Saturday, April 27, 2019

AG Dana Nessel and MI Supreme Court Justices Announce Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined with Supreme Court Justices Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh, Midland County Prosecutor J. Dee Brooks, state legislators Rep. Brian Elder and Sen. Paul Wojno, and 72-year-old Macomb resident Dennis Burgio to announce the formation of the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force.

“More than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse,” said Nessel. “They experience physical abuse, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, or neglect. The symptoms and treatment of abuse against our most senior population are complex and demand a concerted effort by this state to tackle what is an often unrecognized and unreported social problem. That’s why we have brought together dozens of different organizations to work collectively and collaboratively to tackle the challenge.”

Elder abuse shares many of the dynamics of domestic abuse, including a vulnerable victim with emotional ties to the perpetrator, isolation from community resources and family support systems, and substantial underreporting as a result of fear, shame, humiliation, or misplaced affection.
Seventy-two-year-old Dennis Burgio was a victim of elder abuse. The Macomb resident lost his entire savings because a close friend took advantage of their relationship.

”He was like the son I never had … I trusted him unconditionally,” said Burgio. “We loved him.”

Burgio had to postpone his retirement for at least five years. “I am fortunate. By the grace of God I can continue to work to rebuild some of my savings. It is more difficult because my wife has health issues. However, our family is supportive and able to help us.”

Nessel urged Michigan residents to report any signs or concerns about elder abuse to her office, which has established an elder abuse hotline for anonymous tips: 844-24-ABUSE (844-242-2873) or online [] at .

The state has initiated efforts to address these issues in the past, including a 1998 Supreme Court Task Force on Guardianships and Conservatorships and a 2007 Governor’s Task Force on Elder Abuse. While some recommendations were adopted, there are still gaps to be filled, including protecting vulnerable adults from caregiver influence or undue influence, increasing maximum penalties for abusers, creating a special prosecutor for elder abuse, requiring mandatory reporting of deaths in facilities caring for vulnerable adults, and developing local level multi-disciplinary elder abuse community investigation teams.

More than 30 different organizations [] including law enforcement, state agencies, the Michigan House, Senate and Congressional delegation, and advocacy groups, have committed to being part of the task force. The task force initiatives [] include requiring professional guardians to become certified, developing statutory basic rights for families, reviewing the process of a guardian removing a ward from his or her home, and limiting the number of wards per guardian.

“Prosecutors play a critical role in combating elder abuse in Michigan,” said Midland County Prosecutor J. Dee Brooks. “We started our local task force in 2015 and since that time it has helped us successfully prosecute about 20 cases, mostly involving financial exploitation.”

Four members of the Michigan legislature will participate to ensure a strong legislative role as the task force identifies laws that may need to be strengthened or introduced. The Republican chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees – Sen. Peter Lucido and Rep. Graham Filler – will join Democratic legislators Sen. Paul Wojno and Rep. Brian Elder as active members of the task force.

“The primary role of government is to keep the peace and to protect the public,” said Rep. Brian Elder. “Its highest calling is to protect its most vulnerable members. In 2000, the legislature passed reforms of the probate code but there is more work to do to protect vulnerable adults subject to guardianships and conservatorships. I look forward to working with Rep. Filler in the House and Sens. Lucido and Wojno to pass legislation requiring guardian certification, basic rights for family members, and mandatory reporting by financial institutions just to name a few.”

“We need to strengthen Michigan laws designed to protect elder victims from exploitation and toughen our laws against the predators who commit these terrible acts,” added Sen. Pete Lucido. “Michigan needs to lead the country in protecting our elder citizens from those who bankrupt, abuse, or neglect them. By joining forces with the Attorney General, the Supreme Court, and the Governor’s Office we can change the conversation across the country with new reforms here in Michigan. We will send a clear and unified message that in Michigan our elders are highly valued and will receive the protection they have earned and that they deserve. It is my privilege to serve on this task force.”

Two Supreme Court justices – Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh – will represent the Court on the task force at the request of Chief Justice Bridget McCormack. “If the adult guardianship system is failing our moms and dads, we have to fix that,” said Chief Justice McCormack. “That’s why I have asked Justice Bernstein and Justice Cavanagh to take the lead on this task force with Attorney General Nessel.

“Working together, our goal is to ensure that Michigan’s aging population is receiving the protections promised by our laws,” said Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein. “Our Court is committed to taking action so that our adult guardianship system is providing proper care for vulnerable individuals.”

“Everyone with aging parents knows how hard it is to keep up with all the demands of daily life,” said Justice Cavanagh. “Strengthening court supervision of guardianships is an important step toward easing that burden and safeguarding the rights of older Michiganders”

The Michigan Supreme Court is involved in leading the task force because of its supervisory role over all Michigan courts and because probate courts are responsible for the appointment and supervision of adult guardians. In evaluating the system and making recommendations for change, the Court will be focused on three key questions: 1) Are proper legal procedures being followed? 2) Is the system transparent with the necessary data and records collected so that courts can properly review existing guardianships? And 3) Is there appropriate education and support for guardians, judges, and attorneys so that they are all able to fulfill their respective roles?

“This is such an important issue for our state, and we expect more people to join our efforts as we move forward,” said Nessel. “In fact, when Congresswoman Debbie Dingell heard about our initiative this morning, she committed to playing an active role on the task force.”

The Elder Abuse Task Force will hold a series of hearings around the state starting Friday, June 14th in Kent County. A hearing schedule will be issued at a later date.

Full Article & Source:
AG Dana Nessel and MI Supreme Court Justices Announce Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force

San Diego financial adviser accused in Ponzi scheme appears in court

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A San Diego financial adviser suspected of bilking his clients in an alleged Ponzi scheme pleaded not guilty to some 80 felony counts Friday.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said Christopher Dougherty appeared before a judge Friday afternoon to answer to accusations that he took money from his mostly elderly clients.

DA’s Office officials said that criminal charges are being announced “in a five-year Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 50 people in San Diego County out of nearly $8 million.”

Some of the alleged victims appeared in court.

