Saturday, March 26, 2016

Probate Judges Urged to Use Mediation More Often in Emotionally Charged Cases

Probate court cases are often emotionally charged, with family members arguing about such topics as the terms of a will or how to best handle an elderly parent's care.

While probate court judges routinely hold hearings and issue decisions, probate courts also offer mediation, a chance for the parties to resolve their disputes amicably and in a less formal setting. The state's probate court leadership is pushing for more cases to be resolved this way.

As part of this push, on March 9 the Quinnipiac University School of Law's Center for Dispute Resolution hosted about 60 probate judges from around the state for a daylong training session in mediation. The probate courts approached Quinnipiac about doing a custom program for the judges, and Quinnipiac did the program for free.

Probate Court Administrator Paul Knierim said mediation is a "perfect fit" for probate cases. "I say that because almost all probate cases are filled with emotion," Knierim said. "The techniques used in mediation help parties better come to terms with those emotions and understand each other better while working toward a settlement."

The mediation program has been in place for several years, but there aren't any statistics for how often it is used. However, there is a system in place allowing parties to pick a mediator from a panel of probate judges and retired judges. The overall goal, according to Knierim, is to have more cases get resolved through mediation.

"My hope is that the exposure of all of our judges to this training will keep it at the top of their minds, and will result in judges discussing the topic of mediation more frequently with parties," Knierim said. "Sometimes it takes encouragement from judges before people who are at odds will think about working toward a settlement."

Mediation provides a neutral third party to facilitate negotiations and get the parties thinking about solutions that will please everyone, said Carolyn Wilks Kaas, an associate professor of law at Quinnipiac and co-director of the school's dispute resolution center.

"The mediator is trained to run the process so people can express what brought them into this conflict," Kaas said. "With probate court, it is almost always families. It could be a case where the mother has Alzheimer's disease, but the children have different ideas about how to help her. Through mediation, people can sit and talk and more creatively come up with a solution, like taking turns caring for their mother. The mediator doesn't decide the case, they help the parties decide their own case."

In the probate system, a mediator can be any judge other than the one normally assigned to the case. If the mediator is unable to help the parties reach a settlement, the case goes back to the presiding judge for a decision. The push to have more cases resolved through mediation could mean more work for retired judges, according to Knierim.

The probate courts' rules on mediation also were updated in recent months with the goal of increasing its use, Knierim said. The maximum daily mediation fee was set at $350, for example.

Probate courts often handle cases such as contested wills, disputes in the settlement of estates, hospitalization of people with psychiatric issues and guardianships of children if a parent can't care for a child due to substance abuse or incarceration.

"You are dealing with family dynamics and emotional situations all the time in probate court," Knierim said. "Most of our cases involve disputes among family members. It is better if they can find a way through mediation to come to their own agreement rather than fight it out and have a judge decide it for them."

When families choose mediation, they have a better chance of coming out of their dispute with relationships intact, according to Knierim. "A settlement which family members agree on themselves is far more promising for the long-term health of family relationships than a litigated outcome," Knierim said.

Knierim would like to have events like the one at Quinnipiac on a regular basis, approximately once every couple of years. The March training included discussion of mediation essentials, including what approaches work best and how to handle difficult parties or attorneys. There was also a simulated mediation involving a will being disputed by stepsiblings.

Kaas, the Quinnipiac associate professor, asserted that mediation isn't used enough in the probate courts now. Echoing Knierim, she said: "At the core of so many probate disputes are family matters. Mediation helps preserve ongoing relationships. Sometimes mediation can have the therapeutic result of mending fences. It is definitely something that should be used more."

Kaas said she hopes the training event provides a foundation for future sessions and more advanced training. "While all the judges have settlement experience, not all have mediation training," Kaas said. "Mediation is different, and the courts wanted to improve the training of all judges. I know the probate court is trying to increase the use of mediation."

Meriden probate judge Brian Mahon, who attended the training, said while the courts have had a mediation program, it hasn't been used much. Typically, probate judges have suggested it for the more difficult cases, he said. "It has not been used extensively, and it is hoped that in the future, we could use it more," Mahon said. "The seminar was to give us really good training in techniques and methods to use." •

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Probate Judges Urged to Use Mediation More Often in Emotionally Charged Cases

Lawmakers propose sweeping judicial discipline reform in wake of email scandal

Pennsylvania lawmakers have proposed sweeping judicial discipline reform in the wake of the email scandal that has led to the departure of two state Supreme Court justices.

"The email conduct plus the direction the court has taken with regard to judicial discipline shows that it's legal fiction to consider them less fallible to failure and equally blind to their own prejudices and mistakes," said Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks County.

Last week, J. Michael Eakin became the second justice — following Seamus McCaffery — to step down over involvement in an exchange of lewd and offensive emails that included judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The Judicial Conduct Board (JCB), which investigated his involvement, has since asked for one of the misconduct charges against Eakin to be dropped in the Court of Judicial Discipline (CJD).

