Saturday, November 25, 2017

12 nursing home deaths in Hollywood ruled as homicides

The deaths of 12 people in a sweltering Hollywood nursing home after Hurricane Irma have been ruled to be homicides, officials said Wednesday.

Police say it’s possible someone could be charged with killing them.

“Who gets charged is part of the continuing investigation,” said Miranda Grossman, a spokeswoman for the Hollywood Police Department. “We don’t have a timeline of when there would be charges at this point.”

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was evacuated Sept. 13 when eight elderly residents died in quick succession after the home lost power to its central air conditioning and overheated. Another six died in subsequent weeks.

Erika Navarro, the granddaughter of Cecilia Franco, 90, and Miguel Antonio Franco, 92, said the medical examiner’s ruling confirms what she already knew — that they were meant to live longer.

And on the eve of Thanksgiving, she learned through a reporter that her grandparents did in fact die from heat exposure.

“The next steps are the more important ones: Who is going to be held accountable? Are they going to go to jail? Are they just going to get a free pass and just pay money, and nothing else happens?” she said. “To me, that’s more important, that people are held accountable and they actually go to jail.”

In addition to the Francos, homicide due to heat exposure is now the official cause of death for the following Hollywood Hills residents:

— Dolores Biamonte, 57

— Carlos Canal, 93

— Carolyn Eatherly, 78

— Estella Hendricks, 71

— Betty Hibbard, 84

— Manuel Mario Mendieta, 96

— Martha Murray, 94

— Gail Nova, 70

— Bobby Owens, 84

— Albertina Vega, 99

The deaths of Alice Thomas, 94, and Francisca Antonia Castro Andrade, 95, are no longer part of the criminal investigation. Their deaths were found to not be related to the lack of power or air conditioning.

For the Navarro family, it will be a rough holiday season without the matriarch and patriarch of the family, Erika Navarro said.

This Thanksgiving will take on a somber tone for relatives who aren’t in a mood to celebrate. Navarro, who lives in California and will not join her family until Christmas, says her Thanksgiving will be spent in quiet remembrance.

“I’m going to stay here and have that time to really acknowledge the occasion, which is being thankful for the time that they spent with me, for having them, and just remembering all of that,” Navarro said.

The nursing home is no longer in operation. State regulators have moved to revoke its license. The facility is fighting the shutdown.

Full Article & Source:
12 nursing home deaths in Hollywood ruled as homicides

See Also:
94-year-old sues Florida nursing home where 8 residents died in wake of Hurricane Irma

After 8 Nursing Home Deaths, Florida Issues Emergency Rules to Protect Elderly

Elder Abuse: Are Granny Cams a Solution, a Compliance Burden, or Both?

In Minnesota, 97% of the 25,226 allegations of elder abuse (neglect, physical abuse, unexplained serious injuries and thefts) in state-licensed senior facilities in 2016 were never investigated. This prompted Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton, to announce plans last week to form a task force to find out why. As one might expect, Minnesota is not alone. A studypublished in 2011 found that an estimated 260,000 (1 in 13) older adults in New York had been victims of one form of abuse or another during a 12-month period between 2008 and 2009, with “a dramatic gap” between elder abuse events reported and the number of cases referred to formal elder abuse services. Clearly, states are struggling to protect a vulnerable and growing group of residents from abuse. Technologies such as hidden cameras may help to address the problem, but their use raises privacy, security, compliance, and other concerns.

With governmental agencies apparently lacking the resources to identify, investigate, and respond to mounting cases of elder abuse in the long-term care services industry, and the number of persons in need of long-term care services on the rise, this problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. According to a 2016 CDC report concerning users of long-term care services, more than 9 million people in the United States receive regulated long-term care services. These numbers are only expected to increase. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that
by 2050, the number of individuals using paid long-term care services in any setting (e.g., at home, residential care such as assisted living, or skilled nursing facilities) will likely double from the 13 million using services in 2000, to 27 million people.
However, technologies such as hidden cameras are making it easier for families and others to step in and help protect their loved ones. In fact, some states are implementing measures to leverage these technologies to help address the problem of elder abuse. For example, New Jersey’s Attorney General recently expanded the “Safe Care Cam” program which lends cameras and memory cards to Garden State residents who suspect their loved ones may be victims of abuse by an in-home caregiver.

Common known as “granny cams,” these easy-to-hide devices which can record video and sometimes audio are being strategically placed in nursing homes, long-term care, and residential care facilities. For example, the “Charge Cam” (pictured above) is designed to look like and actually function as a plug used to charge smartphone devices. Once plugged in, it is able to record eight hours of video and sound. For a nursing home resident’s family concerned about the treatment of the resident, use of a “Charge Cam” or similar device could be a very helpful way of getting answers to their suspicions of abuse. However, for the unsuspecting nursing home or other residential or long-term care facility, as well as for the well-meaning family members, the use of these devices can pose a number of issues and potential risks. Here are just some questions that should be considered:
  • Is there a state law that specifically addresses “granny cams”? Note that at least five states (Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington) have laws specifically addressing the use of cameras in this context. In Illinois, for example, the resident and the resident’s roommate must consent to the camera, and notice must be posted outside the resident’s room to alert those entering the room about the recording.
  • Is consent required from all of the parties to conversations that are recorded by the device?
  • Do the HIPAA privacy and security regulations apply to the video and audio recordings that contain individually identifiable health information of the resident or other residents whose information is captured in the video or audio recorded?
  • How do the features of the device, such as camera placement and zoom capabilities, affect the analysis of the issues raised above?
  • How can the validity of a recording be confirmed?
  • What effects will there be on employee recruiting and employee retention?
  • If the organization permits the device to be installed, what rights and obligations does it have with respect to the scope, content, security, preservation, and other aspects of the recording?
Just as body cameras for police are viewed by some as a way to help address concerns over police brutality allegations, some believe granny cams can serve as a deterrent to abuse of residents at long-term care and similar facilities. However, families and facilities have to consider these technologies carefully.

Full Article & Source:
Elder Abuse: Are Granny Cams a Solution, a Compliance Burden, or Both?

Police: Gray woman arrested after stealing elderly parents' money

A Gray woman has been arrested after police say she used her parents’ money for her own personal use.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, 59-year-old Marion Gail Reeves was arrested following an investigation. Police said that Reeves admitted to using funds for reasons other than the benefit of her parents, which included the purchasing of lottery tickets and the payment of another person’s court fines. Reeves also said funds were used to pay the rent of another family member.

Reeves had been given power of attorney for her parents’ funds. Police added Reeves’s actions led to her parents’ house payment not being made over the course of several months, placing their home at risk of being foreclosed.

A Washington County grand jury indicted reeves on two counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person over $2,500. Reeves turned herself in on Saturday morning and has been released after posting a $20,000 bond. She is due in court at a later date.

Full Article & Source:
Police: Gray woman arrested after stealing elderly parents' money

Friday, November 24, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio With Marti Oakley: Abolishing Probate #7, The Creeping Genocide of the Elderly and Disabled

Note:  This program was scheduled last week, but was hit by a cyber attack and went down just as the show started.  The show returns tonight!

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

Hosted by Marti Oakley, with Luanne Fleming, Robin Austin, Carly Walden

The recent passing of Anastasia Adams at The Envoy in Virginia is a story of what lies ahead for all of us if we become the property of a guardian. Probate, as it exists, must be abolished and those who have utilized this deadly system to cause harm and death must be held accountable. We are witnessing government sanctioned genocide of not only the elderly, but also the disabled……but as long as you don’t know about it or it doesn’t happen to you, most think it doesn’t happen.

Yolanda Bell will join us for an update in the recent medical murder of her beautiful sister, Anastasia Adams. We will not let Anastasia be forgotten, nor the people who premeditated her death.


Thinking of going into Hospice? Maybe sending someone you love for Hospice care? You might want to rethink that. Hospice is no longer the good Samaritan outfit it used to be. With an 11.5 billion infusion of cash over a ten year period via Obamacare, Hospice has been transformed into the embodiment of the Grim Reaper. Average length of life once in Hospice? 10 DAYS.