"We've had to rely upon our children now which that should never be; we have wonderful children," said one woman.

Sheriff’s officials told Team 10 Dougherty was arrested Thursday morning at his home. His bail was set at $5 million.

Full Article & Source:
San Diego financial adviser accused in Ponzi scheme appears in court

America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985

Twenty percent of those age 65 & up haven’t retired. Many can’t afford to.
By Suzanne Woolley

America's Elderly Postponing Retirement

Just as single-income families began to vanish in the last century, many of America’s elderly are now forgoing retirement for the same reason: They don’t have enough money. Rickety social safety nets, inadequate retirement savings plans and sky high health-care costs are all conspiring to make the concept of leaving the workforce something to be more feared than desired.

For the first time in 57 years, the participation rate in the labor force of retirement-age workers has cracked the 20 percent mark, according to a new report from money manager United Income (PDF).

As of February, the ranks of people age 65 or older who are working or seeking paid work doubled from a low of 10 percent back in early 1985. The biggest spike in employment has gone to college-educated older workers; the share of all employees age 65 or older with at least an undergraduate degree is now 53 percent, up from 25 percent in 1985.

relates to America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985
Source: United Income; Current Population Survey
This rise of college-educated older workers has pushed the demographic’s inflation-adjusted income up to an average of $78,000, 63 percent higher than the $48,000 older folks brought home in 1985. By comparison, American workers below the age of 65 saw their average income rise by only 38 percent over the same period, to an average of $55,000. United Income’s calculations draw on recently released data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There’s a mismatch between older workers who need the income the most and those who are able to work and working, said Elizabeth Kelly, senior vice president of operations for United Income and a former special assistant to the president at the White House National Economic Council during the Obama administration.

“These are the more educated, wealthier individuals in better health who are continuing to work, but it’s probably their less-educated, working-class counterparts who need to work the most,” Kelly said.
The BLS expects the big wave of aging baby boomers to represent the strongest growth in the labor force participation rate through at least 2024. “By 2024, baby boomers will have reached ages 60 to 78,” a BLS report noted. “And some of them are expected to continue working even after they qualify for Social Security benefits.”

relates to America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985
The retirement math is ugly, even for those who are seemingly well-off. Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor at the New School for Social Research, has estimated that Social Security replaces about 40 percent to 50 percent of one’s pre-retirement income. The general thinking is that people need around 80 percent of pre-retirement income to get by after they stop working. (Online retirement calculators can give a rough sense for what you need to save, and earn on savings, to get there.)

The typical worker in the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution, earning less than $40,000 a year, has no retirement savings. Those in the middle 40 percent of income distribution, earning from $40,000 to $115,000, have a median amount of $60,000 saved, according to Ghilarducci’s research.

Workers in the top 10 percent of income distribution making more than $115,000, meanwhile, have a median amount of $200,000 saved. They, too, are woefully under-saved, although it’s worth noting that these calculations don’t include real estate and other tangible assets, or the chance of an inheritance.

Ghilarducci’s rough estimate of what a typical college-educated professional must amass to retire fairly comfortably? “Over $1 million or 2.” No wonder more people are working longer.

Full Article & Source:
America’s Elderly Are Twice as Likely to Work Now Than in 1985

Friday, April 26, 2019

Ex-lawmaker who defrauded elderly widows out of $3 million gets 10 years in prison

Robert Kenneth Lindell was sentenced Tuesday in what authorities call one of Maine's worst cases of elder financial abuse. 

Kenneth Lindell
Former Maine lawmaker Robert Kenneth Lindell has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for what authorities have described as one of the worst cases of elder financial abuse they’ve seen in the state.

Lindell was sentenced Tuesday in Penobscot County Superior Court on 15 criminal counts including theft, securities fraud and income tax evasion for defrauding two elderly widows out of more than $3 million and failing to pay income taxes on his ill-gotten gains, the Maine Office of Securities said. Lindell was convicted of the crimes by a jury on Nov. 7.

The judge also ordered Lindell to pay $750,000 in restitution to his victims, in addition to money already recovered and any money recovered in the future, the office said in a news release.

“This significant sentence recognizes the real gravity and far-reaching impact elder financial exploitation has on victims,” Judith Shaw, administrator of the Maine Office of Securities, said in a release. “Mr. Lindell used his position of trust to groom and prey on his victims and we will not tolerate that from anyone, especially our licensed financial professionals.”

Prosecutors said Lindell began acting as a securities agent for Phyllis Poor of Belfast in the early 2000s and eventually was given Poor’s power of attorney and named co-personal representative of her estate and trustee of accounts for her disabled veteran son. Poor died in 2012.

Lindell used his access to Poor’s finances to write checks to himself and his company from the accounts of Poor’s estate, paying personal expenses with trust and estate money. He also bought, renovated and lived in a home in the California wine country with money from Poor’s accounts.

Lindell also stole from a trust set up for Poor’s son, a disabled veteran who resides in an assisted-living facility in Florida, prosecutors said.

Lindell’s second victim, Gianna Lewis, lives outside Paris and has known Lindell since he was born, prosecutors said. Lindell was the trustee for accounts set up for Lewis’ benefit by her late husband, and Lindell was convicted of writing himself checks from her account and paying his personal expenses with the money.

Prosecutors said Lindell also failed to pay taxes on the money he took from the widows’ accounts and received tax refunds to which he wasn’t entitled.

Lindell lived in Cloverdale, California, before his bail was revoked in May 2018. He still owned property in Frankfort, where he served two terms as a Republican state legislator from 2004 to 2008, when he was defeated in a re-election bid. While in the Legislature, he served on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

Experts on elder financial abuse said the Lindell case is unusual because it involves a financial professional.

Typically, it’s family members who steal from the elderly, said Jaye Martin, executive director of Maine Legal Services for the Elderly.

A family member might offer to help an elderly relative pay his or her bills each month, she said, and then steal money once they have access to the older relative’s checking account. Martin said the situation often escalates to where a relative arranges to strip the older relative of the equity in their home or get power of attorney and take possession of the house, because that’s usually an older person’s most valuable asset.

