Saturday, April 14, 2018

In a Rare Step, Commission Recommends Removal of Queens Judge

A judge’s pet peeve about lawyers saying “O.K.” was one of several reasons the state Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended on Wednesday that he be removed from his seat on the New York City Civil Court in Queens.

In a rare decision, the commission found that the judge, Terrence C. O’Connor, the son of a former district attorney, habitually mistreated lawyers, abused his power and failed to follow the law.

Beyond those infractions, the commission cited the judge for failing to cooperate with its investigation, refusing to take an oath to the tell the truth to investigators and then failing to show up to a disciplinary hearing.

“Judges are obliged to cooperate with official disciplinary inquiries into their behavior,” the commission’s administrator, Robert H. Tembeckjian, said in a statement. “Failing to cooperate, and acting in a manner intended to thwart an ethics inquiry, is itself misconduct, often more serious than the underlying behavior. Judge O’Connor was removed from office for his intransigence.”

Judge O’Connor, who was elected in 2009 and whose term ends in December, has a month to appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals. The high court has the final say on whether Judge O’Connor remains in office, but is required to follow the commission’s determination if he does not appeal.

Judge O’Connor did not respond to a request for an interview emailed to his work address.

Judge O’Connor is a former prosecutor and private lawyer. He also served as a commissioner on the city’s Board of Elections. His father, Frank D. O’Connor, was the Queens district attorney for nine years until 1966, when he was elected president of the City Council.

Monday’s decision was not the first time Judge O’Connor has run afoul of the conduct commission. In 2013, he was censured for handling the affairs of incapacitated people while he was a full-time judge.

According to a document made public on Wednesday, Judge O’Connor, who sits in Housing Court, berated at least two lawyers for saying “O.K.” to witnesses at the end of each answer. The judge then accused the lawyers of leading the witnesses, struck the testimony from the record and dismissed the cases for lack of evidence.

In nine cases, the commission also found Judge O’Connor had ordered a plaintiff to pay the lawyer’s fees of a defendant in a lawsuit he had thrown out, even though neither side had requested the payment.

The commission also found the judge was withering in his criticism of lawyers, accusing them of being ignorant and rude. In one case, a new lawyer, one year out of law school, arrived late to court and announced he was not ready for a trial involving a tenant he was representing.

The judge ordered the trial to start anyway, telling the lawyer, who was texting this turn of events to his employer: “Is there some course in law school now on how to be discourteous and how to be rude? Because if there is, you must have gotten an A in it.” The tenant lost the case.

Full Article & Source:
In a Rare Step, Commission Recommends Removal of Queens Judge

Protecting special needs inheritances

I had a client come in this week who was the Social Security payee for her disabled daughter.

Her daughter was on Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid. The father of her daughter recently passed away and was leaving a sizable inheritance to daughter. Mom wanted to know about her daughter's options for the inheritance.

After the consultation, I said this would make a great topic for this week's column and mom agreed. So today, we will be discussing the various options that special needs individuals will have upon the receipt of inheritance from their parents or other loved ones.

No planning.

If the family did no planning, upon receipt of the inheritance, daughter would be immediately disqualified for Medicaid because she had too many assets. The inheritance generally would not affect daughter's Social Security Disability since there are no asset limits with Social Security Disability.

However, had daughter been on Supplemental Security Income instead of Social Security Disability, the inheritance would have disqualified her from Supplemental Security Income since she would also have too many assets.

Once off of Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, daughter would have to use up the inheritance on medical and other expenses until it is spent down to the asset limits, typically $2,000. Once the inheritance is spent down, daughter could then reapply for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

Financial power of attorney.

In this case, daughter never had a guardian or conservator. Daughter was not deemed mentally incapacitated, but didn't manage her own finances.

Between mom as Social Security payee and daughter's abilities, all of daughter's financial and medical needs have been met and decisions made without the necessity of court approvals of a guardian or conservator. And if daughter has enough capacity to understand who her family is, what assets she owns, who she wanted to benefit, and that a financial power of attorney allowed someone else to handle her finances, she would be able to execute a financial power of attorney. This would allow mom to handle daughter's finances, collect her income and pay her bills.

However, there are three big disadvantages to using a financial power of attorney in this situation. First, it doesn't stop daughter from acting as her own financial agent and accessing the accounts and spending the funds. Since daughter lacked money management skills, this could be very tempting.
Second, daughter can revoke the financial power of attorney at any time. It lacks any type of permanent protection; if daughter revokes it, she no longer has a financial agent and is then in charge of her own finances which is what would offer a little protection for daughter.

Last, just like with no planning, daughter would be disqualified from Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income until the assets were spent down to the asset limit level and then she would have to reapply for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.


Mom could petition the probate court, with or without daughter's consent, for a conservatorship to manage daughter's finances. This would have a high likelihood of being granted because daughter lacks the ability to manage her own finances, which would be dissipated if daughter took control. Mom and the court would be in control.

Although a conservatorship does offer great protections for the funds and finances for daughter, the conservatorship also has more disadvantages and more restrictions on the funds than most of the other options we are discussing today.

First, the conservatorship hearings and files are generally open to the public at the probate court. Anyone can watch the hearing or review the file.

Second, the conservatorship would generally be supervised by the probate court for daughter's lifetime so long as there are still funds unspent. The conservator must file annual accounting with the probate court for its review. It is not uncommon for the probate court to place restrictions on the amounts that the conservator may spend without court approval, such as no more than $200 per month or $1,000 per year over and above the normal monthly recurring expenses. If mom wanted to buy some new appliances for daughter's home or fix daughter's roof, mom would have to file a petition with probate court and ask the judge for permission for those expenditures.

Last, just as with no planning and a financial power of attorney, daughter would be disqualified from Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income until the conservatorship assets were spent down to the asset limit level and then she would have to reapply for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

First-party special needs trust.

Mom could take some action before daughter receives the inheritance from dad's estate. Mom could set up what is called a first-party special needs trust. This is called a first-party special needs trust because it uses a special needs beneficiary's own assets.

Although this trust can be set up directly by certain relatives, we usually use the probate court to set up these trusts in order to get court approval and give notice to the world that we are seeking this type of protection.

Once set up and funds deposited, mom as trustee and her co-trustees, if any, are the only ones who are authorized to handle the trust funds for the benefit of daughter. Daughter has no power to revoke the trust without petitioning the probate court.

In most instances once the trust is set up, there's no longer any court supervision. However, annual accountings are still needed to be provided to at least the beneficiary. In addition there annual trust tax returns because it is considered a separate tax-paying entity. The trustee or trustees have full access to the funds to be used for the benefit of the beneficiary.

