Saturday, December 30, 2017

96-year-old faces Christmas Eve eviction for recording alleged caregiver neglect

LOS ANGELES -- Sally Kelly is unable go to the bathroom without help. In fact, she needs help with all of her daily needs because she previously had two strokes and two broken hips.

CBS Los Angeles reports a video shows the 96-year-old waiting for help for 58 minutes while needing to go to the bathroom. The video camera stopped recording after about an hour.

Her daughter, Audrey Kelly, says it took more than two hours for a paid caregiver to respond. She says this isn't the only time this has happened.

"Cameras are catching them not coming and performing services," Audrey said.
Another recording, a couple of months later, shows Kelly waiting 38 minutes before the recording stops.

Audrey says her mother mounted visible security cameras in her apartment at City View Villa, which is a senior living facility, for her own safety. She says the video shows her mother is not receiving the desperately needed services that she's paying for.

"Everything from her calling for help and no one coming for hours, prompting me to call several times and they still don't come after I call," Audrey said. "They don't show up for showers 95 percent of the time so I have to do it, they don't show up to dress her in the morning, provide her grooming in the morning."

Audrey says the facility's executive director accused her and her mother of committing a criminal offense by using the cameras and ordered her to take them down. But the LAPD says it's not illegal to use cameras in the privacy of your own home.

What's ironic is that Kelly was a detective for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department years ago.

Audrey is demanding for her mother's account to be credited for all of the services she has not received. The facility, however, responded by serving her with an eviction notice.

Kelly says she's not backing down.

"We won't get rid of the cameras," she said.

"She's scared, she's upset, rightfully so, she doesn't understand why they wont credit her account when they know she has these cameras that have caught them red-handed and she doesn't understand why on the eve of the holidays would they be so cruel," Audrey said.

Full Article & Source:
96-year-old faces Christmas Eve eviction for recording alleged caregiver neglect

Assisted suicide laws are creating a 'duty-to-die' medical culture

Despite not hearing about it often, assisted suicide is a major issue in the U.S. right now. In more than 20 states this year alone lawmakers have introduced bills to legalize assisted suicide, and almost every single one of them has been struck down — with bi-partisan support. A recent bi-partisan Sense of Congress bill introduced in Washington, D.C., has opened up the discussion at a national level, and paved the way for upcoming bills and debates in 2018. If 2017 was a busy year for assisted suicide legislation, 2018 will be even more so.

Though assisted suicide is promoted as freedom of choice, the economic forces that drive insurance companies, and subsequently patients’ coverage options, greatly restrict self-determination for already vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. There is evidence that economic considerations limit choice when it comes to health insurance coverage. And the deadly combination of assisted suicide and our profit-driven health care system does in fact steer some patients toward lethal drugs, the cheapest form of “treatment.”

Dr. Brian Callister, a physician from Reno, Nev., was told by two separate insurance medical directors that assisted suicide would be covered for his California patients, but the curative therapies Dr. Callister had prescribed to save their lives would not.

Callister confirms the concerns of health care advocates, saying that “since assisted suicide became legal in California and Oregon, the practice of medicine across the West has been irreparably harmed for patients who still want their diseases treated but are now simply offered the cheaper option of a quick death.” Patients Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup in Oregon had similar experiences.

Multiple studies show that people with disabilities, senior citizens, poor people, and people of color are more likely to be mistreated by medical professionals, and the likelihood of being mistreated increases if family members view them as an emotional or financial burden. 

When it comes to assisted suicide, we see in states like Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for two decades, the percentage of Oregon deaths attributed to a patient’s reluctance to “burden” their families rose from 13 percent in 1998 to 40 percent in 2014

This reveals that the right to die “option” for some vulnerable populations has quickly become more like a duty to die.

The legalization of assisted suicide also devalues the lives of people with disabilities because it creates a double standard — insurance companies and state agencies readily offer to pay for life-ending drugs for individuals with disabilities and serious health conditions when they ask for death, but provide suicide prevention services to non-disabled individuals who make the same request.

But there is more cause for alarm. In states where assisted suicide is legal, nothing prevents a relative who stands to benefit from the patient’s death from steering that person towards suicide, witnessing the request, picking up the lethal dose, or even administering the drug. The same goes for abusive caregivers. No witnesses are required when the lethal drugs are administered, and despite assurances by assisted suicide proponents, there are no checks or balances that would prevent abuses. 

On top of that, oversight and data reporting are difficult or impossible to enforce. At present, states that have legalized assisted suicide do not even require doctors to record the lethal medication they prescribed as the direct cause of death on the death certificate. Instead, they list the cause of death as, for example, the patient’s terminal illness thereby leaving behind a trail of misleading documentation.

When it comes to assisted suicide, mistakes by health care professionals, widespread misinformation, coercion, and abuse all limit the ability of people with disabilities to make informed and independent decisions. And in this profit-driven economic climate, is it realistic to expect that insurers are going to do the right thing, or the cheap thing? If insurers deny, or even delay, approval of costlier life-saving alternatives, then money saving but fatal measures become the deadly default. 

The truth is that assisted suicide as public policy is rife with dangerous loopholes and consequences, especially for the vulnerable in our society. We should reject laws that legalize the practice.

Helena Berger is president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Full Article & Source:
Assisted suicide laws are creating a 'duty-to-die' medical culture

Retirement home shut down months after attack on 86-year-old

Click to Watch Video
(CNN)A newly uncovered video of a resident at an assisted living facility in Florida mercilessly beating another resident raises new questions about the safety of the elderly in places meant to protect and care for them.

In the video, obtained last week, a 52-year-old resident is seen punching an 86-year-old resident with dementia more than 50 times as the older man lay curled up on the floor.

The younger resident accused the older resident of eating his cupcake, according to law enforcement.

The video was taken by the facility's closed circuit surveillance system in October and later turned over to the police, who shared it with CNN.

The facility -- the Good Samaritan Retirement Home in Williston -- had a history of violations, and more sanctions in the past five years than any other assisted living facility in Florida. In December, two administrators were arrested in connection with separate incidents on charges of neglect of the elderly.

The beating, which was first reported by the Gainesville Sun, lasted on and off for nearly 2 minutes. It occurred in a common area of a secured unit within the facility while other residents ate and watched television mere feet away.

At the time the beating took place, there was no staff member attending to residents in the unit, and no one had been assigned to monitor the unit's video surveillance, according to official reports.

By the time staff arrived, the beating was over. The elderly resident was hospitalized with bruising and swelling to his face, as well as hip pain, according to the police report.

A month after the beating, another resident hit her head at the facility and was not immediately taken to the hospital. She later died.

One of the facility's administrators, Nenita Alfonso Sudeall, later broke down and cried as she told police she was "overwhelmed" at the facility, which she said was short-staffed and had poorly trained employees, according to a police report.

A number of other recent reports and incidents have called into question the safety of residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country.

Sometimes, as in the case in Florida, the threats come from fellow residents. Other times, it's from staff.

According to a 2016 study of 10 New York nursing homes, in a given month, one out of five residents suffers mistreatment at the hands of another resident. In September, residents of a Florida nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning. According to the Hollywood Police Department, Broward County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak classified 12 deaths as homicides from heat exposure, as staff at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills failed to evacuate residents amid sweltering temperatures in the days following the storm.

Also earlier this year, a CNN report found that the federal government has cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse at their facilities between 2013 and 2016.