If a professional is involved in elder financial abuse, she said, the impact can be greater because a professional knows where to find and dispose of assets. A professional is also more likely to steal a large amount, Martin said, because they know they could lose their license and face criminal charges if the fraud is exposed. But, she added, many elderly people aren’t aware of the extent of the fraud and are reluctant to report family members to the police.

“The professionals (involved in elder financial abuse) are few and far between, but the amounts, I think, would be stunning if we knew,” she said.

Kathy Baxter, a social worker and director of community services at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, agreed with Martin that anonymous scams and relatives are often the perpetrators when elderly people are defrauded.

“It’s rare that you hear about it happening with a professional,” she said.

And many fraud cases aren’t even reported, Baxter said.

“Most of the time they don’t want to prosecute a family member and there are a lot of cases you don’t hear about it because they don’t want to go forward,” she said.

Victims are often embarrassed that they were taken advantage of and that’s another reason why many cases aren’t reported, Baxter said.

The agency on aging has a program called Money Minders that can help the elderly with budgeting and bill-paying, Baxter said, offering an alternative to relying on family members for help. The program is free for middle- and lower-income seniors.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-lawmaker who defrauded elderly widows out of $3 million gets 10 years in prison

Nassau Attorney Pleads Guilty To Stealing $230,000 From Client

He was supposed to use the money to settle lawsuits for his client, but instead kept it all for himself. 


By Alex Costello, Patch Staff

A Manhasset attorney pleaded guilty today to stealing nearly $230,000 from a client, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced.

Alfred DiGirolomo, Jr., 63, pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, the top charge against him. He is due back in court for sentencing on June 4, and is expected to get 20 days to six months in jail if he pays the remaining restitution of $131,ooo. If not, he could face one to three years in prison.

"This defendant used his client's money to fund a luxurious lifestyle that included cars, country club membership and a cigar club," Singas said. "Dirty attorneys have no place in Nassau County, and my office is committed to prosecuting any lawyer who victimizes those they represent."

According to Singas, from Jan. 1, 2014 through May 5, 2016, DiGirolomo represented a restaurateur in three different lawsuits. To fund the settlements from those suits, the client paid DiGirolomo $229,990. But instead of sending the money to the people he was supposed to, DiGirolomo kept it for himself. He forged documents that he gave to his client that showed the lawsuits were resolved, but they were not.

After the client hired a new attorney, they found that none of the documents that DiGirolomo claimed were real were every filed with the court. The client contacted the DA's office, which opened a case in January 2017. He was arrested by DA investigators in May 2017.

Instead of using the money to fund the lawsuits, DiGirolomo used it to pay for expenses related to credit cards, utilities, gasoline, automobiles, insurance, department stores, a civic association, a figure skating club, a cigar club and a country club -- all of which were unrelated to his client.

To date, DiGirolomo has paid $99,479 in restitution. He will be automatically disbarred as a result of his guilty plea.

If you believe you may have been a victim of an unscrupulous attorney, Singas encourages you to call the NCDA's Tip Line at 516-571-7755. Anyone interested in hiring an attorney is encouraged to check that person's standing and registration with the Office of Court Administration.

Full Article & Source:
Nassau Attorney Pleads Guilty To Stealing $230,000 From Client 

Scammers steal hearts and cash from NH victims searching for love

A man befriends a woman in her 60s or 70s through Facebook or a dating site, flattering her with lines like “Hey, beautiful” and asking about her sick relative.

An online relationship develops.

The woman’s newfound online boyfriend — who says he is working overseas but lives in the United States — says he’s coming home; he sends her his airline itinerary and promises they will live happily ever after.

Then a last-minute “emergency” hits, and he asks her to send money.

New Hampshire authorities have received about 100 reports this year alone from victims of romance scams collectively bilked out of millions of dollars.

“They really think they met the love of their life,” said Assistant Attorney General Brandon Garod.
Even after sending tens of thousands of dollars to someone they never will meet, “the women refuse to believe initially that this is a scam,” said Garod, who works in the Attorney General’s elder abuse and exploitation unit.

“In recent months, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of reports we’re getting,” Garod said.
One woman reported sending more than $200,000. “It would be atypical to be less than $50,000,” Garod said.

“Stealing not only the money in their pocketbooks, but their hearts as well,” said Jamie Bulen, associate state director of communications for AARP New Hampshire.

Bulen said the state’s population is aging; New Hampshire boasts the nation’s second highest median age.

Garod called such scams a “long con,” with some victims wiring money from their banks multiple times.

“We have seen scammers teaching elderly people to purchase and send bitcoin,” he said.

“I think the takeaway is if you are online and you are corresponding with someone who claims to be far away and is not able to meet with you, that should be a red flag,” Garod said.

“It’s much more acceptable to date online and there’s just a lot of fraud out there,” Bulen said. “People get taken emotionally.”

With few exceptions, Garod said, the targets are widowed, divorced or lonely women. “They’re online and looking for companionship,” he said.

The scammer strikes up an online conversation and suggests they exchange email addresses, phone messages and texts.

On Facebook, the scammer makes a friend request and looks for something they both can relate to, such as being from the same town. In actuality, the scammers have come from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica and India.

“Whether it starts on Facebook or starts on a dating site, it has the same trajectory in terms of the scam,” Garod said.

The scammers have daily conversations for days or weeks with their victims.

“The scammer really tries to build a foundation of trust with the elderly person,” Garod said. “It inappropriately quickly escalates from friendly talk to romantic talk.”

Plans are made for the scammer to fly to Manchester or Boston, but then a day or two before his scheduled arrival, the scammer asks her to send money.

“There’s some sort of catastrophic accident that prevents them from coming, and (they) always need money,” Garod said.

Often, the excuse can be to pay medical bills or replace damaged equipment.

Banks or family members sometimes detect the scams.

“Anytime anybody is asking you for money and you haven’t met that person, assume it’s a scam,” Garod said.

“A simple deny” to a Facebook friend request would have prevented the whole thing, he said.
The truth is tough for victims to face.