The biggest advantage of a first-party special needs trust is that the assets in the trust do not disqualify daughter from Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or most other governmental benefits that have an income or asset test.

There is, however, one big downside of a first-party special needs trust, if there's anything left in the trust after the death of daughter, it must be paid back to the governmental entities providing Medicaid or other governmental benefits. This is why this first-party special needs trust is sometimes referred to as a Medicaid pay-back trust.

Pre-planning for gifts and inheritances with a third-party special needs trust.

If mom wants to make a current gift or leave an inheritance to daughter she could have her cake and eat it too. Mom can make a gift or leave an inheritance to daughter in a third–party special needs trust without disqualifying daughter from Medicaid, or other income or asset-based governmental benefits such as Supplemental Security Income. This is called a third-party special needs trust because it uses a third-party's assets, not the special needs beneficiary's own assets.

A third-party special needs trust has all the benefits of a first-party special needs trust. Once set up, mom as trustee and her co-trustees, if any, are the only ones who are authorized to handle the trust funds for the benefit of daughter. Daughter has no power to revoke the trust without petitioning the probate court. There's no court supervision. The assets in the trust do not disqualify daughter from Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or most other governmental benefits that have an income or asset test.

The biggest benefit of a third-party special needs trust is that if there's anything left in the trust after the death of daughter, it does not have to be paid back to the governmental entities providing Medicaid and or other governmental benefits. Mom can leave it to anyone she wants.

What to do?

In most instances, the best protection for your special needs loved one is a stand-alone first-party or third-party special needs trust that only provides for your special needs loved one. This stand-alone special needs trust should not be included within your revocable living trust and would have only the minimum provisions required to prevent the trust assets from being considered for any income or asset-based governmental benefits, but still provide for your special needs loved one.

With a special needs trust, you can have a happier special needs loved one, enrich his or her life and make it more enjoyable and fulfilled.

Matthew M. Wallace is an attorney and CPA with the Wallace Law Firm, PC in Port Huron and can be reached at 810-985-4320, or
Full Article & Source:
Protecting special needs inheritances

Responding to 4 Common Dementia Accusations: Stealing, Poisoning, Being Held Prisoner

What to say when you’re being falsely accused


People with Alzheimer’s or dementia commonly accuse people close to them of theft, mistreatment, or other terrible things. 

Cases of true abuse do exist, but more often, these accusations are completely false and are caused by dementia paranoia or delusions

It’s important to keep reminding yourself that your older adult isn’t saying these things on purpose to hurt you. The damage in their brain has caused them to strongly believe things that we know aren’t real.

We explain why responding to false accusations with logic and reasoning won’t work. We also share suggested responses for 4 common dementia accusations: stealing money and things, poisoning, and being held prisoner.

Avoid reasoning and logical explanations

For each of these common accusations, don’t use reason to explain why it’s not true or try to show proof that they’re wrong. 

What works better is to validate and redirect or distract. Focus on validating the emotion behind their words. Let them know that you understand how they feel and that you want to help resolve the situation. Then, solve the problem if possible, redirect them to another activity, or distract them with something they’re interested in.

We share a variety of suggested responses as a starting point for your own creative answers. Each situation and each person with dementia is different, so you’re the best judge of which responses are more likely to work. 

It may take a little experimentation to get the hang of the validation and redirection technique, but it gets easier with practice.

Suggested responses to 4 common dementia accusations

1. You stole my money!
Having dementia means giving up control over their own finances. That loss of control, combined with paranoia or delusions, can cause them to think people are stealing their money.

Suggested responses:
  • Oh no, is your money missing? I can see why you’re upset. Don’t worry, I’m going to help you look for it. Let’s start by checking this drawer…
  • Oh no, is there money missing? That can be very upsetting. Let’s check your bank statements to make sure it’s all there.
  • Oh no, it sounds like we need to look into this. Let’s go to the bank tomorrow when it’s open to get it straightened out. Since the bank is closed right now, let’s do (an activity they enjoy).
How to help them feel more in control:
  • Give them a checkbook (fake/old) to help them “track” their money
  • Let them keep a wallet with a small amount of real money (lots of dollar bills) or realistic-looking fake money
  • Keep files of very old bank statements for them to review when they feel anxious
  • Let them write checks to pay bills (all fake/old) and secretly shred them later

2. You stole my purse / wallet / glasses / hearing aid / dentures …!
Someone with dementia may accuse you of stealing an item when they can’t find it themselves. It’s easier to cope with the changes in their brain by saying that someone stole the item rather than admit they can’t find it.

Suggested responses:
  • Is (item) missing? I can see why that would upset you. Let’s look over here, I thought I saw it earlier.
  • Oh no, I must have put that in the wrong place when I was cleaning earlier. Let me get it for you.
  • Oh no, your (item) is missing? I’m so sorry that that happened. Could I look around one more time? It may have just been put somewhere to keep it safe.
How to help them feel more in control:
  • Try to find their favorite hiding places for storing items that are frequently “lost” so you can easily find the items.
  • Buy copies of frequently “lost” items (if they’re not too expensive) so you can always “find” it quickly without having to spend time looking for it. 

3. You’re poisoning me! I’m not going to eat.
Paranoia or delusions can cause someone with dementia to believe that you’re putting poison in their food or drinks.

Suggested responses:
  • I understand that you’re feeling afraid, but I want you to know that I would never let anything bad happen to you. Have you tried this chicken? It’s delicious. Let’s have some together and you can tell me more about (a topic or hobby they enjoy).
  • While using this or a similar calm response, eat the same meal together or take a bite from their plate to show that it’s safe.
How to help them feel more in control:
  • Ask them to join you in the kitchen and “help” prepare the meal so they can see everything you’re doing.
  • If there are cooking tasks they’re able to help with, let them participate in the cooking.

4. You’re keeping me prisoner!
Many people with dementia are no longer safe leaving the house on their own. They can easily get lost or injured in an accident. Because they can’t go wherever they want anymore, they may feel like they’re being kept prisoner.

Suggested responses:
  • It sounds like you want to go out, where should we go?…Oh really, I love that place too? What do you like best about going there?
  • We can go anywhere you like, what did you have in mind?…That’s a great idea! Let’s go after we have lunch. I made your favorite pasta dish, let’s go to the kitchen to eat.
How to help them feel more in control:
  • When possible, agree and accompany them when they want to go somewhere.
  • If it’s not possible to go out, agree and pretend to help them get ready to go. While pretending to get ready to go out, subtly redirect them to an activity they enjoy.