"There are far too many cases of abuse and neglect happening in nursing homes and assisted living facilities," said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, a national advocacy organization for residents and their families. "We've been seeing cases for decades. This one incident in Florida shows how bad the problem can be."

A spokeswoman for the association that represents many of Florida's long-term care providers said the October beating at Good Samaritan and the national report about nursing home rapes are "disturbing." The association does not represent Good Samaritan.

"We extend our heartfelt thoughts and sympathies to all residents and families involved," Kristen Knapp, the spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, wrote in an email to CNN.

"Cases of abuse are appalling and deeply troubling, and actions that jeopardize the privacy, dignity and safety of the elderly should be condemned and prosecuted to the fullest degree possible," she added.

Fifty-six punches in two minutes

The beating occurred October 3 in a secure unit of Good Samaritan, a 45-bed assisted living facility.

The 86-year-old man was punched 56 times, according to law enforcement reports. Two other residents futilely attempted to help. Staff members arrived at the scene roughly 30 seconds after the beating ended.

The resident seen doing the beating had previously suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to police.

Clay Connolly, Williston's deputy police chief, said the man, whose name was not released, has been arrested several times in the past for assault and battery. Connolly said the man was never prosecuted because he was declared mentally incapacitated. According to a police report, he wasn't arrested for the October beating because of his "limited capacity."

Staff at Good Samaritan told police the man had shown no signs of aggression since coming to the facility in 2015, according to police reports. After beating the other resident, he was removed from the facility temporarily for evaluation, but was later allowed to return to Good Samaritan.

After his return, he was supervised one-on-one by facility staff, according to a report by the state's Agency for Health Care Administration. The report goes on to say that "there was no evidence that the staff had been trained on the scope of such responsibilities."

According to the Florida Health Care Association, which represents some of the state's long-term care providers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have mandatory staff training programs that address prevention and recognition of abuse, including abuse committed by residents.

CNN attempted to contact the owners and administrators of Good Samaritan by phone and email, and attempted to reach the owners on Facebook, as well. Court records do not yet indicate the names of the administrators' lawyers.

A long history of violations

Over the past five years, the state Agency for Health Care Administration has sanctioned Good Samaritan 17 times -- more than any other assisted living facility in Florida. The agency has also hit Good Samaritan with $73,750 in fines over the same time period -- again, more than any other facility in Florida.

CNN obtained these numbers from the agency's website last week, before the facility was listed as closed.

Over the last five years, there were changes in ownership at the facility. The most recent owners, Helen Romero and Jhoana Paz, appear on ownership documents dating back to August 2015, according to the agency. CNN was unable to determine if their roles at the facility go back further.

In the year before the beating, the state agency reported that the facility had problems with documentation for medications given to residents, failing "to provide a decent living environment," and failing "to provide appropriate supervision for a resident in need of medical services."

State Sen. Lauren Book became involved after receiving a phone call from Lee, the advocate who is also Florida's former long-term care ombudsman. She questioned why Good Samaritan wasn't closed down after the beating in early October, especially given the facility's long track record of infractions.

"Why are residents being left in these facilities that clearly aren't safe?" Book asked.

A resident death

The Florida Department of Children and Families was informed of the October beating the day it happened, police records show.

One month later, on November 1, a 72-year-old female resident fell and hit her head. Staff did not take her to the hospital or inform her daughter or health care provider about the fall.

According to the police report, Sudeall, the facility administrator who complained of being overwhelmed, told police that the elderly woman had fallen in the parking lot and did not wish to be transported to the hospital for treatment. Sudeall told the police she had followed established protocol since "the wound was not actively bleeding and she was conscious and responsive, she was permitted to make the decision as to medical treatment."

Sudeall told the police she placed the elderly woman in the "memory ward," a special unit within the facility, to better monitor her condition and keep her from wandering outside. The woman was reportedly monitored on an hourly basis by staff, according to the police report.

About six hours after she fell, the resident was found unresponsive in bed and 911 was called, according to the police report. Police found the woman, her face turned toward the pillow, occasionally gasping for air and with dried blood on her head and hands.

Sudeall, the facility administrator, told police she delivered first aid to the woman. When police asked what that entailed, Sudeall said she cleaned the blood off her face and hands, according to a law enforcement report. In an incident report, staff also recorded they had given her an ice compress and that she "refused to go to the hospital," according to an agency survey.

The woman was taken to the hospital, where she later died.

The fatal injury was first reported in the Gainesville Sun.

Connolly, the police deputy chief, said he and his colleagues became frustrated that the Agency for Health Care Administration wasn't doing enough to protect the residents.

"The whole thing was atrocious. We have people being killed and injured. We were anxious. We were beside ourselves," Connolly said. "There was a huge amount of frustration in my office because regulatory agencies weren't regulating."

On November 22, nearly three weeks after the woman's death, the Agency for Health Care Administration put a moratorium on new admissions to Good Samaritan.

Connolly says that wasn't enough.

"That just meant they could only kill the people they had left," he said. "We asked, 'What are you planning to do with the people who are there?' We never got a good answer."

According to a statement from a spokeswoman, the state agency took "swift action to hold this facility accountable. ... The health and safety of residents is our top priority, which is why (the agency) has and will hold any facility who fails to protect residents fully accountable."

Two weeks later, there was another incident -- one that resulted in the arrest of a facility administrator.

On Thursday, December 7, a resident underwent a medical procedure. A nurse instructed Rhaimley Yap Romero, an administrator who police said was the co-owner's son, to closely monitor the resident over the weekend and alert her immediately if there were any changes in the resident's condition, according to a press release by the Williston police.

Over the weekend, the patient's condition did deteriorate, and the facility staff contacted Romero twice, but Romero did not contact the nurse and gave no care instructions to the staff, according to police.

On December 11, police arrested Romero, 31, on charges of neglect of the elderly. Sudeall was taken into custody days later on the same charge involving the death of the resident who had hit her head.

Neither has entered a plea.

Still, the facility was not immediately shut down.

'Why did it take seven weeks to shut this facility?'

On December 19, the Agency for Health Care Administration filed a report about the facility. It noted many problems, including that some patients had been given the wrong dosages of medications, and other patients were given medications even though there was no documentation of a physician's order. In another case, the medication record reflected that a medication wasn't given to a resident until 11 days after it was prescribed.

The agency also reported that the facility's administrator "lacks requisite qualifications" and that the "current administrator and shareholder both candidly admit a lack of knowledge of Facility operations."

The report continues to say that most of the staff were not English speakers, while most of the residents spoke only English.

"The majority of (Good Samaritan's) staff is unable to communicate with the resident population due to language barriers," according to the report.

"No resident need be subject to the rudderless management and operations which exist" at Good Samaritan, the report continued.

On December 19, Deputy Chief Connolly and others expressed their frustration during a conference call with officials from the state agency. Book, the state senator, said she contacted the agency the same day.

The state filed an emergency suspension order of the facility's license that day.

"We have taken aggressive action to ensure the Good Samaritan facility will no longer be responsible for any residents, and this facility will be shut down by this Saturday, December 23," Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement on December 21. "We will continue to work with our partners, and with families to quickly and safely relocate all residents."

Book says that while she's glad the facility will no longer operate, she looks back and wonders why it wasn't closed back in October when the beating occurred, or nearly two months ago, after the other resident died.

