Saturday, October 20, 2018

Woman, 97, Bilked Out of Thousands of Dollars by Retirement Home Workers, Authorities Say

For eight years, 97-year-old Grace Watanabee called the Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park home.

But Watanabee has been removed from the senior living facility, after Cook County authorities say several employees stole more than a half a million dollars from her bank account.

The accusations have stunned some residents.

"I feel like that shouldn’t have happened there," resident Peter Brown said.

“I’ve never seen such widespread corruption at a nursing home before," acting Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert said.

The Cook County’s Public Guardian office had been the ones to discover the alleged thefts, when Watanabee’s banking institution reached out to them.

"This was a woman who made very modest withdrawals, for years and years," Golbert said. "And then all of a sudden checks for tens of thousands of dollars started going out to strangers."

The public guardian says the employees wrote checks for as much as $25,000 to $50,000 at any given time and copies of those checks have been included in a lawsuit against those employees and the parent company of Symphony Residences.

“The employees ranged from the very top of the finance manager to the activities director to the hairdresser at the nursing home to the receptionist,” Golbert said.

Watanabee suffers from dementia and the county’s public guardian has been watching over her because the 97-year-old has no surviving relatives.

In statement, a Symphony spokesperson said “the employees suspected of involvement are no longer employed at the facility and all staff were retrained in company policies relating to receiving gifts from residents and their families. The team at the residences has done everything in its power to prevent this from happening again.”

“Ms. Watanabee had no family visiting, so she was vulnerable so that is how this happened,” Golbert said.

Chicago police have launched a criminal investigation and the public guardian has started to work on getting the money back.

Full Article & Source:
Woman, 97, Bilked Out of Thousands of Dollars by Retirement Home Workers, Authorities Say

‘Elder orphans,’ without kids or spouses, face old age alone.

It was a memorable place to have an “aha” moment about aging.

Peter Sperry had taken his 82-year-old father, who’d had a stroke and used a wheelchair, to Disney World. Just after they’d made their way through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, nature called. Sperry took his father to the bathroom where, with difficulty, he changed the older man’s diaper.

“It came to me then: There isn’t going to be anyone to do this for me when I’m his age, and I needed to plan ahead,” said Sperry, now 61, recalling the experience several years ago.

Sperry never married, has no children and lives alone.

Like other “elder orphans” (older people without a spouse or children on whom they can depend) and “solo agers” (older adults without children, living alone), he’s expecting to move through later life without the safety net of a spouse, a son or a daughter who will step up to provide practical, physical and emotional support over time.

About 22 percent of older adults in the United States fall into this category or are at risk of doing so in the future, according to a 2016 study.

“This is an often overlooked, poorly understood group that needs more attention from the medical community,” said Maria Torroella Carney, the study’s lead author and chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at Northwell Health in New York. It’s also an especially vulnerable group, according to a recently released survey of 500 people who belong to the Elder Orphan Facebook Group, with 8,500 members.

Notably, 70 percent of survey respondents said they hadn’t identified a caregiver who would help if they became ill or disabled, while 35 percent said they didn’t have “friends or family to help them cope with life’s challenges.”

“What strikes me is how many of these elder orphans are woefully unprepared for aging,” said Carney, who reviewed the survey at my request.

Financial insecurity and health concerns are common among the survey respondents: a non-random sample consisting mostly of women in their 60s and 70s, most of them divorced or widowed and college-educated.

One-quarter of the group said they feared losing their housing; 23 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic needs at least once over the past year; 31 percent said they weren’t secure about their financial future. Some 40 percent of people admitted to depression; 37 percent to anxiety. More than half (52 percent) confessed to being lonely.

Carol Marak, 67, who runs the Facebook group, understands members’ insecurities better than ever since suffering an accident several weeks ago. She cut her finger badly on a meat grinder while making chicken salad for dinner guests. Divorced and childless, Marak lives alone in an apartment tower in Dallas. She walked down the hall and asked neighbors — a married couple — to take her to the emergency room.

“I freaked out — and this wasn’t even that big of a deal,” Marak said. “Imagine people like me who break a hip and have a long period of disability and recovery. What are they supposed to do?”

Sperry has thought a lot about who could be his caregiver down that road in a circumstance like that. No one fits the bill.

“It’s not like I don’t have family or friends: It’s just that the people who you can count on have to be specific types of family and friends,” he said. “Your sister or brother, they may be willing to help but not able to if they’re old themselves. Your nieces and nephews, they may be able, but they probably are not going to be willing.”

The solution Sperry thinks might work: moving to a continuing care retirement community with different levels of care when he begins to become less independent. That’s an expensive proposition — entry fees range from about $100,000 to $400,000 and monthly fees from about $2,000 to $4,000. Sperry, a longtime government employee, can afford it, but many people aging alone cannot.

Planning for challenges that can arise with advancing age is essential for people who go it alone, advised Sara Zeff Geber, a retirement coach and author of “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults.”

A good way to start is to think about things that adult children do for older parents and consider how you’re going to do all of that yourself or with outside assistance, she said.

In her book, Geber lists the responsibilities that adult children frequently take on: They serve as caregivers, help older parents figure out where to live, provide emotional and practical support, assist with financial issues such as managing money, and agree to serve as health-care or legal decision-makers when a parent becomes incapacitated.

Also, older parents often rely on adult children for regular social contact and a sense of connectedness.

In New York, Wendl Kornfeld, 69, began running year-long workshops for small groups of solo agers four years ago. Though married, she and her 80-year-old husband consider themselves future solo agers living together. “We figured out a long time ago one of us was going to survive the other,” she said.

At those gatherings, Kornfeld asked people to jettison denial about aging and imagine the absolute worst things that might happen to them, physically and socially. Then, people talked about how they might prepare for those eventualities.

“The whole purpose of these get-togethers was to be fearless, face issues head-on and not keep our heads in the sand,” Kornfeld said. “Then, we can plan for what might happen, stop worrying and start enjoying the best years of our lives.”

Kornfeld took her program to New York City’s Temple Emanu-El three years ago and is working with several synagogues and churches interested in launching similar initiatives. Meanwhile, elder orphans have begun meeting in-person in other cities, including Chicago; Dallas; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; and Seattle, after getting to know one another virtually on the Elder Orphan Facebook Group.

Full Article & Source:
‘Elder orphans,’ without kids or spouses, face old age alone.

Butler faces 28 counts

Former senior living director indicted on fraud, drug charges


Former owner of Senior Lifestyles, Stephanie Butler, has been indicted on 28 charges by the Putnam County Grand Jury.

