her personal benefit and obtaining and misusing credit cards for personal benefit.

The charge also alleged the victim suffered a loss of medical benefits due to non-payment of premiums, the victim’s checking account regularly showing overdraft charges, and delinquent medical bills, including an assisted living balance which exceeded $11,000.

LaRoche agreed to sign the deed to her mother’s home back to her in order for her mother to recommend probation to the court.

Records show the offense occurred between Aug. 26, 2013 and May 28, 2014.

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Abbeville woman gets probation after $40,000 exploitation of elderly mother

See Also:
Abbeville woman pleads guilty to exploiting elderly mother

Sunday, March 13, 2016

In Appreciation of Senator Todd Weiler and Representative Tom Hawkes of Utah and Senator Rusty Crowe of Tennessee

Senator Todd Weiler and Representative Tom Hawkes as SB 111 passed! 
Senator Weiler’s hard work to pass SB 111 in Utah speaks to the exemplary job he is doing for the people of his state. It was a privilege to work with him on SB 111. The excitement we share with the first passing of Falk/NASGA’s human and personal rights for guardianship and conservatorship wards is echoed by reform advocates across the country in anticipation of our bill coming to their individual states.

We must also recognize Senator Rusty Crowe of Tennessee and give him due credit for our success in Utah.  Our bill was originally drafted in Tennessee, working with Senator Rusty Crowe and his bill drafter/attorney who gave Catherine Falk and NASGA the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the growing and insidious problem of wrongful isolation of guardianship wards by their court-appointed guardians/conservators by crafting a bill from scratch. It was a team effort in every sense of the word and we are proud that our bill empowers wards, increases court oversight, and provides means of accountability to unscrupulous guardians who wield isolation as a means of retaliation, control, or just convenience.

Different states have different laws; and each state must comport their proposed legislation to fit existing law. Senator Weiler quickly recognized the intention and merit of our bill for his state; and he and his team took much of the language of our Tennessee bill for SB 111 which was passed last Thursday.

We are proud of SB 111 and forever grateful to Senator Weiler and Representative Tom Hawkes for believing in our bill and for the dedication and hard work they both invested in getting it passed.

Falk/NASGA will always be grateful to these three superb statesmen for their support and enthusiasm for our mission and our bill.

Whistleblower Lawyers Counterattack Against DC Disciplinary Counsel

The DC Disciplinary Counsel — previously known as the DC Bar Counsel — is on the attack against whistleblower lawyers.

And whistleblower lawyers are not happy about it. They have launched something of a counterattack.

The Disciplinary Counsel has filed charges against prominent Washington whistleblower lawyer Lynne Bernabei and former Justice Department attorney Thomas Tamm.

Tom Divine
The Disciplinary Counsel brought charges in June 2014 against Bernabei and
Notre Dame Law Professor G. Robert Blakey — alleging that the two advised their client — former General Electric lawyer and whistleblower Adriana Koeck — to go public to reporters and law enforcement officials in the United States with incriminating and alleged confidential information against General Electric.

The case was initiated with a complaint filed by General Electric with the Disciplinary Counsel against Koeck.

In November 2015, Blakey was given the mildest possible sanction in the District — an admonition. The cases against Koeck and Bernabei are pending.

Last month, Tamm was charged with calling a reporter from a pay phone to make public the federal government’s program of illegal wiretapping.

Now, the whistleblower bar is organizing to push back at what they see as an ideological attack on whistleblower lawyers.

“We have rolled up our sleeves and we are organizing,” Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “We are not going to be passive.”

“These whistleblowers were acting within the legal rights Congress created with the whistleblower statutes,” Devine said. “In the Tamm case, the government didn’t even attempt to charge him with misconduct. His activities were legally protected. In the Bernabei case, the Department of Labor rejected the same charges when General Electric tried to censor Ms. Bernabei’s advocacy for the whistleblower in government proceedings. This is an attack by the DC Bar Counsel on the constitutional authority of Congress and the President to enact the rules of law and for judicial bodies to enforce them. The Bar Counsel is saying that its standards trump and can cancel out the free speech rules that our government has enacted to protect the public against bureaucratic misconduct.”

Former Justice Department official and whistleblower lawyer Jesselyn Radack told Corporate Crime Reporter that the Disciplinary Counsel “has a nasty history of politically-motivated bar discipline, especially against whistleblowers and attorneys for whistleblowers.”

“Like Thomas Tamm, I blew the whistle as a Justice Department attorney,” Radack said. “As with Tamm, the federal criminal case against me closed with no charges ever being brought. Afterwards, we both faced charges from the Maryland Bar, which were dismissed in a timely fashion. However, in my case, the DC Bar charges hung like a Sword of Damocles over my head for ten years. We see the exact same pattern with Tamm. The DC Bar is bringing charges 12 years after his revelation of the government’s unconstitutional and illegal warrantless wiretapping program.”