LISTEN live or listen to the archive later

FBI: Frisco Hospice Owner Directed Nurses to Overdose Patients

The owner of a North Texas medical company regularly directed nurses to give hospice patients overdoses of drugs such as morphine to speed up their deaths and maximize profits, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant obtained by NBC 5.

Executive Brad Harris, 34, founded Novus Health Care Services, Inc., in July 2012, according to state records. The Novus office is located on Dallas Parkway in Frisco.

Harris, an accountant, instructed a nurse to administer overdoses to three patients and directed another employee to increase a patient's medication to four-times the maximum allowed, the FBI said. He allegedly sent text messages like, "You need to make this patient go bye-bye."

In the first case, the employee refused to follow Harris' alleged instructions, according to the FBI affidavit. The document does not say whether the other three patients were actually harmed.

Harris also told other health-care executives over a lunch meeting that he wanted to "find patients who would die within 24 hours," and made comments like, "if this f----- would just die," an FBI agent wrote in the warrant.

No charges have been filed against Novus or Harris, who did not return messages left with a receptionist and at his Frisco home.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation.

Novus' website says the company offers hospice and home health-care services.

"We have a saying at Novus, be fast and treat people the way we would want to be treated," the website says. "This encourages us to go the extra mile to make patients feel comfortable and secure about their special needs and requests."  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
FBI: Frisco Hospice Owner Directed Nurses to Overdose Patients

Report On Vulnerable Investors: Elder Abuse, Financial Exploitation, Undue Influence And Diminished Mental Capacity

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place” said one financial services provider about their challenges in responding to the increasing number of elder financial abuse or mental capacity concerns that investment firms are seeing. “We want to be part of the solution, but if we suspect something is going on, we don’t know where to turn, what we are supposed to do, or who to reach out to. We’re worried we’ll get sued or in trouble with the regulators if we say something, and equally worried if we don’t. We need a new system so we can be part of the solution”.

Concerns such as this have become top of mind for the securities sector, with older adults, advocates, financial firms and regulators in agreement that something needs to change. In response, the Canadian Foundation for the Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR Canada) and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL) undertook a one-year project to understand the key concerns from stakeholders, look at international laws and best practices and make recommendations.

On November 16, FAIR Canada and the CCEL released their report aimed at helping the investment firms in these situations, while at the same time helping protect vulnerable adults who are at risk of elder financial abuse, financial exploitation, undue influence and diminished mental capacity.

“In this report we are calling on securities regulators, and in the investment industry to really engage on these issues. There is broad consensus amongst seniors, advocates and the investment industry that there needs to be protocols in place which balance an investors’ right to make their own choices, with the reality that the investment firms are in a unique place to prevent or stop financial exploitation of vulnerable investors”, says Marian Passmore, COO and Director of Policy at FAIR Canada, and a co-author of the report.

“These recommendations also help the investment industry as they try to play a role in abuse prevention. This report offers some key practical solutions, which includes recommending a ‘Legal Safe Harbour’ for reporting concerns”, says Laura Tamblyn Watts, Senior Fellow and Staff Lawyer at the CCEL. “However, the securities regulators need to create a clear ‘Conduct Protocol’ so investment firms know what to do and how to do it, in order to qualify from the legal exemption.”

The report makes 6 recommendations to Canadian Securities Regulators:
  1. Require investment firms to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name and contact information of a Trusted Contact Person for each client, who can be contacted in case of suspicion of abuse or diminished mental capacity, so long as they themselves are not suspected of financial abuse or exploitation of the client.

  2. Allow authorized individuals within an investment firm to place a Temporary Hold on Trades and Disbursements of funds or securities when there is a reasonable suspicion of financial abuse – that has occurred, is occurring or will be attempted – or where the client has lost the capacity to provide instructions.

  3. Provide a Legal Safe Harbour for investment firms and financial service providers who reach out to appropriately report suspicions of financial abuse or mental incapacity.

  4. Create a Conduct Protocol that defines key terms and sets out the steps firms and financial services representatives should take to identify and protect vulnerable clients. This Conduct Protocol will require that investment firms mandatorily report suspected financial abuse of vulnerable investors to the appropriate securities regulator.

  5. Mandate Specific Education and Training for all investment firms in the areas of elder abuse, undue influence, mental capacity issues, enduring powers of attorney and ageism and have the required proficiencies.

  6. Require that Investment Firms Become Familiar with Outside Resources and Responders and learn how and when to appropriately refer a case of suspected elder financial abuse, undue influence or diminished mental capacity to local responders.
The report is accompanied by an easy-to-read Executive Summary. In addition, here are some Quick Facts about Elder Abuse, Financial Exploitation and Undue Influence. Please see the case studies of the most common scenarios used in the consultation process.

Full Article & Source:
Report On Vulnerable Investors: Elder Abuse, Financial Exploitation, Undue Influence And Diminished Mental Capacity

DL man must pay $55K restitution after bilking elderly woman

A Detroit Lakes man must pay back $55,000 for bilking an elderly Hubbard County woman out of tens of thousands of dollars through overbilling for tree removal, roofing and riprap work.

Dale Ray Tyge, 62, of Detroit Lakes was originally charged in Hubbard County District Court with felony theft by swindle and felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Tyge could not be reached for comment and his attorney, Simon George of Detroit Lakes, had no comment.

According to court records, on Nov. 30 of last year Hubbard County investigators learned Hubbard County Social Services had received a report from the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center that an elderly female was possibly the victim of financial exploitation.

A Northview Bank vice president in Park Rapids began noticing a pattern with the elderly woman's bank account. The bank executive said the 82-year-old victim had always been frugal with her money, but starting in late 2013, thousands of dollars in checks had been written to Tyge.

Bank staff who had worked with the woman for many years said they noticed that in the past few years she seemed to be suffering from some confusion and memory loss.

The investigating officer obtained an administrative subpoena for bank records from 2013 to 2015 which indicated $106,527 in checks had been written to Tyge during that time.

The complaint states Tyge cashed 27 checks, ranging in value from $400 to $8,400.

The investigator met with the victim's family members and friends who stated the victim is a "very trusting and good person, with declining health and mental ability."

A daughter-in-law said the money Tyge received was from a trust, with the older woman's children as the beneficiary. After the family learned from the trust administrator of the large payments to Tyge, the daughter-in-law called to ask Tyge what kind of work would cost that much money, and to ask for documentation of the work. It was never provided.

The older woman told a sheriff's investigator that she didn't remember how she met Tyge, but did recall wanting a few trees cut down that were growing too close to her house, located on a lake in Thorpe Township. She guessed that Tyge had cut down 20-30 trees.

When told that he had charged her for the removal of 78 trees, she said she did not ask for that and would not have authorized the removal of so many healthy trees. Tyge had told her she had diseased trees on her property and they needed to be removed.

Hubbard County Forestry found none of the trees—on the property or removed—were diseased or in danger of being diseased. The forestry officials found a large brush pile down out of the victim's sight line in the residence.

The victim said that after the first time she called Tyge's tree service in Osage, he would just show up to do work without being called. She said she felt pressured to write a check each time he presented a bill as she didn't want to have outstanding bills. She said she is very frugal and considers $100 a lot of money.

At one point, she said, Tyge approached her with a single shingle and said her roof needed to be replaced. She said she didn't get an estimate from Tyge and didn't remember how much it cost.

From bank records, the investigator found Tyge had received $8,400 for the roof work. An expert roofer contacted by the sheriff's investigator found that Tyge had simply added a new layer of shingles on top of the old ones. He valued Tyge's work at $2,400, and put the value of a new roof at $3,900.

At the end of the investigator's interview with the older women, she acknowledged she had been taken advantage of, and said she felt very embarrassed and bad about it.

In an interview, Tyge told the investigator that he had helped the older woman remove trees from her property from 2013 to 2015. He said he had removed 30 to 40 trees. When asked about notes to the woman that he had cut down 120-foot trees, he admitted they might not have been that tall. A reputable tree-removal business owner told the investigator he has never seen a 120-foot spruce tree in the Hubbard County area, and said the prices charged to the woman were extremely high for tree removal. He also confirmed that some of the trees that Tyge had billed to remove had never existed.

When asked why his prices were so high, Tyge said his equipment was expensive and he had to pay his employees $200 a day. That turned out not to be true.

Tyge admitted he had taken advantage of the older woman, and said he would try to return some of her money.