The indictment also lists Brian Fitzhugh Richey, a licensed nurse practitioner. Richey turned himself into the Putnam County Jail this morning.

According to a release from District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, the investigation began in February, following multiple reports of criminal behavior.

Butler faces charges of conspiracy to obtain controlled substances by fraud, obtaining controlled substance by fraud, conspiracy to commit financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult, financial exploitation, 11 counts of financial exploitation (A only), theft over $2,500 (A only), 4 counts of identity theft, 6 counts of money laundering and tampering with evidence.

According to the indictments, Butler obtained or acquired possession of residents' controlled substance medication by misrepresenting that the medication would be destroyed.

The count of committing financial exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable adult reportedly happened between December 2017 until May 2018, when Senior Lifestyles was initially raided by TBI agents.

Charges date back to 2016, alleging that Butler reportedly deprived patients of property, medication and knowingly financially exploited them while acting as their caregiver.

Butler also reportedly violated the Identity Theft Victim's Rights Act of 2004, and used, possessed, bought or obtained the personal information of numerous patients. After knowing an investigation was pending, Butler reportedly destoyed or concealed prescription medication packages.

The investigation discovered a total of 16 victims. Butler is now in the Putnam County Jail with a $150,000 bond.

Richey has charges of conspiracy to obtain controlled substance, obtaining controlled substances by fraud, conspiracy to commit financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult and financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult.

According to the indictment, Richey used his professional license as a way to provide and prescribe excessive amounts of controlled substances. Richey also reportedly prescribed victims controlled substances to numerous residents at Senior Lifestyles.

Richey reportedly became aware that Butler was diverting medication from patients and did not act to intervene, and continued to prescribe controlled substances.

Butler, on at least one occasion, provided Richey with controlled substances, from a resident of Senior Lifestyles, for his personal use.

Richey had a bond of $40,000.

Full Article & Source:
Butler faces 28 counts

Friday, October 19, 2018

‘No One is Coming:’ Investigation Reveals Hospices Abandon Patients at Death’s Door

As her husband lay moaning in pain from the cancer riddling his body, Patricia Martin searched frantically through his medical bag, looking for a syringe.

She had already called the hospice twice, demanding liquid methadone to ease the agony of Dr. Robert E. Martin, 66. A family practice physician known to everyone as “Dr. Bob,” he had served the small, remote community in Wasilla, Alaska, for more than 30 years.

But the doctor in charge at Mat-Su Regional Home Health and Hospice wasn’t responding. Staff said he was on vacation, then that he was asleep. Martin had waited four days to get pain pills delivered, but her husband could no longer swallow them. Now, they said, she should just crush the drugs herself, mix them with water and squirt the mixture into his mouth. That’s why she needed the syringe.

“I thought if I had hospice, I would get the support I needed. They basically said they would provide 24/7 support,” she said, still shaking her head in disbelief, three years later. “It was a nightmare.”

Patricia had enrolled her husband in hospice when the metastatic prostate cancer reached his brain, expecting the same kind of compassionate, timely attention he had given his own patients. But Bob Martin had the misfortune to require care during a long holiday weekend, when hospices are often too short-staffed to fulfill written commitments to families. The consequences, as documented through a review of official records and interviews, were dire.

It took six days and three more calls before he received the liquid methadone he needed. Hospice denied Patricia Martin’s requests for a catheter, and she and her son had to cut away his urine-soaked clothing and bedding, trying not to cause him additional pain. The supervising hospice doctor never responded. A nurse who was supposed to visit didn’t show up for hours, saying she was called for jury duty.

Bob Martin died just after midnight on Jan. 4, 2014. “It was just sheer chaos,” Patricia Martin said. “It makes me wonder about other people in this situation. What happens to them?”

Patricia Martin goes through old photographs of her husband Robert, who died from prostate cancer in 2014.
Patricia Martin goes through old photographs of her husband Robert, who died from prostate cancer in 2014. Heidi de Marco—KHN
The Martins had entrusted the ailing doctor’s final days to one of the nation’s 4,000-plus hospice agencies, which pledge to be on call around the clock to tend to a dying person’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It’s a thriving business that served about 1.4 million Medicare patients in the U.S. in 2015, including over a third of Americans who died that year, according to industry and government figures.

Yet as the industry has grown, the hospice care people expect — and sign up for — sometimes disappears when they need it most. Families across the country, from Appalachia to Alaska, have called for help in times of crisis and been met with delays, no-shows and unanswered calls, a Kaiser Health News investigation published in cooperation with TIME shows.

The investigation analyzed 20,000 government inspection records, revealing that missed visits and neglect are common for patients dying at home. Families or caregivers have filed over 3,200 complaints with state officials in the past five years. Those complaints led government inspectors to find problems in 759 hospices, with more than half cited for missing visits or other services they had promised to provide at the end of life.

The reports, which do not include victim names, describe a 31-year-old California woman whose boyfriend tried for 10 hours to reach hospice as she gurgled and turned blue, and a panicked caregiver in New York calling repeatedly for middle-of-the-night assistance from confused hospice workers unaware of who was on duty. In Michigan, a dementia patient moaned and thrashed at home in a broken hospital bed, enduring long waits for pain relief in the last 11 days of life, and prompting the patient’s caregiver to call nurses and ask, “What am I gonna do? No one is coming to help me. I was promised help at the end.”

Only in rare cases were hospices punished for providing poor care, the investigation showed.

Six weeks after Martin died, his wife filed a complaint against Mat Su Regional with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The agency’s investigation concluded that the hospice failed to properly coordinate services, jeopardizing his end-of-life care. Hospice officials declined interview requests for this story.

Hospice is available through Medicare to critically ill patients expected to die within six months who agree to forego curative treatment. The care is focused on comfort instead of aggressive medical interventions that can lead to unpleasant, drawn-out hospital deaths. The mission of hospice is to offer peaceful, holistic care and to leave patients and their loved ones in control at the end of life. Agencies receive nearly $16 billion a year in federal Medicare dollars to send nurses, social workers and aides to care for patients wherever they live. While the vast majority of hospice is covered by Medicare, some is paid for by private insurance, Medicaid and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

To get paid a daily fee by Medicare, hospice agencies face many requirements. They must lay out a plan of care for each patient, ensuring they’ll treat all symptoms of the person’s terminal illness. And they’re required to be on call 24/7 to keep patients comfortable, but because each patient is different, there’s no mandate spelling out how often staff must show up at the home, except for a bimonthly supervisory visit. Hospices must stipulate in each patient’s care plan what services will be provided, when, and by whom, and update that plan every 15 days. Hospices are licensed by state health agencies, and subject to oversight by federal Medicare officials and private accreditation groups.