“If Tamm or I were threats to the public, the Bar would obviously want to pull our licenses as soon as possible — instead, they have taken it upon themselves to act as a retaliatory tool of the Justice Department.”

Washington University Law Professor Kathleen Clark said that “Tamm’s disclosure of the surveillance program to a Capitol Hill staffer and to the New York Times appears to be a quintessential public interest disclosure.”

“Tamm — and others within the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review (OIPR) — believed that the program was illegal,” Clark said. “Officials at the highest levels of the Justice Department had nonetheless purported to authorize it. Tamm spoke with supervisory lawyers within OIPR about it, and they apparently confirmed its illegality but weren’t doing anything about that illegality.”

“After the New York Times published articles about the program, members of Congress were up in arms about it. Eventually, Attorney General Holder acknowledged that the program was illegal.”

“It seems strange that DC’s Disciplinary Counsel would bring these charges against Thomas Tamm for his critical role in the disclosure of an illegal government surveillance program. It’s even more strange that they decided to do this more than seven years after Tamm’s role was made public.”

Whistleblower lawyer Jason Zuckerman told Corporate Crime Reporter that “as a whistleblower advocate, I am concerned about what appears to be an ideological crusade against whistleblowers and their counsel.”

“The ostensible mission of Bar Counsel is to ‘protect the public and the courts from unethical conduct by members of the D.C. Bar,’” Zuckerman said. “But despite limited resources and a backlog resulting from receiving approximately hundreds of complaints a year, the highest priority of Bar Counsel appears to be prosecuting whistleblowers and their attorneys.”

“In the Tamm matter, the conduct occurred in 2004 and in the Bernabei matter, the conduct took place in 2008. And even though the disciplinary process in DC is complaint driven, Bar Counsel chose to prosecute Bernabei without having received any complaint about her conduct in that matter. It seems very suspicious that Bar Counsel is devoting such significant resources to prosecuting Bernabei and Tamm, especially where the alleged conduct appears to fall into a gray area, if there was any violation at all, which makes it very difficult for Bar Counsel to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Bernabei and Tamm knowingly violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

“There seems to be a double standard. Has Bar Counsel ever prosecuted any attorneys at corporate firms that help their clients perpetrate fraud? And did Bar Counsel investigate prominent lawyer executives at Fannie Mae who appear to have engaged in actions that led to a multi-billion dollar restatement and left taxpayers footing the bill? Did Bar Counsel prosecute the attorneys that enabled large banks to nearly tank the economy? And has Bar Counsel prosecuted government attorneys that enabled torture and other flagrant unlawful human rights violations? Does Bar Counsel protect the public or does it protect the interests of big corporations and big government?”

“About one week ago, 60 Minutes aired a show in which they caught lawyers, including a former American Bar Association president, providing advice on how to move suspect money into the United States,” Zuckerman said. “Is it Bar Counsel’s position that lawyers that take steps to combat or oppose fraud should be disbarred and that lawyers that enable corporate fraud are the pinnacle of the profession? I resent that my mandatory bar dues are used to fund an office that is zealously prosecuting corporate and government whistleblowers while apparently ignoring a serious problem in the legal profession of attorneys perpetrating and enabling massive frauds.”

“What is especially odd in the Bernabei matter is that Bar Counsel is taking positions that are contrary to federal law and Supreme Court precedent. Several federal courts and indeed the Supreme Court in Lawson v. FMR have held that attorneys can bring Sarbanes-Oxley claims when they suffer retaliation for blowing the whistle. Yet in the Bernabei matter, Bar Counsel appears to claim that federal law does not preempt inconsistent state rules of professional conduct. Advancing this bizarre legal argument is an odd use of Bar Counsel’s limited resources.”

At the center of the storm is Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton P. Fox III, who is bringing the charges against Bernabei and Tamm.

Fox is a former partner at Sutherland Asbill. He currently teaches a course at Georgetown Law Center titled “Counseling the Corporation in Crisis.”

While at Sutherland Asbill, Fox represented the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. And a couple of years ago, he settled a high-profile run in he had with DC police over a parking dispute. Fox says DC wrote him a check for $80,000 to settle the dispute.

Fox told Corporate Crime Reporter that there is no ideological crusade against whistleblowers.
Fox said that out of the thousands of cases investigated over the past ten years by his office, he knows of only two brought against whistleblower lawyers — the Bernabei cases and the Tamm case.
Fox says that there have been many more brought against corporate lawyers.

“I can think of at least three lawyers in major law firms whom we have disciplined in recent years,” Fox said.

“And it’s simplistic to say that we are trying to trump federal law,” Fox said. “Federal law does not give lawyers the right to violate attorney-client privilege. If you hired a lawyer and disclosed to him something very bad that you have done, do you want that lawyer to be free to disclose to the public?”
Fox said that his office gets about 500 to 600 complaints about lawyers every year.

“If you go back ten years, that’s about what — 5,000 complaints?” Fox said. “And so far, we have brought two cases against whistleblower lawyers?”