An earlier deal between Eakin and the JCB, which serves as prosecutor in the case, was rebuffed by the court, which can hand down various sanctions, including a ruling that could trigger the automatic forfeiture of Eakin's pension.

In recent years, the handling of the email scandal has brought renewed scrutiny of the entire process, with Schwank and other court observers saying it's problematic for the court to be involved in selecting individuals who could end up disciplining its members.

Schwank said that exchange has also called into question the ability of ordinary citizens to get a fair hearing across the state.

"If you're a woman, a minority (or) LGBT, these emails reveal just how so many people charged with protecting you and your interests view you and talk about you in private," she said.  (Continue Reading)

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Lawmakers propose sweeping judicial discipline reform in wake of email scandal

How to Spot Elder Abuse and Neglect in the ER: Things Are Not Always As They Seem

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When older adults in severely debilitated states show up for treatment in the emergency department, emergency physicians and staff must be able to identify and document their symptoms and decide whether to report their concerns to adult protective services.  This is a difficult decision as the patient's symptoms may stem from willful neglect, unintentional neglect or sub-acute symptoms caused by an underlying illness than manifest as neglect. Two papers published online last Friday in Annals of Emergency Medicine highlight a problem that promises to grow rapidly with the aging of the Baby Boom generation.

"Given the aging of the population, emergency physicians need to be prepared to balance their obligations to the patient by documenting findings, reporting suspicions and referring patients to appropriate agencies," said Marguerite DeLiema, Ph.D, of the Stanford University Center on Longevity in Stanford, Calif., the lead study author of "The Forensic Lens: Bringing Elder Neglect into Focus in the Emergency Department." "Emergency physicians can also help prevent misunderstandings about elder neglect by encouraging patients to document care preferences, involve others in care planning and communicate with their caregivers about how to fulfill their wishes." 

Ms. DeLiema's team documented two case studies in which seemingly similar symptoms of elder neglect (severe malnutrition, skin ulcers and other physical problems), resulted from very different caregiving situations. In one instance, the patient's daughter had become frustrated with medical providers after a home health care agency refused to care for him when his condition deteriorated. The daughter believed she could provide better care on her own and brought her father home from the hospital against medical advice. In the other case, the patient's son intentionally neglected his father for his own financial gain. He reported that he refused to provide medical care because his father didn't "need to see a doctor or take medicine because he is dying."

The second paper ("Identifying Elder Abuse in the Emergency Department: Towards a Multi-Disciplinary Team-Based Approach") recommends a team-based approach across disciplines to identify elder abuse, including emergency medical providers, triage providers, nurses, radiologists and technicians, social workers and case managers. Opportunities to detect abuse occur throughout the episode of emergency care, from when paramedics and EMTs enter a patient's home to the clinical exam in the emergency department through intervention by social workers and/or law enforcement. 

"Currently, most victims of elder abuse and neglect pass through our emergency departments with a life-threatening condition unidentified," said the latter paper's lead study author, Tony Rosen, MD, MPH, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, N.Y. "A multi-disciplinary, team-based approach supported by additional research and funding has the potential to improve the identification of elder abuse and improve the health and safety of our most vulnerable patients."

Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information, visit

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How to Spot Elder Abuse and Neglect in the ER: Things Are Not Always As They Seem

Friday, March 25, 2016

Shocking Nursing Home Abuse and Death of Wrestling Legend Leads for Calls for Nursing Home Oversight

The first shock was when the family of wrestling legend Chief White Owl experienced his untimely death from shocking abuse after only a temporary stay turned into a nightmare at a Florida nursing home. “He was only supposed to go in for 120 days for evaluation on the meds he was on for senile dementia and return home,” says his wife Patricia, “and never did.”

The Chief was diagnosed with malnutrition, dehydration, overmedication, had lost 32 pounds in 8 weeks, had Decubitus Ulcers on both feet to the point that the hospital recommended amputation of both feet. bed sores Stage 4, had lost upper and lower parcel plates, and both rotary caps in both shoulders were turned where he had been dropped.

The second shock was when 50% of the $1.1 million punitive damages awarded by the Jury was mandated to go back to the state’s own Health Care Administration Agency – which neither the jury nor family were informed of at any point before, during or after the trial.

Now, the family of Chief White Owl aka George Dahmer are leveraging his name recognition with their own outrage at a list of egregious mistreatments and abuse in petitioning the state to strengthen its oversight of senior nursing homes, and increase transparency.

Join the growing global community at who believe that EVERYONE matters.

The petitions – - and here – - petition the Florida House Of Representatives, as follows:

We the people of the United States Of America demand stiffer laws and harsher penalties on all nursing homes. The elderly and disabled need maximum protection to keep them healthy and Safe. Let's make this a better world to live in for everyone. The Dahmer family is striving for:

• 1. Require nursing homes to have background checks done before commencement of all employees, and then every third year on all employees. Prohibit convicted felons. (The director of nursing at Lake Worth Manor was a convicted felon. Armed robbery, theft, assault, and drug charges.)

