Saturday, December 24, 2016

Boy Worried His Autism Would Put Him on Santa's Naughty List

Landon and his family was visiting Santa at the RiverTown Crossings mall in Michigan when the little six-year-old approached the Big Man with a very important question.

Landon's Secret
After his family photo was complete, Landon ran back up to Santa. His arms were twitching in anticipation and pure adrenaline. He was going to ask something that made him very nervous.

"Will my autism put me on the naughty list?"

Landon was concerned that his mental condition was going to rub Santa and the elves the wrong way, but he couldn't have been more wrong!

Exactly What He Needed To Hear
Without hesitation, Santa responded with an amazing answer, WOOD-TV reported.

“You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy. You’re a good boy, you know?”

The nervous energy left Landon immediately and his mom Naomi sat there and watched in amazement as Santa calmed her son. She shared that Santa flawlessly explained what she's been trying to teach her son since he was born - he is not any better or worse than a person simply due to his mental condition. He is a good person and Santa made that clear. With only five words Santa made everything right again: “It’s OK to be you!”

Full Article and Source:
Boy Worried His Autism Would Put Him on the Naughty List

Telling Their Life Stories; Older Folks Find Peace in Looking Back

Photo Credit:  Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
ISABELLA S. BICK’S parents, both Jewish physicians, never talked about the past after the family moved from Fascist Italy to the United States in 1939. She was 8 at the time and quickly learned it was best to keep her feelings of loss and loneliness to herself.

Her silence ended — and those emotions broke free — when Ms. Bick, now 84 and a psychotherapist living in Sharon, Conn., began writing bits and pieces of her life story a few years ago. In one vignette, she describes the trauma of moving with her parents and younger brother into a cramped apartment with her father’s Russian family in Troy, N.Y.

Her parents dealt with their grief by refusing to speak Italian at home or to reminisce about their life in Europe. So young Isabella did not tell them about the schoolmates who taunted her or the teacher who shouted at her. She was determined “to invent an American little girl” as quickly as possible, reading poems aloud each night until she lost her accent.

In bed, though, she slept with the brown lambskin coat that she had worn on the ocean voyage to America. Ms. Bick writes that she had “endowed Coat with very special magical qualities” and that she dreamed of returning to her home in Tuscany and her beloved nanny. “With Coat close to me, I felt I could hide my Italian self, not yet totally lost, and not yet reveal my still unformed American self — I could hold on precariously to both — for a little while longer.”

Like many older people who write their life stories, Ms. Bick found some peace in looking back. “Writing is painful because it brings back memories,” she said in a recent interview. But when she began writing, Ms. Bick said, she recognized “that there was this joyous little girl” whom she could finally “reclaim.” And she described “an awe that I survived some of the things I went through.”

Ms. Bick, who has three children and three grandchildren, considers her stories a gift to future generations — and to past ones. “I am keeping my parents and grandparents alive,” she said. “And, as an egotist, I am keeping myself alive. I am remembered.”

Full Article and Source:
Telling Their Life Stories; Older Folks Find Peace in Looking Back

Friday, December 23, 2016

Supreme Court Orders Public Reprimand of Lawyer Whose Wife Stole $2M From Firm Account

The Supreme Court of Georgia issued the following disciplinary decision on December 15:

In the Supreme Court of Georgia
Decided: December 15, 2016

This disciplinary matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Review Panel recommending that Michael Anthony Eddings ("Eddings") (State Bar No. 238751) be disbarred for several violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct arising out of the theft of $2.3 million from his law firm's trust account by his wife (now ex wife), Sonya Eddings ("Sonya"), while she was the law firm's financial manager. Eddings, in response, contends that a public reprimand or suspension is more appropriate under the circumstances, as Eddings did not participate in the theft and was unaware of Sonya's wrongful actions. After a review of the extensive record and detailed fact finding provided by the special master, Katherine L. McArthur, we reject the Review Panel's recommendation that Eddings be disbarred, and we agree with Eddings that a public reprimand is the more appropriate level of discipline to impose in this case.

The special master and Review Panel contend that Eddings violated Rules

1.15 (I) (c) and 1.15 (II) (b) and Rule 5.3 (a) and (b) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct found in Bar Rule 4 102 (d), based on the following facts: Eddings, who was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 2002 and initially worked for a plaintiffs' personal injury firm, opened his own practice in 2003, the Law Office of Michael Eddings, PC ("the Firm"), concentrating in real estate law. Sonya served as the Firm's financial manager. Sonya had a bachelor's degree in accounting, a master's degree in business administration, and substantial work experience in banking, including seven years with Columbus Bank & Trust/Synovus ("CB&T"), which was also the Firm's financial institution.

In 2006, Eddings and Sonya established Eddings Holdings for the purchasing and holding of a franchise of The Coffee Beanery with two stores. Sonya handled all of the operations related to the franchise, and told Eddings, falsely, that the franchise was breaking even. However, in March 2007, without telling Eddings, Sonya began diverting money from the Firm's IOLTA account to cover losses from the franchise. Between 2007 and October 2011, she stole over $2.3 million.

The record shows that Sonya used her inside knowledge of CB&T's technology and technological vulnerabilities to accomplish the theft. Because she had been a top professional at CB&T, the bank did not question her as closely as others might have been questioned when questions arose about the Firm's accounts. For example, just before Sonya's scheme came to light, she admitted to a CB&T employee that she had created a fake wire confirmation to present to a client, but claimed she did so because she had not sent the wire transfer when she should have. The CB&T employee accepted this explanation and did not inform Eddings.

Although Eddings and Sonya had monthly financial meetings to review the Firm's account reconciliations, Sonya presented bank statements that she had altered to remove any negative balance information. Additionally, over the course of Sonya's criminal activities, CB&T, without notice to Eddings, ceased providing notifications of overdrafts and placed the Firm's IOLTA account on automatic overdraft protection. As a result, CB&T provided notice to the State Bar on only a few of the multiple times the IOLTA account was overdrawn . On four occasions, Sonya also intercepted letters from the Bar's Trust Account Overdraft Notification Coordinator regarding checks presented against insufficient funds in the Firm's IOLTA account, and responded, to the Bar's satisfaction, without Eddings' knowledge or consent. When Eddings did receive information about minor irregularities during this time, Sonya was able to resolve or explain the issues to his satisfaction. And, when Eddings subsequently instituted new firm policies to address the issues, Sonya simply increased her level of deception to get around the new policies.

Finally, in October 2011, after a late payoff, the Firm's title insurance company conducted an audit which showed that between October 2007 and October 2011, the Firm's IOLTA account had a negative balance 50 times. Sonya then admitted her wrongdoing, and CB&T seized the Firm's funds and closed the Firm's accounts. The Firm's insurance company provided coverage for most of the losses; however, the parties agree that $65,618.22 in losses to clients and mortgage holders remains uncompensated.