"There are some questions the secretary (of the Agency for Health Care Administration) and I are going to have to go over," she said. "Why did it take seven weeks to shut this facility?"

Full Article & Source:
Retirement home shut down months after attack on 86-year-old

Friday, December 29, 2017

UPDATE: Family Fights for the Life of Senior Medically Kidnapped from her Home and Forced onto Drugs

Beverley Finnegan is on life support, but a medical expert says that she is likely to improve 
if proper medical treatment were initiated. Photo taken December 2017. Source.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

The fate of 69 year old Beverley Finnegan of Massachusetts remains up in the air for now. Attorneys met on the Friday before Christmas to argue for and against pulling the plug on the medically kidnapped senior citizen.

After several hours in court, attorney Lisa Belanger told Health Impact News that they had expected Judge Mareen Monks to rule by the end of the day on Friday, December 23, 2017.

That didn’t happen. The verdict was not handed down until after Monday’s Christmas holiday.

The ruling is a temporary victory for Beverley’s life. The court requires additional information and will appoint a Guardian ad litem to gather information on the motions submitted by both sides. The next court hearing will be on January 29, 2018.

While attorneys and guardians argued in court Friday that Beverley Finnegan should be put to death by “pulling the plug,” attorney Lisa Belanger fought valiantly to save the life of a woman that Dr. Paul Byrne, a medical expert on brain death, says is reasonably likely to improve if she were to have proper treatment:
Beverly has a functioning brain. Beverly Finnegan does not fulfill any set of “brain death” criteria.
In Dr. Byrne’s medical affidavit, he states that proper medical treatment of her condition did not occur and still has not occurred. He asserts that if she were to receive the proper treatment, there is a “reasonable likelihood of improvement” of her condition.

See Beverley’s story here:

Active Senior Medically Kidnapped from her Home and Forced onto Drugs in Nursing Home Now Near Death


Medical Expert Testimony Downplayed at Court

As a result of the previous court hearing on Monday, December 18, Beverley’s attorney and sister Janet Pidge were given until Friday, December 22, to secure a second opinion by another medical examiner. It was also ordered that MetroWest Medical Center provide access to Beverley’s medical records to Janet Pidge and Lisa Belanger.

About the time that the family’s previous article was published on Health Impact News on Wednesday, December 20, attorney Lisa Belanger was finally given her client’s medical records.

She was horrified at what she found.

Both Beverley, before her heart attack, and her sister have stated numerous times that Beverley was not being given proper treatment and that she was being abused under guardianship care. For months Beverley has cried and pleaded to be released from the nursing home that she was forced into against her will.

Belanger got in touch with Dr. Paul A. Byrne, M.D., a medical expert with an impressive resume spanning several decades. He has spoken at numerous conferences, published many journal articles, and published a half dozen books on brain death and end of life issues.

According to an affidavit by Dr. Byrne:

Dr. Byrne CV ss

Lawrence Glick is an attorney for Springwell, Inc., an Elder Protective Service agency appointed by the state of Massachusetts. Springwell is the agency that originally petitioned the court for a guardian for Beverley Finnegan almost a year ago. The guardian, Marissa Levinson, representing Jewish Family and Children Services, and Glick are among those who are arguing for Ms. Finnegan’s death.

Belanger court
Massachusetts Probate Court. Photo provided by Lisa Belanger.

Ms. Belanger reports that Glick spoke to her about Dr. Byrne:
Wow! I’m impressed. How’d ya find somebody like him on such short notice?
Nonetheless, despite Dr. Paul Byrne’s remarkable qualifications to evaluate Beverley Finnegan’s medical condition, the court balked at his medical affidavit amid claims by attorneys that he was “unqualified” because he is board certified as a pediatrician. Ultimately, however, the document was submitted into evidence.

There were 3 other medical affidavits submitted by the other side, all of which essentially said the same thing, that Beverley was brain dead and had no hope of any recovery. Their statements each look like fill-in-the-blank copies of each other. These were readily accepted as evidence.

Lisa Belanger has learned that one of the doctors, Dr. Elman Urbina Meneses, is actually an intern.

 When she called the Massachusetts Medical Board, they told her that his medical license limits him to practice only at Framingham Union Hospital for training purposes. He is not licensed to practice anywhere else. However, she says that Dr. Meneses certified to the court that he is fully licensed to practice in Massachusetts. (For more on this, see Boston Broadside.)

Another doctor whose affidavit the court accepted was Dr. Aba Somers, who got his medical degree from a school in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Yet, the testimony of these doctors were given preferential treatment over that of the renowned medical expert Dr. Paul Byrne.

Medical Treatment Needed, Says Expert

In Dr. Byrne’s report, he lays out specific medical treatments that need to be initiated immediately:
Belanger Dr Byrne recommendations

Other points in Dr. Byrne’s report include:
25. Beverly Finnegan is a living person. Beverly’s heart is beating about 100,000 times a day without stimulation from an electronic pacemaker or medication, blood pressure, respiration, i.e., exchange gases between lungs and blood, the blood and the tissues albeit with the use of a ventilator to push air into Beverly, but with the living Beverly causing the exhalation of carbon dioxide. Beverly is maintaining her temperature at 95-96 indicative of someone who is alive.
26. Beverly is anemic. Her hemoglobin is 7.8 and hematocrit is 26.4. Beverly needs a blood transfusion.
27. Beverly has been on ventilator for about 3 weeks. Tracheostomy is indicated. Ventilator can then be continued until her malnutrition and hypothyroidism are adequately treated.
28. Beverly is very likely deficient in Vit D. This needs to be tested and treated.
29. With adequate thyroid hormone, vitamins including Vitamin D, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folic acid, Vitamin B 12, arginine, taurine, omega 3 fatty acids, melatonin, and sufficient protein, being provided as treatment, there is a reasonable likelihood of improvement in Beverly Finnegan’s condition. None of these measures have been initiated to my knowledge.
30. Beverly is malnourished, hypothyroid and on a ventilator. Tracheostomy, feeding tube (PEG tube), thyroid medication and adequate nutrition can help Beverly. To remove the ET tube from Betty with or without the ventilator will do harm and might impose death on Beverly Finnegan. There is little risk of harm to Beverly to attempt such treatment measures, and the prospect of recovery outweighs the limited costs of treatment.
31. A severely sick and damaged brain leads to a sick thyroid gland that worsens brain sickness. At this time Beverly Finnegan is in “global ischemic penumbra” and declared to be in a “vegetative state.” Beverly Finnegan needs treatment, not harm and death imposed on her. With treatment there is every reasonable likelihood of improvement.[emphasis added]
One of the motions filed by the hospital and elder care attorneys was for the use of a PEG feeding tube and a tracheostomy, or breathing tube, to be surgically inserted. It was the one thing that both sides initially agreed upon. However, the guardian and the hospital attorneys reportedly tried to withdraw that motion by the time of court on Friday.

Jewish Family and Children Services, the court-appointed guardian service for Beverley Finnegan, represented by attorneys Wendy Crenshaw and David Schwarz, petitioned the court for authority to authorize removal of the ventilator, initiate a “Do Not Rescuscitate” order, and approval of comfort measures only.

Janet Pidge, Ms. Finnegan’s sister, opposes such efforts by the guardian. She wants her sister to be treated and for her to be given the opportunity to live. Beverley appointed her sister as her medical proxy in 2012, long before she had any medical issues. However, her decision was ignored when the court appointed Jewish Family and Children Services last year to make the decisions for her.