• 2. Make sure every nursing home is fully staffed at all times. (Lake Worth Manor was EXTREMELY UNDERSTAFFED.) The nursing facility will be fined $10,000 per occurrence for not being fully staffed. (Being understaffed means the quality of care suffers.)

• 3. Health inspections done every 3 months instead of every 15 months.

• 4. Make sure there is a doctor on site 7 days a week. If not, then there needs to be ready access to an after hours doctor for residents. (There was no doctor assigned at Lake Worth Manor.)

• 5. Make sure there is a minimum coverage of $1,000,000 per resident coverage living in nursing facility for negligence or death and $10,000,000 global coverage. (Lake Worth Manor covered $10,000 per resident coverage.)

• 6. Surveillance camera's put in residents rooms upon request (school's, nursery's, etc have them, so why not nursing homes?)

• 7. Nursing homes must have a 4 or 5 star rating or fined $10,000 per occurrence when below 4 stars.

• 8. ALL the above Nursing Home requirements and regulations shall not be State funded. The owner, owners, Or corporations shall be fully responsible to make sure every Nursing Home Facility has maximum protection and maximum safety on each resident staying or living in Nursing Home Facility. Make sure that all residents rights are GRANTED!! Each resident should get the best care there Is. Treat each resident with dignity and respect. The way it should be.

We need to Make Sure That ALL the Residents Rights are GRANTED!! Each Resident Should Get The Best Care There Is. They ALL NEED TO Treat Each Resident With Dignity and Respect. That's the Way It Should Be.


The video feature was by Sheila MacVicar, with Joie Chen,
for America Tonight by Al Jazeera TV

Shocking Nursing Home Abuse and Death of Wrestling Legend Leads for Calls for Nursing Home Oversight

Nursing homes legally kidnapping elderly patients to collect on medical bills

(NaturalNews) Every last vestige of American culture and decency is being gutted, it seems, by the insatiable greed of the ruling class den of vipers, which is now voraciously targeting the hard-earned estates of elderly nursing home patients and their families. A recent report in The New York Times (NYT) explains how a law created to protect the aging from being financially exploited is now being used for just that, leaving behind a devastating wake of pecuniary ruin.

It is known as the "guardianship statute" in New York State, and it was enacted in 1993 for the purpose of protecting those who are no longer able to manage their financial affairs due to incapacity. It was meant to be particularly helpful for elderly individuals without friends or family members in their lives to effectively manage their estates, establishing that a court-appointed person, typically a lawyer, be assigned to act as guardian in lieu of these deficiencies.

But this guardianship clause has been hijacked by money-hungry nursing homes like Mary Manning Walsh (MMW) in Manhattan, which is using it to extract money from patients who can't or won't pay disputed medical bills. In the case of 90-year-old Lillian Palermo, whose co-pays not only doubled recently out of the blue but who also hasn't been cared for adequately by MMW, according to her husband, the care facility filed a six-page petition for full control over her money due to unpaid bills.

For many nursing homes today, it's all about the money

This sinister tactic, which goes largely unreported in the media, can bankrupt a patient if successful. Though not all judges honor such petitions -- the guardianship clause was never intended to be used as a method of bill collection by nursing homes -- some do, and the consequences for patients and their families can be devastating.

"It's a strategic move to intimidate," stated Ginalisa Monterroso, chief executive of Medicaid Advisory Group, an elder care counseling business that had represented Dino Palermo, Lillian's husband, in his billing dispute case, to the NYT. "Nursing homes do it just to bring [in] money. It's so cruel. Mr. Palermo loves his wife, he's there every single day, and they just threw him to the courts."
According to a lawyer representing MMW, who claims he's brought 5,000 guardianship cases himself before the courts during his 21 years of practice, taking advantage of the guardianship clause in this manner is completely legitimate. But Judge Alexander W. Hunter Jr., a longtime State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx and Manhattan, says it's completely abhorrent.

"It would be an understatement to declare that this court is outraged by the behavior exhibited by the interested parties -- parties who were supposed to protect the person, but who have all unabashedly demonstrated through their actions in connection with the person that they are only interested in getting paid," wrote Hunter Jr. in one of the few decisions where he granted guardianship to another nursing care facility, Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, in order to collect payment.

Adult protective services biggest exploiter of guardianship clause

Nursing homes aren't the only entities taking advantage of the guardianship clause, known specifically as Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law. According to preliminary data collected by the Brookdale Center on Healthy Aging at Hunter College, most guardianship cases are filed by Adult Protective Services, with friends and family of the patients and hospitals coming in second and third.

"It has become a system that's very focused on finances," stated Jean Callahan, director of the school, to the NYT.

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Nursing homes legally kidnapping elderly patients to collect on medical bills

Rare full restitution to victims of law firm chief's $1.2B fraud takes some defendants off the hook

With the help of a major judgment against a bank used by former law firm chief Scott Rothstein in connection with a $1.2 billion fraud, a rare outcome has occurred.