The special master also found that there was no evidence that the money that was diverted went anywhere except the account of Eddings Holdings to run or cover losses for the coffee shops, finding that there was no evidence that the diverted funds went to pay personal bills or expenses for Eddings or Sonya, that there was no evidence presented that Eddings' lifestyle was one that could not have been maintained based on his own income, and that there was no evidence that Eddings was aware of the transfers from the Firm's account to the Eddings Holdings account. The special master found by clear and convincing evidence that Eddings did not know of the diversion of funds from the trust account by Sonya between 2007 and 2011, and therefore, that he had not knowingly violated the Rules. Nevertheless, the special master concluded that Eddings' failure to supervise Sonya and his failure to maintain his trust account constituted violations of Rules 1.15 (I) (c) and 1.15 (II) (b) and Rule 5.3 (a) and (b). For the reasons that follow, while we agree that Eddings violated Rules 1.15 (I) (c) and 1.15 (II) (b), we do not agree with the special master's conclusion that Eddings violated Rule 5.3 (a) and (b).

In this regard, the facts here point to the conclusion that Eddings was the victim of an elaborate con perpetrated by his wife, Sonya–a con that even bank officials unwittingly helped Sonya commit and in one case even helped her cover up–and not the conclusion that it was unreasonable for Eddings not to have done anything more to have prevented Sonya from misappropriating the funds that she stole. Eddings reviewed bank statements from CB&T, but had no reason to believe that Sonya had altered them; received information from an audit in February 2010 that did not find any suspected embezzlement activity; was unaware of correspondence that Sonya had deliberately intercepted to ensure that her deceit would not be discovered; and, even when Eddings implemented new office procedures in November 2010 in an effort to prevent future account irregularities and make sure that all wire transfers would be made properly, Sonya was able to use her banking skills and relationships to circumvent these policies (and even convince bank officials to hide from Eddings the fact that she had created a fake wire transfer in connection with one of the law firm's real estate closings). Sonya was so convincing in her con that no one from CB&T believed that any deceit was occurring, let alone to the tune of $2.3 million, and Eddings was given no information upon which to base a reasonable belief that any deceit was occurring. Indeed, no one discovered Sonya's deception until October 27, 2011, when Sonya herself confessed in writing during the audit by First American Title Insurance Company that she had been misappropriating funds from the law firm's trust account since 2007. In short, none of the activity here shows the type of misconduct on the attorney's part that this Court would generally look for to justify a suspension from the practice of law. See, e.g., In the Matter of Jones, 280 Ga. 302 (627 SE2d 24) (2006).

Additionally, as the special master noted, this is not a case where Eddings should have noticed a change in his lifestyle or that of his wife. To the contrary, Sonya diverted money from the IOLTA account to cover losses from the two coffee shops that she operated independently from Eddings and that she was eventually forced to close. Eddings had no knowledge that the coffee shops were failing.

Based on the above, the special master has not provided any solid reasoning to support the conclusion that Eddings violated Rule 5.3 (a) and (b) relating to his duty to make reasonable efforts to supervise Sonya under the facts of this case. Eddings therefore cannot be disciplined for any alleged violation of this Rule. Specifically, Rule 5.3 (a) and (b) provides that:

With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer . . . a lawyer who ... possesses managerial authority in a law firm[] shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; [and] a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Supreme Court Orders Public Reprimand of Lawyer Whose Wife Stole $2M From Firm Account

Indianapolis Attorney, Special Needs Trust Fund Trustee Arrested On Lawrence County Theft Warrant

(BEDFORD) - An arrest has been made after the launch of an investigation late last September at the request of the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office. Indianapolis Attorney Kenneth Shane Service, 43 of Indianapolis was arrested Thursday by Indiana State Police Detectives and charged with theft, a Level 5 felony.

He was transported to the Marion County Jail, where he is waiting to be transported to Lawrence County.

The initial investigation was launched in Lawrence County when PNC Bank filed complaints with the Department of Adult Protective Services and the Prosecutor's Office. Those complaints alleged that Service was acting as a Trust Fund Trustee and that large amounts of fraudulent loss had appeared in Trust Fund bank accounts that were under his management.

The actual owners of the Trust Fund accounts were not aware of the theft until notified by ISP Detective Stacy Brown.

According to a Lawrence Superior I Court probable cause affidavit, Detective Stacy Brown found Service was writing checks payable to himself, using debit cards to withdraw large sums of money and purchasing personal items and services, all without the approval of the Trust Fund Account owners.

Those items included a car, casino trips and major dental surgery and other items.

Detectives believe Service had access to several other Trust Fund accounts throughout Indiana, West Virginia and Florida.

According to, Service license has been suspended.

Full Article & Source:
Indianapolis Attorney, Special Needs Trust Fund Trustee Arrested On Lawrence County Theft Warrant

Prosecutors in Tri-Cities trying to stop growing cases of elder abuse

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – About one in ten Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging.

We found out before now, there wasn’t an organized system to prosecute abusers, and many of these cases fell through the cracks.

Of the millions of elderly adults abused each year, one study estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Now because of a new state law, district attorneys throughout Tennessee are going after these cases more aggressively than ever before, and trying to make sure when abuse happens it’s reported

“It’s very sad to see these,” Amy Hinkle said. She is a Sullivan County assistant district attorney and the chief prosecutor for vulnerable adults cases.

“We’ve had cases where people have been allowed to fall out of the bed and laid for 12 hours or longer,” Hinkle said.

She said though these types of cases are not in the public spotlight often, it’s something she sees every day.

“We have had cases where family members have exploited which means financially taken advantage of these people who are left at home no food, no medicine, sitting in their own urine and feces,” Hinkle said.

Now district attorneys are working on a new initiative called VAPIT, Vunerable Adult Protective Investigative Team, made up of law enforcement, prosecutors, and protective services. Its goal is to seek justice for vulnerable adults including the elderly and adults with disabilities.

“Prosecuting those cases that we find that there’s criminal activity and helping and assisting and providing resources for the victims and also educating the public and asking the public if they suspect abuse to report it,” Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said.

One change with this new law is prosecutors now have access to closed Adult Protective Services cases.

“We could have a case in which the victim has been removed from the home, placed in a nursing facility. That would close an Adult Protective Services case,” Hinkle said.

But now prosecutors can reopen that case and make sure the offender is prosecuted.

Hinkle said since taking steps to coordinate with the other agencies, she is seeing more instances reported.

“There are some days I get ten or more a day, there are some days I get maybe one to two, but it’s very rare that there’s not even one reported on a day,” Hinkle said.

Another change,  law enforcement officers are now trained on how to spot and handle these types of cases.

The law requiring the VAPIT initiative goes in to effect January 1st.