Sister Prevented from Testifying

During the entire hearing, they reportedly argued that it would be more merciful for her to be dead – an assessment that Beverley’s sister vehemently denies.

Janet Pidge was not permitted to testify in court, due to haggling over technicalities, while the very life of her beloved sister was at stake.

Janet left) with her sister Beverley at a Christmas party in their younger days. Photo provided by family

Janet was initially afraid to leave Beverley’s side to come to court, fearful that the hospital would take her sister off of life support in her absence. She attempted to testify by phone, but she was unable to hear on the hospital phone. When Janet handed the phone to a hospital staff member, the staffer reportedly communicated to the court that she was unwilling to talk.

Shortly after, Janet spoke with her attorney to explain what happened, and said that she wanted to go to court. A supporter drove to the hospital to pick her up so that she could testify in person.

When she arrived at court, her attorney was told that the court had given Janet an opportunity to testify by phone. Since she didn’t do that, because she was coming to court physically, the judge told her that it was too late.

Lisa Belanger attempted to file a hand-written motion to allow her to testify, but she said that when she tried to hand it to the court clerk, he refused to take it and handed it back to her. She and the clerk argued over this in the presence of the judge, who picked up her things and walked away.

Janet Pidge was devastated that she was unable to testify on behalf of her sister.

Past History of Guardianship Battles – Over Their Mother

The entire nightmare scenario feels like a repeat to her of what she and Beverley went through several years ago with their mother.

The sisters fought, unsuccessfully, to save their mother from a similar fate. The state of Massachusetts seized custody of their mother, appointed a guardian, and forced her into a nursing home against her will.

Janet told Health Impact News that they fought for their mother, who was abused and neglected by the guardian and nursing home. She died at age 102, but Janet says that she should have lived longer had she not been taken away.

She believes that at least some of what she is facing with her sister is retaliation for their battle for their mother, during which they filed several lawsuits and took on some very influential people. Some of the players involved with Beverley’s case were allegedly involved with their mother. Janet says that the corruption runs deep in the guardianship/elder protection world in Massachusetts.

After seeing what their mother went through, Beverley chose to name her sister as her medical proxy. Her wishes were ignored. Photo provided by family.

Lawyers Haggle over Medical Recommendations

Since the post-Christmas ruling on December 26, attorney Lisa Belanger has been attempting to get the hospital and attorneys to follow the recommendations of Dr. Paul Byrne, but has been met with resistance and semantical games.

She wrote Wednesday morning to the attorneys involved:
You are hereby formally notified that you have been provided the NECESSARY MEDICAL TREATMENT as set forth in Dr. Byrne’s affidavit that Beverly Finnegan needs IMMEDIATELY. The attached info and upon my consultation with expert medical professionals a PEG is a COMMON PLACE PROCEDURE that is capable of being done in a local hospital.
Also,you ALL are put on notice that the hospital is medically falling below the reasonable care of duty in failing to perform the PEG IMMEDIATELY and for failure to provide Beverly Finnegan the proper dosages of medication as set forth in Dr. Byrnes’s attached affidavit.
There is no ambiguity in Dr. Byrne’s recommendations. Belanger is clear that she and Janet Pidge want the necessary medical treatment to be done.

Yet, attorneys wrote back and forth all day Wednesday, apparently much more concerned about a hearing on Thursday to find out if the judge meant to extend a conservatorship as well as guardianship for Beverley Finnegan than caring about whether or not she gets life-saving medical treatment.

In her ruling on Tuesday, the judge did not specify that the conservatorship was to be extended, so there is a hearing to clarify whether that was an oversight or not.

While the other attorneys try to figure out who is coming, Belanger has been trying to communicate the imperative nature of following Dr. Byrne’s medical recommendations.

After a full day of haggling over what Janet wants for her sister, and questions as to whether or not Janet objects to the tracheostomy and PEG feeding tube [she doesn’t], Belanger emailed the attorneys, including MetroWest Medical Center attorney Gary Zalkin:
I am quite puzzled as to how counsel for a “hospital” does not understand what “emergency” or “immediate” means.  As I emailed you yesterday, Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 7:50 pm, I have not received any communications whatsoever that you have implemented the necessary LIFE-SAVING measures required.
Therefore, due to your evident and continuing reckless disregard for Beverley Finnegan’s life, please be advised that I will be seeking legal recourse FORTHWITH.
It is now 7:25 am.  EVERY SECOND COUNTS. And every second that elapses you and your client, Metro West, and the other aiders & abettors are compounding your culpability exponentially.
Health Impact Newsattempted to reach Zalkin for comment but was unsuccessful.

How You Can Help

Beverley Finnegan’s life is on the line, and Janet Pidge and attorney Lisa Belanger are asking for all the help they can get to save her life. They ask for people to contact media, the governor, and legislators.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker may be reached at 617-725-4005 or contacted here. His Facebook is here.  His Twitter is here.

State Representative Kay Khan may be reached at 617-722-2011 or contacted here. Her Facebook is here, and her Twitter is here.

State Senator Cynthia Creem may be reached at 617-722-1639 or contacted here.  She is on Facebook here.  Her Twitter is here.

The U.S. Senators for Massachusetts are Ted Markey and Elizabeth Warren.

Senator Ted Markey may be reached at 202 224 2742, or contacted here.

Senator Elizabeth Warren may be reached at 202 224 4543, or contacted here.

Attorney Lisa Siegel Belanger’s website is here. She has a great deal of information on her website about guardianship issues. Her Twitter is here.

Full Article & Source:
UPDATE: Family Fights for the Life of Senior Medically Kidnapped from her Home and Forced onto Drugs

See Also:
68 Year Old Beverly Finnegan – Snatched from Condo by Court Order, Tossed in Nursing Home – Struggled to Get Released – Now on Life Support

New power of attorney laws take effect Jan. 1

The North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act will go into effect on Jan. 1, replacing most of the existing laws governing powers of attorney.

Janice L. Davies
The NCUPOAA will adopt the Uniform Power of Attorney Act as drafted, but with modifications to better serve North Carolinians. The UPOAA sprang from a 2002 national study that showed a growing divergence in state power of attorney legislation. According to the Uniform Law Commission, the Act “provides a simple way for people to deal with their property by providing a power of attorney in case of future incapacity.” Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure into law back in July.

Janice L. Davies, a Charlotte attorney and certified specialist in estate planning and probate law, also serves as the chair of the North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act legislative subcommittee for North Carolina Bar Association Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section. Along with others, she worked on the Act for more than three years, reviewing the uniform law and existing North Carolina law, modifying the uniform law for North Carolina, and lobbying for the bill before the General Assembly.

Davies says that the Act establishes a legal framework “for the creation and use of powers of attorney and furnishes guidance to and protections for principals, clarity for agents, and certainty for third parties asked to accept a power of attorney.”

The Act, she said, is expected “to enhance the effectiveness of the power of attorney and to prevent, identify, and redress the abuse or misuse” of a power of attorney by an agent.

“The abuse or misuse of powers of attorney has been recognized as a serious problem,” Davies said. “The UPOAA intends to strike a balance by preserving the durable power of attorney as a private form of surrogate decision making while deterring use of the durable power of attorney as a tool for financial abuse of an incapacitated principal.”