Federal prosecutors say victims have been made whole for their financial losses, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. So that means some of the dozens of defendants in related criminal cases are no longer laboring under a lifelong burden of hefty restitution they are unlikely to be able to pay in full.

One of the latest to get off the hook, after the recapture of Rothstein’s own extensive assets by the U.S. government and civil litigation, is Debra Villegas, the newspaper reports.

Villegas, who was once Rothstein’s right-hand woman at the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm in Fort Lauderdale, was released in 2014 after serving about one-third of her original 10-year prison term, thanks to her cooperation with prosecutors.

“It’s a relief and the end we all had hoped for,” Villegas told the newspaper, through her lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi, after learning that a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale had vacated a $363 million judgment against her last week.

Puglisi said her client had worked very hard to repay victims.

Those subject to federal restitution orders are required to contribute half of their income to reimburse victims while they are in prison and 10 percent once they are released. Plus, any unexpected windfall such as winning a lottery jackpot also goes toward restitution, the Sun Sentinel explains.

Rothstein, who was disbarred, is serving a 50-year federal prison term at an undisclosed location under the witness protection program.

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Rare full restitution to victims of law firm chief's $1.2B fraud takes some defendants off the hook

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Queens Lawyer Jailed for 30 Days After Admitting He Raided Late Judge's Estate

A Queens attorney was thrown into jail for 30 days after admitting he raided the late Judge John (Kung Fu) Phillips’ estate for two years, the Daily News has learned.

Frank Racano, who worked as an attorney for Rev. Samuel Boykin — Phillips’s nephew — has been locked up since March 1 for not complying with a court order telling him to account for funds from the more than $2 million auction of the Slave Theater building and nearby property in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Racano, 54 of Howard Beach, was hauled into Brooklyn Supreme Court by city sheriffs Wednesday. He wore an orange jumpsuit and needed a cane to walk because of a foot injury.

“I tried to stay afloat and it all just snowballed,” Racano told Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Laura Lee Jacobson.

Racano admitted that he “robbed from Peter to pay Paul” by writing checks from Phillips’ estate’s escrow account and putting the money into his personal accounts to pay off debts.

“This estate was used as everyone’s honey pot ... He took an oath as an officer of the court and he violated them,” said Jacobson.

Judge John L. Phillips

Full Article and Source:
Queens Lawyer Jailed Raiding Late Judge's Estate

See Also:
Facility Kept Dying Judge Hostage, Lawsuit Claims

Joe Roubicek: Joe's Cases: Rich Grandma, Poor Grandma

How badly would you like to win the lottery?

Gertrude Townsend, an 87-year-old woman from the “bad part of town,” went from rags to riches when she won 2.68 million dollars in the Florida Lottery. Her family held her hostage while stealing the spoils and attorneys battled for guardianship on her dime, to determine who would control the fortune.

Mark Twain said history does rhyme and nest eggs are still wiped out by pretentious “do-gooders.” Poor Grandma!

Lotto Grandma Lives In Poverty, Feels Heartbreak
August 15, 1998|By TESSIE BORDEN Staff Writer

FORT LAUDERDALE — Winning $2.68 million in the Florida Lottery did nothing to improve 87-year-old Gertrude Townsend’s life.

In fact, detectives say, the windfall brought her only unpaid bills, a bedridden existence and the heartbreak of a grandson who stole her money.

On Thursday morning, that grandson, Eric Jones, was arrested as he tried to cash a $650 check in Townsend’s name at the Nations Bank branch at 1300 Southeast 17th St. Police charged Jones, 25, with grand theft, passing a forged check and financial exploitation of the elderly.

“She’s technically a millionaire,” said Fort Lauderdale Detective Joe Roubicek. “But her phone is getting turned off. She’s living in squalor.”

Full Article and Source:
Joe Roubicek:  Joe's Cases:  Rich Grandma, Poor Grandma

Former Attorney Avoids Prison in Larceny Case Involving Disabled Client

John Fritz told a judge recently that his former attorney's theft of his money left him severely depressed, nervous, angry and distrustful of lawyers, the courts and people in general.

Fritz, a disabled Wethersfield resident, had a chance to address Judge Joan K. Alexander before she sentenced his long-time former attorney and conservator, Michael Schless, at Superior Court in New Britain on March 18.

Newington police last year charged Schless with stealing about $48,000 from Fritz. Schless, 78, entered a no contest plea to first-degree larceny in February.

"Michael Schless stabbed me in the back and he only looked out for himself," Fritz said.

Fritz told the judge he has had cerebral palsy his entire life, and he had received $120,000 from his late mother, money which Schless was supposed to help him manage.

"I think he was stealing money for a long time," Fritz said. "In the past I trusted people, and trusted lawyers and the courts. Now, I don't trust people anymore. I told the probate court something was wrong and the court ignored me."