This isn’t the only recent change related to elder abuse, after a 2013 WJHL Community Watchdog investigation into the state’s abuse problem, lawmakers stiffened penalties for people guilty of elder abuse and approved the creation of a task force.

Full Article & Source:
Prosecutors in Tri-Cities trying to stop growing cases of elder abuse

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2 Philly judges removed from bench for ethics violations

Two more Philadelphia judges have been kicked off the bench, the latest development in an FBI probe of judicial corruption here.

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline ruled on Friday that Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal and Common Pleas Court Judge Angeles Roca be removed from office for their involvement in separate case-fixing schemes.

Lawyers for both judges say they are appealing the decisions to the state Supreme Court.

In October, the disciplinary court found that Roca had unethically intervened in a tax case involving her son by calling then-Municipal Court Judge Joseph Waters Jr., who reached out to Segal, who then reversed herself and issued a ruling favorable to Roca's son.

Waters was sentenced in January 2015 to two years in prison for fixing cases on behalf of campaign donors and political allies. He was released about a month ago.

In July, the court found Segal guilty of seven violations of judicial ethics rules, including bringing the court into disrepute.

"I got something in front of you at 1 o'clock today," Waters told Segal in an intercepted 2011 phone conversation in which he asked for favorable treatment of a politically connected defendant appearing before her.

"Oh, OK. OK," Segal responded, according to the disciplinary panel.

Wiretaps also captured Segal telling Waters she had helped him with her rulings.

In Segal's case, the court acknowledged that Segal had been approached by Waters, "a corrupt judge."

 And, the court said, Roca at first had only sought advice from Waters before the conversation extended to intervening in her son's case. But neither judge stood up to Waters, the court said.

"As we have said in more detail in prior decisions, when it comes to corrupt acts and the derogation of a fair and just judicial process, a judge must have 'the willingness to stand up for what was right and buck a corrupt tide,'" the court wrote in both rulings.

Roca and Segal, both Democrats, had been on unpaid suspension. If the rulings stand, they would be ineligible to hold judicial office in the future.

"I'm very disturbed by the decision," Roca's attorney, Samuel Stretton, said Tuesday.

Stretton said he was appealing the ruling because the disciplinary court ignored case law and treated Roca's and Segal's cases too similarly.

Segal's lawyer, Stuart Haimowitz, said he also is appealing.

"Judge Segal expected to be sanctioned for what she did. We hoped and expected the Court of Judicial Discipline to have considered Judge Segal's actual conduct and its own precedent when it imposed its sanction," Haimowitz said in a statement Tuesday. "Instead, it appears it took a 'get rid of them all' approach. In so doing, the citizens of Philadelphia County lost a good judge."

Stretton and Haimowitz had sought suspensions for the judges.

In addition to Waters, who pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud, Municipal Court Judge Joseph O'Neill pleaded guilty in May to federal charges connected to the judicial case-fixing scandal.

O'Neill admitted he lied to FBI agents who were investigating special treatment he gave to a Democratic fund-raiser in 2011, at Waters' request.

"He's a friend of mine, so if you can, take a hard look at it," Waters told O'Neill in a conversation caught on an FBI wiretap.

"No problem," O'Neill replied.

Full Article & Source:
2 Philly judges removed from bench for ethics violations

Elder financial abuse costs millions in Virginia, state report says

Tough to see and tough to prosecute, the financial fraud and abuse that hits Virginia's elderly and incapacitated adults amounts to more than $28 million a year but could exceed $1 billion, a new state report estimates.

Social workers assigned to adult protective services work are finding more than 1,000 cases of financial exploitation a year, the state Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services reported.
Hardly any are prosecuted.

And a deeper dive into a random sample of 141 cases found:

•More than half of the fraud, theft or abuse was by a family member.
•Nearly two-thirds of victims live in their own home.
•More than a third of cases included outright theft of cash or checks.
•About half the cases documented referrals to police.
•Two cases ended with a conviction.

"Adult financial exploitation leaves its victims and their family members devastated and weighs heavily on adult protective services workers, law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and judges who respond to it," wrote James Rothrock, commissioner of the aging and rehabilitation services department, in forwarding the report to Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the General Assembly.

Although not all the case files described the amount of money lost, in 76 instances social workers found losses amounting to $2.1 million. Multiplying the average loss of $27,782 by the more than 1,000 cases a year that social workers report suggests that verified reported fraud is running about $28 million year.

That doesn't include losses such as those suffered in eight of the 141 cases where victims' homes or land were sold without their knowledge, or the three cases where they were evicted from their homes, or the two cases where their cars were sold or transferred, or the two victims whose wills were changed without their knowledge.

And since all those 1,000 verified cases are probably a small fraction of actual instances, the department believes unreported cases could amount to more than $1 billion, based on estimates of under-reporting of all types of abuse.

"It's really an ugly situation," said state Sen.-elect Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, whose special interest in elder issues has led him to sponsor or co-sponsor several measures, including co-sponsoring the legislation that called for the aging department's report.

"We shined some light on it," he said. "A big part of the fix is more awareness, more understanding of the fact that it is out there."

Because the cases so often involve family members or caregivers, or victims who are too embarrassed to complain and seek redress, they easily fall between the cracks, Mason said.

"These can be very difficult, delicate cases," said William Massey, chief executive of the Peninsula Agency on Aging, the state-sanctioned regional body that's meant to be a first stop for older Virginians seeking help.

Victims are often unaware they've been victimized, so Massey said it is often up to his agency's care coordinators, other social services agencies, or friends and family to spot a problem.

A Daily Press review of a database of 10 years worth of Hampton Roads circuit court cases, assembled after state court administrators refused to release the record under the Freedom of Information Act, found only four individuals who had been charged under the section of state law referring to financial abuse of the elderly or incapacitated. Only two ended in convictions. One defendant served a month in jail, the other 10 days.

Aging and rehabilitative services that department staff said their records review did not show why more cases are not referred but added that some social workers report that police often view exploitation involving family members or holders of a power of attorney letter as a civil matter.

Department staff also speculated that in many cases, victims were unwilling to press charges.

"Sometimes, the perpetrator is someone they care about and don't want to hurt," said Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn. In many cases, the person abusing an elderly person is the only one providing any help at all, and victims worry about what will happen to them if a case is prosecuted, he said.

Gwynn said he was shocked after attending a seminar on elder abuse a few years ago where Richmond officials reported about 100 cases of physical, mental and financial abuse, and he could recall only a handful of cases that came through his office.

"I suppose I could have said we don't have a problem, but I was worried that maybe we weren't paying attention," he said.

Gwynn has recently hired an attorney who worked on elder law cases for 16 years in the Philadelphia prosecutor's office and is pushing for training for police officers, firefighters and city inspectors to keep a sharp eye out when responding to calls.

"If you're in codes compliance and looking at a complaint about junk in someone's yard, and see a terrified adult and a telephone with a handset taped to the base, you need to know what that means," he said.