Full Article & Source: 
Responding to 4 Common Dementia Accusations: Stealing, Poisoning, Being Held Prisoner

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pennsylvania is allowing elderly to be prey for financial scammers | Editorial

Pleading guilty to financial fraud didn’t stop Gloria Byars from supervising the finances of about 100 vulnerable people. She easily became a state-appointed financial guardian in Pennsylvania because the state has such low standards, it doesn’t even require a criminal background check for those who manage the finances of people too incapacitated to take care of themselves.

If Pennsylvania’s government cared enough to require a criminal background check, it would have learned that Byars pleaded guilty in 2005 to defrauding several people in Virginia in a check-cashing scam. She served about two years in federal prison.

Her conviction should have ended hopes for a career in finance  — but not in Pennsylvania, where the courts unwittingly appointed her to oversee the financial survival of scores of incapacitated people. In at least three cases, it didn’t work out very well.

Families of former clients told staff writer Julie Shaw a number of horror stories, including  that Byars hired her husband’s company to clean out the Fox Chase home of a couple in their 80s. She charged them $11,000.

She transferred a 73-year-old  woman from her home in Kensington to a Delaware County nursing home where no one could speak the same languages she did — Vietnamese and Chinese. The woman became isolated and depressed.

Byars failed to pay the bills of a 79-year-old retired Philadelphia cop suffering from dementia. His Wyncote home went into foreclosure.

After learning about these irregularities, Orphans’ Court judges not only removed her from these three clients but from about 100 more in Philadelphia and Montgomery and Delaware Counties.

But taking one financial guardian out of the mix is hardly enough to protect Pennsylvania’s disabled and skyrocketing elderly populations from financial abuse. According to the 2010 census, there were 2.7 million people over 60 in Pennsylvania. The Department of Aging estimates their numbers will reach 3.6 million in just two years. That means Pennsylvania will be dealing with even more people suffering from age-related disabilities, including dementia, making them especially vulnerable to fraud.

The state has long known it must protect them but hasn’t done much. In 2013, a rigorous study by the Philadelphia-based Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) recommended training and monitoring financial guardians. In 2014, the state Supreme Court made similar recommendations.

Diane Menio, director of CARIE, wisely suggests the state certify guardians, using a group like the Center for Guardianship Certification. CGC requires financial training, an exam, and continuing education for guardians. Applicants have to submit to criminal background checks. CGC certifies financial guardians in several states as well as Northampton County because judges there apparently care that people under their protection are in fact protected.

It shouldn’t be hard to find the center. It’s in Harrisburg.

The courts or legislature can require certification for financial guardians. Or, county courts, like Northampton’s, can create their own rules if they’re sick of waiting for statewide leaders to do their jobs.

Gov. Wolf, the legislature, and Supreme Court have an obligation to protect our parents, our relatives, and, eventually, us.   This is easy.

Full Article & Source:
Pennsylvania is allowing elderly to be prey for financial scammers | Editorial

Judge Astacio facing felony gun charge

Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio was arrested and arraigned on Tuesday in connection with her attempted gun purchase last week.

The official charge Astacio is facing is attempted criminal purchase or disposal of a weapon, which is a class E felony.

She appeared before Judge William Kocher at the Hall of Justice before she was released on her own recognizance. She is due back in Henrietta Town Court on May 3.

News10NBC was first to break the story.

The judge, who has been on probation in connection to a DWI conviction in August 2016, allegedly tried and failed to buy a gun at the Dick's Sporting Goods store in Henrietta. That prompted a report with Monroe County Probation. On a Facebook video that has since been taken down, Judge Astacio claimed it was her sister who tried to purchase the weapon.

"I don't play with guns, I've never had a gun, I've never touched a gun," she said.

In addition, in a Facebook post of her own, her sister- Felicia Astacio, said she had never been to Dick's to buy a gun.

According to court paperwork, Astacio attempted to purchase a Maverick 88 .12 gauge shotgun from the Dick's Sporting Goods, despite the fact that she is prohibited from possessing firearms, rifles or shotguns because of a prior conviction. The allegations are based on information and belief by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and signed depositions from Dick's Sporting Goods employees. Court paperwork says that Judge Astacio had identified herself with her driver's license to the employees.

According to a statement in court paperwork from an assistant store manager at the Dick's Sporting Goods in Henrietta, they had learned from their counterpart at the Greece location that Judge Astacio had been in that store, only to be denied the purchase of a shotgun. The Greece assistant manager said that the Astacio had seemed very distraught and upset and that they had not felt comfortable selling her a gun. Once the sale was denied, Astacio told them that she was going to go and buy it at a different store.

At around 6:30 p.m., a store employee called the Henrietta assistant manager to report that they had seen Astacio enter the store. Shortly after, the assistant manager went to the gun counter at the request of Astacio, who asked why her purchases were being denied. According to the paperwork, Astacio felt it was her right to be able to purchase a gun, and it was explained several times that it was company policy to reserve the right to sell a gun to anyone, and that the denial extended to all stores.

The statement in the paperwork says that Astacio told the Dick's employees that she did not really want a gun, but felt she needed one.

Astacio has been barred from hearing cases since she violated the terms of her DWI conviction, and has only reported to work at the Hall of Justice once since August 30. In several broadcasts on Facebook she has said that her work arrangements are bad for her health and beneath that of an elected judge.

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the only entity in the state that can punish and remove an elected judge, is investigating Judge Astacio.

Full Article & Source:
Judge Astacio facing felony gun charge

Bexar commissioners OK guardianship funding with plans to include program in 2019 budget

Bexar County commissioners this week approved about $116,000 to fund five months of the probate courts’ guardianship program for people with incapacitating mental or physical conditions, carrying the initiative through the end of the fiscal year.
Judge Kelly Cross, who runs one of the county’s two probate courts, said that while the program still lacks adequate staffing to meet the county’s guardianship needs, she was pleased commissioners approved the funding.

“Any kind of help is good help, so you know what they say, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m OK with it,” she said. “We’re powerless.”

About 96 percent of the funding goes toward the salaries of four guardianship employees: the program manager, an office assistant and two guardians. David Marquez, executive director of the Bexar County Economic & Community Development Department, recommended adding a third guardian in the fiscal 2019 budget.

“That funding could be requested from the (county budget’s) general fund, or we may approach the probate court to see if they would be willing to fund some, or part, or all of the additional guardian capacity that we would add,” Marquez told the commissioners Tuesday.

The money approved Tuesday brings the guardianship’s total funding to about $255,000 for the final 11 months of the fiscal year. In October, the court approved $139,000 for six months of the program, from November through April, after initially omitting the program from its annual budget.

The fund that the probate judges administer had covered costs in October, the first month of the fiscal year. Marquez acknowledged in an interview Monday that the funding exclusion was a “funding miscue” and “misunderstanding on my part,” as he was new to overseeing the program.