According to Fritz, what happened made him severely depressed. He stopped eating properly and lost over 80 pounds. For years, he had a home health aide to help him brush his teeth, but Schless claimed he couldn't afford an aide and cancelled that service, Fritz said. He told the judge his lower teeth rotted and had to be pulled out. "It was awful for me," Fritz said.

Fritz said Schless wasn't paying his bills or rent properly, subjecting him to fines and penalties. When he complained, he said probate court officials didn't do anything about it........

Full Article & Source:
Former Attorney Avoids Prison in Larceny Case Involving Disabled Client

Woman pleads not guilty in elderly exploitation case

A Rock Island woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that she bilked an elderly East Moline man out of more than $100,000 by claiming she needed treatment for cancer.

Felica Howard, 44, appeared briefly in Rock Island County Circuit Court and waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She will be back in court April 22 for a pretrial conference. A trial has been tentatively set for May 9.

During a preliminary hearing, a judge determines whether there is enough probable cause to justify a trial.

She is charged with theft by deception, a Class 1 felony punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

Police say Howard met an East Moline 78-year-old male parishioner at a Moline church in 2013 and told him she needed money for a variety of issues, including a pending divorce and treatment for ovarian cancer.

The man continued to support Howard financially for two years to help her with these issues and help pay for the cancer treatments and medications, according to police.

Police determined that Howard’s claims were false and that she had not been diagnosed or treated for cancer.

Howard remained in the Rock Island County Jail on Tuesday on a $100,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Woman pleads not guilty in elderly exploitation case

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Finra panel orders Morgan Stanley to pay $34 million to estate of former Home Shopping Network chief

Arbitration panel cited the firm for churning Roy M. Speer's account and for violating a Florida law against exploitation of vulnerable adults

A Finra arbitration panel awarded more than $34 million to the estate of Roy M. Speer, the co-founder of the Home Shopping Network, in its claim against Morgan Stanley for churning Mr. Speer's account.

The all-public arbitration panel ruled that Morgan Stanley, broker Ami Forte and branch manager Terry McCoy were jointly liable for unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty/constructive fraud, negligence, negligent supervision and unjust enrichment.

The arbitrators also found that Morgan Stanley violated a Florida law against exploitation of vulnerable adults. It awarded $32.8 million in compensatory damages to Lynnda Speer, Mr. Speer's widow and representative of the estate, as well as $1.5 million to reimburse costs incurred during the arbitration process, which spanned 13 months and involved 142 hearing sessions.

The chair of the arbitration panel signed the decision on March 18. It was posted on March 21.

Ms. Speer will next seek to recover potentially millions in attorneys fees in Florida court, according to her attorney, Scott Ilgenfritz, a partner at Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns.

The award covered a period from January 2009 to June 2012 and involved investments in the banking and financial services sectors.

Mr. Ilgenfritz said there were about 12,000 transactions in six of Mr. Speer's accounts, 85% of which centered on corporate and municipal bond trading.

“The unauthorized trading was rampant,” Mr. Ilgenfritz said in an interview. “They were trading individual bonds like pork bellies.”

Mr. Speer, who died in August 2012, suffered from dementia, according to Mr. Ilgenfritz. He asserts that Mr. Speer was exploited by Ms. Forte, who was alleged to be in a relationship with Mr. Speer in addition to serving as his broker.

Mr. Speer's estate sought $118.7 million in compensatory damages and $366 million in punitive damages. The arbitration panel denied the punitive damages as well as requests for expungement by Ms. Forte and Mr. McCoy.

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said the award was not justified.

“Although disappointing, it is a small fraction of the more than $476 million sought by claimants,” Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Christine Jockle said in a statement. “Even so, the award is inconsistent with substantial evidence showing that the accounts were profitable for the client and managed in accordance with his wishes.”

Attorneys representing Ms. Forte and Mr. McCoy were not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Speer's widow hopes the case will lead to greater protections for elderly investors.

“One of her goals in this whole process was to bring to light the financial abuse and elder abuse of her late husband and to prevent other brokers and investment advisers from taking advantage of their elderly clients,” Mr. Ilgenfritz said.

Full Article & Source:
Finra panel orders Morgan Stanley to pay $34 million to estate of former Home Shopping Network chief

Renewed efforts to reauthorize Older Americans Act will solidify services for older adults

Representing nearly 6,000 healthcare professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of older adults, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) commends the U.S. House of Representatives on passing the Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization Act of 2015, key legislation to deliver social and protective services to older Americans through 2018.

Introduced by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2015, the bill would strengthen landmark legislation originally passed in 1965--and overdue for reauthorization since 2011. Among other objectives, the legislation aims to address elder abuse; evidence-based care; effective coordination of services at the federal, state, and local levels; and several other challenges confronting older Americans and their healthcare professionals.

"The OAA reflects our national commitment to protect and provide for generations of older Americans who helped shape the society we now share," said AGS CEO Nancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA. "It's important that all branches of government stand behind legislation like the OAA, which reflects the attention and respect that older adults deserve."