Gwynn is also trying to talk up some changes in the law.

One would address a major challenge in investigating and resolving cases: the fact that individuals defrauding vulnerable adults often have received power of attorney letters from their victims. That's a document that can, among other things, give authority to handle money, dispose of property or make decisions about care. Gwynn thinks investigators need more authority to question people holding power of attorney about how they are handling their responsibilities.

Another would deal with a challenge in bringing a case to court: Nursing home residents and other very frail adults may be simply unable to get to court. Legislation making it easier to take depositions from such adults and use them in court would help, Gwynn said.

But the key, he said, is for families, neighbors and friends to keep an eye out.

"It is a community issue," he said.

Full Article & Source:
Elder financial abuse costs millions in Virginia, state report says

86 Year-Old Grandpa Learns to Knit So He Can Make Premature Babies Tiny Hats

At 86-years-old, Ed Moseley picked up a meaningful hobby: knitting.

The retired engineer learned his new skill after a nearby hospital in Atlanta reached out to his assisted living home asking people to knit hats for premature babies. Moseley accepted the challenge, picked up a pair of needles and eventually made 55 of the 300 hats his team donated. He says there is a constant need for the tiny hats and, along with his care manager Lisa, plans to keep make about 30 every month.

86-Year-Old Grandpa Learns To Knit So He Can Make Premature Babies Tiny Hats

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Warning: Guardianship Can Take A Toll On Advisor’s Psyche

There are favors a financial advisor can safely do for a client or a client’s family without a second thought.

Becoming a guardian is not one of them.

“Becoming a guardian is not a role to be accepted without a considerable amount of thought no matter how well you know the person or his or her family,” said Sally Hurme, author of several books on guardianship for AARP and the American Bar Association.

The danger is not being threatened with fines or jail for alleged or real misdeeds. Chances of that happening are slim because court oversight of guardians tend to be frail and the individual being protected is usually too weak of body and mind to complain to the authorities.

Instead, the hazard for a financial advisor taking on the responsibilities of guardianship is being swept up in a whirlwind of uncertainties, unfamiliar duties and family feuds.

Even something as seemingly simple as getting the bank records of the senior under a court-approved guardianship arrangement may not be simple.

With a court order, getting the records may take two minutes at one bank and two days at another, said Hurme, a lawyer who once served as the public member of the CFP Board’s Discipline and Ethics Commission.

Her advice: go to a branch manager. Don’t ask a teller.

She cautioned that if the senior is running out of money, a court can reduce the fee a guardian gets.

One often aggravating and time-consuming duty the courts often don’t compensate a guardian for: hours on the phone and in meetings with family members at each other’s throats.

The starting point for becoming a financial guardian (called guardian of the estate or a conservator) or having full responsibilities for an incapacitated individual (guardian of the person) is the courts.

And that is where the problems often begin.

“One of the problems is the duties of a guardian and oversight can vary widely even locally. Even in a single county one judge may not check a guardian’s annual reports, another judge might require a lot of documentation of a guardian’s activities and have an auditor,” said Brenda Uekert, director of the Center for Elders and the Courts of the National Center for State Courts.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Warning: Guardianship Can Take A Toll On Advisor’s Psyche

COMMENTARY: Protect elderly from holiday scams

The typical Texan’s bank account takes a hit during the holidays, with gifts to give, parties to attend and travel. But for far too many older Texans, the economic jolt felt this time of year takes on a more sinister meaning.

Already prone to experiencing loneliness and isolation during the holidays, older people also are prime targets of fraudsters during this festive period.

Whether it’s a scam perpetrated by a stranger or financial exploitation by a trusted source or relative, the impact goes far beyond the pocketbook and affects the physical and emotional health of the victim. Every year, abuse and exploitation rob older Americans of an estimated $3 billion — and this is only the amount reported.

During the holidays, the financial stakes are great, with money exchanging hands and older adults in closer proximity to family. Many of us have heard about the “grandparent scam.” A year-round favorite of fraudsters, during the holidays it can come decorated with a special plea: A loved one in trouble and needing money to fix a car, get out of jail, or to make it home for the holidays.

And there’s the ever-popular “IRS scam,” which takes on a vicious twist in December and January. A caller threatens an elder with the possibility of arrest and spending the holidays in jail for unpaid taxes or a fake debt. Now is also when imposter charities surface, typically making a sympathetic plea for year-end, tax-deductible donations.

Opportunities abound this time of the year to financially exploit a trusting elder. When a criminal takes advantage of an older person by forging a signature or coercing them to sign a will, it takes a toll on the physical and emotional health of the victim. These criminals may be a stranger, an aide who comes into the home or someone else in a position of trust, like a family member. If you suspect someone you know is vulnerable to financial fraud or exploitation, take action. Keep an eye on your loved ones, their spending patterns and any new connections they may not want to talk about. AARP has good advice available online through its Fraud Watch Network at

But remember, grinches don’t go away after the holidays; they operate year-round. That’s why AARP is fighting for new laws, policies and practices to crack down on abuse and financial exploitation, and seeks to strengthen protections for victims.

The Texas Legislature is exploring ways to curb financial exploitation of the elderly. When the new legislative session begins Jan. 10, AARP will support efforts to fight elder abuse and exploitation, including in the area of prevention. Local banks and credit unions can play a vital role in preventing and responding to elder financial abuse. That’s why AARP Texas is urging better training and reporting by financial institutions so that bank employees can spot and stop suspicious transactions before someone is scammed.

We also need to preserve and strengthen state Adult Protective Services (APS), which investigates complaints about financial exploitation of the elderly by individuals who have an ongoing relationship with the alleged victim. APS’ jurisdiction should be expanded to include the ability to investigate financial exploitation complaints against those without an ongoing relationship with the alleged victim.

And very importantly, we need to better support community coordination models. Victims of elder financial exploitation are often confused about where to turn for help. Fraud-fighting efforts like the Elder Financial Safety Center in Dallas are working successfully to prevent, protect and prosecute financial crimes. More of these community coordination models are needed in Texas.

Texas’ population age 65 and older is set to more than double from 2010 to 2030. This means more opportunities for scammers. But with education, vigilance and smart legislation, older Texans can be protected in the holiday season and year round.

Tim Morstad is an associate state director for AARP Texas, specializing in consumer and financial affairs.

Full Article & Source:
COMMENTARY: Protect elderly from holiday scams

Ohio ranks 30th in elder-abuse protection

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the share of U.S. adults aged 65 and older expected to comprise more than a fifth of the entire population by 2029 and 23 out of 24 elder-abuse cases going unreported every year, the personal-finance website, WalletHub, conducted an in-depth analysis that identifies 2016’s states with the best elder-abuse protections.