Marquez added that the program would be funded through the county’s fiscal 2019 budget next year, conditional on the commissioners’ approval. Commissioners Court makes the county’s budgetary decisions, and they set a $1.76 billion budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

Cross and the county’s other probate judge, Tom Rickhoff, have complained of poor communication with the commissioners, even claiming that they weren’t made aware the commissioners planned to consider the funding until Monday.

Otherwise, Cross appeared to see two aspects differently than Marquez and the commissioners: the appropriate caseload per guardian, and whether the program should be designated as one of “last resort.”

The 2014 “memorandum of understanding” establishing the guardianship “pilot program,” signed by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, several other county officials and both probate judges — Rickhoff and then-Probate No. 1 Judge Polly Jackson Spencer — signifies the program “will be a Guardianship Program of Last Resort.” It also allotted about $291,000 for the 2015 fiscal year.

But Cross said Monday the program is not a “guardian of last resort.”

“That’s very important. What it means is, the court can give you anybody, it can give you an illegal alien, head-injured person, no benefits, no housing, no Medicaid. That’s the guardian of last resort,” she said.

She further added the guardianship program could not feasibly be one of last resort because “we have no ability, except through charitable sources, for someone who is not a citizen of the U.S. and would not qualify for benefits.”

The Texas Judicial Council unsuccessfully recommended in 2014 that the Legislature establish a statewide public guardianship office, which currently does not exist.

“A public guardianship office serves as the guardian of last resort when no other appropriate guardian can be located. Texas currently does not have a guardian of last resort, and judges are oftentimes faced with the difficult task of locating an appropriate guardian for an individual,” the council’s 2016 Elders Committee Report & Recommendations reads.

Some court members, including Wolff and Precinct 2 Commissioner Paul Elizondo, have urged state involvement because the county lacks the resources to adequately provide guardianships for enough people.

In his presentation, Marquez said the program was designed for each guardian to handle 25 wards, and for the program manager to handle 15, for a maximum of 65. But Cross said each guardian should be assigned 20 wards, noting that some cases are particularly “hard and time-consuming.” She also said five guardians would be an ideal amount, not two. The program currently handles 45 wards.

On Tuesday, Wolff pointed to the services the court already contributes funding to, saying the county already is “very much involved” in helping people with mental and physical issues.

“There is an array of services — Meals of Wheels is one of them — that we fund, and I think those wraparound services are important,” Wolff said. “And I think it's important to also understand that that is the key point of helping these people. And we fund a number of those that do that.”

During his presentation, Marquez outlined the duties a guardian performs, including many tasks the guardians are precluded from doing. He said guardians cannot “prevent a ward from making a bad decision,” “use force to make a ward take medication” or “place a ward in a mental health facility.”

Guardians also do not “supervise a ward around the clock” and are not responsible for a ward’s illegal acts or for funding the ward’s expenses, he said.

“I think there needs to be greater clarity about what kinds of cases we can and can’t take,” Marquez said. “These are social workers, they’re not mental health professionals. So they have limitations on the types of cases they can take.”

Full Article & Source:
Bexar commissioners OK guardianship funding with plans to include program in 2019 budget

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Atkinson Co. judge indicted after $430K goes missing, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

ATKINSON CO., GA (WALB) - A Georgia probate judge has been indicted on charges of racketeering and theft by taking after nearly half a million dollars was stolen from the Atkinson County Probate Court's Office.

Probate Judge Marjorie O’Brien was arrested on January 27, 2017, and charged with one count of theft by taking.

An investigation was launched into the possible theft of funds by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at the request of Superior Court Judge Howard McClain on January 17, 2017.

During the investigation, the GBI determined O’Brien had stolen approximately $430,000 from the Atkinson County Probate court's Office between 2010 and 2016.

On Monday, O'Brien was indicted by an Atkinson County grand jury on two counts of racketeering and 81 counts of theft by taking.

Atkinson County Sheriff David Moore says the whole situation caught him completely off guard.

"It's like a kick in the stomach. One it's a small county, everybody knows everybody. We may talk about you, but we still like you. It was hard. It's hard for a lot of people," said Moore.

The case is being prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General's Office.

Full Article & Source:
Atkinson Co. judge indicted after $430K goes missing

Woman filmed hitting 94-year-old in police custody, records show

A woman accused of assaulting an elderly, disabled woman in Memorial Village is now in custody, according to Houston police records.

Brenda Floyd now sits in a Texas jail cell for a shocking assault that was all caught on camera.

This all began when the 94-year-old woman's son reviewed footage from a home surveillance camera on New Year's Day, and saw her caregiver striking his mother several times.

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Police searching for woman who hit elderly woman

The victim's son had installed the cameras after he allegedly noticed marks and bruises on his mother.

Police said the victim was struck in the side and on the head for allegedly feeding the dog "people" food.

Brenda Floyd

Tips about her whereabouts flooded into Memorial Village police, and they've been looking for Floyd ever since.

Now, she's behind bars. We are not yet certain how she was located by police, but we do know she is now facing charges for assault of an elderly person.

Full Article & Source:
Woman filmed hitting 94-year-old in police custody, records show

How to make sure your estate is in good hands if you’re incapacitated

WASHINGTON — Getting older is a certainty in life, but proper planning can ensure that your estate is in good hands as you age and the right person is leading decisions about your care, said Attorney Mike Collins with the Collins Firm.

Incapacity planning is extremely important, and a vital part of the estate planning process, Collins said. Without an incapacity plan in place, a judge can appoint someone to take control of an incapacitated person’s estate and make medical and decisions on their behalf, he added. In some cases, “the court may appoint a total stranger … if you don’t have a guardian,” he said.

That’s why it’s important to choose your own decision maker in advance, Collins said.

“If you’re incapacitated and legally unable to make decisions — whether they be for your health care or financial circumstances or what kind of care you’re going to receive — all those decisions are going to be made by someone other than yourself,” Collins said.

So Collins recommends a few steps, starting with identifying someone you want to make decisions on your behalf. This is a person who can make legal, financial, business and health care decisions if you’re not able.

A tool in the process will include an advanced medical directive — a legal document that specifies what actions should be taken should you become incapacitated. The person whom you’ve identified to make your decisions will follow these rules, and serve as a point person regarding decisions should you become incapacitated.

Another tool to consider is the durable power of attorney, which means you can appoint an agent to make legal decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. Collins recommends naming someone who has authority to manage business and financial affairs.

“You want to empower someone to act on your behalf,” Collins said. “You have to be careful about the power of attorney though because you’re giving someone a lot of authority, so you want to make sure you pick someone you trust to do this.”