With several minor revisions made in the House, the OAA Reauthorization Act of 2015 will now be sent back to the U.S. Senate for a final vote--the last hurdle on the road to implementation, but one that will still require sustained support from the public and health professionals alike, explains AGS President Steven R. Counsell, MD, AGSF.

"Reauthorizing the OAA is as important as ever to modernizing and improving the aging services network in our country. Progress has taken time, but it's happened because we've worked together to show Congress that reauthorization is a priority," Dr. Counsell observed.

Full Article & Source:
Renewed efforts to reauthorize Older Americans Act will solidify services for older adults

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Problems with Guardianship Abuse Leading to Calls for Reform

A growing problem with adult guardianship abuse is causing calls to reform the system. Vulnerable elderly can get caught in the guardianship system, being harmed and exploited by the very process that is supposed to protect them.

A guardian is someone appointed by a court to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual ("ward"). The guardianship process usually starts when a family member or social worker notifies the court that someone can't take care of him- or herself. The court often appoints a family member as guardian. However, if the family can't agree on a guardian or there is no family to act as guardian, the court may appoint a public guardian. Public guardians are supposedly neutral individuals who are hired to act in the ward's best interest.

Unfortunately, in many states, the lack of court oversight combined with poorly trained guardians has led to reports of abuse. Once the court appoints a guardian, that guardian has complete control over the ward's property and finances. Guardians can block family visits, determine where the ward will live, and sell property. In addition, guardians charge fees for their services that are payable from the elderly person’s bank account, which can cause corruption. When a senior gets caught up in the guardianship system, it can be very difficult to get out. There are many stories about seniors who are confused and overwhelmed after losing control of their lives to a guardian they don't know.

In response to complaints by advocacy groups about guardianship abuse, Florida passed a law in March 2016 instituting changes to its public guardian system. The law creates an Office of Public and Professional Guardians that is required to create standard practices and rules for public guardians. The office also has enforcement power to revoke a guardianship.

If you think a loved one needs a guardian, consult with a qualified elder law attorney to determine the best steps. There may be less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. To find an attorney near you, go here:

In addition, if your family can't agree on the best course of action for your elderly loved one, before fighting over guardianship in court, consider elder law mediation.

For more information about guardianships, go here:

Full Article & Source:
Problems with Guardianship Abuse Leading to Calls for Reform

Grassley expresses concern about exploitation of nursing home residents

Senator Grassley
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley said Wednesday he is seeking response by the U.S. Justice Department on what he called a new and disturbing trend against the elderly – the exploitation of nursing home residents on social media.

“In several cases around the country, nursing home workers have been caught taking photos and videos of residents in vulnerable positions and posting them on social media outlets such as Snapchat,” Grassley said during his weekly chat with Iowa reporters. “The mocking posts are meant for the workers’ amusement, but the posts are degrading and horrifying. The residents are frail and incapable of fighting back against the abusive treatment.”

Since much of nursing home care is paid through Medicaid, a federal-state program, and since nursing home inspection is a similar makeup, these facilities must adhere to state and federal health and safety standards, Grassley said. He has asked the U.S. attorney general’s office on what the Justice Department is doing to stop this exploitation.

“The Justice Department is the nation’s top law enforcement agency,” he said, “and its involvement in fighting this newly emerging crime is critical to prevention, prosecution and holding perpetrators accountable.”

Grassley has also asked the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an updated account of its work on elder abuse, including social media exploitation, in an effort to “stop this abuse of our seniors.”

Full Article & Source:
Grassley expresses concern about exploitation of nursing home residents

AARP to Begin Elder Abuse Education Campaign

PIERRE, S.D. - Advocates for seniors are working to get the word out that Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed into law new protections for victims of elder abuse.

The state has adopted several recommendations from the Elder Abuse Task Force, including criminalizing emotional abuse against South Dakota's oldest residents. Erik Nelson, associate state director of advocacy for AARP South Dakota, said his group now will be working on an education campaign to help seniors better understand their new protections.

"Throughout the rest of 2016," he said, "we will be conducting outreach and awareness to health professionals, law enforcement, family caregivers and victims and the general public about how the Elder Abuse Task Force bill is going to impact them in a good way."

According to South Dakota's Department of Social Services, more than 600 Adult Protective Services calls are made annually. However, the task force found that, nationally, only one in 14 cases of elder abuse ever is reported.

Nelson said the new protections will help the state track these cases better by providing new ways for victims and family members to report abuse.

"Elder abuse is a serious concern today in our state," he said, "but as our state population continues to age, it will continue to be a growing concern in the future."

Based on the task force recommendations, the Legislature also has approved new funding for the South Dakota attorney general's office to add a prosecutor and an investigator to look into elder-abuse cases. In a statement, Attorney General Marty Jackley praised the moves, saying his office also will be working with local law-enforcement agencies to investigate cases of elder abuse.