Although many people think of hospice as a site where people go to die, nearly half of hospice patients receive care at home, according to industry figures.. At its best, hospice provides a well-coordinated interdisciplinary team that eases patients’ pain and worry, tending to the whole family’s concerns. For the 86% of Americans who say they want to die at home, hospice makes that increasingly possible.

But when it fails, federal records and interviews show it leaves patients and families horrified to find themselves facing death alone, abandoned even as agencies continue to collect taxpayer money for their care.

Leo Fuerstenberg
Leo Fuerstenberg
courtesy of Fuerstenberg family

On duty, but unreachable

In St. Stephen, Minn., Leo D. Fuerstenberg, 63, a retired U.S. Veterans Affairs counselor, died panicked and gasping for air on Feb. 22, 2016, with no pain medication, according to his wife. Laure Fuerstenberg, 58, said a shipment sent from Heartland Home Health Care and Hospice included an oxygen tank, a box of eye drops and nose drops, but no painkillers.

“They were prescription drugs, but it didn’t say what they were or how to give them,” she recalled. “I just panicked. I called the hospice, and I said, ‘We’re in trouble. I need help right away.’ I waited and waited. They never called back.”

For more than two hours, she tried desperately to comfort her husband, who had an aggressive form of amyloidosis, a rare disease that can lead to organ failure. But he died in her arms in bed, trapping her under the weight of his body until she managed to call neighbors for help.

“That last part of it was really horrible,” she said. “The one thing I promised him is that he wouldn’t be in pain, he wouldn’t suffer.”

Later, state investigators determined that Heartland’s on-duty hospice nurse had muted her phone, missing 16 calls for help. Hospice officials did not respond to repeated interview requests.

“They never followed their protocol, and I’ve never had anybody from there say, ‘We failed, We were wrong,’” said Fuerstenberg, a school counselor who said she relives her husband’s death daily. “If that had been me on my job, I’d be fired.”

Her account was among more than 1,000 citizen complaints that led state investigators across the country to uncover wrongdoing from January 2012 to February 2017, federal records show.

But the complaints offer only a glimpse of a larger problem, said Dr. Joan Teno, a researcher at University of Washington who has studied hospice quality for 20 years. “These are people who got upset enough to complain.”

Officials with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), an industry trade group, said that such accounts are inexcusable — but rare.

“I would venture to say whatever measure you want to use, there are an exponential number of positive stories about hospice that would overwhelm the negative,” said Jonathan Keyserling, NHPCO’s senior vice president of health policy. “When you serve 1.6 million people and families a year, you’re going to have instances where care could be improved,” he added.

But even one case is too many and hospices should be held accountable for such lapses, said Amy Tucci, president and chief executive of the Hospice Foundation of America, a nonprofit focused on education about death, dying and grief. “It’s like medical malpractice. It’s relatively rare, but when it happens, it tarnishes the entire field,” she said.

How often hospices fail to respond to families or patients is an understudied question, experts say, in part because it’s hard to monitor. But a recent national survey of families of hospice patients suggests the problem is widespread: 1 in 5 respondents said their hospice agency did not always show up when they needed help, according to the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Hospice Survey, designed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“That’s a failing grade,” Teno said. “We need to do better.”

‘It’s like they just didn’t do anything’

Hospice care in the U.S. got its start in the 1970s, driven by religious and non-profit groups aimed at providing humane care at the end of life. Today, however, many providers are part of for-profit companies and large, publicly traded firms. It’s a lucrative business: For-profit hospices saw nearly 15% profit margins on Medicare payments in 2014, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Most families are happy with their experience, according to the CAHPS survey. In data collected from 2015 to 2016 from 2,128 hospices, 80% of respondents rated hospice a 9 or 10 out of 10. Kaiser Family Foundation polling conducted for this story found that out of 142 people with hospice experience, 9% were “dissatisfied” and 89% “satisfied” with hospice. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent project of the foundation.)

Indeed, many people give hospice glowing reviews. Lynn Parés, for instance, gushed about her experience from 2013 to 2014 with Family Hospice of Boulder, Colo. When her 87-year-old mother cut her leg, staff came daily to treat her wound. In her last week of life, a nurse came every day. The hospice also provided family counseling, spiritual guidance, and volunteers who surrounded her mother’s bedside, singing old-time songs.

“They were in constant contact with us,” Parés said of the hospice. “It’s amazing to me how much heart there is involved in hospice care.” After her mother died, Parés and her siblings donated part of their inheritance to the hospice. “I can never say enough good about them.”

In 2015, the small, family-owned Boulder company was acquired by a large regional chain, New Century Hospice, part of a larger wave of consolidation in the field.

As the industry grows — hospice enrollment has more than doubled since 2000 — some companies are not following through on their promises to patients, according to the government reports. For instance, data show many hospices fail to provide extra care in times of crisis. To get Medicare payments, hospices are required to offer four levels of care: routine care, which is by far the most common; respite care to give family caregivers a break for short time periods; and two levels of so-called “crisis care,” continuous care and general inpatient care, when patients suffer acutely. But 21% of hospices, which together served over 84,000 patients, failed to provide either form of crisis care in 2015, according to CMS.

Other research has found troubling variation in how often hospice staff visit when death is imminent. A patient’s final two days of life, when symptoms escalate, can be a scary time for families. Teno and her co-authors found that 281 hospice programs, or 8.1% of hospices, didn’t provide a single skilled visit — from a nurse, doctor, social worker or therapist — to any patients who were receiving routine home care, the most common level of care, in the last two days of life in 2014.

Regardless of how often they visit, hospices collect the same flat daily rate from Medicare for each patient receiving routine care: $191 for the first 60 days, then $150 thereafter, with geographic adjustments as well as extra payments in a patient’s last week of life.

Overall, 12.3% of patients on routine home care received no skilled visits in the last two days of life, the study found. Patients who died on a Sunday had the worst luck: they were more than three times less likely to have a skilled visit than those who died on a Tuesday. Teno said that gives her a strong suspicion that missed visits stem from chronic understaffing, since hospices often have fewer staff on weekends.

In Minnesota, Fuerstenberg’s pleas for help went unanswered on a Sunday evening; her husband died just after midnight on Monday. She was appalled when she received a bill for care the agency said occurred on that day.