In a contested omnibus hearing earlier in the case, Tyge asked that his statement to the sheriff's investigator be suppressed, since he was never read his Miranda rights, and asked that the charges be dropped.

Hubbard County District Judge Robert Tiiffany denied the motions, ruling that a Miranda warning was not required for the law enforcement center interview because it was not a custodial interrogation—Tyge was free to leave at any time—and the interview was not required to be recorded. And he ruled that probable cause existed for both charges in the complaint.

Tyge pleaded guilty on Oct. 3 to felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and on Nov. 20 Judge Tiffany stayed imposition of sentence and ordered him to serve 180 days in jail, stayed 20 years.

Tyge was ordered to pay back $55,000, with $5,000 due immediately and the rest to be paid back $5,000 a year. If the $5,000 annual payment is not made by Nov. 20 of each year, Tyge will have to serve 180 days in jail.

He was also ordered to pay a $500 fine and $85 in court fees. He was ordered to have no further contact with the victim or her family and to not be within 1,000 feet of her property. He was ordered not to vote or possess guns or ammunition, and to incur no further debt without authorization from his probation officer. He was placed on supervised probation for 20 years.

Full Article & Source:
DL man must pay $55K restitution after bilking elderly woman

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from NASGA!

Basket Brigade Delivers More Than Just Turkeys this Thanksgiving

This past weekend, over 300 volunteers braved both rain and snow to gather together with the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago to assemble and hand-deliver complete Thanksgiving dinners to 673 local area families-in-need.

The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago was founded by Streamwood residents Brian and Cherish Walsh with the mission "to put the GIVING back into Thanksgiving." Founded in memory of Brian's mother, Lorraine M. Walsh, the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago combines aspects of fundraising and volunteerism along with personal and spiritual growth.

Each Thanksgiving basket delivered includes a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, corn, marshmallows, cranberries, vegetables, and more; even a delicious pumpkin pie for dessert.

Volunteers assist in packaging the meals, and are then provided with the names of families-in-need who have been nominated by a variety of sources including private nominations on the Basket Brigade's website as well as names provided by other local nonprofits, churches, daycares, schools and other social service organizations.

"Each basket contains enough food to feed a family of five," says Basket Brigade Treasurer, Eric Hartmann, "and the thought that we are literally bringing Thanksgiving to over 3000 people in our local area is absolutely mind-blowing."

"Part of the magic of the day," says Brian Walsh, "is the aspect of growth for the volunteers as well as for the recipients. The volunteers get a direct person-to-person experience in seeing how their volunteerism is directly impacting the lives of these families-in-need."

Also included in each Basket are handmade coloring pages with notes from the children of the volunteers. "We really tried to make the overall experience of the Basket be both functional and inspirational," says co-founder Cherish Walsh, "and we definitely want our kids to get an early start on a giving heart. We've had recipients tell us that the coloring pages were their favorite part, and it was going to be hung prominently on their fridge!"

The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago Committee spends several months fundraising, planning, organizing and finding the recipients. "We work closely with our communities to find the volunteers and the encourage the necessary donations, both private and corporate," said Brian Walsh, "we have also been able to partner up with many cool organizations, nonprofits, and civic organizations to identify families -in-need. It is really a team effort, and we are excited to have expanded our delivery area to nine different communities this year; Streamwood, Hanover Park, Bartlett, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, Palatine, Elk Grove, Elgin and South Elgin."

"The whole process is always an emotional one," says Cherish Walsh, "but the stories, and the notes of thanks that we receive from the recipients, and the reports we receive back from the volunteers of the joy that they witness are truly inspirational. We received one photo back this year of a young boy literally HUGGING the turkey that his family had received. It simply does not get any better than that!"

"The Basket Brigade provides much more than just a Thanksgiving dinner; each basket also delivers a message of hope for those receiving it, the spirit of giving for the volunteers assembling and delivering the basket, a sense of community for those individuals and corporations who have donated and sponsored the costs to purchase the basket, and a sense of gratitude for the person who nominated the family to receive the basket," concludes Brian Walsh, "the secret to LIVING is GIVING."

Full Article & Source:
Basket Brigade Delivers More Than Just Turkeys this Thanksgiving

The 10 Commandments of Alzheimer's Caregiving

The 10 Commandments of Alzheimer's Caregiving

Words of wisdom from our expert and memory care and caregiver expert Dr. Rita Jablonski-Jaudon.

1. I am still me ... I may forget parts of my life but I will never forget that I am an adult deserving dignity. Neither should you. My memories may go but my personality stays.

2. Treat me like an adult. My behavior may be child-like, but NEVER treat me like child. No baby talk!

3. Come into my world, I can't function in yours. This means that I can't remember what happened 5 minutes ago but I can remember something from 50 years ago. Please don't argue with me, I don't understand why you are angry and I feel terrible for hours afterwards.

4. Actions are better than words. No big explanations, a gentle touch or hug and a warm smile goes a long way.

5. Give me a daily, consistent schedule. Consistent schedules tap the memories that I have and strengthen the parts of the brain that are still working. I feel better with schedules, even if I cannot remember them.

6. Give me nature. I need fresh air and sunshine. Please make sure i get out every day, even if it is on a porch or patio, or near a big bay window.

7. Give me pleasurable activities. I may forget that you took me out to lunch, or we went fishing, but the pleasurable feelings and emotions that came from that experience will last for hours.

8. Give me social interaction on my terms. I can't handle large gatherings but I can visit with a couple of people, especially if they are following Commandment #3. Again, I may forget that the grand kids came to visit, but the pleasurable feelings and emotions from that visit will persist after the visit.

9. Keep me safe. That means giving me freedom to move about my home as much as possible without falling or getting hurt. You may need to be creative, like hang pictures of a bookshelf over a door to keep me from leaving.

10.  Keep me healthy.  
 Help me to eat good foods to stay as healthy as possible, and help me to avoid infections.

Full Article & Source:
The 10 Commandments of Alzheimer's Caregiving

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fighting for Mom

Jennifer Rodgers and her mom, Martha, used to be very close. They lived near one another in Suttons Bay, talked on the phone every day, and stopped by each other’s homes for meals.

Today, Rodgers is no longer allowed to see her mom without permission from Martha’s court-appointed guardian, Jill Case. For a while, after Case took over Martha’s life in March, Rodgers wasn’t allowed to contact her mom at all. Eventually, some supervised visits and phone calls were permitted. Finally, in recent months, Rodgers was given permission, at times, to take her mom out for lunch or drive her to her knitting group.

That all ended on the day Case learned that Rodgers had asked the Northern Express to look into the circumstances that led to the guardianship. On Nov. 8, the day the Express had contacted Case with a message seeking an interview, Rodgers was informed that she would no longer be allowed to take her mom out to lunch.

In a text, Case wrote: “Jennifer ... I have advised your mom that I have limited the visitation for you. This is based on the reporter doing a story on your mom. I am very disappointed with all of this. I can tell talking to your mom that she is upset.”


Rodgers vividly recalls the day her world turned upside down: March 14, the day the government stepped in and took control of her relationship with her 79-year-old mother.

“I just happened to call home on a Tuesday. And my mom is in tears. And she’s like, ‘There’s somebody in my house right now, and I don’t know who it is, and they want to take me in to see somebody,’” Rodgers said. “You know, I was trying to get the story. And I finally got Michelle Hagerman on the [line] and all hell broke loose. She goes, ‘I’m with Adult Protective Services, and you’re the perpetrator of financial exploitation and neglect. What are you doing in Florida?’”

When the Express contacted Hagerman to verify Rodgers’ version of events, she declined to comment and referred questions to her supervisor at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Lois Kiel, who didn’t return any calls.

Bob Wheaton, MDHHS spokesman, said he could not comment on details about a guardianship.

Case ultimately refused to comment but did say this first: “Martha would be sickened that you guys are doing this. … Why don’t you do a story on the lack of volunteers to be court conservators?” she said. “I am done talking. … No comment. I’m going to hang up.”

Rodgers, a surgical technician, was working a temporary gig in Florida last March and said she had planned to bring her mother to join her when Hagerman swooped in, determined that Rodgers had neglected and financially exploited her mom, and, in an emergency hearing on March 17, petitioned the probate court to appoint Case guardian.