“They refuse to believe that they’ve been scammed; (that) is the initial reaction from everyone we’ve seen,” Garod said.

Full Article & Source:
Scammers steal hearts and cash from NH victims searching for love

Thursday, April 25, 2019



WHY take a chance of going to jail for "MURDER" or "STEALING A PERSON ESTATE" the old fashion way of scams or shooting someone when you can become a "CERTIFIED GUARDIANSHIP SERVICE PROVIDER'. You are protected by the judge claiming "SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY " while giving you a "THUMBS UP" to bill till you drain the wards estates and when the family complains just put the ward on HOSPICE to destroy your evidence . Certified Guardianship Service Providers, attorneys, and judges have teamed together to protect each other while destroying families inheritances and eliminating Medicare benefits to the elderly. UNLIMITED DOLLARS are at your disposal with little accountability. Sherry Johnston filed in her mother case in Harris County Probate Court 4 that Mom was abused, exploited, then killed by the courts and Ginger Lott. Johnston Filed a Federal Lawsuit against Judge Butts, Clarinda Comstock, Ginger Lott and David Dexel for causing her mother horrible pain, abuse and then forced death on Hospice for just a UTI infection. Her case is moving forward

This abuse has become the " NEW HOLOCAUST FOR SENIORS ."

Doctors in Texas and Virginia can override your legal documents and wishes while forcing you on Hospice to be slowly dehydrated while your family watches your muscles cramp and you moan. Nurses continue force Morphine, Haloperidol and Lexapram on your parent. The ward knows exactly what is going on and they are being "MURDERED WITHOUT CONSENT"

With over 10,000 seniors retiring everyday and the floodgates of elderly abuse increases every day with very little oversight. People need to be enlighten that Hospice is no longer a Charitable Service for the terminally ill but Billions are made by "HOSPICE FOR PROFIT" service provider which Medicare pays over 11,000.00 or more per person on Hospice.

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Champlin woman accused of stealing more than $50,000 from 90-year-old mother with dementia, charges say

A Champlin woman seized on her 90-year-old mother’s deteriorating mental capacity by writing checks to herself totaling more than $50,000 from her mother’s account without consent, authorities say.

Jane Francis Barbosa, 54, was charged Tuesday with two counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult as well as two counts of felony theft, according to the criminal complaint filed against her in Ramsey County District Court.

Investigators were alerted to the case by the 90-year-old St. Paul woman’s attorney after the attorney learned her client felt “scared and intimidated” by Barbosa, according to the criminal complaint. The woman told her attorney that her daughter had recently demanded she write a check to her for $60,000 and that she made similar financial demands in the past, according to the complaint.

Barbosa was questioned about the incident and told investigators the request had been borne of a “one-time fit of passion” that had since “blown over,” according to the criminal complaint.

She went on to say that other than small payments ranging from $10 to $60 to cover housecleaning and errands, she didn’t receive money from her mother, according to the charges.

But a closer look at her mother’s bank records revealed otherwise, according to the complaint.

While investigators did find several smaller checks written to Barbosa for housework, they also saw several checks for substantially larger amounts totaling about $30,000, including one for $10,000, another for $7,000 and a third for $6,000, legal documents say.

When Barbosa was asked to explain, she told investigators she neglected to mention those checks because she didn’t think they were necessary, the complaint said.

Barbosa continued to write large checks to herself without anything written in the memo line even after talking with investigators, the complaint said.

Those checks totaled about $20,000 in three months.

Barbosa’s mother was shocked when law enforcement told her about the checks, saying she wrote her daughter only checks for $10 a week.

When pushed about the amounts, Barbosa told investigators the larger checks had been loans from her mother, but she was unable to provide any proof of the terms, according to the complaint.

Barbosa also knows that her mother’s age and dementia prevent her from being able to consent to such loans, the complaint said.

No attorney was listed for Barbosa in court records. She is expected to make her first court appearance on the charges in late May.

Barbosa has no criminal record in Minnesota.

Full Article & Source: 
Champlin woman accused of stealing more than $50,000 from 90-year-old mother with dementia, charges say

Cases of Elder Abuse Increasing Due to a Couple of Factors

According to a recent report released by the Department of Social Services in Connecticut, the number of reported cases of abuse against elderly individuals throughout the state jumped dramatically between 2011 and 2017. 
According to this report, there were 3,529 reported cases of elder abuse in 2011 and 11,123 in 2017. It was determined by the Department of Social Services that 7,196 reported cases warranted an investigation. However, it is important to understand many of these reported cases of elder abuse also involved self-neglect, where an aging senior was unable to provide support for their own basic care, not necessarily the result of a family member, friend, or even home health care services abusing them. 

In fact, 30 percent of the elder abuse cases reported to the Department of Social Services involved self-neglect. Some of the other cases of elder abuse included financial exploitation, neglect by others, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and abandonment. 

As noted by the CT Post blog, Elder abuse cases rapidly rising in CT, written by Kate Farrish: 
The Justice Department estimates that 1 in 10 American seniors are abused, and state officials say the problem is likely to grow as the population in Connecticut — already the sixth oldest state — rapidly continues to age. 
Complaints about abuse in Connecticut nursing homes, residential care homes and assisted living facilities rose by nearly 15 percent between 2015 and 2017, said Mairead Painter, the state Long Term Care Ombudsman. 
Experts say the numbers of elder abuse complaints may be rising due, in part, to greater awareness, but still, many cases are never reported. 
“Sometimes individuals are too embarrassed to report it,” Painter said. “Sometimes people are fearful that if they report abuse, they may have to stay longer at a nursing home.” 
This information highlights that the trend in elder abuse cases is increasing. In one case, an elderly woman over 90 stopped receiving in-home care support because her niece had spent the victims money on her own household and didn’t pay the home care provider. In another case, an 87-year-old victim had his utilities shut off when his son spent all the victim’s money on himself rather than paying the bills. 

Elder abuse is a serious problem and while these numbers are staggering, especially in regard to the number of cases reported, a greater awareness and ease of reporting may also be contributing to the increase in numbers of reported elder abuse cases.