“When they got paid for nothing, it was like a slap in the face,” said Fuerstenberg, who filed a complaint with Minnesota health officials last year. She heard nothing about the case from hospice officials and didn’t learn it had been investigated until she was contacted by reporters for this story.

In St. Paul, Virginia, a small town in the Appalachian mountains, Virginia Varney enlisted Medical Services of America Home Health and Hospice, a national chain, to care for her 42-year-old son, James Ingle, who was dying of metastatic skin cancer. On his final day, Christmas of 2012, he was agitated, vomiting blood, and his pain was out of control. Varney called at least four times to get through to hospice. Hours later, she said, the hospice sent an inexperienced licensed practical nurse who looked “really scared” and called a registered nurse for backup. The RN never came. Ingle died that night.

Varney said she felt numb, angry and “very disappointed” in the hospice care: “It’s like they just didn’t do anything. And I know they were getting money for it.”

“They told me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, holidays and all,” Varney said. “I didn’t find that to be true.”

An investigation by Virginia state inspectors, which corroborated Varney’s story, revealed the hospice nurse changed the records from that night after the fact, altering the time she reported being at the home. The registered nurse was fired that February. The hospice declined to comment for this story.

Patricia Martin holds an old photograph of her husband Robert, who died from prostate cancer in 2014.
Patricia Martin holds an old photograph of her husband Robert, who died from prostate cancer in 2014. Heidi de Marco—KHN

A problem with few solutions

Just how often are hospice patients left in the lurch? Inspection reports, performed by states and collected by CMS, don’t give a clear answer, in part because hospices are reviewed so infrequently.

Unlike nursing homes, hospices don’t face inspection every year to maintain certification. Based on available funding, CMS has instead set fluctuating annual targets for state hospice inspections. In 2014, CMS tightened the rules, requiring states to increase the frequency to once every three years by 2018.
Often, promising to do better is the only requirement hospices face, even when regulators uncover problems. The Office of the Inspector General at the federal Department of Health and Human Services has called for stricter oversight and monitoring of hospice for a decade, said Nancy Harrison, a New York-based deputy regional inspector general. One problem, she said, is there is no punishment short of termination — barring the hospice from receiving payment from Medicare— which is disruptive for dying patients who lose service.

CMS records show termination is rare. Through routine inspections as well as those prompted by complaints, CMS identified deficiencies in more than half of 4,453 hospices from Jan. 1, 2012 to Feb. 1, 2017. During that same time period, only 17 hospices were terminated, according to CMS.

In Alaska, Patricia Martin filed a complaint against Mat-Su Regional with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services six weeks after her husband’s death. An investigation concluded that the hospice failed to properly coordinate services, jeopardizing his end-of-life care. Hospice officials declined to comment about his case, citing patient privacy rules. In an email, Mat-Su administrator Bernie F. Jarriel Jr. said the hospice “strengthened our policy and procedures” as a result of the investigation, and “members of our caregiving team have been re-educated on these practices.”

In Minnesota, officials with the local Heartland Home Health and Hospice agency referred questions to its corporate owner, HCR ManorCare of Toledo, Ohio. Officials there did not respond to multiple requests for comment about Leo Fuerstenberg’s care. CMS documents indicate the nurse who missed 16 messages “was re-educated on responsibilities of being on call.”

In a 2016 study, the OIG’s Harrison and colleagues called for state surveyors to better scrutinize the care plans hospices outline for their patients. And they recommended that CMS create a range of different levels of punishment for hospice infractions, such as requiring in-service training, denying payments, civil fines, and imposing temporary management.

CMS has no statutory authority to impose those alternate sanctions, said spokesman Jibril Boykin. But it did work to increase transparency in August by launching a consumer-focused website called Hospice Compare that now includes hospices’ self-reported performance on quality measures, and, next year, will include family ratings of hospices.

Until that happens, there’s little information available for families trying to pick a hospice that will show up when it counts. Tucci, of the Hospice Foundation of America, suggests that families of ill or frail relatives consider hospice options before a crisis occurs. The agency recommends 16 questions families should ask before choosing a hospice.

Back in Alaska, Patricia Martin said she’s still waiting for officials with Mat-Su Regional Home Health and Hospice to answer questions about her husband’s poor care. She urges other families enrolling patients in hospice to be vigilant.

“It is my hope that no other family or patient will ever have to go through the nightmare that we did,” she said. “If they promise you they’re going to do something, they should do it.”

This story was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. JoNel Aleccia and Melissa Bailey are Kaiser Health News reporters

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the drug Patricia Martin requested from hospice. It was liquid methadone, not liquid morphine.

Full Article & Source:
‘No One is Coming:’ Investigation Reveals Hospices Abandon Patients at Death’s Door

Judge Astacio officially removed from bench, NYS Court of Appeal decides

Judge Leticia Astacio is officially no longer a judge.

Tuesday morning, the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, denied Astacio's appeal to remain a judge.

The decision was unanimous which means all seven justices felt Judge Astacio should be removed as a judge.

Click here to read the decision.

Judge Astacio has been officially suspended with pay since April. Rochester City Court judges make $187,200. Astacio has not heard a single case in a courtroom since her DWI arrest in February 2016.

The Court of Appeals heard Astacio's case in September because she appealed the ruling of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct which decided she should be removed from the bench. The Commission's decision came down in the spring after a lengthy, confidential investigation into Judge Astacio.

On April 25, the Commission decided Astacio should be removed because she was convicted of DWI in 2016, tried to use her position as a judge to get out of trouble and violated the terms of her DWI sentence at least twice.

The Commission also decided to remove Astacio based on several instances that happened while she was hearing cases in Rochester City Court.

In one case, the Commission said Judge Astacio made fun of a victim of sexual assault. In another case, the Commission said Judge Astacio told a court deputy to physically hurt a defendant.

At a news conference in April, the administrator of the Commission, Robert Tembeckjian, outlined the charges against Judge Astacio.

Charge 1: Her DWI conviction.

Charge 2: She used her office as a judge at the time of her arrest "in an attempt to evade the consequences of her arrest," Tembeckjian said.

Charge 3: Violating her DWI sentence.

Charge 4: The fact that she arraigned a former client when she was a judge, and said, "I totally love him. I'm so sad he's in jail right now."

Charge 5: She made undignified comments in four cases as a judge, including one about a victim in a sex abuse case, "repeating a remark made by an attorney that the alleged victim had 'buyer's remorse.'" Tembeckjian said. "And later saying she thought it was 'freakin' hilarious.'"