At that hearing, Hagerman testified about that call from Rodgers.

“While I was there, Jennifer called,” Hagerman testified. “She was very worked up, and she was pretty agitated with me. She believes that because she is [Power of Attorney], that she can make all the decisions and that she can have people not involved or informed, which I do not feel is in the best interest of the client.”

During that March 14 phone call, Rodgers said she tried to find out what was happening and why. She would not learn about the hearing to appoint Case as her mother’s guardian until March 17, the day of the hearing.

“There was this whole thing of keeping me in the dark, because at this point they treated me like a criminal,” she recalled. “They wanted to keep me as far away from my mother as possible.”


Years earlier, Martha, had planned for an uncertain future. She has two children, a son and a daughter, and in 2007, she named her daughter, Rodgers, Power of Attorney (POA), giving her legal authority over her life and estate.

That POA was “activated” by her attorney before Rodgers left for Florida. Rodgers said she did that on the advice of her mother’s doctor because they were concerned about leaving Martha in Suttons Bay. The previous summer, Rodgers said, her mom had started having trouble speaking, and Rodgers had made an appointment with a specialist. Martha saw a doctor in October.

At that point, accounts differing over what Martha’s doctor recommended.

Rodgers said her mom’s doctor had never suggested that Martha needed 24-hour care and that the doctor had said Martha was OK to drive during the day, as long as she stayed around Suttons Bay. Martha vehemently wanted to remain independent, said Rodgers; that’s one of the reasons why she didn’t go with her daughter to Florida. Rodgers said she arrived in Naples in late February and was looking for an apartment for her mom so that Martha could continue to live on her own.

Rodgers said she thought she had adequately planned the trip to Florida, but on March 14, she found out otherwise.

“So this is where I am questioning Michelle Hagerman’s assessment skills, because she should have just taken a deep breath and said, ‘Do you have a POA?’” Rodgers said. “She didn’t want to hear anything about this. She thought she found a big fish, and she was going to punish me, and she was going to take over this woman’s life, and she was going to save my mother from all this. … and it worked.”

Rodgers maintains that Hagerman and Case made exaggerated claims in order to take control her mother. At times she said she felt as though other people were twisting reality to make it look like she was hurting her mother. She said she was frustrated that her mom needed permission to attend family picnics and was no longer allowed to visit her hair stylist when she wanted.

In court hearings, Hagerman and Case testified that Rodgers used profanity, was unreasonable, and upset her mom with her phone calls.

At the emergency hearing on March 17, Case was named guardian out of concern that Rodgers neglected and financially exploited her mother.

At the formal hearing to designate a permanent guardian on May 17, however, the neglect and financial exploitation allegations apparently dropped away, according to transcripts. Rodgers said those allegations didn’t hold up.

An attorney had been appointed to investigate the claims, and in his report, allowed that Rodgers might not have been as vigilant as she should have been, given her mom’s dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He also found that the financial exploitation allegations amounted to a financial gift that Rodgers said she received from her mother for a house down payment, which was actually a loan and needed to be repaid.

Leelanau County Probate Judge Larry Nelson upheld the guardianship and maintained Case as the guardian, saying that, given the acrimony between Rodgers and her brother, Simeon Rodgers, someone outside the family should serve as guardian.

“This is where everybody’s finding out that there’s this grey area of accountability with these people that have a huge ability to come in and take over somebody’s life,” Rodgers said. “It doesn’t matter what anybody says — it’s my mother’s wishes. These were established in 2005, not something I felt like doing in February. But Michelle didn’t want to hear about that. She wanted to get in front of that judge and say there was $60,000 missing from my mother’s account and ‘I am sure Jen stole it.’”

ABOUT THAT $60,000

In the beginning, the guardianship was justified out of concern that Rodgers stole money from her mother. Later on, the guardianship continued, it seems, out of concern over Rodgers’ anger and frustration regarding the guardianship.

A week or so before MDHHS was called, Martha and her son, Simeon, visited his mom’s bank, where Simeon Rodgers learned about $60,000 that his mom gave his sister to purchase a house in 2015, Rodgers said.

For Simeon and his son, Spencer Rodgers, this was a smoking gun: Jennifer Rodgers, they alleged, had taken advantage of her ailing mother and fleeced her of tens of thousands of dollars.

Rodgers said that money was a gift she received from her mother when Martha was of sound mind. Later, Rodgers said, as Martha's Alzheimer’s progressed and Martha was in the guardianship, her brother and Case convinced Martha that the gift was actually a loan. Rodgers said that amid all of the stress of the case she relented and agreed to pay back the $60,000, even though it was originally a gift.

She shared a text message from her mom's financial advisor in Virginia, John Shubert of Merrill Lynch, who said that he knew that Martha gave her the money and thought there was nothing strange about it.

"I remember when she did that, but it was her choice." Shubert wrote. "Parents choose to do that stuff all the time.”

Acrimony over finances in the Rodgers family goes back years.

Rodgers said she believes the origin of her current struggle goes back to the mid-aughts, after her brother had taken over her late father’s metal fabrication business in Dayton, Ohio. The business failed in 2007, and in the process, Simeon Rodgers took out a $650,000 loan against his mom’s house on Lake Leelanau, ultimately causing Martha to lose her beloved property.

Martha sued her son in Ohio, and her son counter-sued. Rogers said that when Martha later held a garage sale at her home in Leelanau County, Simeon called the police, claiming she was selling stolen property. Martha decided to disinherit her son, Rodgers said. Around the same time, Rodgers said she was named POA.

In the meantime, Rodgers said, she helped her mother buy a new house in Suttons Bay and worked with her mother’s financial advisor to shore up her finances. Over the years, Martha’s trust grew to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Martha had enough wealth that she could give her daughter a gift of $60,000 without risking financial instability, Rodgers said.

That wealth, however, caught her brother’s attention, Rodgers claims.

“There was a purpose here,” she said. “My brother saw how much her account accumulated, how it had been growing over the years.”


In March 2017, Simeon’s son, Spencer Rodgers, set everything in motion. He arrived in Suttons Bay, stayed with his grandmother, and called protective services.

Spencer said he had flown to Dayton from his home in San Francisco, and he and his dad had driven from Dayton to Martha’s home in northern Michigan with the intention of driving his grandmother to Florida.

Spencer denied that he was part of a conspiracy to remove his aunt from his grandmother’s affairs so that he and his father could insinuate themselves back into Martha’s financial life. Simeon Rodgers did not return a message seeking comment.

“Ultimately, what it came down to is I called the police because my grandmother’s health was at risk,” Spencer said. “I called the police against my dad’s advice; they didn’t want me to call the police.”

Jennifer and Spencer disagree about a lot of things. For instance, Jennifer said she was surprised by Spencer’s visit in March because, in the past decade, he’s come to northern Michigan maybe twice. Spencer said he’s visited, on average, once a year.

Here is what Spencer said happened: He said he hadn’t seen Martha since his wedding in April 2016, and he said that he found her in rough shape when he arrived in Suttons Bay in March 2017.

“I started noticing things that were really, really off, and my grandma was extremely confused, and she was having a hard time talking,” Spencer said.

Spencer said his grandmother had trouble understanding what was going on around her and that when he tried to make her dinner, he found her pantry and refrigerator filled with spoiled food.

“I was really disturbed by this because, from what I had been told, my aunt had said basically there’s nothing wrong with Grandma,” Spencer said. “She had rotten carrots, and she was eating them.”

Jennifer said the allegations that her mom’s house was filled with spoiled food or that she ate spoiled food were ridiculous. There might have been some food there past its sell-by date, but lots of people have that in their pantry, she said.

One morning, Spencer said, he went to the doctor’s office with Martha in preparation for the Florida trip, and he was frustrated that his aunt wouldn’t give him permission to act as a patient advocate. Jennifer said she thought it made no sense to add Spencer as a patient advocate.

“He’s staying with her, and he starts going to her doctor’s office and saying, ‘I need to get involved with her medical.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, Spencer, with having so many irons in the fire, we really should keep it to one person. So I’ll handle it,’” she said. “And that kind of set him off.”

Spencer said he was frustrated that his aunt was blocking access to his grandmother’s health care.