Full Article & Source:
How to make sure your estate is in good hands if you’re incapacitated

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Minnesota elder care reform advocates turn up heat on legislators

Kay Bromelkamp and Anne Sterner
Frustrated by what they see as legislative foot-dragging, family members of abuse victims are intensifying their push for new laws to protect tens of thousands of vulnerable adults who live in senior care facilities across the state.

A grass roots coalition of abuse victims and their relatives, Elder Voice Family Advocates, descended on the State Capitol early Monday and distributed 1,850 summaries of maltreatment reports — including descriptions of beatings, sexual assaults and thefts — to legislators ahead of key hearings this week. The reports represent just a small fraction of the more than 20,000 allegations of maltreatment received by the Minnesota Department of Health each year from individuals and facilities across the state.

The family members said they are trying to combat the perception that abuse occurs only in a minority of senior homes, and want to show through government documents that dangerous incidents are widespread in every legislative district in the state.

The legislative action Monday was the culmination of weeks of data-gathering by the growing army of volunteers at Elder Voice. It's a grass-roots group that has bolted from obscurity over the past year to play a pivotal role in state efforts to reform Minnesota's troubled system for responding to violent crimes and other forms of abuse in senior homes.

Wearing their signature orange clothing, two dozen Elder Voice members fanned out across the Capitol buildings in St. Paul with heavy cardboard boxes filled with maltreatment reports, which they handed out to 150 legislators. The process of reading, sorting and mapping the reports by legislative district took hundreds of volunteer hours, and the printing costs nearly depleted Elder Voice's modest budget.

The project was also an emotional one for Elder Voice's mostly women volunteers, who all have parents or other loved ones who were mistreated in senior facilities. 

"The [senior care] industry keeps saying this is rare," Anne Sterner, an Elder Voice member, said as she handed a pile of reports to state Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick. "It's not rare. It's systemic. And legislators need to take action on a global scale."

In recent weeks, senior advocacy groups such as Elder Voice and Minnesota AARP have grown increasingly concerned that elder care reform efforts are being weakened or delayed by the powerful nursing home lobby, and by incremental proposals that improve consumer protections but leave the existing regulatory system largely intact.

Elder Voice was part of a coalition of senior advocacy groups charged last November by Gov. Mark Dayton to come up with recommendations to improve the safety and care of the state's nearly 2,000 senior homes. Early this year, after weeks of meetings, they produced an ambitious blueprint of reforms. The 58-page report called for a new licensing system for the state's lightly regulated assisted-living industry, greater protections against arbitrary evictions from senior facilities, more stringent criminal sanctions against abusers, and a "private right of action" for lawsuits when vulnerable seniors are abused, among other reforms.

Within weeks, Dayton hailed the report and DFL lawmakers have introduced far-reaching legislation that contain many of its key recommendations, including a plan to require Minnesota's roughly 1,200 assisted-living facilities to be licensed by 2020. Because assisted-living facilities are currently not licensed, they are not subject to regular inspections and their residents do not have the same level of consumer protections as those who live in state-licensed nursing homes, according to an exhaustive report released last month by the state Legislative Auditor.

Despite bipartisan support, the legislation supported by elder care advocates missed the committee deadlines required to advance.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to debate more modest proposals that would help protect seniors but would leave the regulatory system in place. A bill being supported by state Senate Republicans, for instance, would strengthen the state's enforcement powers and lift the layers of secrecy that often surround investigations of maltreatment. Yet the proposal stops short of licensing assisted living, and instead would establish a 16-member task force to review state oversight of these facilities.

Kristine Sundberg, president of Elder Voice, said relatives of abuse victims had their expectations raised by talk of systemic reforms, and are growing frustrated by the political process and what they see as legislators' indifference to the surge of elder abuse reports. In 2016, the state Health Department received 25,226 allegations of abuse and neglect in senior care facilities, a sevenfold increase since 2010. Yet only 3 percent of the allegations were investigated by state inspectors on site, according to a Star Tribune investigation.

For now, members of Elder Voice have vowed to persist with their campaign by taking their message directly to lawmakers and pushing to strengthen the bills that remain.

"We don't need more task forces and work groups. That's a delaying tactic," said Sundberg, as she walked through the Capitol with an armful of documents. "When we talk to families of abuse victims ... it's perplexing to them why lawmakers cannot take something seriously that is literally a life and death issue."

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Minnesota elder care reform advocates turn up heat on legislators

Here's what's happening at the state Capitol this week

Minnesota lawmakers return from their spring break Monday with plenty of work to do in the remaining six weeks of the 2018 legislative session.

This week's agenda includes a House committee hearing on issues related to the troubled licensing system known as MNLARS ((Minnesota Licensing and Registration System)). It was prompted, in part, by last week's MPR News story about an investigation into the fired state worker who headed up the troubled project.

Two House committees, transportation and state government, have a joint hearing scheduled Tuesday. Lawmakers have questions about the investigation and report that they learned about last week.

The report, completed in February, provides extensive detail about the problems that started when MNLARS went online last summer and some of the key missteps that led to those problems.

The investigation was focused on Paul Meekin, and the report criticizes him for not addressing known defects prior to the system launch. But lawmakers want to know who else was involved and whether other personnel changes have been made.

House Transportation Chair Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said he also wants to know more about the Department of Public Safety spending on a call center related to MNLARS complaints. He and other Republicans left that project out of the $10 million funding measure they passed last month. He said lawmaker want an update Tuesday on how that $10 million is being spent. There are also questions about some office remodeling at Minnesota IT Services.

Legislation related to elder abuse is also on the agenda this week.

The House Health and Human Services Finance committee takes up one of the bills Wednesday. Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, is proposing a package of changes, including tighter regulations for care providers and improvements to the reporting and investigation of abuse allegations.

Gov. Mark Dayton has his own proposal that he rolled out last month. The governor's plan will be heard by the Senate Human Services Reform committee Monday afternoon.

The Senate Education Finance committee takes up some proposals Monday related to school safety. There are several bills this session aimed at helping school district make security improvements to buildings. There is bipartisan support for doing something this session, but there are differing approaches to the funding.

Taxes remain the biggest challenge left of the session. Lawmakers want to get the state tax code lined up better with all the recent federal changes.

Dayton put out his plan for helping middle-income taxpayers. But he did not provide the same help to businesses, which is a priority for Republicans. Dayton is also pushing to repeal some of the changes made in last year's tax bill, including cuts for tobacco, business property and estates. Republicans oppose those changes.

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Here's what's happening at the state Capitol this week

Aging Well: Why do you need a power of attorney?

If you become incapacitated and can no longer manage your financial affairs, you should have a power of attorney, or POA, so that some other person you trust has the authority to act on your behalf for the many financial transactions necessary to maintain your assets and financial good standing.