Full Article & Source:
Cases of Elder Abuse Increasing Due to a Couple of Factors

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: MORE GUARDIANSHIP ABUSES IN PENNSYLVANIA, with co-host Coz Whitten Skaife

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

Tonight we revisit Pennsylvania and the blatant abuse of the system of professional predator guardians. While a bit of good news surfaced here recently, with the conviction of a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania lawyer who availed himself of thousands of dollars of his disabled wards money, we still have many more stories to cover.

Shenanigans in Montgomery County PA

Coz will review the story of "Thomas". Held at Pennhurst at the behest of his "guardian", Thomas was subjected to deplorable conditions and treatment and passed away. Fee-Based Guardian Carol Hershey - Pennhurst Connection.

We will also be talking with Jeffrey Hennel. His mother is warehoused in a facility where she is allowed no visitation. His mother desperately wants to see Jeffrey as he does her.....but apparently it is far more pleasurable for the "guardian" to keep them separated. The sick pleasures some people enjoy!!

From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project: Rule # 1 For Many Professional Guardians - If they're too much work—Drug'em

By Romona Paden

The training manual for the education of a professional guardian states that it is the guardian’s responsibility to find their own clients (wards). The need for financing to support the professional guardianship business makes a target of every elderly American with anything of value. Jacqueline Scott ended up right in the center of one of those bull’s-eyes.

Many professional guardians have far too many wards to attend to. Frequently, the wards are located in areas many miles from each other, and the administration of drugs allows the guardians to simply warehouse these elderly victims. Most nonprofessional guardians are loving, caring individuals. The same can be said for many professional guardians. However, some of the worst and most cruel elder abusers are professional guardians. What Kathy Dunn witnessed happening to her elderly mother Jacqueline amounted to chemical restraint—the use of pharmaceuticals to restrict a patient’s freedom of movement or to sedate a patient.

In the last years of her life, Jacqueline spoke very few words. Confined to a windowless room in a nursing home facility, the once independent and vital woman found herself trapped in a pharmacological stupor. Measuring a petite 5’2” and weighing only 82 pounds on entering the facility, Scott’s caregivers put her on a daily, steady cocktail of Xanax and Lexapro punctuated with months-long dosing of various forms of Ambien as well as Zyprexa and Temazepam. She regularly sat totally unconscious in her straight-backed chair.

She was deficient in both D-3 and B-12, and no effort was made to include food high in these vitamins in Scott’s meals, nor were nutritional supplements provided. Her tiny frame diminished to a mere 4’9” and just a hair over 70 pounds by the time she died.

This brutal nearly four-year ordeal arose from an unrequested, unneeded, and unwanted guardianship, says her daughter. Scott’s guardian hyped the mild dementia of her charge in order to justify the move into a nursing home facility. Her next step was to develop a source of funds to cover her guardianship fees and pay her lawyer. As is often the case, this was handily dealt with by selling Scott’s mortgage-free home.

“My mother was held against her will in a nursing home that was a two-hour round trip from me,” says Dunn of the period from late October 2010 until her mother’s death in August 2015.

“Chemical restraint is inadvisable for elderly patients outside of a psychiatric ward,” says Alethea Fleming, a naturopathic doctor focused on gerontology, from her Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington. While Fleming doesn’t offer comment directly on patients who are not in her care, she keenly acknowledges the pervasiveness of an overmedicated senior population.

“Older patients tend to really get the shaft,” says Fleming.

According to, “While nursing home regulations have come a long way, the past practice of chemical sedation continues to tarnish the industry’s reputation and factors into family discussions re: long-term health care.”

In the case of Harvey Whitten, a veteran who acted as a medic during the Korean War, the spiral into drug-induced confusion began with a stroke he suffered in late summer of 2010 and a diagnosis of vascular dementia when he was 80 years old. The situation initially beamed a silver lining as Whitten moved from his home in California to live with his lifelong friend Robert Sprau in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. By early 2011, however, the bright side quickly began to tarnish.

Through court hearings, a Montgomery County judge appointed guardianship responsibilities to a local attorney. Although the judge also named Sprau, Whitten’s longtime friend and new roommate, and Whitten’s adored niece, Cosmas Skaife, as co-guardians, Sprau became ill and died in the fall of 2012, and the legal apparatchik systematically minimized Skaife’s authority in overseeing her uncle’s care. With this, Whitten’s best interest, no longer in the hands of a person who loved him, quickly fell by the wayside.

Skaife lobbied for the opportunity to bring her Uncle Harvey to live in a facility near her home in Madison, Wisconsin. At every turn, her efforts were undercut by a legal system that often seemed to exist solely to serve institutional interests over those of the individual and family.

While leaving him without his glasses, his hearing aid, or his dentures, the guardian, having control over Whitten’s money and assets, charged for guitar music and singing lessons conducted by a friend of the guardian at a cost of $125 per hour as well as so-called pet therapy (though he’d never owned a pet).

Despite a monthly income of more than $13,000, the guardian contended additional costs associated with Whitten’s care made the cash flow insufficient. To cover his care, according to Skaife’s documentation on the matter, the guardian accessed his more than $4 million in savings.

Besides attacking his financial health, Whitten’s guardians likewise demonstrated disregard for his physical health. He was chemically restrained by a daily dose of 5 milligrams of Haldol, an antipsychotic drug used to treat mental and mood disorders like schizophrenia and acute psychosis.

“That’s huge,” says Panayiotis Tsitouras, an MD and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. “No, that’s unacceptable.”

Speaking in a general sense, Tsitouras says the common dosage of Haldol for elderly patients who “experience real problems with anxiety, sleep, or pain” ranges from .5 milligrams to 1 milligram. In terms of the overprescription of medicines for the elderly, Tsitouras says, “Hopefully society is becoming more sensitive to those issues.”

Whitten died in April 2016.

Every day of the year, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and this will continue for years. Contrary to claims of many, tough laws governing and punishing guardians’ behavior will not discourage good people from becoming guardians, but what those laws will do is discourage the bad apples. In addition, families must make long-term health care plans well in advance of old age.