“I told the lady at the desk, I said, ‘Look, would the doctor be concerned if my grandma was eating rotten food?’” Spencer recalled. “When I said that, the lady was like, ‘Listen you need to call Adult Protective Services, and you need to call the police.”

That’s what Spencer did, and soon, Hagerman was in Suttons Bay interviewing Martha.


Spencer and Jennifer also dispute how long Martha has been showing signs of diminished mental capacity.

Spencer insists his aunt knew for two years that Martha had Alzheimer’s and dementia and that, in fact, Martha started “losing her faculties” a decade ago; Jennifer said that’s not true. She said the first sign of significant mental decline showed up in summer 2016, and she made an appointment to have baseline tests performed for Martha right away.

Spencer believes his aunt took advantage of his grandmother’s declining condition.

“She gave herself my grandma’s house,” he said. “She then mortgaged that house and gave herself money.”

Jennifer said Spencer doesn’t know what he’s talking about and notes that when Martha was of sound mind, she decided to leave her estate to her.

Jennifer said she believes Spencer was trying to enrich himself. She said that while Spencer was staying with Martha, he asked her to buy him a house in San Francisco.

“He was going through all her financials, and he was hoping there would be something there for him,” Jennifer said.

Spencer said he didn’t do that; rather, he suggested his grandmother should buy herself a house.

“I said, ‘Listen, Grandma, if you sell your house out here and buy a house in San Francisco, I would be your caretaker,” he said. “I didn’t ask my grandma to buy me a house.”

He added: “Personally, I don’t really give a shit about money.”

Spencer agreed that a decade earlier, his father and grandmother had a falling out over the family business, but he said it wasn’t as bad as his aunt made it out to be. Spencer said his dad might have run the business into the ground, but didn’t steal from his mother.

“He didn’t do anything illegal, because when they sued, they lost,” Spencer said. “He’s a bad businessman, but he’s not a crook.”

Given the history, Jennifer said she believes Hagerman and Case exercised poor judgment when they sided with Spencer and his father over her.

At the outset, Jennifer texted photos taken from Spencer’s Facebook page, showing him partying, to Hagerman and Case. That backfired: The caseworkers saw the photos as evidence that Jennifer wanted to defame her nephew.

Jennifer also points to something else she believes is evidence of her nephew’s questionable judgement: He is in his mid-30s, she said, and he claims that he’s starting a business to stop hurricanes and tornados.

Spencer, who noted that he is a member of Mensa, agreed that he is trying to start such a business.

Although he has no formal scientific training, he said he’s spent hours reading and researching and that he’s discovered a way to use renewable wind to slow down tornados and hurricanes.

“We have the ability to reduce them by a drastic amount,” Spencer said.


Case and Jennifer Rodgers had a diffucult relationship from the start.

In court, Case said she didn’t think there was any reason for her to talk to the daughter who Martha had named POA. They communicated by text messages. In those first days, Rodgers said she attempted to be polite and diminutive with Case, despite her anger and frustration. That’s backed up by a record of text messages between Rodgers and Case that Rodgers shared with the Northern Express. In them, Rodgers takes pains to be polite, though in the string of messages, she does let her frustration show.

Case became frustrated with Rodgers. On March 22, she filled out paperwork to request a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against Rodgers, on behalf of Martha, that would prohibit Rodgers from contacting her mom.

In the paperwork, Case alleged that Rodgers was stalking her mom and posted personal contact information about Case on social media.

Case didn’t file the paperwork until May 11, and at that point requested an emergency hearing where the respondent does not have to be present because of the likelihood of “immediate injury, loss, or damage.”

In an attachment, Case cited the photos of Spencer partying that Rodgers had sent. She wrote that Rodgers had sent them “in an attempt to slander this family member.”

Case continued: “Spencer Rodgers came to visit his grandmother in an attempt to assist her (on a temporary) basis and has been appropriately acting in this manner. Jennifer Rodgers has represented herself as POA (having power of attorney) assuming she has all say and ‘custody’ of her mother via financial, medical, legal, and has instructed other parties (including medical) not to share, disclose or include anyone but herself.”

To back up her claim that Jennifer Rodgers posted personal contact information, Case included a screen shot of a Facebook post. However, the Facebook post was not from Rodgers. It was from another family member who Rodgers said was among the many who were frustrated that they could not reach Martha in those first days. The numbers posted were publicly available numbers for Case and Hagerman.

Rodgers said Case filed the PPO because Rodgers had sent her mom a Mother’s Day card, defying Case’s orders that Rodgers refrain from contacting her mother.

Rodgers challenged the PPO, and a hearing was held before Nelson in June.

Case argued that, although all of the reasons cited in the PPO application had to do with contact Rodgers made with her or Hagerman, she was filing the PPO because Rodgers’ behavior had been upsetting to her mother.

“I can’t keep having caregivers calling me after hours and Martha yelling at me, asking me why I don’t like Jennifer,” Case testified.

Nelson upheld the PPO but granted Rodgers daily 15-minute phone calls and two hour-long supervised visits per week.

After testimony about the instances when Rodgers become angry about her separation from her mom, Nelson told Rodgers: “You are a very emotional person. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but just seeing you sit there at the various hearings and how you conduct yourself, I think you have a very difficult time controlling your emotions, Ms. Rodgers.”

Later, the PPO was terminated without explanation. Rodgers said it was because other family members started looking into what was going on.

“People knew that it wasn’t true. Someone at the home (where Martha lives) saw that Jen and her mom were actually interacting very well, and it was good for her mom,” said Lisa Leatherman, Rodgers’ partner. “Because we knew that they were lying about that, they had to drop the PPO.”


Jill Case is called a “volunteer” guardian because she volunteered to serve through the court, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get paid.

Case refused to answer questions about how much she gets paid or for how many people she serves as guardian.

According to Leelanau County records, Case is a guardian and conservator in just the one case, Martha’s. A guardian is appointed to oversee the health and well-being of the ward; a conservator takes control of their finances. In Grand Traverse County, she serves as the guardian for four people and conservator for three. In one other case earlier this year she petitioned to be named guardian and conservator for another elderly woman, but the woman contested it, and Grand Traverse County Probate Judge Melonie Stanton struck down the petition.

A “volunteer” guardian is a person who is outside the family and who may take on one or multiple cases, said Susan Richards, Leelanau County’s probate register.

“It would not bar her from charging or receiving compensation, but any compensation would be subject to the approval of the court and would need to be detailed in an attachment in the annual account,” Richards said.

That means Case is eligible to pay herself compensation through Martha’s estate, and she must account for that in a report she has to file a year after she was appointed.

Case is also an employee at the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging.

After the Express contacted the COA, Case left a message at the Express demanding that a reporter not attempt to contact her employer because she said her guardianship work is separate from her work at the COA.

A follow-up call to COA Director Cynthia Kienlen asking whether Case is allowed to use her work with seniors to find guardianships was ignored.

There is no evidence that Case is taking advantage of Martha’s estate for financial gain.

“I am knee-deep in more than a dozen cases across Michigan,” said Black, who lives in North Carolina. “You’ve got a mess up there.”

Black was not familiar with Martha’s case, but he said guardianship cases should raise red flags. He said in most cases of abuse, the victim set up a living will or named a guardian through a POA, but those wishes quickly get set aside by judges.

“They’ve recognized they can easily pervert the court by everybody telling whatever lies they want to tell to discredit the family member and thus deny the estate documents and step in,” Black said.

Once the guardian and conservator is named, there is very little oversight, he said. They must file a financial baseline report within 60 days and then a financial report once a year. These reports, Black said, rarely see scrutiny, and the guardians are free pay themselves what they want from the estate.

“People are begging to stay in their homes, stay with their loved ones; they don’t want a guardian,” Black said. “They isolate the victim so their voice is never heard. The dysfunctional family ruse is the common refrain to deny the estate documents, so from the very onset there’s just no due process in these proceedings.”


Some of Martha’s closest family members are disturbed about what’s happening.

Lynne Hackenberger has known Martha since she was a teenager. Martha married Hackenberger’s brother, and the families stayed close. Hackenberger and Martha’s husbands each started separate metal fabrication businesses in Dayton. The families bought adjacent property on North Lake Leelanau and spent summers together on a family compound.