However, you should not wait until you become incapacitated to execute a POA, because it may be too late. If you become mentally incapacitated and do not have a POA, the court may appoint a guardian over your affairs.

Your court-appointed guardian may not be the person you would have chosen, especially if there is a dispute among your family members. A guardian has whatever powers the court gives them. This may be very different than the powers you would want them to have.

A POA gives you, the "principal," better control over your future, where you decide who will be your "agent," or the person authorized to act for you in the event of an accident or illness. You define the powers and authority your agent will have. Many of these powers are practical and are concerned with routine financial activities. POAs permit your agent to manage your money and property. The agent can pay bills, make investments and even sell your property if necessary.

A skillfully prepared POA with asset protection authority can protect your family's financial security in the event of your incapacity. It is an extremely important and relatively inexpensive document. However, great consideration needs to be given to who will be granted the powers and under what terms, because it can be the vehicle for inappropriate use of assets by an unlawful agent. Nevertheless, every responsible adult should have a POA.

In January 2015, Pennsylvania updated the POA law (Act 95) which has several significant changes. Act 95 tries to strike a balance, which gives you the ability to give your agent the powers you desire him or her to have but which also helps prevent, detect and prosecute abuse by the agent.

For instance, Act 95 imposes duties to keep the agent's and principal's funds separate, to keep a record of all receipts, disbursements and transactions made on behalf of the principal and to attempt to preserve the principal's estate plan. However, if you do not want these duties imposed on your agent, they may be waived or released by the principal in the POA document.

The principal signs a notice form that contains state-mandated information about the significance of the POA. The updated language in the notice warns the principal that a grant of broad authority may allow the agent to give away the principal's property while the principal is alive or change how the principal's property is distributed at death.

The agent signs an acknowledgment form accepting the duties that go with acting as an agent and agreeing to act in conformity with the principal's expectations, in good faith and only within the scope of the authority granted in the document. The agent acknowledgement must be in conformity with Act 95's new language. An agent has no authority to act until he or she has signed this acknowledgment and it is affixed to the POA document.

Before Act 95, there was no requirement that a POA be notarized or even witnessed. Beginning with documents signed on or after Jan. 1, 2015, a POA must be notarized and have two qualified witnesses, which means that they are above the age of 18 and cannot be the notary or the agent. This permits the POA to be recorded if desired.

The law also attempts to reduce the potential for financial abuse by prohibiting your agent from taking certain actions unless they are specially authorized in your POA. These "hot powers" include actions that have the potential to dissipate your property or change your estate plan, such as making a gift on your behalf or changing a beneficiary designation on an insurance policy or IRA. If you want your agent to have any of these powers, the authority must be set out in your POA document. Many of these powers are practical to have as we age and are concerned about sheltering our assets from long-term care costs.

A POA is useful only if it will be accepted by the financial institution or other third party to whom it is delivered. So the law includes provisions that can penalize a third party for refusing to accept your POA as well as to protect you from abuse by permitting those third parties to question a POA when they have a suspicion that something is amiss or your agent is acting beyond the granted powers.

If the agent has fully complied with the requirements of the law, a third party that refuses to comply with the proper instructions of the agent is subject to liability for financial harm caused to the principal by the refusal and to a court-order a mandated acceptance of the POA.

Act 95 does not require that you get a new POA, but it makes sense to have your current document reviewed by a lawyer who is familiar with the new law. Legally, pre-2015 POAs remain valid.

Practically, your old POA may not be the best document for you or your agent. You may want to update your POA so that it will more likely accepted by your bank and other financial institutions without questions.

POAs can vary in terms of scope and complexity. Some financial powers of attorney are very simple and may not contain the necessary powers to achieve desired results. If you have not recently updated your power of attorney, now may be a good time to visit your elder law attorney for a review.

Sean D. Curran, Curran Estate Law, focuses his practice, 222 N. Kenhorst Blvd., exclusively on estate and elder law, at

Full Article & Source:
Aging Well: Why do you need a power of attorney?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Hospice Survivors and Victims with Carly Walken

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

We will be speaking with the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and International Chair of the groups working to stop euthanasia and assisted suicide. We welcome Alex Schadenberg to the program tonight.

Across the country groups and organizations are springing up promoting the euthanizing of elderly or terminally ill individuals. Couched in soft sounding language, many of these efforts are focused on prematurely ending the lives of those who are elderly, or whose health is deteriorating. While many of these organizations try to orientate themselves from the aspect of the elder or sick individual having the right to end their own lives, does the truth actually lie in something more sinister? Are we now going to start euthanizing those we have determined to be part of what is now referred to as the human waste population?

How can anyone decide that someone else’s life is not worth living? and….Who will make that decision?

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

State faults Eagan assisted living facility after resident’s body apparently not discovered for 2 days

Debbie Singer walked up to her mother’s apartment at an Eagan senior living community to find multiple packages and two newspapers outside the door. Her mother’s bed and bathroom looked as if they hadn’t been used in days. Medication for the past two days had not been taken, and her mother was wearing the same clothing she’d been in two days earlier.

June Alice Thompson was 92 years old when she died in October 2017 at The Commons on Marice in Eagan. Her daughter described her as a “fiery redhead” who loved animals, dancing, golfing, singing, and fishing. (Courtesy of Debbie Singer).
June Alice Thompson, 92, was dead, and most likely had been for two days.

But Commons on Marice, a senior living community in Eagan, hadn’t noticed because staff had neglected to check on Thompson for two days, according to allegations in a state Health Department report released Tuesday.

Commons on Marice said Tuesday it has appealed the findings.

“Our hearts go out to this resident’s family and friends and we are deeply sorry for their loss,” executive director David Salmon said in a statement. “As a senior living community, we sometimes have residents pass away while living with us, and our intent is to always handle those events with respect and sensitivity.”

Singer said she was pleased with the state’s findings.

The Health Department alleges that while Thompson’s death was most likely natural, Commons on Marice failed to complete the daily checks the privately operated facility advertises and did not notice Thompson’s death for two days. The name of the victim and her daughter were included in the Eagan Police Department report on the incident, but not in the state report.

Thompson had terminal esophageal cancer and was classified as “assisted living,” but she was independent enough to use her own feeding tube and administer her own medications, the police report said.

“Her condition was changing, but she was incredibly intelligent and vibrant, and she was very in tune to what was going on in the world,” Singer said. “She would listen to politics on both sides, and she had high hopes for the Vikings winning the Super Bowl. She would discuss their plays and knew who was being traded.”

Thompson had attended a meeting with family on Oct. 24. Singer told investigators her mother was alert, oriented, involved in the meeting and able to move about.

“I love you and I’ll see you in a couple of days,” Singer and her mother told each other before Singer left.