Tembeckjian also accused Astacio of telling court deputies to physically harm an unruly defendant. "For example," Tembeckjian said. "Telling officers they should tase or 'shoot' or 'punch' an allegedly (inaudible) defendant in the 'face.'"

Astacio is facing a felony gun charge. She was indicted Sept. 11 on the charge of attempted criminal purchase or disposal of a weapon.

Just prior to the Commission's decision to remove her as a judge, Astacio was arrested for trying to buy a shotgun at several Dick's Sporting Goods stores.

As per New York State law, a conviction of a felony automatically leads to disbarment, which is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law.

The 7th Judicial District Administrative Judge Craig  Doran released the following statement regarding the decision to remove Judge Astacio:

"For more than 2.5 years, one matter has dominated much of the public’s attention and conversation regarding our court system. During this time, hundreds of judges and staff have come to work each day, ready to deliver justice in thousands of cases involving many of the most challenging issues facing our neighborhoods, schools and businesses.

This unfortunate distraction has not hindered the critically important work done on a daily basis, by the highly competent and caring judges, and dedicated court staff serving the people of this community.

We are grateful for the honor to serve the Judiciary, and we invite the public to continue their interest in the courts and focus upon the extraordinary work done in our courthouses every day- upholding the law and assuring that justice prevails."

Click here to see the note News10NBC found on Astacio's door Tuesday morning.

Full Article & Source:
Judge Astacio officially removed from bench, NYS Court of Appeal decides

Eliza Bryant Village to launch Elder Justice Center

With support from the Ohio Attorney General's office, Eliza Bryant Village plans to launch a new Elder Justice Center to provide temporary respite care for elders experiencing some form of trauma, violence, abuse, or criminal victimization.

The goal is to help connect them with various legal, financial and social service supports to get them back into a safe situation, according to a news release from Eliza Bryant Village, which provides services for seniors along the continuum of care.

On Oct. 11, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced $111.8 million in grants to crime victim service providers across Ohio. Eliza Bryant Village received two awards: continuation of the organization's core grant from last year of about $202,000 and a new grant totaling about $577,000 to launch its Elder Justice Center.

"This funding not only helps us launch a new service line, but also continues our 122 year-long legacy as an anchor institution in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood meeting the evolving needs of our community's most vulnerable elderly," said Danny R. Williams, president and CEO of Eliza Bryant Village, in a prepared statement. 

The Eliza Bryant Village Elder Justice Center is expected to launch in summer 2019, with 10 dedicated rooms for the center and plans to expand that number as appropriate.

Victimizing older adults is a growing local and national trend, according to the release. One in 10 seniors over the age of 60 has suffered some form of abuse or neglect, according to the release, which cites the National Council on Aging. 

According to the Center for Community Solutions, for every case of abuse that occurs, an estimated 23 remain veiled. 

Eliza Bryant Village received its first Victims of Crime Act grant, which was renewed for a second year. 

For a complete list of the grants awarded in the state, click here.

"Over the 18 months since the inception of our VOCA program at Eliza Bryant Village, we have become more acutely aware of the pervasiveness of abuse among seniors and the various types of violence and abuse they experience," Williams said. "We are excited to be at the forefront of this crisis, providing help and safety to those in need."

Full Article & Source:
Eliza Bryant Village to launch Elder Justice Center

Nursing assistant charged with elder abuse

FARMINGTON (News4Utah) - A Hooper man is accused of injuring patients he was supposed to be caring for while working in the memory care unit of a Clearfield assisted living facility.

The allegations against 30-year-old Jason Knox are sickening. The daughters of two victims say he was caught on video viciously elbowing Alzheimer's and dementia patients in their 70s and 80s.

Knox made a brief appearance in Davis County Court Wednesday and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors say the assaults occurred at the Chancellor Garden Assisted Living Facility on 1500 East in Clearfield over the last several weeks.

With a hidden camera in her father's room, one of the daughters captured Knox shoving her father into a wall and striking him with his elbow in a quote "very forceful manner." The booking statement claims Knox admitted to abusing a female patient in a similar manner.

 "We do have cases of abuse," Debbie Booth of the Utah Adult Protective Services Department said. "They can go from somebody doing something that they don't mean to do to something criminal where this guy was definitely intending to be the perpetrator."

So what can you do to make sure that a prospective facility is safe for your loved one? Daniel Musto, Utah's Long Term Care Ombudsman, says his staff inspects nursing homes frequently and you're welcome to give his office a call at 801-538-4171.

"We can talk you to about the facility," Musto told News4Utah. "And identify what issues we've seen in the last six months to a year."

He says you can also check the facility's ratings on Medicare's website and if you suspect abuse or neglect call Adult Protective Services.

The Utah Long-Term Care Ombudsman's website is

"It takes our whole society to watch over them and make sure that these kinds of things don't happen," Booth said. "I want to stress that if people see something or have reason to believe they need to report."

The State Attorney General's office says that Knox is actually not a certified nursing assistant like he told the facility he was. His next court date is scheduled for October 30.

Utah's senior rights are listed at

Full Article & Source:
Nursing assistant charged with elder abuse

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Tonite on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: Atty Lisa Belanger: Disbar the Bar Associations?

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

Join us this evening October 18, 2018 with Atty: Lisa Belanger as we discuss the need to disbar the BAR Associations.

These Associations are in actuality “unions” and are the largest, most powerful, and lucrative unions in the country. A “BAR” card is simply a union dues card and carries no “license to practice” law.

Having totally monopolized our judicial system, SCOTUS has created its own BAR association that practicing attorney’s must apply to before they can have a case heard before that supposedly independent, constitutionally created supreme court. Judicial oversight boards, and BAR Overseer’s Boards are simply in-house protection rackets which serve to protect union members from being prosecuted for malfeasance, misfeasance and other breaches of duty and law. Having monopolized the entire judicial system both state and federal, the law means nothing. Having granted themselves immunity from prosecution except in the most egregious of cases, 99% of all BAR complaints are summarily dismissed by Judicial Oversight Boards, and BAR Board of Overseer’s.

Its a rigged system and God help the attorney that actually tries to defend their client using the law.

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

County will appeal costly ruling to state Supreme Court

Ozaukee County, which is on the hook to pay more than $98,000 in attorney’s fees related to a guardianship case it lost, will appeal it to the state Supreme Court, officials decided Wednesday.

The county Executive Committee voted unanimously to appeal the case on the advice of Corporation Counsel Rhonda Gordon. If the high court chooses to take the case, oral arguments would likely begin in spring.