“I’m very close to Marty,” Hackenberge said.

Hackenberger said she thought Jennifer Rodgers might have been in denial about the decline of her mother’s health, but she doesn’t believe Rodgers neglected Martha.

“It had been kind of evident to the family that she was starting with some dementia, and I think Jenny was so close to her, maybe she was somewhat in denial that it was quite as bad as it was,” Hackenberger said.

Hackenberger was aware of the plan to bring Martha to Florida last winter and believes that if that were to have happened, things would have worked out. Hackenberger was in Florida at the time, and she was looking forward to seeing Martha.

Hackenberger said she is suspicious of Simeon Rodgers’ motives in light of the business collapse a decade ago.

“Her son has done some really questionable … things with the finances, with her finances, but Marty seems at this point to not really be able to grasp what he did,” she said. “He left her so upside down financially, and Jenny really stood by her mother at that time and helped her figure that out.”

Whatever the grandson’s motive for calling protective services, there is no question that the move got Simeon Rodgers and his son back into Martha’s life, Hackenberger said.

Once the process started, Hackenberger said it seemed as though the guardian and the caregivers favored Simeon and Spencer over the other side of the family.

“It was awful. I’d call Mart, and they’d say she wasn’t available or not answer the phone,” she said. “They didn’t want any of this side of the family to be involved. We would have stuck up for Jen.”


The person Martha named as back-up guardian, Anne Vance, said Martha’s ordeal has been heartbreaking and disturbing.

Martha and Vance are second cousins, and they both grew up in Dayton.

“Our families, even down to the third cousins, we were all very, very close,” Vance said.

Several years ago, while Martha was still of sound mind, she chose Vance to be her back-up POA, the person to be appointed guardian if, for some reason, Jennifer Rodgers was not able. Vance had experience as a court-appointed guardian — she’d served in that role for her parents, but Nelson refused to name Vance guardian in May, saying he would not name a family member, given the acrimony.

“I think Martha probably chose me as a secondary because she saw the care and the consideration that I gave to my mom and dad,” Vance said.

It was claimed in a court hearing that Vance had been picked by Jennifer Rodgers in some supposed plot, but Vance said that was a ridiculous allegation. She said Martha called her herself and specifically selected her. Vance said she would not have had trouble balancing the needs of Martha’s son and daughter.

What’s so upsetting about what’s happened, Vance said, is that Martha’s wishes that she made when she was of sound mind were completely undermined.

“The most disturbing thing to me, for her, or for anybody, is they could have laid out in their right mind a plan for if their medical condition starts to decline,  and her wishes — I can’t say they weren’t taken into consideration by outside forces, but they were just totally overruled,” Vance said. “What’s the purposes of someone doing that if it basically holds no water?”

Full Article & Source:
Fighting for Mom

New nursing home legislation would strengthen elder care ombudsman

At least a dozen bills to regulate nursing homes are under consideration in the Florida Legislature after 14 people died at a Hollywood, Florida, nursing home that lost power during Hurricane Irma.
The latest are identical bills filed Tuesday by state Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, and state Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, that give new teeth to Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which records show has regularly turned up fewer complaints each year under Gov. Rick Scott.

Many of the bills, including those of Edwards and Farmer, require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators capable of powering air conditioning in the event of a power loss.

Under Tuesday’s bills, the Ombudsman program, which is supposed to look out for residents in Florida’s 683 nursing homes and thousands of assisted living facilities, would be allowed to conduct undercover operations inside nursing homes, posing as patients or employees, to look for abuse and neglect.

“They say we’ll leave it to the industry, but I’m thinking I’m not liking what I’m hearing back,” Edwards said. “I had to call too many county commissioners and police departments post-storm to tell them to go by and check on a facility.”

A Facebook post complaining about a lack of power at a facility in Sunrise led Edwards to notify city authorities, who checked on the Sunrise assisted living facility and found it had been without power for three days after Hurricane Irma.

Edwards said that experience led her to believe an Ombudsman’s office with greater autonomy is needed if new generator regulations are to be enforced.

With the new legislation, the Ombudsman office would be contracted out to a nonprofit entity rather than be a direct state agency, as it is now. It would report its findings to the Agency for Health Care Administration, which then could fine the facility between $5,000 and $25,000, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

“Apparently not everyone has common sense to call 911 in an emergency and evacuate people to the hospital across the street,” Edwards said, referring to The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which is across the street from Memorial Regional Hospital. “They have to get their act together, they have to have a plan, and damn it, it’s ridiculous that we have to mandate that people have to do that.”

The big boost to the state Ombudsman program is unique among the many bills. Another novel portion requires facilities to allow residents’ families to monitor them electronically as a safeguard against abuse.

Similarities include a requirement that nursing homes and assisted living facilities be treated as high priorities, like hospitals, when utility companies are restoring power.

The multitude of other bills includes:

SB 284: Filed by state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, this bill requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators that can power air conditioning in the event of a loss of power, and requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to conduct an unannounced inspection at least every 15 months to check and make sure the generator is in working order. The bill requires facilities to have enough fuel to power generators for five days.

HB 479: Filed by state Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes, this bill requires an unannounced inspection by AHCA every four months. It also requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators to power air conditioning and enough fuel to last for five days.

HB 327: Filed by state Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, this bill requires AHCA to carry out an announced inspection each May before hurricane season and requires facilities to have generators that can power air conditioning and enough fuel to last four days.

SB 372: Filed by state Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, this bill would require generators to power air conditioning and enough fuel for four days. It also requires AHCA to carry out an announced inspection in May before the start of hurricane season. Additionally, it requires the Public Service Commission to ensure that utility companies treat nursing homes and assisted living facilities with at least 50 residents that offer critical medical care as high priorities, similar to hospitals.

HB 443: Filed by state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have current contact information on file with both residents and the state Long-Term Care Ombudsman. It also mandates that residents be allowed to access personal records on file at the facility.

SB 830: Filed by Farmer, this bill is identical to HB 443.

SB 558: Filed by state Sen. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, this bill requires all health care facilities that provide overnight care — including nursing homes and assisted living facilities — to have generators that can power air conditioning and enough fuel for four days. The generators must be able to maintain conditions throughout an entire facility.

HB 435: Filed by state Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, this bill establishes a matching grant program, funded with $5 million every year through 2023, so that facilities buying generators can get a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the state on a first-come, first-serve basis. The grant is open to both public and private facilities.

HB 437: Filed by Lee as well, this bill requires facilities to have generators and enough fuel for seven days.

HB 331: Filed by Slosberg, this bill adds new language to the state’s patients bill of rights, requiring facilities to send an explanation for any relocation in writing to both a resident and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

The legislative session begins Jan. 9.

Full Article & Source:
New nursing home legislation would strengthen elder care ombudsman

Family awarded $8.5 million in guardianship abuse case says it's not about the money

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - $8.5 million dollars. It's a figure almost impossible to fathom for 81-year-old Rudy North.

"And it's time," North said. "It's taken over four years."

The autumn 2013 day that April Parks came to take guardianship over Rudy and his wife, Rennie, is a day they'll never forget.

"We were kidnapped from our house," Rudy said.

After Contact 13 exposed allegations of fraud against Parks and her company, A Private, Professional Guardian, the court took her off the case.

But in the time Parks controlled every aspect of the Norths' lives, they lost their home, their car, their life savings and their dignity.

"Our souls were scarred," is the only way Rudy can describe it.

April Parks is behind bars, awaiting trial on dozens of felony charges for theft, racketeering, perjury and exploitation of older and vulnerable persons.

Now, in a civil case, Judge Doug Smith says Parks has got to start paying the price.

"Yeah. So let's see if she does," says a skeptical Julie Belshe, the Norths' daughter with whom the couple now lives.

Belshe knows the road to realize that $8.5 million dollars will be long.

Still, the family is looking at the positives the civil judgment brings.

"It's about giving people hope," Belshe says.

Hope for others fighting abusive guardianships, financial accountability for April Parks and validation for everything the Norths have endured.

"What we want to do is bring this terrible, horrific racket down," Rudy says. "We want it to stop."

Judge Smith awarded double damages against Parks for the abuse, neglect and exploitation of Rudy and Rennie North, who are considered special victims due to their age and vulnerability.