One factor that can connect directly to the heart of the polypharmacy issue is the many seniors who have spent years on pharmaceuticals without any modifications in dosing. Considering that the liver, kidneys, and other organs of elimination become more sluggish with age, the problem becomes even more pronounced among the senior population. What’s more, patients aged 80-plus “don’t ask questions,” Fleming says. The combination of all these factors means that potential damage due to overmedication reaches exponential proportions.

You might consider, before jumping right into heavy drugs, first trying a naturopathic physician (ND) whose work centers on a holistic approach to patient care. While trained to carry out many of the same approaches as allopathic practitioners and licensed to prescribe traditional pharmaceuticals, NDs manage chronic disease and acute conditions through herbal medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, and therapeutic physical techniques. Alethea Fleming says that her practice focuses on the foundations of health “taking a decidedly conservative approach in prescribing medication” and “treating the whole person using the least forceful intervention first.”

“Dose low and go slow,” serves as her mantra.

“I listen to them,” Fleming says. Carving out meaningful discussions with patients allows her to garner the kind of depth and breadth of information necessary to guide patient healthcare to optimize health and to treat illness. Vital in this is gaining the full picture on pharmaceuticals. It not unheard of, for instance, to come across a patient in retirement years who’s still taking high blood pressure meds prescribed decades prior while working a high-stress job.

Another critical element in establishing patient background includes determining situational circumstances around family proximity. This is an important topic as “far-flung families” mean some patients lack a strong support network.

Still another element playing into the overmedication of seniors, says Fleming, centers on the lack of continuity in care. Seniors using a piecemeal approach to pharmacies and providers also plays into the problem.

Unfortunately, the medical community counts only around 6,000 naturopaths in its ranks across the United States. Just over half the states and territories in the nation (23 of them) extend licensing to NDs—others must be encouraged to do so, and Medicare must begin covering these visits. As a starting point, it is less expensive and a safer place to begin.

The government must do a better job of monitoring abusive drug administration.

Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recorded only 74 complaints around chemical restraint among individuals living in long-term care facilities, according to Kelly Mack, a public affairs specialist with the Administration for Community Living that operates within HHS. That number, reported for 2016, comes through states’ long-term care ombudsman programs, which are designed to resolve problems around individuals’ health, safety, welfare, and rights. All one needs to see is the mountain of letters coming into the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse to know this number is way off.

“Another complaint code for medications-administration, organization,” Mack writes in an email, “has a larger amount of complaints but is not pertaining just to inappropriate drugging, so we have nothing more detailed.”

In an interview with PBS, Maristela Garcia, a physician and director of the geriatric medication unit at UCLA Medical Center, summed up the result of guardians and nursing homes using medication as a tool to control, doctors overprescribing to placate the complaints of their aging patients, and seniors self-medicating: “This is America’s other drug problem—polypharmacy, and it’s huge!”

The picture on the left target is Lynn Sayler’s mother Retta, on the Right Marie Claire Conners’ mother Grace. Both stories can be seen in the documentary The Unforgivable Truth at

Mercedes Kibbee, whose story is also told in The Unforgivable Truth, was so addicted to the excessive drugs being pumped into her that, when her daughter realized what was happening and changed her doctor, Mercedes went through a very painful drug withdrawal that lasted for more than a week.

Full Article & Source:
From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project:  Rule # 1 For Many Professional Guardians - If they're too much work—Drug'em  

 See Also:
From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project: You Gotta Have Spunk

From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project: "YOU HAVE NO MORE AUTHORITY THAN A HORSE'S ASS" - said the guardian with a chuckle

Evelyn Schwartz, Gone Too Soon

The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (EARN) Presents: The Unforgivable Truth: How We Have Turned America's Greatest Generation into America's Abused Generation

JOIN The EARN Project

Syracuse doc arrested at hospital was cited for poor care in another state

Dr. Andrew Rudin, who was part of St. Joseph's cardiology department, has been accused in a federal indictment of being the supervising physician at a medical group in Tennessee that improperly prescribed opioids and other drugs.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – St. Joseph’s Health is reviewing the vetting process it used to hire a doctor arrested last week who had previously been cited for providing poor care in another state.

Dr. Andrew S. Rudin, a cardiologist, was charged last week in a national roundup of medical professionals accused of illegally distributing prescription pain pills.

Drug Enforcement Agents escorted Rudin out of St. Joe’s Wednesday, less than three months after the hospital publicly welcomed him to its staff in a news release touting Rudin’s expertise in treating atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heart beat.

Tennessee health department records show Rudin voluntarily gave up his clinical privileges at a hospital after being cited for “substandard or inadequate care.” The records say Rudin voluntarily surrendered his privileges at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in Tennessee to avoid an investigation “relating to professional competence or conduct.”

A federal judge issued a default judgment of $1.6 million against Rudin in 2012 to settle a malpractice lawsuit by a patient operated on in 2010 at Jackson-Madison Hospital. Rudin performed an “ablation” procedure on the patient, Joe D. Williams, to stop atrial fibrillation, according to court records.

Ablation involves threading narrow tubes into the heart to burn heart tissue to stop abnormal electrical signals from causing atrial fibrillation.

Sandra Williams, the patient’s wife, testified Rudin burned a hole through her husband’s esophagus during the procedure that nearly killed him and left him disabled. She said Rudin never responded to the lawsuit or paid the judgment. Neither Rudin nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

When The Post-Standard/ asked St. Joe’s if it was aware of the malpractice case and Rudin’s surrender of his hospital privileges in Tennessee, the hospital said, “The circumstances surrounding Dr. Rudin’s credentialing at St. Joseph’s Hospital are presently under review.”

St. Joe’s initially put Rudin on administrative leave, but said today it fired him after reviewing the criminal allegations.

Federal prosecutors accused Rudin, another doctor and a nurse practitioner of participating in a scheme to improperly prescribe opioids and other drugs in Jackson, Tennessee. Rudin pleaded not guilty last week in federal court.