New governor in town

Those familiar with the Act, though they may be few, relatively speaking, recommend that any North Carolina attorney who prepares, reviews, construes, accepts, or in an manner deals with powers of attorney familiarize herself with the Act, which will repeal general statute Chapter 32A, with the exception of Article 3 and Article 4, which deal with healthcare powers of attorney and consent to healthcare for minors, respectively.

The newly created Chapter 32C will now govern powers of attorney in North Carolina, and it features new forms, making the old ones obsolete; new terminology; and many changes to how business and financial affairs are currently conducted in the state.

According to Davies, the degree of change in the laws runs from static to significant, and getting the word out is paramount because of the various practice areas and disciplines that will be affected by those changes.

“As a common and private form of surrogate decision making, attorneys, bankers, title company representatives, persons involved in social services, the clerks of superior court, and the judges in North Carolina must be familiar with the Act for its use and application on or after January 1, 2018,” she said.

But from what she’s seen so far, Davies is concerned that too few individuals, including attorneys, are unaware of what the new year will bring regarding powers of attorney.

“What I don’t want is for a bunch of people to be caught flat-footed on this,” she said.

So what’s new?

Davies recently co-planned a CLE on the Act, telling Lawyers Weekly that there was more material to cover than she could fit in the day-long seminar. But as one individual who is taking the lead on educating the masses about Chapter 32C, she offered information on several areas that she says have become topics of discussion lately.

Automatic Durability: “That means that the power of attorney will survive your incapacity automatically. You don’t need magic words or expressed words in the instrument. The default is, it’s durable unless it says otherwise. The other thing is, in North Carolina you had to record it with the register of deeds in order for it to be durable; that rule is no more.”

Davies believes this rule could be the most misunderstood of them all, because while powers of attorney can, and in some cases — such as real estate transactions —  must be recorded, it is not required for durability purposes.

Judicial Relief: These are heavily modified from uniform law so the procedures are similar to current estate or trust proceedings in North Carolina.

“One of the major things that changed is that a guardianship proceeding was sometimes necessary to stop abuse of a power of attorney by the agent for an incapacitated person, and now there’s more relief available so that you could, for example, go to court and get an accounting and prove or disprove that the agent was doing something wrong or not doing something wrong.”

“I think what I would say is that there are better avenues to the court to protect the elderly and the incapacitated in North Carolina — I think that’s a big deal.”

Terminology: So as not to confuse the layperson regarding what an attorney is versus what an attorney-in-fact is, “attorney-in-fact” will be replaced by “agent.” The term “incapacity” will replace “disability” since disability does not necessarily render one incapable of managing property and business. Also, the authorities that a principal may give an agent in a power of attorney, are referred to as general and specific authorities, which are modernized to better serve North Carolinians.

A helping hand

In his September blog on the Act, James Creekman, a financial institutions and regulatory attorney with Ward and Smith in Raleigh, wrote that up to this point, dealing with powers of attorney has been “frustrating.” Referencing the Act, he proclaimed, “Help is on the way!”

Existing law, he wrote, provides a template for a short-form power of attorney, rigid rules regarding durable powers of attorney and an agent’s authority to make gifts from the principle’s estate, and limited guidance for third parties dealing with agents.

“The Act covers much more territory,” Creekman wrote. “It is rationally organized, relatively straight-forward, and divided into four articles.”

Those articles are: Article 1: Definitions and General Provisions; Article 2: Authority; Article 3: Statutory Forms; and Article 4: Miscellaneous Provisions.

Davies provided Lawyers Weekly with a synopsis of each article.

Article 1 contains the definitions and general provisions about the creation and use of a power of attorney, most of which are default rules. The mandatory rules in this article may
protect the principal, the agent, and the persons asked to rely on the agent’s authority.

Article 2 provides default definitions for the various authorities that may be granted to an agent. Certain authorities, referred to as specific authorities, must be granted with express language because of their heightened risk of abuse by an agent and to the estate plan of the principal.

Article 3 provides three optional statutory forms, the North Carolina Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney; the Agent’s Certification as to the Validity of Power of Attorney and Agent’s Authority; and the North Carolina Limited Power of Attorney for Real Property.

Article 4 contains provisions concerning the relationship of Chapter 32C to other laws and to existing powers of attorney.

Knowledge is power (of attorney)

Jessica Hardin, a trust and estates lawyer with Robinson Bradshaw in Charlotte, said that her recommendation to clients under the new law will be the same as it has been: consider signing a durable general power of attorney.

“Beginning on January 1, the document itself will look a little different but it will still have the important effect of naming a trusted person to handle the client’s business and financial affairs when necessary,” she said.

In her effort to continue spreading the knowledge of North Carolina’s newest powers of attorney statutes, Davies encourages those with a need to know to visit the state bar association’s website and take in the CLE “Power of Attorney: 2018 North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act.” It is available by video replay and On Demand.

“Not enough people know,” she said.

Full Article & Source: 
New power of attorney laws take effect Jan. 1


Muriel Mintz Has just died by the cold hands of Attorney Michelle Goldberg and Stacy Kelly of Ostrom Morris. Muriel was forced to die under the care of Judge Mike Woods and St. Luke's Hospital, Houston Hospice and terrible Attorney Michelle Goldberg. Muriel was in great shape until Michelle got her claws into the Trust illegally. Barbara and her sister are registered nurses specializing in geriatric care and also physicians assistants more 30 YEARS and qualified to take care of the their mother.Muriel must die in order to remove Barbara as trust officer and now Muriel has been Killed under the Care of Judge Mike Woods! Texas has a statute that gives hospital permission to kill anyone by putting them on "HOSPICE" WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT! Yes this is correct. Texas and Virginia are the only states that give complete immunity to Doctors that kill you in the hospitals. When you check into a hospital you are relinquishing your right to live to the doctors and Hospice for PROFIT company which make billions from you through Medicare. The average cost for giving the patient lethal injection of Morphine-Haloperidol-Villium is $5,000.00. Guardians love Hospice for the simple fact that they think they can kill whoever they want with complete immunity but in reality the Judge can be sued under his bond in Harris County for $5000,000.00. TEXAS COURTS ARE BEGINNING TO BE OVERLOADED WITH LAWSUITS FOR GUARDIANS KILLING THE ELDERLY PARENTS THROUGH GUARDIANSHIPS!

Full Article & Source:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Donisthorpe swindle: Will there be money for Omar?

Omar Ramirez, pictured here outside his family’s home in Santa Teresa, is one of about 
40 former clients of Desert State Life Management of Albuquerque whose trust funds 
were embezzled by Desert State CEO Paul Donisthorpe. Ramirez, who has traumatic 
brain injury, had a $1 million trust from an insurance settlement but learned his money
 is gone. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Just after Thanksgiving, the family of Omar Ramirez rejoiced upon learning that former Desert State Life Management CEO Paul Donisthorpe had agreed to pay $4.8 million in restitution after pleading guilty to pilfering dozens of client trust accounts, including a $1 million trust set up for Omar’s lifetime care.

“I guess there’s going to be Christmas for Omar,” younger brother Armando said at the time in a phone interview. The Ramirez family lives in Santa Teresa, N.M., where their mother cares 24/7 for Omar, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a 2001 car accident in which he struck an errant cow in the roadway.