Parks' criminal trial is set to begin in May.

Full Article & Source:
Family awarded $8.5 million in guardianship abuse case says it's not about the money

Minnesota senator demands greater disclosure on senior abuse, investigations

Sen, Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Senate committee on aging and long-term care, said she is preparing a package of reforms to address widespread abuse in Minnesota's senior care facilities.

The head of a key committee in the Minnesota Senate is preparing a package of reforms that would expand the state’s power to investigate elder abuse, while eliminating much of the secrecy that surrounds such investigations.

Sen. Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy committee, said the state must act swiftly to address what she termed “an emergency situation” involving criminal abuse in senior care homes that goes uninvestigated and unpunished.

“This must stop,” Housley said in an interview. “When you hear these horrific stories of abuse, and hear reports of families waiting years for some resolution to an investigation, you realize that we need more resources in this area.”

Housley, a Republican from St. Marys Point near Afton, was responding to a Star Tribune investigation published this week that detailed chronic failures by state regulators to investigate incidents of criminal abuse in senior care homes.

The investigation found that hundreds of residents of such homes are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed each year. Yet the vast majority of these incidents are never resolved, in part because the state agency charged with regulating such facilities lacks the staff and forensic expertise to investigate them.

Gov. Mark Dayton also responded to the series, announcing Wednesday that he would create a cabinet level task force to address the state’s failure to protect elderly residents from abuse. Dayton said he wants reform proposals in time for the 2018 Legislature, which convenes in February.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the state health commissioner, said in an interview that the agency was caught off-guard by a surge of maltreatment allegations, which have increased sevenfold since 2010. “We’ve been running fast to catch up, but it’s clear we’re not running fast enough,” he said.

With funding approved early this year by the Legislature, the department plans to double the number of staff devoted to investigating and processing maltreatment complaints. In addition, the agency is modernizing its computer systems so that it can share more information about abuse investigations electronically.

The state Department of Health also plans to expand its efforts around preventing abuse, through increased collaboration with senior care providers, Ehlinger said. “We’re trying to expand the narrative to make sure that prevention is a piece,” he said.

The Star Tribune report also highlighted the obstacles many families face when they try to find out what happened to their loved ones in senior facilities. Even in cases of serious abuse, involving physical or sexual assaults, families are often told that the state’s investigations are confidential and that they are not entitled to even basic details.

These investigations can drag on for months without a resolution, according to records reviewed by the Star Tribune. As a result, relatives of abuse victims are sometimes kept in the dark indefinitely.

Housley said such secrecy is “untenable” and prevents families from making informed judgments about care for their loved ones. She is crafting legislation that would require senior care facilities and the Minnesota Department of Health to share details of abuse reports with elderly victims or their assigned legal representatives.

Last year, the Health Department received more than 25,000 allegations of maltreatment in state-licensed senior homes, including unexplained injuries, resident-on-resident altercations, physical abuse by staff, and thefts.

When these reports are filed by facilities, known as “self reports,” they are kept confidential from victims and families until they are completed. But 99 percent of these facility self-reports are never investigated on site by the state Health Department, which means that details of thousands of allegations never come to light. Many of these cases are dropped without the family ever knowing the scope of the abuse.

Suzanne Scheller, an attorney from Champlin and founder of Elder Voice Family Advocates, an advocacy group for better care for seniors, said senior residents and their legal representatives should be made aware of any allegations that the resident has been abused, as soon as they surface.

Senior industry representatives have long maintained that the public benefits from some privacy, because facilities are more likely to report abuse if they know the information will not be made public.

A number of senior advocacy groups, including the Minnesota chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Minnesota Elder Justice Center, said they support giving abuse victims and their relatives greater access to state maltreatment investigations.

“Transparency and openness to families should be at the center of the discussion,” said Beth McMullen, vice president of government affairs for the Alzheimer’s Association.

However, another prominent legislator said the state should focus on enforcing current laws before creating new ones.

“The reason we’re in this much trouble is because we’re not following the laws that we already have,” said Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, chairman of the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

For instance, state law requires that investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect in senior facilities be completed within 60 days. Last year, however, the Health Department completed only 15 percent of such investigations on time.

In addition, state law says that home care and assisted-living providers must undergo full inspections at least every three years. A review of public records, however, found that fewer than half of these providers are receiving such inspections on schedule. Some assisted-living facilities have never been inspected, records show.

“People have died at the hands of facilities that people thought were safe,” Abeler said.

Full Article & Source:
Minnesota senator demands greater disclosure on senior abuse, investigations

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

New reforms in guardian law presented

New Mexico could “leapfrog” into a dramatic new way of placing people under legal guardianships and conservatorships under recently unveiled national reforms.

The model reforms, crafted by the national Uniform Law Commission for states to adopt around the country, are being considered by a New Mexico guardianship task force and a state legislative committee.

If enacted by the Legislature as is, the reforms would add more openness to New Mexico’s closed guardian/conservator system.

Law professor David English, of the University of Missouri at Columbia, has spent 30 years studying guardianship reform and spearheaded the drafting of new model guardianship laws for the Chicago-based Uniform Law Commission.

Last week, he traveled to Albuquerque to present the 2017 revision, which stemmed from two years of national study of guardianship issues. He spoke before a New Mexico probate lawyers’ group and the state Supreme Court commission studying guardianship reform.

“What struck me when I first looked at New Mexico, I was very surprised as a general matter that guardianship proceedings were not open to the public. That’s not consistent with how most other states address the issue,” he told the guardianship commission on Friday.

In New Mexico, guardianship proceedings are sequestered and closed to the public. The only publicly available record is a court docket sheet identifying the parties involved and a general list of the actions and filings in the case.

But, in Missouri, where English lives, the public can attend hearings in which judges decide whether a guardian should be appointed for an incapacitated person. Typically, those placed under guardianship or conservatorships are elderly, those with dementia or Alzheimer’s or others who need help with their decision-making or finances.

He said the intent of the new reform laws would be to open guardianship proceedings to the public, unless the person for whom the guardianship is being considered asks for a closed hearing or a judge decides otherwise.

“It’s very important that the public have some access to what’s going on in guardianship cases,” English told the guardianship commission. “At least be able to attend the hearing.”

Access to court filings that include financial and health information would still be confidential, but family members of those under guardianship could get access to annual reports and other filings required of guardians and conservators.

“The theory is you want greater disclosure to, not to the whole world, but to the people who have a high level of interest in the welfare of the person under guardianship so they can get copies of the reports and accounts and raise issues with the judge,” English said.


If adopted, the new Uniform Law Commission guardianship law would provide more eyes and ears – and thereby more accountability – to New Mexico’s system, English told the Journal.

Over the past year, family members have complained to the New Mexico guardianship commission and the Journal about being barred from seeing their loved ones for weeks or months once a professional guardian is appointed. Some professional guardians restrict visitation or have allowed only monitored meetings, contending that certain relatives upset the person under guardianship.

“Visitation has long been an issue in guardianships,” English told the state commission on Friday. “But it’s gotten a lot of added attention in the last few years.”

He said there are guardians “who in some cases will prohibit all visitation. I think it’s a matter of convenience (for the guardian) and that’s not good.”

But allowing unlimited visitation or outside contact could subject the person under guardianship to those who might financially exploit or abuse the person, English said. “It’s always a balancing test.”
Under the new uniform law, a guardian wouldn’t be allowed to restrict visitation except by court order.

“An individual should be able to interact with family and others the same as if they were not under a guardianship,” English said.

The list of people entitled to advanced notice about a potential guardianship appointment would also be expanded and they would be entitled to subsequent notice of hearings in the case.

‘A blunt solution’

Gov. Susana Martinez’s spokesman said recently that the governor hadn’t decided whether to place guardianship reform on the call for the 30-day session in January, which is typically limited to budgetary issues.

Regardless, the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee has been discussing a version of the new uniform laws.

English said the new model laws highlight the need for alternatives to guardianships and conservatorship by allowing single legal transactions, such as when someone needs the authority to admit a person to a nursing home or to sell a vacant house.

“Guardianship can be a really blunt solution compared to something less sweeping,” English said.
For instance, there are cases in which a court can issue an order and solve the problem “without subjecting the person to the rest of their lifetime being in a guardianship or conservatorship,” he said.