“ … the criminal matter involving Dr. Rudin is not connected to St. Joseph’s Health in any way but to activities connected to his practice in Tennessee more than two years prior to his affiliation to St. Joseph’s Health,” Dr. Joseph Spinale, St. Joe’s chief medical officer, said in a prepared statement.

From August 2016 to January 2017 Rudin supervised a nurse practitioner in Tennessee who prescribed drugs to patients who didn’t need them in exchange for money, notoriety and sexual favors, according to the indictment.

Jeffrey W. Young, the nurse practitioner, once branded himself as “Rock Doc” as part of an effort to start a reality TV show. Rudin gave Young’s practice the appearance of legitimacy by allowing his name to appear on Young’s prescriptions and was paid for supervising the practice, the indictment says. The indictment does not say how much Rudin was paid.

Full Article & Source:
Syracuse doc arrested at hospital was cited for poor care in another state

We need to be able to trust our elected officials

In Saturday’s paper, we printed a story about a young woman who was recently awarded a large sum of money from a mishandled conservatorship case.  Although she did win her case, the money was always hers, and it was probably something that never should have happened. 

Shelbie Hunt, formally known as Shelbie McDougall of Lanett, had a conservatorship placed in her name when she was 4-years-old when her father passed away. 

Hunt never knew about this money, and her grandmother was put in charge of the account. 

As the conservator, the grandmother was to manage the account and only make expenditures out of the account that would benefit her granddaughter. 

In July 2016, Hunt’s grandmother died, and Hunt, while mourning her grandmother’s death, was tasked with cleaning out her home. When sifting through documents, she came across bank statements with her name on them and decided to see what was going on. 

She learned about the account, which her grandmother had depleted all the funds from. Most importantly, none of the money went to benefit Hunt. 

Hunt went on a mission to find out what she could do and was turned down by four Chambers County attorneys until she landed with Agricola Law in Opelika. 

The law firm was able to call a bond with Auto-Owners Insurance, based in Montgomery, which acts as an insurance policy on the account if the funds are misused. 

Hunt won her case, but no amount of money will ease the pain of losing a grandmother and father at a young age. She’s a mother and wife now, so hopefully, the money she was awarded can help provide a brighter future for her family. 

Hunt was failed by several people in this case.

Her grandmother, who McDougall said she loved greatly, used the account for personal items rather than using it as required.  The Chambers County Probate Office also didn’t properly do accounting on the conservatorship from 2001 to 2016, so no one noticed what happened. 

According to current Probate Judge Paul Story, when a conservatorship is set up, there is supposed to be accounting completed on the account within the first 60-90 days. Then again within a year of the first accounting. After that, accounting must be done at least every three years. 

It’s hard to know if this ever happened, but it’s likely it never did. If a proper accounting had been done at any point in 15 years, it’s possible the misuse of funds would’ve been noticed, and
Hunt wouldn’t have had to fight for money that was already rightfully hers. 

Any time something like this happens, the old argument is that if it happened to one person, it likely happened to someone else as well. 

Story, who took office this year, said this wouldn’t happen under his administration as he is enforcing the law as he can when it comes to conservatorships. Three different probate judges held that position during this timeframe, and it’s obvious those tenures had some highs and lows. This is a major low.

Story had nothing personally to do with this case, but his office should learn from this, and should take the time to investigate whether this is an isolated incident or whether other conservatorships have not been properly accounted for over the years.

Full Article & Source:
We need to be able to trust our elected officials

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project: You Gotta Have Spunk

By Mary West

Could you fall victim to a financial scam that targets the elderly? Sadly, ruthless phone scammers across the country have an arsenal of schemes to steal from older adults, and the amount taken can involve large sums of money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2017, Americans reported 2.7 million cases of financial scams that resulted in fraud losses of $905 million. The evil plots, which can affect low-income as well as high-income seniors, are so prevalent that they have been called “the crime of the 21st century.”

Unfortunately, many cases end tragically with the elderly losing their life savings. Informing oneself concerning scammers and how they work can help protect you from a similar fate. As the adage goes, “forewarned is forearmed.”

In January, a spunky 75-year-old Tennessee woman who was the target of a senior phone scam plot turned the tables on a man who phoned her and said she was the winner of a sweepstakes prize.

Court records show the joke was on him and our feisty 75-year-old ended up exposing a nationwide scam.

This sort of ruse begins when scammers acquire telephone numbers of seniors—something easily facilitated by use of the internet. The scammer then stalks their prey by phoning the targets and endeavoring to con them into revealing their bank information or turn over cash for some nonexistent cause. In this particular scam, the perpetrator used the twist of sending the victim a safe, supposedly filled with money, which could be accessed with a key provided at a later date.

In this case, the Tennessee woman received a call from a man bearing the glad tidings that she was the winner of a sweepstakes. Several phone calls followed, where the scammer pretended to have a personal interest in the woman to gain her trust, then co-conspirator Betty Lou Repka Myers, of Canyon Lake, Texas, shipped the woman a locked safe. At that point, the scammer called his victim and asked her to write two checks that totaled $21,000 and send them to Ms. Myers. He said this would cover the taxes due on her winnings—she complied.

On March 5, Ms. Myers deposited one of the checks into her bank account. One day later, she appeared in Tennessee knocking on the victim’s door and claiming an additional $22,500 was needed. According to a warrant written by Knox County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Monroe, Meyers gave instructions to the victim to go to two different SunTrust branch locations to remove money from her account which she was to then give to Myers. With Myers driving, the woman did as she was asked and withdrew the money.

At this point, Myers made a request that aroused the woman’s suspicion. She asked the woman for her cell phone, saying her boss wanted it. Instead of acquiescing to Myers’ demand, the woman called authorities. Knox County deputies retrieved the woman’s money in Myers’s purse, along with one of the checks she had sent to the Texas address. Myers was arrested.


They grew up in a different era, when people often didn’t lock their doors, and a verbal promise was considered a binding commitment. While their trusting ways are a lovely part of their character, these traits can put them at risk.