The Elder Abuse Task Force report is online at

Full Article & Source:
AARP to Begin Elder Abuse Education Campaign

Monday, March 21, 2016

Arguments Set In Metro Conservatorship Case

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

After months of inaction, a Davidson Circuit Court Judge has set a date for final arguments in a suit attempting to hold Metro Nashville government liable for funds stolen from a man locked in a conservatorship.

Senior Judge Ben Cantrell has signed an order setting deadlines for filings by both sides in the case and fixing a June 10 date for final arguments in his courtroom.

The case is one of two in which a specially appointed conservator is attempting to recoup money stolen from residents placed in conservatorships in Davidson County.

Disbarred Nashville attorney John E. Clemmons is currently serving a 17 year prison sentence after pleading guilty to stealing about $1 million from four clients including Donald Griggs.

Filing the suits was Paul Gontarek, who was appointed to replace Clemmons after the thefts were discovered. The suits charge that Metro government should be held liable for the losses because officials in the Davidson Probate Clerk's office failed to properly monitor Clemmons activities after his appointment as conservator.

Gontarek is seeking to recover $157,050 for Griggs, while the claim against Metro in another pending case is $515,907.

Gontarek was appointed by Davidson Probate Judge David "Randy" Kennedy.

Under the recent order from Cantrell both sides are required to file cross motions for summary judgment by April 1. Further responses are due on May 2 and May 13 to be followed by the June hearing.

Cantrell already has rejected a Metro motion to dismiss the case.

Clemmons, once a fixture in Davidson Probate Court, began serving his lengthy prison sentence in 2014, shortly after entering his guilty pleas. According to Department of Corrections records he is due for release on Nov. 16, 2038.

The cases filed by Gontarek were assigned to Cantrell after Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brothers recused himself from the cases.

Clemmons cases and several others led to a series of public hearings across the state by the Tennessee Bar Association. Subsequently a reform proposal was submitted to the General Assembly, approved and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.


Full Article & Source:
Arguments Set In Metro Conservatorship Case

Human Rights Authority invites community to become members

ROCKFORD — The Human Rights Authority of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission invites Rockford area residents to become volunteer members.

The organization is empowered by statute to investigate alleged violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, including persons with mental illness, cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities and the aged disabled. It has nine authorities, spread throughout the state according to geographic region.

The membership of each authority consists of nine volunteers. Three of these, by statute, are providers of disability services, one each from the areas of mental health, developmental services and rehabilitation services. The other six members are private citizens, some of whom themselves might have a disability, have a family member with a disability or just be concerned citizens interested in disability rights.

Members attend monthly meetings and serve on investigative teams. Members must be at least 18, go through an application and appointment process, attend orientation or training and serve two to four hours per month.

For information: 309-671-3030; 815-987-7664.

Full Article & Source:
Human Rights Authority invites community to become members

15 Things Caregivers Should Know After a Loved One Has Had a Stroke

It’s better to find out than miss out. Be aware of the medications that have been prescribed to your loved one and their side effects. Ask if your home should be modified to meet the specific needs of the stroke survivor. Ask a doctor, nurse or therapist to clarify any unanswered questions or to provide written information that explains what occurs after the stroke and during recovery or rehabilitation.
  1. Reduce risks, or stroke may strike again. Survivors who have had one stroke are at high risk of having another one if the treatment recommendations are not followed. Make sure your loved one eats a healthy diet, exercises (taking walks is great exercise), takes medications as prescribed, and has regular visits with their physician to help prevent a second stroke.
  2. Many factors influence recovery. Recovery depends on many different factors: where in the brain the stroke occurred, how much of the brain was affected, the patient’s motivation, caregiver support, the quantity and quality of rehabilitation, and how healthy the survivor was before the stroke.  Because every stroke and stroke survivor is unique, avoid comparisons.
  3. Gains can happen quickly or over time. The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some stroke survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year post-stroke.
  4. Some signs point to physical therapy. Caregivers should consider seeking assistance from a physical or occupational therapist if their loved one has any of these complaints: dizziness; imbalance that results in falls, difficulty walking or moving around in daily life; inability to walk six minutes without stopping to rest; inability to do things that he/she enjoys like recreational activities or outings with family or increased need for help to engage in daily activities.
  5. Don’t ignore falls. Falls after stroke are common. If a fall is serious and results in severe pain, bruising or bleeding, go the Emergency Department for treatment. If a loved one experiences minor falls (with no injury) that occur more than two times within six months, see your physician or the physical therapist for treatment.
  6. Measuring progress matters. How much acute rehabilitation therapy your loved one receives depends partly on his/her rate of improvement. Stroke survivors on an acute rehabilitation unit are expected to make measurable functional gains every week as measured by the Functional Independence Measure Score (FIMS). Functional improvements include activities of daily living skills, mobility skills and communication skills. The typical rehabilitation expectation is improving 1 to 2 FIM points per day.
  7. A change in abilities can trigger a change in services. Medicare coverage for rehabilitation therapies may be available if your loved one’s physical function has changed. It there appears to be improvement or a decline in motor skills, speech or self-care since the last time the patient was in therapy, he/she may be eligible for more services.
  8. Monitor changes in attitude and behavior. Evaluate whether your loved one is showing signs of emotional lability (when a person has difficulty controlling their emotions). Consult a physician to develop a plan of action.
  9. Stop depression before it hinders recovery. Post-stroke depression is common, with as many as 30–50 percent of stroke survivors developing depression in the early or later phases post stroke. Post-stroke depression can significantly affect your loved one’s recovery and rehabilitation.  Consult a physician to develop a plan of action.
  10. Seek out support. Community resources, such as stroke survivor and caregiver support groups, are available for you and your loved one. Stay in touch with a case manager, social worker or discharge planner who can help you find resources in your community.
  11. Learn the ins and outs of insurance coverage. Be sure to consult with your loved-one’s doctor, case manager or social worker to find how much and how long insurance will pay for rehabilitation services. Rehabilitation services can vary substantially from one case to another. Clarify what medical and rehabilitation services are available for hospital and outpatient care. Determine the length of coverage provided from your insurance (private or government supported) and what out-of-pocket expenses you can expect.
  12. Know when to enlist help. If rehabilitation services are denied due to lack of “medical necessity,” ask your loved one’s physician to intervene on his or her behalf. Ask the physician to provide records to the insurance carrier and, if needed, follow up yourself by calling the insurance company.
  13. Know your rights. You have rights to access your loved-one’s medical and rehabilitation records. You are entitled to copies of the medical records, including written notes and brain imaging films.
  14. Take care of you. Take a break from caregiving by asking another family member, friend or neighbor to help while you take time for yourself. Keep balance in your life by eating right, exercising or walking daily, and getting adequate rest.