A housekeeper arrived as the family was leaving. Thompson told the housekeeper she was excited to meet the housekeeper’s children at a Halloween party later that evening. She had decorated her walker for the event — as she always did for holidays — Singer said.

When the housekeeper left in the afternoon, Thompson was standing in the kitchen, the state report said.

“See you later,” Thompson told the housekeeper. The housekeeper was possibly the last person to see Thompson alive, the police report said.

Singer returned on Oct. 26 to find her mother in a reclining chair with the footrest extended, leaning in horizontal position. The shades were not closed, the lights had not been turned on, and the newspaper — dated Oct. 24 — was folded on the left side of Thompson along with a pair of eyeglasses. It was immediately evident to Singer that her mother was dead, the state report said.

“I just knew something was wrong because she never missed her daily newspaper,” Singer said. “There were all kinds of indications that she didn’t die peacefully.”

Thompson’s death appeared to be natural, according to the medical examiner. Her death certificate lists her time of death as 6 p.m. Oct. 26, 2017 — when she was found.

The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office did not conduct an autopsy because Thompson had a terminal illness, the office said. Although there were still some unanswered questions about the death, the office did not categorize it as accidental, suicidal or homicidal, a spokesperson said.

An investigator narrowed down the time of Thompson’s death to between 3 and 7 p.m. Oct. 24, the police report said.

The Commons on Marice functions more as an apartment building with daily check-ins by staff than as a nursing home. Thompson had been living there for more than four years, and received additional hospice care visits twice weekly from Allina Health.

The facility had a daily “I’m OK” program, used to document that each client was checked on daily by a staff member. Once clients were seen or called each day, they received check marks by their names on a client roster kept in the receptionist’s desk.

Commons on Marice could not provide the state with documentation that Thompson had been checked on either Oct. 24 or Oct. 25. She had an “I’m OK” daily check for Oct. 26th, but the state said it was falsely documented because the client was no longer alive.

A senior leader at Commons on Marice told investigators that since the incident, the facility had implemented a new process for the “I’m OK” checks.

“Since this incident, we immediately reviewed our existing policies and procedures and strengthened our process for conducting resident welfare checks,” Salmon said. “The care our residents receive is our top priority.”

Full Article & Source: 
State faults Eagan assisted living facility after resident’s body apparently not discovered for 2 days

Oklahoma woman wanted in 4 counties for fraud, exploitation of the elderly

Anissa Vandenburg
MIDWEST CITY, Okla. — Police are looking for an Oklahoma woman accused of preying on seniors. Anissa Vandenburg is wanted in four Oklahoma Counties for a variety of crimes, including writing bad checks, document forgery, bank fraud, and financial exploitation of the elderly.

Investigators say she’s a skilled con artist who knows how to manipulate others.

“It goes back many years with this woman,” said David Cathey, an investigator with the Office of the District Attorney, 19th District. “She’s a habitual criminal.”

A Midwest City grandmother says she was tricked into giving Vandenburg $8,000 last year.

“Maybe about two or three weeks later, I realized I had been conned,” said LaDonna Bala. “It took me a while to report it because I felt like an idiot.”

Vandenburg worked as a bartender at the Moose Lodge, where Bala is a member. She came over to Bala’s home last April with an elaborate story about why she needed money, and Bala believed her. Bala says she finally realized it was a scam when she looked up Vandenburg’s court records online.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be that open or trusting again,” Bala said.

The experience has affected her financially and spiritually, but she’s hopeful others will learn from her mistake and justice will eventually be served.

“Vandenburg really is something of a sociopath in that she creates a lot of delusions and she’s very convincing to the people she talks to with her delusions,” said Cathey. “She loves to portray herself as a victim.”

Cathey believes Vandenburg is living in Midwest City or Guthrie, and he’s trying to track her down.
“We can’t find her,” he said. “We want the public to pick up the phone if you’ve seen her.”

Vandenburg is possible traveling with her husband, Harold Vandenburg. They may be in a black, 1995 Ford Ranger pick-up truck with Oklahoma tag number CFE418.

If you see them, you’re asked to call police.

Full Article & Source:
Oklahoma woman wanted in 4 counties for fraud, exploitation of the elderly


Are you wondering how you are going to care for your pet as you age in place? Are you wondering if you should adopt a pet as you age in place? This guide will help you decide on the best choice for you. Studies have shown that owning a pet can be physically and mentally beneficial for people of all ages. In the case of senior citizens, “just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke” (Byrne, 2015).

Pet Adoption for Seniors

If you are mostly immobile, a cat may be the best option because you don’t have to walk them. A small dog that uses pee pads or a caged animal may also be a good option. Senior dogs and cats are better for the elderly because they are more calm, quiet, and less maintenance. Be sure to have the pet checked out by a veterinarian. A pre-existing illness or disease could drain your bank account or make you sick. For those seniors who want a dog, there are many reasons to be wary of jumping into pet adoption too quickly. The lack of mobility and inability to drive to and from the vet, groomer, or pet store worries them. The initial costs are usually high. They also worry that if and when there comes a point when they can no longer care for the dog, that the dog might be taken to a shelter and eventually euthanized. Many seniors feel like their worsening health condition is a burden, and a pet might possibly add to that.

Top 6 Reasons Seniors Should Adopt a Pet

There are numerous reasons for adopting a pet. From companionship to security, pets can provide seniors a better quality of live and improve aging in place. Finding the right pet for you or your family member is easy, and the benefits can be far-reaching.

Matching Older Dogs with the Elderly

Pets for Seniors in Illinois created an adoption program that matches senior dogs and senior cats with senior citizens. They worked out solutions to the issues that seniors have with pet adoption, and the program is very successful. The program pays for most of the adoption fee, chooses calm and housebroken older dogs, and provides support every step of the way. If the animal is not a good fit, the organization will take back the pet and refund any fees. Other humane shelters around the nation are trying to replicate this model.

Pet Therapy for Seniors

 Those who work caring for the elderly say that pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming the pet, and offer a way to feel needed and connect with the world. Pet therapy can also help with Alzheimer’s Sundowners Syndrome. Nighttime can be very confusing and disorienting for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. This is when some Alzheimer’s patients try to run away or leave their home. A pet can prevent this issue by keeping those with Alzheimer’s connected and occupied.
“Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language; some may even connect with memories of their own treasured pets”
“Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language; some may even connect with memories of their own treasured pets” (Byrne, 2015). Pet therapy has shown to improve appetite, social interaction, brain stimulation, and tactile activity. The unconditional love of a dog brings healing and meaning to a sometimes lonely stage in life. Ask your doctor, physical therapist, or social worker about any pet therapy programs in your community. Just because you give away a pet or choose not to take one into your home, it doesn’t mean that you can’t visit with other family pets or receive pet therapy. There are pet therapy home visit services all over the country. Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Therapy Dogs International are volunteer-run organizations with outposts all over the world. A local volunteer will come to your home and bring a trained service dog that is very well-behaved. The dog can play, cuddle, and perform commands during a half hour or one hour session.