“How is that a crusade?” he asked.

Fox says that if a lawyer hears from a client about activity that poses immediate risk to human health, then they would have a duty to report that to law enforcement and go public with it.

“But that’s different from the kinds of corporate wrongdoing — like misleading advertising — it depends on what the misconduct is,” Fox said.

“If the lawyer hears — I’m going to shoot my wife, you can disclose,” Fox said. “If the lawyer hears — I’m going to divorce my wife, you can’t.”

What about rampant corporate bribery?

“I actually had such a case when I was in practice,” Fox said. “I found out that agents of my client company were bribing people in a foreign country to get licenses. If I have actual knowledge of that, under rules of professional conduct, I’m required to report that up the chain within the company, to the board and to give them the opportunity to correct. If they do not correct it, then I am allowed to report it outside the company, only if to prevent the client from committing the crime or fraud and if it is reasonably certain that substantial financial injury will occur to someone else. If it is simply that some government official in some foreign country is being enriched, I cannot report it.”

“That’s the premise of our profession,” Fox said. “We withhold the secrets of our clients.”

Sarbanes-Oxley imposed a different standard, Fox admits — “probably under SOX I report to the SEC — but overall — this area of law has not yet been settled.”

Disciplinary enforcers like Fox don’t have prosecutorial discretion and thus can’t launch vendettas, he says. Every case he brings has to be approved by a superior. But he admits that in most cases, his recommendations are approved.

Devine counters that the DC Disciplinary Counsel has “gone rogue”

“The DC Bar Counsel has gone rogue in a back door attack on the rule of law as established by our Constitution,” Devine said. “It is also ignoring federal pre-emption. Prior DC Bar Counsel opinions had respected preemption and said they could trump its internal bar rules.”

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Whistleblower Lawyers Counterattack Against DC Disciplinary Counsel

Family caregivers deserve legal standing

Every day, millions of Americans face a health care crisis at home. They’re providing around-the-clock care for an ailing parent, spouse, or other relative, often while running a family and holding down an outside job. As the baby boomer generation gets grayer, and pressure to reduce medical spending mounts, more people are joining the ranks of these de facto health care providers. They deserve legal standing.

A 2015 AARP survey of Massachusetts registered voters age 45 and older found a majority have, or were, providing care for a relative who is “ill, frail, elderly, or who has a disability.” AARP has estimated the value of these unpaid services at $11.6 billion annually in Massachusetts alone.

 While family caregivers can turn to various state and national organizations for assistance and emotional support, more comprehensive action is needed on the state and federal levels. Attention at a policymaking level would bring order to a stopgap, sometimes chaotic, system that robs caregivers of dignity all too easily. A bill under consideration in the Massachusetts Legislature would allow a patient to name a family caregiver — a designation that would help legitimize the role family members play in the health care system. Under the law, patients could not be discharged from a hospital without their caregiver being notified. The bill builds in important safeguards to prevent hospitals from discharging patients without sufficient attention to what comes next: Hospitals would be required to offer detailed instructions on how to perform such tasks as administering drugs and changing bandages. Called the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act, or CARE, it mirrors bills that have been passed in 18 other states. “It’s a big step in getting consistency across the board,” said state Representative Chris Walsh, the legislation’s sponsor.

These long-overdue steps could also prevent readmissions, which are all too common for elderly patients. “Hospital discharge policies really need to come into the modern age,” said John Schall, chief executive of the nonprofit Caregiver Action Network, based in Washington, D.C. “So many medical errors occur at that point.”

Another Massachusetts caregiver-related bill would build in essential workplace protections by prohibiting employers from discriminating against workers who are caring for a relative. And another proposal breaks new ground by recognizing the burden on spouses by offering a modest weekly stipend for those caring for patients covered by MassHealth — the state insurance plan for low-income and disabled residents. Other family members — including children and grandchildren — as well as friends, already are eligible for caregiver payments, but spouses are unfairly excluded.

The spouse of a patient being treated at home often “has to make some real tough choices like, ‘Do I cut back on work?’ ” noted Mike Festa, director of AARP Massachusetts, which is one of many state groups supporting the legislation.

In Washington, several efforts are underway to ease the financial burden on family caregivers. New York congresswoman Nita Lowey, for instance, is pushing a bill that would offer a Social Security credit to anyone who has to quit a job or work fewer hours to take care of a family member. In introducing the legislation, Lowey cited an astounding figure showing that the country’s 65 million unpaid caregivers lose an average of $324,000 in pay and benefits over a lifetime. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has made family caregiving a part of her campaign platform — she also backs a Social Security credit for family caregivers, as well as a tax credit of up to $6,000 to offset expenses.

Together, these changes would make a significant difference in the lives of caregivers, and the family members who depend on them. Sooner or later, as a caregiver or patient, it’s an issue most of us will take personally.

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Family caregivers deserve legal standing