Full Article & Source:
15 Things Caregivers Should Know After a Loved One Has Had a Stroke

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Attorney, caregiver convicted of stealing $900K from estate of Orchard Park siblings

A former estate planning attorney and a local caregiver has been convicted of stealing more than $900,000 from the estates of siblings from Orchard Park.

Stephen Newman, 71, a former Nixon Peabody attorney, pleaded guilty Thursday to second degree grand larceny in New York County Supreme Court and self-described geriatric companion Joan Morgante, 76, of Cheektowaga, pleaded guilty to second degree attempted grand larceny in Erie County Supreme Court.

They’re accused of stealing from the estates of wealthy brother and sister June and Worth Farrington, who lived their entire lives in Orchard Park.

According to the complaint, between 2007-09, Newman, the estate attorney of the Farringtons, made a series of restatements to their living trusts, which changed the outright gifts, originally set to go to charities, into annuities and he made himself the sole trustee of the accounts.

It further stated that for three years, beginning in 2008, Newman diverted to himself more than $900,000 in monies from the Farringtons’ trust accounts, and also diverted more than $400,000 to Morgante, which included the purchase of a $325,000 townhouse.

According to the Attorney General’s office, in 2006, Newman introduced Morgante to Bank of America and recommended her to be the caretaker for June and Worth Farrington, who were both unmarried and without any children. According to an affidavit filed in Surrogate’s Court, Morgante is a high school drop-out without health care certifications or training. Morgante met Newman while caring for one of his clients.

The original 1999 living trusts prepared by Newman provided that the sole trustee of each trust was Bank of America and gave June and Worth Farrington a life interest in the assets in the trust. When they died, the assets were to be given outright to designated charities, including the Salvation Army, City Mission, Nature Conservancy and Women and Children’s Hospital Foundation.

In 2008, the Farringtons had combined assets of more $20 million. June Farrington died in 2008 at the age of 84 and her brother Worth Farrington died in 2014 at 87.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Attorney, caregiver convicted of stealing $900K from estate of Orchard Park siblings

Jury rejects lawsuit from nursing home inspector

SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego jury Thursday rejected the claim of a nursing home inspector who said her supervisors at the California Department of Health didn’t do enough to help her after she got a debilitating case of carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, and also forced her to enter false information in order to close case files early.

Jury rejects lawsuit from nursing home inspector

UPDATE: Meredith nursing home where AG's office is investigating a death issues statement

MEREDITH - NH1 News has learned that the nursing home where a death is being investigated is Golden View.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office is investigating a death at the home but has not released any details on where or when the death occurred.

Golden View issued the following statement on Thursday:

“The Golden View nursing home is cooperating fully with the Attorney General’s investigation. The residents in its care are safe. Out of respect for its residents and the investigation, Golden View has no further comment at this time.”

Here's a look at the nursing home's history from The annual health inspections showed no complaint reporting for last year, or 2014 but in 2013, the nursing home's quality care, pharmacy service, environmental and administration categories were flagged with deficiencies.

According to that same report, over the last three years this nursing home did not face any federal fines or penalties shows that there are 76 residents at this care center.

Full Article & Source:
UPDATE: Meredith nursing home where AG's office is investigating a death issues statement