Service Dogs for Seniors

For seniors with disabilities, a service dog might be the best option. “The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2011 defines service dogs as those trained to do work directly related to a person’s disability.  Emotional support animals and dogs used as crime deterrents are excluded from this definition.  A service dog is expected to accompany a person with a disability at all times” (Wang, 2013). Service dogs go through extensive training to remain calm and help their owner with mobility issues. Service dog skills include: opening doors with a strap, pushing doors closed, helping their handler dress and undress, helping those in wheelchairs sit up straight & place feet and arms on footrests and armrests, preventing falls, and retrieving wheelchairs and walkers. It’s amazing the tasks these dogs can do! In an emergency situation, service dogs are trained to perform life-saving tasks, like retrieving medication, calling 911, opening the door for EMT and first responders, running to get help or barking for help after identifying an emergency, and laying down on their handler’s chest to help them cough or breath better. For hearing impaired owners, service dogs are trained in alerting their handlers to the presence of other people or particular sounds, retrieving dropped objects, carrying messages, and warning that an unseen vehicle is approaching. For visually impaired owners, service dogs are trained in avoiding obstacles like moving vehicles, signaling change in elevation, locating objects on command, and retrieving dropped objects. Find the right service dog for you. Pets often increase the amount of exercise pet owners get versus non-pet owners. More exercise isn’t always a good thing for older people with injuries and susceptibility to falls. There are also some nonprofits in existence that will help elderly folks care for their pets when walking their dog multiple times a day or cleaning out the litter box is too burdensome. Look to see if there is one in your area.

The Cost of Pet Ownership

 It is important to make sure you have the funds to adopt a pet. Puppies have been known to cost upwards of $800 in their first year for healthcare, food, toys, and everything else that goes into pet care. Are you able to spend over $500 a year on your dog or cat? If not, a bird or fish might be a better option. In some cases, it may be necessary to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a pet. Elderly people give up their pets for several different reasons. They might not be physically able to care for them anymore, they might not be allowed to have a pet in their assisted living facility or nursing home, they might rather spend their time traveling, or they might actually be relieved to no longer have the responsibility.

The Risks

 What you don’t hear about very often are the dangers of owning a pet as a senior citizen. “Over 86,000 people per year have to go to the emergency room because of falls involving their dogs and cats, and these fractures can be devastating for the elderly,” said Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Seliger, 2012). If you think about it, you might know someone (maybe yourself) who has fallen trying to care for a pet.

Some studies even find that the more attached an elderly person is to their pet, the more depressed they are. This could very well be a correlation, not causation, but it is something to consider if you are prone to depression or mental illness. Some doctors studying seniors and their pets believe that the death of an animal can affect an elderly person’s depression in a more severe way. Life can be isolating as you age, and the death of pet could add to this stress. Other studies have found that if you have a strong social network, having a pet makes no difference in your happiness level. These opposing studies create conflicting views on the subject, so it is wise to just do what’s best for you.

You know yourself better than anyone, so be honest about whether keeping your pet or adopting one is a good idea or not. Create a pros and cons list. Many doctors believe that the benefits outweigh the risks, but they might not for you. See if you can find a co-caretaker for your pet. Is your mobility good enough to not fall when picking up a dog that is running circles around you? Is it hard for you to bend down to their level to clean up after a cat or dog? Asking a loved one or volunteer agency to take care of the more physical aspects of pet care can alleviate stress and susceptibility to accidents. If you don’t have a close family member or friend to do this, you might have to give away your pet. This is a hard decision, and your doctor and family can help you make it. The downside of pet ownership is a difficult subject to breach because no one wants to give up their beloved pet. Again, designating a trusted family member, neighbor, or friend to come check on you and your pet’s well-being is a great idea. If you have a grandchild or child whom bonds with your dog or cat, they might not mind coming over to let the dog out, or scoop out the cat litter. Don’t put yourself in danger of breaking bones simply because you are too proud to ask for help. Having a plan B and/or a pet helper may prevent injuries that lead to surgery, months of rehabilitation, and a lot of emotional stress.

How to Care for Your Pet While Aging in Place

Although, pets can do wonders for an elderly adult, the pet’s needs are important to keep in mind as well. In some cases, an elderly person may forget to medicate or feed their pet. They may get to the point where walking their dog is difficult. For these reasons, choosing a designated family member or in-home health aide that is willing to check on the pet and help take care of it would be ideal. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first and foremost (Remember the oxygen mask metaphor? You can’t take care of someone if you don’t care for yourself first). Some older folks go without food or necessities because money is tight, and they love their dog too much to let them suffer. Don’t be that person! Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors who care, or a nonprofit that provides assistance to aging pet owners. Veterinarians are good resources for finding pet care assistance. Your well-being should be top priority. Have a succession plan for your pet. If you are an aging pet owner, create a succession plan you are comfortable with early on. Designating a god-parent or guardian for your pet in case you become ill or unable to care for the pet, is the humane, smart path to take. This designated guardian could be a family member, friend, neighbor, or trusted pet adoption agency. If you do decide to give up your pet for adoption, an “open adoption” is best. Meet with your designated guardian beforehand, so that they can bond with your pet and see if they are really right for ownership. And, make sure that you will be allowed to visit your pet if you are able. If a family member or home health aide moves in to be a caregiver, they might not be able to take care of both you and your pet. A rambunctious, needy pet or a pet with multiple medications and a high maintenance routine may be too much work. Caregivers may not be willing to perform these tasks on top of other caregiving duties. This is a decision you will have to make together. Euthanizing a pet should be the last resort. Some older people believe that putting their animal down is the best option because the animal is so bonded to its owner that it would be too depressed to bond with a new owner. This is not normally the case. There are many options for adoption, foster care, and shelters that can take care of your pet. Keep your pet for as long as possible, but don’t be afraid to start the succession plan when you need to. Taking away a pet may cause an elderly person to deteriorate mentally and physically, so make sure to allow regular visits with the pet. Many older folks look forward to these planned pet visits.


Owning a pet while aging in place is certainly not for everyone. Ask your veterinarian, family members, and doctor if this is the right decision for you and your health. If you are healthy enough or your caregiver is willing enough to care for a pet, the rewards of pet ownership can be life-changing. An aging dog, cat, or even bird could be the best medicine and your best friend, all in one.

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