“To tell you the truth, I feel like crying,” Armando told the Journal. “… My mom’s going to be so happy.”

But as the year ends, there’s been no restitution paid to Ramirez and some 39 other victims – elderly and mentally or physically impaired clients whose trust accounts were looted by Donisthorpe from 2006 to 2016.

There’s no assurance that any of the victims will recoup all their financial losses, say state officials tasked with liquidating Donisthorpe’s assets, including some 100 head of Texas cattle.

“I don’t want to paint a rosy picture where everybody thinks they’re going to get every dollar back,” said Christopher Moya, acting head of the state Financial Institutions Division. “But we’re going to try our hardest to get as much as we can.”

Omar’s parents don’t speak English, and the family worried that state regulators some 300 miles to the north in Santa Fe would forget about his loss and its impact on their close-knit family.

Nothing could be further from the truth, Moya told the Journal.

“Omar is our driving force here. He’s the one I keep in the back of my mind every day on this thing. There’s some language barriers there, but he’s the one I think about.”

Donisthorpe takes blame, and his wife walks away

In pleading guilty Nov. 27, Donisthorpe accepted sole responsibility for siphoning millions of dollars from the trust accounts he had managed since 2006, when he took over the nonprofit Desert State, based in Albuquerque.

Paul Donisthorpe

Donisthorpe, 62, was charged in a federal criminal information, then pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering – all during the same unannounced court appearance. He was released pending sentencing, which is set for Feb. 27.

Under the plea agreement, he faces from eight to 12 years in prison, and agreed to pay restitution.

It appears unlikely that criminal charges will be filed against anyone else. “We don’t have a say in that, but I would not believe so,” said Kevin Graham, a lawyer with the state Financial Institutions Division.

Graham and Moya recently spoke to the Journal in their first interview about the case, which began in February after state officials first attempted to conduct an examination of financial records at the nonprofit trust company.

On May 31, after the theft from client accounts became evident, the FID sought an emergency hearing and order for a permanent injunction and receivership of the firm.

Albuquerque attorney Liane Kerr was married to Paul Donisthorpe for 31 years before divorcing him in June. She filed for divorce just as state regulators began an inquiry into the finances of the firm. (Joshua Bachman/Las Cruces Sun-News)

The state also named Donisthorpe’s wife of 31 years, Liane Kerr, in a motion seeking an injunction to prohibit her and others from having any contact or involvement with the business. During the early days of the state inquiry, Donisthorpe couldn’t be located, and Kerr appeared at Desert State offices at 1011 Fourth St. in Albuquerque.

Court records state that Kerr, a criminal defense attorney, told state examiners back then that the two staff members in the Desert State’s office were new and had minimal knowledge of the firm. But FID officials later learned that the employees had been with the company for 10 years. At one point, Kerr told state regulators that Donisthorpe was “legally incompetent.” Reports surfaced that he had brain damage from a stroke or botched suicide attempt. But the FID’s Graham told the Journal he saw no evidence of mental impairment when Donisthorpe appeared at last month’s plea hearing.

Kerr is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of several clients who lost money in the embezzlement. The lawsuit contends she should have known about the mismanagement of funds and directly benefited from the scheme. A one-time friend of Kerr’s who sat on the board of directors for Desert State has accused Kerr of using stolen Desert State client money to buy jewelry, artwork, furniture and property, including a $950,000 luxury lodge in Angel Fire.

Kerr, in court records, denied any knowledge of her husband’s illegal activities, contended she didn’t benefit indirectly or directly and had “never had anything to do with (Desert State).” She filed for divorce March 24.

While the divorce was pending, FID filed a notice to alert the Sandoval County district judge assigned the case about the pending receivership and injunction action regarding Desert State.

In that June 16 notification to the judge, state regulators contended that the assets of the marriage were in question and were more likely than not the product of ill gotten gains by Donisthorpe.

But three days after the state’s filing, state District Judge Cheryl Johnston approved the final divorce decree sought by Kerr. Johnston couldn’t be reached for comment last week, but her final order stated that she had examined all the filings in the case and was “fully aware” of the circumstances.

It wasn’t clear from court records if there was a hearing, in which FID’s attorney could have addressed the court.

The final divorce document shows that Donisthorpe was represented by Robert Strumor, a New Mexico bond attorney.

Donisthorpe had been a CPA and financial adviser on bond matters and other issues for various local governments in the state.

Donisthorpe, in his plea agreement, admitted spending client funds on business ventures, his home mortgage, the Angel Fire lodge mortgage, vehicles, credit cards and to pay off IRS liens.

In the divorce, Kerr kept the couple’s $475,000 North Valley home and received ownership of the $400,000 Desert State office building where she has a law office. Donisthorpe retained the home in Angel Fire, which had a $296,000 mortgage.

Omar remains hopeful

Donisthorpe’s plea was an important first step to putting the liquidation of his assets on a fast track, said Graham of the FID.

“They (federal authorities) can hopefully do within a month time frame what would have taken us years in civil court to accomplish.”

Moya, who is credited with ordering the financial exam despite Donisthorpe’s multiple attempts to delay the inquiry, recalled that state examiners initially thought they would find minor accounting errors.

“We never thought they were going to balloon into what they did,” Moya said.

Moya said Donisthorpe should have had “more of a moral compass,” especially considering how vulnerable his clients were.

“These trusts were set up to provide for them, largely when they couldn’t afford the essential equipment and resources they need throughout their lives,” said FID attorney Graham. “When you go steal from those victims, knowing exactly the situation they’re in, it does seem like you’re doubling down on evil.”

While the sale of Donisthorpe’s properties may reap some money to offset client losses, attorneys for about a dozen victims have gone to court to seek damages against Desert State’s liability insurance.

But the Ramirez family says they can’t find an attorney in southern New Mexico who will join that litigation on Omar’s behalf.

When told by the Journal of Donisthorpe’s plea last month, Armando put his mother, Juanita, and Omar on the phone with a reporter to express their gratitude.

Omar, 35, is able to talk and walk despite his mental impairment. But he lost sight in one eye, is prone to seizures and can’t be left alone.

Omar’s Desert State trust fund was set up with proceeds from a $1.2 million settlement of a lawsuit his family filed against the rancher whose cow strayed onto State Road 28 that night in 2001.

“We’ve been going through a lot the last month with Omar and my mom,” Armando Ramirez said last month. Without the trust payments, he added, “we’ve been helping them financially.”

Omar remained hopeful when he spoke with the Journal last month.

“The bad things are behind us now,” he said. “We want to spend the new year with good things.”

Full Article & Source:
Donisthorpe swindle: Will there be money for Omar?

Ex-business partner says Donisthorpe ‘was really slick’

Darrell Pitchford, a former business partner of Paul Donisthorpe, appears in this screen shot from a Facebook page. Pitchford said he, too, was swindled by Donisthorpe, who funneled client trust funds into a Texas cattle operation.

Paul Donisthorpe and Darrell Pitchford were competitors showing cattle at the New Mexico State Fair when Donisthorpe got tired of Pitchford winning all the prizes.

So Donisthorpe pitched the idea of them going into business together. Eight years later, Pitchford rues the day he agreed to the partnership.

“I never want to hear his name again in my life,” Pitchford said last week in a telephone interview from his Athens, Texas, ranch.

Donisthorpe had been the “money man” for the 100-head Corazon-Pitchford cattle operation that featured prized Santa Gertrudis cows.