To determine which states fight the hardest against elder abuse, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key metrics. The data set ranges from “share of elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints” to “total expenditures on elder-abuse prevention per resident aged 65 and older” to “financial elder-abuse laws.”

Ohio ranked 30th overall among the 51 entities. The state came in 30th for elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints per resident aged 65 and older; 31st for total expenditures on elder-abuse prevention per resident aged 65 or older; 19th for total expenditures on legal assistance-development per resident aged 65 and older; fifth for total long-term care ombudsman-program funding per resident aged 65 and older; 35th for financial elderly abuse laws; 37th for number of eldercare organizations & services per resident aged 65 and older; fifth for presence of elder-abuse forensic centers; 22nd for number of certified volunteer ombudsmen per resident aged 65 and older; 13th for frequency of assisted-living facilities inspections; and 38th for quality of nursing homes.

States with the best elder-abuse protections were, in rank order, District of Columbia, Nevada, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, Louisiana, Vermont, Hawaii.

States with the worst protections, with worst last in the list, were, Alabama, Kentucky, Idaho, North Dakota, New Jersey, South Dakota, Rhode Island, California, Wyoming and South Carolina.

Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming have no legislation that protects the elderly from financial crimes.

Alaska has the highest total, long-term-care-ombudsman-program funding per resident aged 65 and older, $11.18, which is 16 times higher than in Nebraska, the state with the lowest at $0.68.

The District of Columbia has the highest number of certified, volunteer ombudsmen per 100,000 residents aged 65 and older, 82.26, whereas both South Dakota and Wyoming have none.

Missouri has the highest frequency of assisted-living facilities inspections, twice per year, which is 10 times higher than in both California and Nebraska, the states with the lowest at once every five years.

North Dakota has the highest nursing-homes quality (share of certified nursing-home beds rated 4 or 5 stars), 62.9 percent, which is two times higher than in Louisiana, the state with the lowest at 27.2 percent.

Full Article & Source:
Ohio ranks 30th in elder-abuse protection

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Family’s guardianship experience shows a system out of control

Regarding Diane Dimond’s series [Who Guards the Guardians?], our sister started this guardianship stuff and, yes, it has spiraled out of control.

A very similar chain of events has started, with court proceedings the same as your articles and similar titles involved to handle all these affairs.

A guardian, who never seems to be available when needed, has spent $33,000 since June 2016.
Mom is now completely broke and was asked to leave the nursing home they put her in as there is no money to pay them. Her home was put up for sale, but has not sold at this point. So she was kicked out on Nov. 30.

The guardian now has lied to be able to admit her to a hospital so that she has a place to be. We had cleaned out her house, as directed by them, to get it ready to be sold and now it is devoid of any furnishings.

We have since found out they have depleted her bank accounts. The accounts are sitting there overdrawn and her utilities have been disconnected for nonpayment. Her homeowners insurance has been canceled for nonpayment.

We are completely powerless to do anything about it.

Mom fell at the assisted living nursing home where they had her. They didn’t even take her to a medical facility to be checked out until we demanded they do so.

After they discharged her, we called the guardian and, of course, he didn’t show up. We took her to my house to spend the night instead of taking her back to the nursing home. The guardian threatened to have me arrested.

I had to call police to make a report – in fear he could actually do so.

We have called Adult Protective Services and the Attorney General’s Office, and it seems all these agencies cannot investigate any of these proceedings. No one will help our mom, who is over 90 years old. And we can’t, either.

She was living at home with her son and surviving just fine until all this. She could maintain her residence as it was paid in full. She gets $753 a month from Social Security. That was enough to pay her bills, including her home insurance and life insurance policy. They have also cashed that in.

How can these people do this and what can we do about it? Please let us know if there are any avenues to do something.

We cannot afford an attorney of our own to fight this. None we have talked to will even take a case like this.

What an atrocity this has become. The state of New Mexico should be ashamed for doing things like this to our seniors.

We have documents of what happened before court and interviews between prospective guardians and the attorney in charge of the process, who for various reasons would not let any of us be guardians due to “bickering,” as she put it.

So they could get this done, before the court hearing, our sister’s attorney even called the police department and tried to get us arrested for abuse. The police were told there were guns in the house and Mom was in danger. There was not and the police left.

The guardians are now waiting with Mom at the hospital to place her in yet another nursing home, paid for by the state because she doesn’t have any money.

My brother offered to get her things out of storage and take her home, but the guardian said it would only be for a couple of weeks until they find her a place in a nursing home, and the guardians don’t have money to pay utilities.

This is just a living nightmare. Who can protect our seniors? Help!

Full Article & Source:
Family’s guardianship experience shows a system out of control

See Also:
Who Guards the Guardians?

Editorial: Guardianship system needs accountability

Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino
“We are faking it. We pretend like we have a guardian system and there’s nothing in place.”
– Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque

A 2008 audit of ongoing guardianship cases found problems with “25 to 35 percent and maybe more … enough cases that we realized we should take it as an alarm.”
– Ted Baca, then-chief judge of the 2nd Judicial District Court

How can a group of strangers take control of an elderly individual and their estate; disregard retirement preparations, including wills, trusts and powers of attorney; drain bank accounts, and sell off belongings and property to pay themselves and colleagues; even bar family members who had been caregivers for years from seeing their loved one – all with the imprimatur of the court?

They can. And they have. In virtual secrecy and sometimes without the person about to be relegated to “ward” status and with no rights ever appearing before a judge. In other cases, the process is well underway before there is even a hearing where all family members have an opportunity to be heard.

All this happens in a well-intentioned and necessary guardianship “system” that has virtually no outside accountability – Judge Shannon Bacon of Albuquerque admits it essentially is an “honor system” because the underfunded courts lack money to review or audit cases as the state “doesn’t have three cents to rub together.”

It is wrong and it needs to change.

Reporter, author, columnist and television commentator Diane Dimond uncovered all this and more in her five-part investigative series on guardianship in New Mexico [Who Guards the Guardians?] published by the Albuquerque Journal (the entire series can be found at

Dimond, an Albuquerque native, recounts the story of an estate valued at $5 million drained to $750,000; a 17-acre North Valley ranch sold at what would appear to be far below market value to someone who turned around and sold it to the state for twice the price; children shut out from caring for their mother by court-appointed for-profit professionals; familiar medical professionals replaced with strangers – and all without the judge who signed off on the arrangement ever interviewing 79-year-old Blair Darnell or holding a hearing to determine whether she was, in fact, “an adult incapacitated person.”

That label automatically revoked Blair’s civil rights – she could no longer travel alone, vote, enter contracts, decide who her doctors were, say who could visit her home or spend her own money. Instead, her court-appointed guardian and conservator called all the shots – including declaring that, if the family couldn’t get Blair’s beloved dog out to “relive(sic) herself, she must go.”
Unfortunately, problems in guardianship cases are not rare.