The Second District Court of Appeals ruled last month that Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph W. Voiland was correct when he dismissed a 2015 petition filed by the county’s Department of Health Services seeking guardianship of an 80-year-old woman’s estate and sought to place her in assisted living. Voiland also ordered the county to pay $97,746 in private attorney fees accrued by her son. who opposed the petition, according to the appeals court ruling. The woman and her adult children are identified only by their initials in court documents.

According to the appeals court ruling, the woman had assigned power of attorney to the son, taking that away from her daughter with whom the son had been at odds for years. But the county believed the woman was not competent to make that decision, had possibly been coerced by her son to do so and believed it was in the mother’s best interests for the county to assume guardianship.

Voiland sided with the son.

The appeals court supported Voiland in that decision. But it disagreed with Voiland on whether the county should pay the son’s legal fees related to the appeal and sent the case back to Voiland to determine what those fees are.

According to the case summary contained in the ruling, 22 witnesses testified before Voiland, creating what the three-judge panel called “protracted proceedings.” They included the woman’s psychologist, estate planning attorney, investment adviser, her children, county and senior center workers and others familiar with the woman.

Evidence showed the woman was diagnosed with early dementia in 2012 and Alzhiemer’s disease in 2015, exhibited poor short term memory, sometimes didn’t know the date or day, had issues with organization and food storage and spent large sums of money on items from infomercials.

But others testified she also had an active social life that included belonging to a book club and attending exercize classes, cared for her dog and tended to her home and errands.

In Voiland’s opinion, the county did not establish that the woman was incompetent when she signed the power of attorney over to her son.

With the competing accounts, the appeals panel said, Voiland was “like Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ the court was presented with much on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-hand testimony as to both incompetency and undue influence.”

In their decision to support Voiland, the appellate judges said the county presented few if any arguments to justify overturning his decision, saying “the county’s dogged rehashing of evidence contrary to that supporting the court’s decision does not persuade us that the court erred.”

As for the fees the county is responsible for, the county argued they were excessive and that a lower rate should be applied, namely the rate paid to public defenders.

But Voiland and the appeals judges said the law prescribes that the rate, if private attorneys are used, should be the rate “customarily charged in the locality.”

The public defender rate, Gordon said, would have been $480 for the entire case.

The county did not contest the fees until after the fact, the judges ruled, and therefore was liable to pay the private fees. The county also refused the son’s settlement offers, even after the county’s guardianship was denied, the judges pointed out.

Gordon disputed the court’s opinion.

“This was a classic case of elder abuse,” Gordon said in an interview. “We did what we would hope every county elder agency would do in similar circumstances.”

County Board Chairman Lee Schlenvogt said, “We have an obligation to our taxpayers” to fight the decision, which could set a precedent for counties all across the state.

“I think we have some good feelings on this, not just financially but for the future,” Supervisor Paul Melotik told the committee.
Full Article & Source:
County will appeal costly ruling to state Supreme Court

Couple get probation for elder exploitation

A Chatfield couple found guilty of taking more than $274,000 from an elderly family member’s estate were given probation Tuesday.

Jason and Jessica Polikowsky were found guilty of taking funds from Jason’s grandmother, Rose Polikowsky, for their own use. Rose had been suffering dementia when, in 2011, Jason, Jessica and Jason’s father, Donald Polikowsky, persuaded her to give them power of attorney over her estate, according to court records.

Jason and Jessica were given a year in jail each and up to 20 years of probation for 11 counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The two were found guilty in May after a trial but maintained they did nothing wrong through the sentencing hearing.

Jason, reading from a written statement, said his grandmother had always been generous.

“She has been gifting me things since I was a child,” he said.

“I would never have taken advantage of my grandma,” he said. “She meant the world to me.”

Investigators documented more than $150,000 in cash “gifts” to the couple from Rose’s accounts; $75,000 toward a down payment on a house for the couple and more than $21,000 for purchases of business equipment and recreational vehicles. Changes were also made on the beneficiaries on her life insurance accounts and payments were halted on Rose’s Rochester home.

The couple blames Rose’s other children, Gary Polikowsky and Diana Parks, who previously executed her estate, for the financial troubles Rose began to face, according to investigators.

Jason began his statement saying he apologized “to anyone I might have hurt.”

Jessica tearfully repeated Jason’s opening line and said little else.

Rose’s younger sister, Shirley Schroeder, read her victim impact statement before sentencing. In it she recalled her older sister’s sadness as money disappeared.

“She trusted you and you let her down,” Schroeder said. “You took advantage of her love and trust.

“I can’t understand why you would do this to your own grandmother,” she continued. “She was always kind to you.”

Schroeder also recounted how Rose was certain it was Parks and Gary Polikowsky who were draining her estate.

“You continued to plant that seed in her mind,” Schroeder said.

Rose died August 2017. Gary died June this year.

Schroeder said she wished both Rose and Gary were still around to hear an apology from the couple.

Schroeder said after the hearing she was disappointed the couple only received probation but also expressed relief the legal ordeal appeared to be over.

James McGeeney, who represented Jessica and Jason, asked for probation saying the couple would be better able to pay back the estate by staying out of prison and working at Jason’s Chatfield-based business. He said that aside from alcohol-related convictions, Jason has little prior criminal history and that Jessica had no criminal convictions prior to this case.

“I know my clients in their heart of hearts still believe that their grandmother wanted them to have the money,” McGeeney said.

“Keeping them in the community would enable them to both be supervised and make restitution,” he added.

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem argued for prison time. He questioned the couple’s ability to make restitution.

“The money is gone,” Ostrem said. “It’s all been spent on themselves.”

Ostrem said they continued to buy things for themselves even after Rose began struggling financially.

“They could have stopped,” he said. “They could have taken care of their grandmother as she wished.”

Judge James A. Fabian said the presentence investigation recommended probation despite some of the counts against each carrying up to five years in prison upon conviction. He noted that Donald, who entered an Alford plea in April 2016 to charges against him and agreed to make $66,000, also avoided prison time.

“You have been given the opportunity to make good,” Fabian said. “If you don’t take that opportunity, prison is waiting for you.”

Jessica was ordered to begin serving her 365-day jail sentence April 1 next year with a 45-day stay with work-release privileges. She would continue to serve 45-day terms April 1 each year for the next four years after that. If she is in good standing after serving five 45-day jail terms, the rest of her jail sentence would be forgiven.

Jason was ordered to serve 365 days under similar conditions with his terms being served Nov. 1 beginning next year and Nov. 1 the following years. Both were given credit for jail time served.