But it turns out a large chunk of the cash Donisthorpe had been pumping into the business came from the trust accounts of vulnerable and special needs clients whose accounts Donisthorpe managed at the Albuquerque-based Desert State Life Management.

“It’s like when you’re on top of the world and you get your chair pulled out from under you,” Pitchford said. He said he had no idea Donisthorpe had swindled Desert State trust clients until the news broke in Albuquerque last June.

“He was really, really slick,” Pitchford said. “He was good as gold to my family. Super nice. We never argued. We were building a really good herd.”

Donisthorpe served as deputy New Mexico State Fair director in the 1980s, but he and another top fair official resigned in 1989 amid reports of financial mismanagement.

After the Desert State revelations came to light, Pitchford discovered Donisthorpe hadn’t paid $300,000 owed to TransOva, a firm that helped with cow embryo placement and development at their Texas cattle operation.

Unbeknownst to Pitchford, Donisthorpe also had changed the articles of incorporation to show he owned 67 percent of the Corazon-Pitchford cattle company. Pitchford said they agreed to Donisthorpe’s owning 51 percent.

“From the very beginning, when they founded the company, Donisthorpe was already cheating him,” said Scott Fuqua of Santa Fe, Pitchford’s attorney.

“I’ve got a long ways to go to pay off all the debt,” Pitchford said, saying he can relate to the plight of the trust clients who were robbed.

“Heck, I was as much a victim as they were.”

The cattle operation is among the assets state and federal investigators are hoping to tap for victim restitution.

New Mexico Financial Securities Division senior counsel Kevin Graham and FID acting chief Christopher Moya traveled to Texas to check out the prospects of recovery.

“It turns out the value of cattle is a lot less than we hoped,” Graham said. “Maybe thousands, but certainly not hundreds of thousands.”

Pitchford nevertheless will be negotiating a settlement with the state, state officials said.

Pitchford plans to start over with a new financial backer but is “pretty much” out of luck in trying to recover his losses, Fuqua said.

“He would be drilling the same dry hole that everybody else is drilling, and that’s Donisthorpe.”

Full Article & Source:
Ex-business partner says Donisthorpe ‘was really slick’

The road ahead: Critical flaws abound in proposed guardianship laws

The Uniform Law Commission’s (ULC) recommended changes to New Mexico’s guardian and conservator laws continues to position judges and their appointees beyond any accountability for actions taken in guardian and/or conservatorship cases.

No financial monitoring of the judges, attorneys and professionals is proposed; the word “audit” is not found once in 150 pages of proposed statutes. Instead, existing laws are re-written, disguising while continuing the existing unconstitutional, yet deemed legal, actions of judges and their appointees.

Current law explicitly states that judges have the first priority in appointing who may become guardian/conservator. The recommended ULC statute reads:

Section 309 (c) The court, acting in the best interest of the respondent, may decline to appoint as guardian a person having priority under subsection (a) and appoint a person having a lower priority or no priority.

Note that “no priority” means anybody of the judge’s choosing can be appointed your guardian or conservator. Judges currently have – and will continue to have – unconstitutional authority to void your legal contracts and replace your legal instructions with the judge’s choice, violating your civil and constitutional rights.

Another fundamental flaw of the proposed ULC statutes is the inclusion of two words – “and equity” – contained in the title and the sole sentence comprising Section 103. The words “and equity” must be stricken from the proposed statutes. As long as the words “and equity” remain, judges can base their rulings on “equity” principles, principles which allow judges to ignore black letter law and accept their own appointed attorneys’ arguments that the appointees’ action have been “equitable” – even when those actions grossly violate laws, as well as the wards’ civil, constitutional and human rights.

The suggested Uniform Commission Laws recommended statutes do not offer the wards and their families protection from the judges’ and their appointees’ actions, should those actions turn out to be financially unfavorable to the ward, as currently estimated in 35 percent of all guardianship cases, according to retired Judge Ted Baca in this year’s March 22 town hall meeting.

Currently, and in the future, should these ULC statutes be adopted, there is not, and will never be, any recourse available to wards or their families to complain or receive justice from anyone if the judge and their appointees act contrary to the wards’ or the families’ and loved ones’ interests. Meanwhile, state regulators have not done their legislatively required jobs of annual audits, bonding requirements or even minimal oversight of the court-appointees to whom the judges have given total authority over living human beings and their entire lives’ assets.

At Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship we support legislation such as HB 146 Protection of Vulnerable Adults as originally introduced in the 2017 legislative session by Reps. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, and Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque. The original wording of HB 146 criminalized and penalized actions that defraud vulnerable adults, such as the actions taken by court-appointed Paul Donisthorpe/Desert Trust and (allegedly taken by) Ayudando Guardians. HB 146 could also be used to investigate cases of suspected fraud, such as the case of Blair Darnell and the cases of several other clients of the same court-appointed attorney, including the RC Gorman estate.

In the protection of vulnerable people who are at the court’s mercy, the devil is truly in the details of the law. Legislators would do well to nix the Uniform Law Commission proposed changes since they offer no guarantees to New Mexicans that if the courts fail to follow existing laws – as has been documented time and time again by the Journal – that the harmed parties have recourse to hold those judges and their appointees accountable, and for the wards to be reimbursed ALL money improperly taken from them by court order.

Legislators should instead enact 2017’s HB 146 as originally submitted, to put some teeth and punishment toward criminals who abuse their judicial or court-appointed authority to steal from the vulnerable.

Kelley Smoot Garrett is Executive Vice President of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship and was a panel member at the March 22 town hall meeting about guardianship sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal.

Full Article & Source:
The road ahead: Critical flaws abound in proposed guardianship laws

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The road ahead: Corrupt guardianship system needs reform

My family was one of the many families victimized by a predatory guardian/executor business working under shield of secrecy in New Mexico – i.e. the legal mandate to “seal” all fiduciary and medical records of protected persons. I testified before one of the first hearings of the Commission ordered by (N.M. Supreme Court) Justice Charles Daniels.

So far, the absolute and vault-like sealing of any records pertaining to the elderly, infirm and disabled has militated against their well-being. The “sealing” provision of the law protects only malfeasant guardians and conservators, not those who are the legal “protected persons.” Those persons are actually hostages to a corrupt system, a corrupt system which we have the opportunity to reform.

The sole financial accounting my mother’s predatory guardian/executor performed was an annual, two-page, woefully general letter to the judge, who was not an accountant and lacked the skill or time to really analyze it.

The reforms recommended by the commission will cost an initial outlay of $1 million. But Ayudando allegedly embezzled and Desert State Life Management did embezzle at least $4 million from their clients. These victims were veterans, the disabled, SSI recipients: the poorest of the poor. Their funds will never be restored. How much will it cost the state to support them in their destitution?

U.S.News & World Report (in its) Nov. 21 issue reported that chief economist Jon Clark of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee said the state’s recently depleted savings had substantially grown, and that the state had set aside an estimated $500 million as of the start of the fiscal year on July 1. The article further said that although New Mexico’s state finances had been hit hard by a 2015 downturn in the oil sector, we are enjoying a rapid turnaround.

The guardianship/executorship reform would cost only 1/500th of New Mexico’s set-aside funding. But it would impact a great segment of the population. A flood of Baby Boomers are getting older and will be at the mercy of predatory guardians and conservators very soon.