Former Chief Judge Ted Baca ordered a review during his tenure that found problems in a quarter to a third of cases checked by lawyers on a volunteer basis – including wards who had been abandoned by guardians or were living in dilapidated surroundings without enough nourishment.

More than one attorney told Dimond they advise families to steer clear of the system because there are no checks and balances, and excessive secrecy.

When the best thing you can say about a system is to avoid it, there’s a problem. And the attorneys and family members who spoke to Dimond did so in fear of reprisals and in violation of what retired District Judge Anne Kass of Albuquerque calls an inbred “code of silence.”

There’s the daughter of a deceased ward who asked for clarification of her mother’s $5,000 funeral expense because the $1,000 cremation fee was prepaid and services were held at her mother’s home.

There’s the daughter of a deceased ward who was forbidden to see her father during the final months of his life because she challenged the conservator’s proposed distribution of funds without an independent forensic audit.

There are the daughters of a ward who learned that, after 25 months in charge, the conservator had not paid taxes on their mother’s property in Texas and foreclosure was imminent.

Imagine being told out of the blue that you can’t see your elderly and frail mom or dad. Imagine being elderly and frail, and being told you can’t see your children. All because the guardian thinks there is too much “bickering.”

Imagine carefully planned financial decisions and legal instruments being thrown out so court-appointed for-profit folks can be paid to make all the decisions.

Professionals in the system are unapologetic. They say their responsibility is to the wards, not their families. They have been accused of being threatening and intimidating, and have been known to tell people to never again contact them.

And the majority of those entrenched professionals who live off New Mexico’s guardianship system – lawyers, guardians, conservators, providers who range from dog walkers to in-home caretakers – maintain the system is working just fine, thank you very much, in protecting the interests of the “incapacitated.”

Judges are on that same bandwagon.

In an op-ed in today’s Journal, 2nd Judicial District Court Chief Judge Nan Nash, and elder and disability attorneys Amanda Frazier and Judith Paquin defend the system and the secrecy. It is simply more of what Ortiz y Pino found in 2013 when he sponsored a measure to establish a task force to look into complaints: “What we ran into, frankly, was that anytime we got into guardianship issues, the attorneys who deal with probate in the state went ballistic – they did not want us to even open the door.”

Baca came up against the same resistance. For several years, the court tried to get the Legislature to fund a larger study with the goal a statewide office to oversee all guardian cases. Eight years later, it is still status quo. So while, as his audit found, the system works in many cases when an elderly adult is at risk, it simply does not work in others and needs reform.

Several steps to correcting this have nothing to do with money, and everything to do with transparency and accountability. Multiple families said their complaints to the bar association, state legislators, regulatory boards, the district attorney, the Albuquerque Police Department, the attorney general and the Governor’s Office amounted to nothing, likely in great part because it’s hard to fight decisions protected by court secrecy.

While the court claims it is guarding elderly individuals’ privacy, there is a world of difference between holding a court-appointed professional accountable for oversight decisions and spending, and safeguarding an individual’s medical information. Right now, the court blankets everything per vaguely written sections of the state’s Uniform Probate Code.

Kass says, “We need to have a really profound conversation between privacy and secrecy, and develop a better way of measuring it.”

It should also be the rule, not the exception that, unless it is physically impossible, the elderly person appear in court and be questioned by the judge before even being called incapacitated. The same goes for hearing from all concerned relatives – rather than simply taking the word of whoever filed an emergency petition to have the senior put under guardianship. There should be full hearings, as stated in state law, and relatives should be first in line to become guardians.

In general, relatives should also not be barred from seeing each other. Outgoing Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, tried to curb the practice of guardians banning family visits that might upset a ward, saying, “Isolating seniors from their family is the first step of abuse in these cases.” He plans to have a legislator carry a similar proposal in the session that starts next month.

And the requirement that family members sign a waiver of liability releasing “any and all liability for actions taken in (his/her) capacity as conservator and trustee” before they can receive their inheritance flies in the face of accountability. If conservators and guardians are indeed professionals, they should be able to stand by their decisions.

It is shocking that guardians and conservators are not licensed in New Mexico and, while some may have various certifications, those can be purchased online after a short exam. Requiring some training, certification and state licensing in financial planning, social work and elder care seems more than reasonable for allowing someone to take control of a life and an estate.

Dimond’s series is a wake-up call to New Mexico. Unless and until these changes are implemented, the best advice for those dealing with a parent with purported diminished capacity comes from Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship. He tells family members to “never even consider guardianship or hiring an attorney.”

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: Guardianship system needs accountability

See Also:
Who Guards the Guardians?

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Mexico Guardianship Association committed to improving the system in New Mexico

Since the New Mexico Guardianship Association’s creation, we have been committed to improving guardianship in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Guardianship Association is dedicated to its mission to ensure the highest standards of ethics and practice to serve and protect the best interest of those to whom they provide service. In furtherance of its mission, NMGA has initiated programs to assist family and professional guardians, including the annual guardianship symposium, family guardian round table, sponsoring the guardianship lunch discussion group, writing and updating the Alternatives to Guardianship & Conservatorship, and Handbook for Guardians and Conservators, producing the guardianship and conservatorship training video that is employed widely by the district courts, supporting certification for professional guardians and conservators, and involvement in the guardianship task force. Also in furtherance of our mission, we advocate and contribute to the development of effective regulation and legislation for the benefit of those receiving services.

Our association’s long history of involvement and commitment to the improvement of guardianship in New Mexico makes clear that our support for certain proposals is not in reaction to your stories, which we believe to be slanted, biased and inaccurate. We always work on ideas to improve the guardianship and have a constant dialogue about ways to improve. With this in mind, we have been working on some provisions for years, not because of your inaccurate stories, but because it ensures good practices going forward.

We have, for example, supported licensure and certification for professional guardians and conservators. However, licensure would require a significant investment by the state in a new commission and layers of bureaucracy that New Mexico cannot afford.

The National Guardianship Association has a certification process that 11 states already use and which would not require any outlay of state funds. While many professional guardians are certified, we support having all professional guardians be certified to ensure ethical and practice standards are being met.

NMGA without question supports accountability and monitoring of guardians and conservators.

NMGA advocated for the funding of a pilot project designed to lay the groundwork for a monitoring program in the Second Judicial District Court. This project was struck by a line-item veto due to its cost.

Full Article & Source:
New Mexico Guardianship Association committed to improving the system in New Mexico

See Also:
Who guards the Guardians?

Articles on guardianship left out many critical facts

Darryl Millet,
credit:  Albuquerque Journal
by Darryl W. Millet, Attorney, Albuquerque Advocates PC
The Journal recently published a series of front-page articles on guardianship, using the story of Blair Darnell as the central focus.