Full Article & Source:
Couple get probation for elder exploitation

ETX organizations team up for Elder Financial Exploitation Awareness Month

Click to Watch Video
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Adult Protective Services in East Texas is teaming up with Meals on Wheels for Elder Financial Exploitation Awareness Month.

"We have a high volume of adult abuse cases being reported on a weekly basis, and this is a safe way for family, friends, or neighbors to protect a loved one, an elderly person in their community,” said Kari Keitzer. Keietzer is the CEO for Meals on Wheels.

The groups are promoting services available to seniors who have been affected by abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The organization plans to distribute more than 300 information packets this week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Former Troy attorney arraigned for theft

MIAMI COUNTY — A former attorney in charge of a trust for a mentally handicapped woman was arraigned on several felony theft charges in Miami County Common Pleas Court on Monday.

Jeffrey Brumbaugh, 63, who gave a contact address in Sedona, Ariz., was arraigned on two counts first-degree felony engaging in pattern of corrupt activity, second-degree theft, two counts of fourth-degree theft and third-degree money laundering. He entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.

Judge Christopher Gee set bond for $100,000 and Brumbaugh posted bond late Monday.

According to Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell, the victim’s legal guardian contacted law enforcement officials when the trust was found to be drained of its funds. Kendell said at least $200,000 is allegedly missing and Brumbaugh was the executor of the trust, hired by the victim’s now deceased father.

According to records, the Ohio Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Brumbaugh from practicing law on May 25, 2017, and he was ordered to cease and desist practicing law. Brumbaugh also failed to respond to a formal complaint before the Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel submitted on Sept. 9, 2016. Brumbaugh formerly had a law office in Troy.

Full Article & Source:
Former Troy attorney arraigned for theft

Milford Man Arrested, Charged With Defrauding Elderly Person

US District Court in New Haven
An area man is facing decades behind bars for allegedly defrauding his elderly person of $60,000 through a fraud and money laundering scheme.

Milford resident Christopher Sakelarakis has been indicted by a federal grand jury in New Haven charging him in the investment scheme that allowed him to bilk his victim out of thousands of dollars to live a lavish lifestyle.

The indictment alleges that Sakelarakis “held himself out as having the necessary qualifications, experience and abilities to provide investment services to a victim-investor.” Sakelarakis allegedly claimed that he had multiple investment clients and was making a substantial profit through day trading. He also stated that he had a contact in an investment firm who provided him with stock tips. As part of his scheme, Sakelarakis allegedly said he would invest in stocks, options and other financial instruments on behalf of his victim and in exchange, he would keep 10 percent of the profits.

Sakelarakis allegedly was provided a $60,000 check by his victim in October last year. The indictment further alleges that within days, Sakelarakis withdrew $30,000 in cash, then made additional cash withdrawals at ATMs. Sakelarakis allegedly spent the money at stores that include Armani Exchange, Gamestop, Macy’s and Foot Locker.

John Durham, the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said that Sakelarakis also allegedly made several false statements in emails to his victim regarding the status of the “investments.” None of the money was ever returned to Sakelarakis’ victim.

Sakelarakis, 34, was arrested on Monday morning and charged with five counts of wire fraud, three counts of securities fraud and one count of money laundering. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $60,000 bond. Sakelarakis is scheduled to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges.

Full Article & Source:
Milford Man Arrested, Charged With Defrauding Elderly Person

Home aide accused of stealing from disabled man

OCEANSIDE - A woman who worked as a home aide is accused of stealing from the physically disabled man who she was hired to care for.

Police say Humadai Humadai, 59, of Oceanside, worked as a home aide to a man with Parkinson's disease. She lived with him at his home on Skillman Avenue.

Police say when they responded to the victim's house on Sunday, Humadai took off. She was arrested a short time later near the Green Acres Mall.

The victim's neighbor tells News 12 that she's seen many cars come and go from the house recently. She says she grew worried for her disabled neighbor.

"I was a little concerned that they could be taking advantage of him," she says.

According to police, Humadai had a prior warrant out for her arrest in another state. And posts on Facebook accuse her of being a con artist who took money from multiple people.

Humadai is now charged with endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.

She was arraigned in Hempstead Monday, according to police.

News 12 tried speaking with the victim about what happened, but no one answered the door at the home.

Full Article & Source:
Home aide accused of stealing from disabled man

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

POINT OF VIEW: Post article too broad, sullies county judiciary

Former Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Martin Colin presides over a hearing in August 2015 at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach. Judge Colin’s wife. Elizabeth Savitt, who is a professional guardian, was simultaneously participating in a hearing in another courtroom with Attorney Sheri Hazeltine. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)
The Sept. 9 front-page article published in The Palm Beach Post regarding former Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Martin Colin and his wife Betsy Savitt, a professional guardian — Report: Savitt involved with ‘corruption, collusion of judges’ — references several current and retired judges and through innuendo insinuates that they have acted improperly. In doing so, the integrity of the entire Palm Beach County judiciary is called into question. This article lacked certain necessary context for many of the allegations against the Palm Beach County judges who were outside the primary focus of The Post’s investigation.

This response from the Palm Beach County Bar Association purposely avoids any comment on allegations against Judge Colin and Savitt as there is already a process in place to sort out the facts and application of the law for their situations. However, the Bar Association writes to express its objection to the way several other highly respected judges and the Palm Beach County judicial system in general were portrayed in the article.

The Bar’s concerns with the framing of the article is particularly relevant in light of the fact that much of the basis of the article stemmed from the findings in the report by the Inspector General of the Clerk and Comptroller’s Office which was admittedly not “focus[ed] on the judiciary.”

The report did not make findings of impropriety as to any of the other judges who were mentioned in the article, nor were they the target of the investigation. Many of the matters reported were ‘circumstantial and anecdotal’ but were presented in a manner that calls into question the integrity of the entire Palm Beach County judiciary. A judiciary that is consistently one of the highest rated judiciaries in the state of Florida and is frequently a model for the other judiciaries statewide.

Specifically, the article states, “Once again, a major institution in what is known nationwide as “Corruption County” stands accused of betraying the public trust” and “judges approved questionable fees or appointed Savitt under “unusual circumstances.” The tenor of the article leaves the reader with the impression that collusion, conspiracy and corruption are pervasive in the courts of Palm Beach County. This is simply not accurate.

Further, the article refers to several respected current Palm Beach County judges who merely oversaw cases randomly assigned to them where Savitt happened to be acting as a guardian.