A key provision would require guardians and conservators to present a plan, including their projected fees, within 60 days to the court.

“One of the problems is that conservators would come to court and sometimes their fees come as a big surprise,” he said. English cited a case in Virginia in which a “very honest” attorney was charging $250 an hour to perform tasks in a guardianship case “when a secretary could have done the work for a fraction of the cost.” Typically, fees paid to conservators and guardians are deducted from the assets of the protected person.

The new uniform laws would permit bonds to be required of conservators – a protection already proposed by the New Mexico guardianship commission and recently put into place by district judges in Albuquerque.

“Given human nature, there’s a certain percentage of conservators who will steal, sometimes they are lay people, sometimes professionals,” English said. Studies have found about 10 percent of cases involve criminal activity by conservators, he added.

In response, some states have hired auditors, a remedy proposed by the Supreme Court’s guardianship commission. In Minnesota, English said, a former police detective is the chief auditor who scrutinizes financial accountings filed by court-appointed conservators.

Extensive changes

The proposed Uniform Law Commission revision, if adopted in New Mexico, could increase the workload of attorneys who petition the courts to place someone under a guardianship. Judges might also have to spend more time reviewing aspects of the care and finances of the incapacitated person, and inquiring into what other alternatives to a proposed guardianship or conservatorship have been attempted.

English said the Uniform Law Commission has overhauled its model guardianship laws at least three times since 1969. The last change in the law in New Mexico was 1997.

“This is such a leapfrog for us as far as the changes being so extensive,” said Albuquerque attorney Gaelle D. McConnell, a Supreme Court commission member. “Is it because New Mexico hasn’t kept up with previous uniform acts?”

“That’s probably a lot of it,” English responded.

Full Article & Source:
New reforms in guardian law presented

$275 Billion Nursing Home Industry Prevents Elderly Nun from Suing for Rape

According to Time Magazine, in 2011, 84 year old Sister Irene Morisette, a Catholic nun, admitted herself to Chateau Vestavia, an assisted-living facility outside Birmingham, Alabama. After over 60 years of service to the Catholic Church, Sister Morisette wanted to live in a facility that could help her with daily tasks, as her knees were sore after countless hours of prayer. In the three year period from her admittance in 2011 until the night of June 23, 2014, Sister Morisette had begun showing signs of dementia and had her sister named as her legal guardian. It has not been revealed if Sister Morisette had dementia at the time she admitted herself into Chateau Vestavia, a finding that, in the eyes of the law, would be extremely significant given the horrifying incident that happened.

Upon admittance to the senior living facility, Irene Morisette signed a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, also known as a binding arbitration agreement, that was embedded in a lengthy admissions contract. The arbitration agreement prevented Sister Morisette, a woman who dedicated her life to God and the church, from suing when she was raped, presumably by a Chateau Vestavia staff member, on the night of June 23, 2014 at 87 years old. Irene Morisette believes her perpetrator was a staff member, as she had locked the door to her bedroom that night, just as she had every night of her adult life. Only someone with a key could have entered her room in the middle of the night without any forcible signs of entry.

Evidence Proves Ms. Morisette was Raped

It is unclear who Sister Morisette initially told of the rape, but police were immediately notified. Upon examining the crime scene, police found her pajama pants under her mattress, with blood stains near the rear area. Investigators also discovered two semen stains on her bedsheets. A sexual assault expert at the local hospital reported that Sister Morisette had wounds and abrasions consistent with rape.  Sister Morisette, 5 foot 2 inches and 140 pounds at the time, told authorities that someone had entered her room, held her down against her will, and raped her. She did not call for help after the incident, as she was terrified that the assailant would be the person who responded to her distress call.

After investigators were unable to identify the perpetrator and file criminal charges, Irene Morisette’s sister attempted to sue Chateau Vestavia for failing to provide a safe environment for residents. She was told by the facility that because her sister had signed a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, her only recourse was to go through the arbitration process and not the courts via a traditional lawsuit.

Arbitration Agreements: A Federal Endorsement

There are several important things to know about arbitration agreements and nursing homes:

  1.  Multiple arbitration experts told Time Magazine that they estimate 1 million residents of nursing homes and senior living facilities have signed an arbitration agreement.
  2. Senior legal advocates believe that 90% of large nursing home chains require arbitration agreements (where not otherwise forbidden by state law).
  3. The American Health Care Association (AHCA) has spent $26 million in the past 10 years lobbying the House and Senate, all to push the idea that arbitration agreements should not be banned from nursing home admission contracts.
  4. Arbitration agreements were set to be banned from admission contracts by the Obama Administration, but a federal judge in Mississippi blocked the ban from going into effect last November. The case was brought forth by none other than the American Health Care Association.
  5. This June, the Trump Administration proposed a rule that would allow nursing homes to use pre-dispute arbitration agreements, a move that many elder experts believe nursing homes will view as the government essentially encouraging them to include the clauses in their admissions contracts.
  6. Arbitration experts earn anywhere between $300-$600 an hour and elder experts believe that their decisions can be swayed by the lure of being hired again by the same or other nursing homes to arbitrate disputes. The more favorable a finding is for a nursing home, the more in demand an arbitrator becomes.
  7. Arbitration agreements have been found by countless studies to favor the non-injured party, with less awarded to the victim than in a trial by jury.
  8. Costs for arbitration must typically be paid by the family bringing the dispute. Nursing home abuse lawsuits traditionally do not require money out of the client’s pocket. Nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys typically are only paid a percentage if the attorney recovers money via settlement or verdict.
Arbitration Allows for Unlawful and Unethical Tactics by Nursing Homes

A major issue that prevented Irene Morisette’s rape investigation from ending in criminal charges is that the nursing home deleted all security footage from the night of the rape. According to the nursing home, cameras were not placed in the hallway near her room, so footage would not have been relevant. In a lawsuit, an attorney would immediately have requested that all evidence relating to the night of Sister Morisette’s rape be preserved. Any violation of this request would be punishable in court.

The nursing home also attempted to push the theory that Sister Morisette had strong sexual impulses and that the genital wounds discovered during her rape examination were self-induced. Under oath during depositions, employees who actually worked with Sister Morisette said they had never seen anything to indicate she could have harmed herself. Nursing home management and counsel also theorized that the semen found on her bedsheets was from the hands of housekeeping staff.
Unfounded theories such as this are rarely, if ever, admissible in court.

Arbitration agreements also allow blatant violations and crimes to go unknown by fellow residents and the public at large. When a dispute is allowed to go through the civil justice system, it becomes a matter of public record.

No Award…Instead a Bill

Finally, Irene Morisette’s sister asked for $5 million in damages during arbitration. At Sister Morisette’s request, every penny was to be donated to the Catholic Church. Instead, the arbitrator chosen by Chateau Vestavia (now going by Morningside of Vestavia Hills) determined that the facility was not liable and did not owe Irene Morisette a dime. She was instead sent a $3,000 bill to cover the costs of arbitration. According to Sister Morisette, she had spent her life dedicating her heart and her body to God. For her to be robbed so violently of a vow she had made over 6 decades ago is a heartache she can hardly bear.

For all of us committed to preserving the rights of the elderly and fighting for fair treatment and justice, it is unbelievable to us that arbitration agreements are legal as a requirement for admission into most nursing homes. In a country that places such emphasis on the Constitution, how is it possible that businesses, especially a $275 billion industry such as nursing homes, be allowed to require American citizens to waive their 7th amendment right to a trial by jury? Adding further insult to injury is that these pre-dispute arbitration agreements are embedded in pages upon pages of rules and regulations, language that quickly becomes overwhelming when not under duress, much less when one is admitting themselves or a loved one into a nursing home.

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti encourage you to avoid nursing homes that require arbitration agreements. While we know distance, cost, and many other factors are involved, if possible, please find a nursing home that will not automatically require you to put your loved ones needs second to their own by signing a pre-dispute arbitration agreement. 

If you suspect abuse or neglect of a loved one at a nursing home, please let us help you. Our consultations are free and confidential. Please call us at 312-332-2872 or complete our online consultation request form.

Full Article & Source:
$275 Billion Nursing Home Industry Prevents Elderly Nun from Suing for Rape