The reporter who wrote the story was not able to obtain detailed information from the people with inside knowledge of the true facts of the Darnell case, due to the sequestration (privacy) rule that makes it impossible for those insiders to speak about the case. Instead, the reporter relied primarily on the biased reports of some family members for the critical details of the story of Blair Darnell’s last few years of life.

The reporter got the Blair Darnell story wrong in many significant ways. The family was given ample opportunity to participate in the court process and was represented by multiple attorneys who were able to get the family’s point of view heard by the judge. Many hours were devoted to court hearings over the six-plus years the Darnell case was active.

The Journal article also overstates the value of the Darnell estate, including the value of the farm property sold. The article doesn’t mention that the family interfered with the first prospective sale until the buyer withdrew his offer. The article doesn’t tell you that the next-door neighbor said he was no longer interested in buying the property once the first buyer walked away. Most importantly, the article doesn’t tell you that Blair Darnell was on the verge of running out of money to buy food or to pay for her 24/7 caregivers, and that the sale of the farm property was essential to keeping her fed and cared for.

The Journal article doesn’t explain that the fence around the acre containing Blair Darnell’s home was put there to make it safe for her to remain in her home and sit outside without wandering away, due to her advanced dementia, rather than having her moved to a secure nursing home and away from the farm that she loved so dearly. The article doesn’t tell you that Blair Darnell was able to peacefully die in her own home, with her family at her side, despite the sale of the property over a year earlier.

The deal struck by the conservator included a life estate, so that Blair Darnell could remain in her home until her death. That life estate significantly reduced the value of the property to the buyer, because it prevented him from beneficial use of the property for as long as Blair lived. The price he paid reflected that. Her family history suggested she might live well into her mid-90s, although sadly she died at 85 years of age.

The Journal article also fails to tell you that the sale of the Darnell farm was consistent with the appraisal of the property done just prior to the sale. The article implies that the property was sold by the conservator without the assistance of a real estate broker. However, there was a listing agent, a separate buyer’s agent, and a completely arms-length transaction by parties who did not know each other. The buyer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars improving the run-down property before he resold it, and the real estate market was much stronger by the time the property was resold.

The court has given me permission to provide this information to correct the record. It was my great honor to help Blair Darnell live out her final years contentedly at her farm. Fortunately, due to advanced Alzheimer’s disease, Blair was mostly oblivious to the family turmoil that occurred around her during her final years.

Full Article & Source:
Articles on guardianship left out many critical facts

See Also:
Who Guards the Guardians?

System protects the incapacitated, kin

by Judge Nan Nash, Chief Judge, Second Judicial District
Census projections estimate 20 percent of the population will be over the age of 65, with 19 million persons over 85, by 2030. Millions of families are currently struggling with elderly family members with diminished capacity. It’s critical that families receive accurate information regarding available resources as they make these difficult decisions involving loved ones. This difficult decision making is exacerbated by articles that distort the system by suggesting that guardianships and conservatorships will lead to abuse.

Incapacity does not develop suddenly but typically after a slow decline over a number of years. Often the incapacitated person does not recognize the incapacity. Families, faced with incredibly challenging and painful circumstances, do not always agree a loved one is incapacitated or about the level of care required. These subtleties make for challenging cases.

Once some level of incapacity is suspected or recognized, addressing the incapacity, while protecting the incapacitated person, requires action. Families must carefully consider care options, ranging from family member care, to in-home professional care, to assisted living facilities. Families sometimes need a legal avenue to accomplish this care plan.

Guardianships and conservatorships are two of the legal remedies available. About 150 to 200 guardianship and conservatorship cases are filed each year in the Second Judicial District Court, typically by a family member. Guardianships deal with the person; conservatorships with the person’s assets.

Guardianships and conservatorships provide a way for concerned family members and others to seek a court order declaring that a person is incapacitated and appointing another person, typically a family member, to protect that person and manage that person’s affairs.

Guardians and conservators are only appointed after a full hearing where the court determines capacity after hearing from medical, social work and legal professionals. The court considers the wishes of the incapacitated person and family members….

Guardians and conservators provide consistent beneficial results for families. They are responsible for assuring medical care, making living arrangements and managing the incapacitated person’s assets so that they have enough to see them through their life.

Like other court cases, some cases are problematic. Evaluating the system through an examination of one case is neither possible nor useful. These cases are complex, frequently fraught with family conflict, complications and misunderstanding. High family conflict inevitably results in expensive proceedings and sometimes the appointment of an outside professional.

The goal of the law is to protect the incapacitated person and to make sure that the person’s assets provide for their care. New Mexico law requires that the guardian and conservator report to the court within 90 days of appointment, and annually thereafter.

As part of the protection afforded under New Mexico law, the documents filed in these cases are not available for public viewing. The court file includes sensitive information and incapacitated persons are vulnerable to exploitation. Therefore it is important that certain information remains confidential to protect the dignity and privacy of the incapacitated person.

The court takes these cases, and our responsibility under the law seriously. In 2013, utilizing limited resources, the Second Judicial District Court created the Elder and Disability Initiative to effectively manage and protect persons with guardians and conservators. EDI attorneys help judges manage existing cases by reviewing files, conducting periodic home visits to ensure that individuals under protection are not being exploited and helping family guardians understand their duties. We are actively engaged in developing better methods to address and monitor these cases.

Guardianships and conservatorships are useful and necessary tools for families faced with incapacitated adults. Efforts to dissuade families from utilizing these legal remedies are misguided and irresponsible.

For a comprehensive explanation of the requirements for guardianships and conservatorships, including the rights and duties of guardians and conservators, review the New Mexico Uniform Probate Code, Sections 45-5-101, et.seq. NMSA 1978.

Full Article & Source:
System protects the incapacitated, kin

See Also:
Who Guards the Guardians?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A nursing home giant stumbles amid expansion

The nursing home’s linen room reeked of urine. Some residents’ rooms were so grimy, a state inspector’s shoe came off when it stuck to the floor, according to a report investigators filed in May about the Twin Oaks Center in Danvers.

At the Maplewood Center in Amesbury, administrators in May acknowledged to inspectors that they were so short of certified nursing assistants, they had to use an activities director and an admissions executive to help feed patients.

In November, administrators at Meadow View Center in North Reading agreed to pay a $56,000 federal fine after a resident with a high fever, “delirious, and talking about monsters,” died from massive inflammation following an untreated urinary tract infection, according to a state report.

The three nursing homes are owned by Genesis HealthCare, a Pennsylvania company that has grown into a behemoth in the past four years, more than doubling in size, to become the largest owner of nursing homes in Massachusetts and nationwide. Genesis, which as of July was partly owned by a private equity firm, counts nearly 500 nursing homes, including 32 in Massachusetts, in its portfolio.

But with rapid expansion has come an erosion in quality of care, federal and state data show. Nearly half of the nursing homes owned by Genesis have seen their ratings by federal regulators decline since 2010, a Globe analysis shows. And most of those whose ratings remained the same were ranked as below average in quality.