Judges should not be above criticism when it is accurately based and properly intentioned. Through only speculation and implication, the article makes it appear that certain functions of the court, which are subject to the rule of law as well as other oversight, were somehow suspicious. There is a difference between conscientious examination of facts and sensational embellishment.

While The Post has done admirable work on this subject, which has led to important changes in the guardianship statutes and rules, the county Bar believes the most recent article missed the mark by improperly maligning other Palm Beach County judges. As a result, the article also seemingly (and improperly) attacks the county’s entire judicial system.

As The Post is aware, the state’s judicial canons forbid sitting judges from responding in the press or commenting on pending or prospective litigation so any mention of a judge in an article, whether warranted or not, will typically go without rebuttal by that judge. While the Bar Association takes seriously any allegations of judicial misconduct, the best practice in the future would be to avoid potentially sullying the reputations of judges with unsubstantiated claims, or more specifically painting them “guilty by association.”


Editor’s note: Huber is president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association.

Full Article & Source:
POINT OF VIEW: Post article too broad, sullies county judiciary

See Also:
Report: Savitt involved with ‘corruption, collusion of judges’ 

Judge Martin Colin had a hand in his wife’s guardianship cases, state says


Man sentenced for stealing from elderly mother

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A Hillsborough man has been sentenced to 7½ to 15 years in prison for stealing nearly $309,000 from his elderly mother.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office said 54-year-old Jerry Newton was sentenced Thursday on three felony counts of financial exploitation of an elderly adult. He was accused of taking more than $227,000 from his mother’s retirement account, $81,300 from her checking account and $19,000 from a family trust.

Officials say Newton served as an agent under his mother’s power of attorney and trustee under a family trust and used the money for his own benefit.

He faces additional prison time if he fails to pay restitution.

Full Article & Source:
Man sentenced for stealing from elderly mother

Nanaimo nurse fined $17,500 for financially exploiting elderly couple

College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia
The College of Registered Nurses of B.C. says a precedent-setting penalty to a nurse who financially exploited an elderly couple should serve as a deterrent to others thinking about enriching themselves at the expense of patients in their care.

Former nurse Laurie Tinkham, of Nanaimo, is the first B.C. nurse ever to be fined by the college for professional misconduct. In its decision, the college said Tinkham can’t apply to have her licence reinstated for at least five years.

Her fine totalled $17,500 — half the maximum fine under bylaws — after a three-year investigation and hearing process concluded she breached numerous ethical and professional standards while caring for a now-deceased elderly couple.

She was also ordered to pay investigation costs to the college of $16,536.

The nurse’s misdeeds include being the couple’s power of attorney and putting her name on the title of a $30,000 mobile home (which she still owns, according to B.C. Assessment Authority records) that was bought by the couple.

As well, the couple paid for her dentistry, vision care and $1,600 a month in medications. This was on top of a monthly stipend for her services that was kept to a certain threshold ($800) a month so that it would not jeopardize her taxpayer-funded long-term disability payments of $900 a month.

According to the college: “Her failing to maintain appropriate boundaries involved her reaping substantial financial benefits from an infirm client, and her also gaining access to assets through a power of attorney. Such conduct stands to significantly erode the public’s confidence in nurses, whom the public trusts to care for vulnerable clients.

“Ms. Tinkham’s conduct engages a need for measures that will deter similar conduct by other registrants, and promote public confidence in the profession and its ability to self-regulate.”

Cynthia Johansen, CEO of the College of Registered Nurses of B.C., said complaints about nursing interactions with the elderly have increased in recent years, but she couldn’t provide numbers or information about specific complaints. The college is exploring how to dig deeper into the trends and, in the meantime, is posting more case studies on its website to make sure nurses are aware of their ethical and professional responsibilities and boundary violations.

The college’s decision comes at a time when numerous agencies are reporting increases in cases of financial abuse of elders.

The Seniors Abuse and Information Line, operated by a non-profit organization called Seniors First B.C., reports that in 2014, 25.6 per cent of calls pertained to financial abuse. In 2015, the proportion rose to 28.9 per cent. In 2016, the last year for which such information is available, the proportion rose to 30.4 per cent.

The Vancouver Police Department tracks reports of physical and financial abuse of elders. Cases of financial abuse have risen from 119 in 2009 to 202 in 2016.

In most of the police cases, however, the suspect was neither a family member nor caregiver.

Complaints related to seniors are also fielded by a 211 Helpline, primarily funded by the United Way. Elder abuse (not just financial) accounts for 37 per cent of all calls.

A survey commissioned by Vancity Credit Union indicates that about 40 per cent of seniors in Vancouver and Victoria say they have been victims of financial abuse.

Isobel Mackenzie, seniors advocate of B.C., said she is “more familiar than I want to be” with the issue of financial exploitation of elders.

“Overwhelmingly, most relationships [between health professionals and older clients or patients] are fine. But from my own experience, I have seen everything, from care aides taking a few dollars out of a client’s wallet to those who’ve gone to the bank with clients to withdraw bigger amounts,” Mackenzie said.

“I can’t deny it happens. I’ve been in meetings with investigators hearing about these things. But when one thinks about the number of clients and visits, it’s thankfully still a small percentage.”

Mackenzie said the Tinkham case naturally will give rise to worries on the part of families hiring home-care workers.

“One challenge is context and perspective. We don’t want to create unnecessary fear and suspicion while drawing attention to this to create more awareness. We don’t want seniors to think everyone is going to rob them,” she said.

While the college website can be checked to find out about the licences of registered nurses, the database for the B.C. Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry can also be consulted to learn whether workers have credentials. It also contains information on whether workers have been suspended or removed after being terminated for client abuse, including neglect and/or financial, emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Mackenzie said she worries that with population aging and health-care worker staff shortages, people might be “tempted to lower the bar” when it comes to who they hire or not being sufficiently circumspect about home-care providers.

“Some are reticent to report anything, others don’t want to make waves,” Mackenzie said. “People want to give others the benefit of the doubt.”

In the Tinkham case, the former nurse admitted that the elderly man had a case of “romantic transference” that could have marred his judgment.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority was involved in the care of the couple, and an outreach worker was the first to spot and report the unusual arrangement between Tinkham and the couple.

Mackenzie said individuals can use the patient-care-quality offices of each B.C. health authority to file complaints about abuse or neglect.

More frail and vulnerable people are living longer in their homes, and Mackenzie suspects that that might be fuelling the increase in reports of elder abuse.

“The potential for financial abuse is significantly greater in home care. That is one of the biggest fears of seniors and their families,” she said.

Full Article & Source:
Nanaimo nurse fined $17,500 for financially exploiting elderly couple