There are many demands for money at this time.

However, these victims, or hostages, have uttered “silent screams.” They are people who lack any real representation, (for example a) Holocaust survivor was not allowed to bring a journalist to a hearing before his guardian.

The $600,000 initial cost for a computer software program is a one-time investment; the commission’s recommendations balance the protected person’s vital secrecy while protecting him or her from rapacious exploitation; (and) one or two live watchdogs’ salaries is a small price to pay to protect the very most vulnerable in New Mexico.

Gov. (Susana) Martinez is uniquely positioned to aid the New Mexicans vulnerable to predatory guardians and conservators for three reasons:

1. Only she, as governor, can put this issue on the agenda for this session.

2. (She) is a lawyer (and) knows how lawyers can subvert the spirit of the law. Now the well-being of protected persons is sabotaged, not fortified, by the law. This is done with the tool of the statutory “sealing” of any records. Sunlight is a great disinfectant. With no transparency at all, there can be no accountability at all.

3. (She) is a caregiver of her sister. She knows how much caregivers love their relatives. They do not want any of the provisions stored up for their relative’s well-being to be misappropriated. Perhaps of even more importance, they do not want their relative being mistreated should the caregiver pre-decease the compromised relative. Both exploitation and abuse are rampant under the status quo.

To many readers, this is a lackluster issue. But its very low profile is by the design of rapacious predators who function most effectively in the dark alleys of non-accountability.

Full Article & Source:
The road ahead: Corrupt guardianship system needs reform

Complaints of elder abuse triple; Pennsylvania grades counties on investigating

HARRISBURG - Reporting of elder abuse in Pennsylvania has soared in recent years.

The Department of Aging is taking a harder line with counties after telling some they had failed, sometimes repeatedly, to meet regulations and expectations on how complaints must be handled. The agency has identified shortcomings in the state’s nearly 30,000 complaints last year.

The call volume has tripled in recent years, state officials said, and is expected to continue rising as Pennsylvania ages. Elder-abuse complaints can involve physical abuse, self-neglect or financial exploitation.

Substantiated investigations in Franklin County have tripled in four years – from 77 cases in 2014 to 253 this year through mid-December.

Franklin County is one of the first counties to be rated under the state's new grading system and was cautioned in how it handles elder-abuse investigations.

 “After reviewing the report, it appears that most of the challenges that placed Franklin in the ‘yellow’ is related to the documentation/paperwork,” County Administrator Carrie Gray said.  “The investigations themselves were complete, and at no time were individuals ever in danger as a result of the process.”

The new protocol grades counties: green for good; yellow for significant or repetitive problems; and red for significant or repetitive problems that put someone at risk.

So far the state has rated 11 counties, according to Gray. Adams County got the lone “green” rating. Franklin and Perry scored "yellow". Eight, including Northampton, scored "red". the names of the other "red" counties were not available by deadline on Friday.

The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of pages of documents obtained through requests to the Department of Aging. The department inspects the performance of 52 county-level agencies tasked with fielding and responding to complaints.

The perceived shortcomings have raised questions from state inspectors as to whether people were left in danger, and warnings have included orders to immediately investigate a complaint. The details of complaints, investigations and the identity of the person whose situation is in question are kept secret, and the state has not disclosed the details of an actual case where someone was harmed by county ineptness.

Should a county-level agency fall down on the job, Pennsylvania reserves the right to take over the task, or fire it and hire some other agency. It has never done that.

Some county officials say that the measurements can be subjective, and that protective services can improve with training and additional staff. County officials often blame turnover or staffing issues and contend violations can come down to failing to enter information into a state-monitored database, not failing to properly investigate.

A county now could have as little as four months to improve what is called “protective services” for people who are 60 and older before it loses the responsibility.

"At four months, we should start to know whether we'll need to have another entity to take over protective services for that county," said the department's protective services director, Denise Getgen. "That's a lot quicker than what we've done in the past."

Pennsylvania's tougher stance comes at a time when many states are dealing with fast-rising caseloads and funding that isn't growing, said Andrew Capehart, of the National Adult Protective Services Association.

“With new reporting requirements, we are finding more reports calling for investigations of local (senior) facilities,” said Franklin County's Gray. “Financial exploitation cases have increased, and are becoming more complex, including scam investigations.”

In Franklin County, reports alleging elder abuse at facilities, such as nursing homes, have risen steadily from 24 complaints in 2014 to 162 through mid-December this year. Financial investigations, including scams, have gone from 27 in 2014 to 70 this year. Financial exploitation has been the most common form of elder-abuse in Franklin County.

In a Nov. 1 letter to the Northampton County Area Agency on Aging, the department cited various shortcomings, including one investigator with a caseload more than three times the regulatory limit.

The agency's administrator, John Mehler, acknowledged his staff had become swamped in recent months and said he had assembled money in the agency's budget to hire a fourth caseworker.

However, he disputed his agency, which a "red" grade from the state, had left anyone at risk.

"Are we in compliance with everything the Department of Aging wants? Absolutely not. We certainly have to work to do, we've acknowledged that," Mehler said. "But has anyone been harmed or placed at risk? No, and that's due to the diligence of the three investigators that we have."

The performance of counties can vary widely. Some receive spotless reviews.

In March, the state ordered Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which runs Lawrence County's protective services, to take immediate action in 11 active cases.

In May, the department told Delaware County's Office of Services for the Aging that it failed for five years to fix shortcomings, and a recent review found "multiple older adults reported to be in need of protective services have been left at risk."

Meanwhile, state funding — the primary source of money for protective services and other programs for the elderly — has remained flat for more than a decade, as protective services demands grow and compete for money with Meals on Wheels, senior activity centers and in-home care.

In Dauphin County, there are now eight protective services caseworkers, up from three a few years ago.

"It leaves us where we are today, where everybody at the county level is looking to get a clear idea about what is the direction," said Bob Burns, the director of Dauphin County's Area Agency On Aging. "What are the highest priorities?"

Franklin County has two full-time caseworkerss investigating allegations of elder abuse.

Franklin County narrowly missed a “green” rating.

A score of 85 percent compliance with state directives scores “green.” Franklin County had a score of 84.3 percent. The county’s investigations of alleged elder abuse were initiated and completed promptly. Staff, however, failed to get enough information when taking initial reports and did not always document when Department of Health, Ombudsman and Department of Human Services were notified of a case. A uniform failure to properly complete a mandatory abuse section on the initial report did not affect the quality of the investigations, Gray said.

The county also was late in deleting on its internal computer system the name of the alleged perpetrator when a case was unsubstantiated.

“Our deletions were late,” Gray said. “All are now deleted immediately.”

Shortcomings in some other counties were more serious. Documents reviewed by The Associated Press showed that state inspectors identified failures to show investigations had started within the timeframe dictated by state law, inadequate investigations of complaints and improper logging of the casework.

Franklin County Area Agency on Aging Director Traci Kline was upbeat after she and her staff retrained in the wake of the state Department of Aging inspection.

“While there is always room for improvement in any program or service, FCAAA is proud of our older adult protective staff and the work that they do 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Kline said. “The areas marked for improvement by PDA involve documentation changes, which we have already put into effect.  We are looking forward to PDA’s next visit for the opportunity to review our efforts." 

Full Article & Source:
Complaints of elder abuse triple; Pennsylvania grades counties on investigating