At the same time, health and safety problems have climbed. Federal regulators assign a score to each nursing home based on the severity and extent of problems discovered in facilities. A Globe analysis of those numbers found that Genesis homes had strikingly worse scores than the state as a whole.

The analysis suggests that problems at Genesis facilities worsened over time, and by early this year, the score for Genesis homes was twice as bad as the statewide number.

In a statement issued to the Globe, Genesis said it is “committed to providing quality care to each and every patient in the centers it owns and operates across the United States.”

The statement, which did not address specific questions about the company or the Globe’s findings, acknowledged some hurdles.

“The integration of centers, and the improvement of quality and performance in an incredibly difficult operating environment, is a challenging and long-term effort,” the statement said.

The Genesis experience underscores the growing turbulence in an industry that cares for some of the nation’s most frail residents. Across the country, nursing homes are being bought and sold at a rapid pace, analysts say, as companies vie for facilities that attract more higher-paying patients.

This year alone, companies have notified Massachusetts regulators about plans to sell 58 nursing homes. That’s 14 percent of the state’s roughly 400 nursing homes.

Just a few years ago, Genesis nursing homes were considered to be respected long-term care facilities, say lawyers who routinely field calls from distraught families about nursing home injuries and deaths.

That has changed.

“Now, I get a lot of calls on Genesis,” said David Hoey, a North Reading attorney who specializes in nursing home-related cases.

Hoey said the problems reported by families, such as pressure sores and broken bones from falls, are typically seen when nursing homes do not have enough staff to monitor and care for residents.

Hoey said his office has litigated about a half-dozen cases involving Genesis homes in the past few years. But he said he could not discuss specific cases because Genesis, reflecting widespread industry practice, typically requires confidentiality agreements in legal settlements with families, barring them or their lawyers from discussing a case.

Saul Gruber, a New Jersey lawyer and executive board member of the Nursing Home Trial Lawyers Association, reports similar experiences with Genesis.

“We have seen more abuse cases, more cases that simply come from not paying attention, and not watching the resident, which is surprising for Genesis,” Gruber said.

“In the past couple of years, people are choking and dying because someone allowed them to have food they weren’t supposed to. Who does that, unless you are understaffed?” Gruber said.

Staffing shortages in nursing homes are not unusual. But the Globe analysis found more pronounced gaps in nurse staffing levels in Genesis homes in Massachusetts compared with median levels statewide.

Federal data for this year show registered nurses at Genesis homes spend roughly 19 percent less time caring for patients than federal regulators expected, based on the severity of patient illnesses. Nursing assistants spent 14 percent less time.

However, Genesis licensed practical nurses — who provide more specialized care than nursing assistants but less than RNs — spent more time than expected.

The Globe analyzed data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes. The data included information about health and safety problems uncovered at each Massachusetts nursing home and nurse staffing levels.

That information was used to compare the performance of Genesis homes with others statewide, a methodology suggested by university researchers.  (Click to continue reading)

Full Article & Source:
A nursing home giant stumbles amid expansion

12 Engaging Activities for Seniors with Dementia: Reduce Agitation and Boost Mood

Everyone needs to feel engaged and entertained. Just because someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t mean that need disappears.
But because of their cognitive decline, how older adults get that engagement may have to change. Activities that have no right or wrong way to do them are highly recommended because they’re fun, satisfying, and give a much-needed sense of accomplishment. 

Being engaged in satisfying activities can also be an effective alternative to using medications to reduce agitation, challenging behavior, and unhappy moods.

Dozens of activity ideas for cognitive impairment

Ann Kositsky is a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner at ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine. At a recent conference, she shared dozens of activities for seniors with dementia. She’s used them to reduce anxiety, distract from challenging behavior, and bring joy to people with cognitive impairments.

They’re not just simple children’s toys

Don’t be misled or discouraged by the appearance of these activities. Some may have been made for children, but the way older adults experience them is completely different.

For example, a toy tool box might allow dad to safely recreate happy memories of the home repairs he made to keep the house in great shape. A Saturday Morning Post puzzle could take mom back to her childhood. The singing puppy gives warm hugs and its cheerful song brings a smile to anyone’s face. (At the conference, the entire room spontaneously clapped and sang along when Ann played the song!)

Even though these activities have been stereotyped as children’s toys, don’t let that stop you from offering them to your older adult. If an activity engages them, brings joy, and reduces troubling behaviors, who cares what the label says?

12 engaging activities for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s

(Click each product link for details and current pricing)
activities for seniors with dementia

1. $10 Melissa and Doug 7-piece tool puzzle
This 7-piece puzzle has a variety of chunky, easy-to-grasp tools.

activities for seniors with dementia

2. $11 Color and shape puzzle
This is a colorful and fun puzzle with easily identifiable shapes and images.

activities for seniors with dementia   

3. $13 Dog hardcover book
This hardcover book has thick, easy-to-turn pages and large beautiful pictures of all kinds of dogs.

4. $16 Cat hardcover book
This hardcover book has thick, easy-to-turn pages and large beautiful pictures of all kinds of cats.

activities for seniors with dementia

5. $14 Wooden 24-piece tool box kit
This 24-piece set includes wooden tools, nails, screws, nuts, and bolts.

activities for seniors with dementia

6. $15 Wheelee ball
This is an inflatable ball surrounded by a soft foam ring. It’s easy to throw and catch.

activities for seniors with dementia

7. $20 Vintage Saturday Evening Post 6-piece puzzles
These lovely 6-piece puzzles are replicas of vintage prints from the Saturday Evening Post magazine, a staple in many households when seniors were young.

8. $24 Vintage Saturday Evening Post 12-piece puzzles
These lovely 12-piece puzzles are replicas of vintage prints from the Saturday Evening Post magazine, a staple in many households when seniors were young.

activities for seniors with dementia

9. $25 Deluxe latches board
This well-crafted board is brightly colored and has polished metal locks, latches and clasps. Each door opens to has a fun picture.

activities for seniors with dementia

10. $30 (sale $24) Plastic nuts & bolts set with 64 pieces
These brightly colored plastic nuts and bolts provide hours of safe fun. You can attach and detach the nuts and bolts or sort by color or shape.

activities for seniors with dementia

11. $40 (sale $27) My Little Puppy singing plush puppy
This soft, cuddly puppy is 10″ tall and sings “If You’re Happy And You Know It.” The best part? It claps hands and ears along with the song! Batteries included.

activities for seniors with dementia

12. $90 Lock Box game
This is a well-built hardwood box with with 3 separate compartments, 10 doors, and 10 different latches. For extra fun, put snacks or small keepsakes inside the box for your older adult to discover.

Full Article & Source:
12 Engaging Activities for Seniors with Dementia: Reduce Agitation and Boost Mood