Moreover, seniors hail from a time when strangers helped each other, so they are likely to be sympathetic to a hard-luck story and want to help—even at great personal expense. Compounding the problem is the fact that many elderly people are isolated, have amassed considerable savings, and aren’t tech savvy. All of this makes them irresistible to merciless scammers.

How to Protect Yourself

Scammers hook their victims by offering fake prizes, services, or products. The bait they use comes in an array of forms such as sham investment opportunities, charitable causes, and foreign lotteries, in addition to extended car warranties and “free” vacation packages. Another scam involves “free” trial offers that fail to mention that subscribers will be billed every month until they cancel.

The main thing to remember is to never give out any personal information over the phone, including your social security number, credit card number, or baNk account number. If a caller asks you to “confirm” any information, refuse to do so because it is a trick.

One of the most recent scams involves the caller asking the question, “Can you hear me?” Most unsuspecting people will say “yes” and the scammer will record this reply and use it to authorize fraudulent charges. If you hear this question when you answer a call, hang up immediately. And remember—the IRS never calls people.

Be alert for other phrases that are red flags. If you hear one of the following, say “No thank you” and hang up:
  • You’ve won a valuable prize or large sum of money.
  • You need to pay something to get a free gift.
  • We’ll shut off your utilities.
  • The investment is low-risk but has a high return.
  • You need to decide quickly.
  • We just want to verify your information.
  • You’ve been specially selected for our offer.
  • The IRS is going to arrest you.
  • Your grandchild is in a foreign prison or hospital.
Get caller ID, and if you don’t recognize the number of an incoming call, don’t answer it. Scammers are now able to use technology to change the area code and first three digits of the telephone number that appears on caller ID. This will make it look like a local call and increases the probability that the person called will answer. Some of the scammers have even discovered how to use the full name and number of a legitimate business, household, or financial institution with whom the target does business. When these calls are answered, the victim’s number is put on a list called a “sucker list,” which results in more scam calls.

Rather than using your telephone providers answering service, invest $30 or $40 in an answering machine where you can hear the message being left in real time. Pick up only when you hear it is someone you wish to speak to. You will find that most scammers and telephone solicitation callers hang up when an answering machine is on the other end of their call.

Scammers are often convincing and manipulative. They can sound empathetic and are willing to say anything to get what they want—YOUR MONEY. Alternatively, they can play upon your sympathies in an attempt to get your “help.” Therefore, as a general rule, don’t talk to a stranger on the phone. Though not as efficient as one would hope, you can lower the number of unwanted calls by putting your phone number on The National Do Not Call Registry, at 1-888-382-1222. It can help to get an unlisted phone number, but they are not always as unlisted as we are told.

Full Article & Source:
From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project: You Gotta Have Spunk

See Also:
From The Silver Standard’s Elder Abuse Reform Now Project: "YOU HAVE NO MORE AUTHORITY THAN A HORSE'S ASS" - said the guardian with a chuckle

Evelyn Schwartz, Gone Too Soon

The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (EARN) Presents: The Unforgivable Truth: How We Have Turned America's Greatest Generation into America's Abused Generation

JOIN The EARN Project

Former Rockland attorney pleads not guilty to stealing from elderly clients

Anita Volpe is charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars from three clients.  

Full Article & Source:
Former Rockland attorney pleads not guilty to stealing from elderly clients

April 25th is National Parental Alienation Day

Adult guardianship abuse can be very similar to abuse involving children. On behalf of advocates working to stop parental alienation, we are posting this information and a plea from an advocate.

In 2011, Bermuda, Seventeen U.S. states (New York, Maine, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, West Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma), many Canadian towns and cities officially recognized April 25 as Parental Alienation Awareness Day.[4][5][6][7] The day has since been arranged in 25 countries.

"Parents, Hug your children closely, because somewhere out there a mother is fighting for her children or a father fighting for his children. 

PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME - It's real, It's child abuse. Please share. Our justice system is ignorant to this and have no concept of the harm it does."

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: Australia: Misuse of Guardianship by Con-Artists, Facilities, Hospitals, Service Providers

7:00 CST

It's a global plan to disinherit future generations: Guardianship and the theft of estates.

JUNE joins us from Australia:

Although my late father’s story happened over 2 decades ago, most stories have similarities that show nothing has changed since that time, in fact it has become much worse.

My Father’s NSW Guardianship story is complex & like all good ‘crime stories’, it has twists & turns that would take far too long to tell however, I’ll give you brief details of it.

The issue involves Misuse of Guardianship by Con-Artists, Facilities, Hospitals, Service Providers, Retirement Villages etc.

I have examples described by submitters to a 2015 Gov Inquiry.

We have many inquiries & reviews of our ‘Laws’ concerning Elderly & Disabled People; however, it’s ‘normal’ for the Gov to ignore the resulting recommendations.

LISTEN to the show LIVE or listen to the show archive later

Senate hearing examines 'devastating' nursing home abuse

Click to Watch Video

(CNN)The phone rang shortly before Christmas in 2014.

When Maya Fischer answered, a nurse from the nursing home where her mother had been staying for more than a decade was on the other end of the line. In her Minnesota home, Fischer braced herself for difficult news. 
"When you receive a phone call from the nursing home, your first thought is that ... my mother has passed," Fischer said.
The news was indeed troubling, but it was not what she expected.
"I was not at all prepared for the call that I received. ... The call that my mother had been a victim of a sexual assault in her nursing home," Fischer said. "For me and my family, it's been devastating."
Fischer testified in front of lawmakers in the nation's capital on Wednesday. The US Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to discuss reports of abuse and neglect in some nursing homes nationwide and what can be done to protect those of all ages at risk of abuse.
"My final memories of my mother's life now include watching her bang uncontrollably on her private parts for days after the rape, with tears rolling down her eyes, apparently trying to tell me what had been done to her but unable to speak due to her disease," Fischer said in the hearing, referring to her mother's Alzheimer's disease.
Along with Fischer, Iowa resident Patricia Blank testified about how she is the daughter of a nursing home neglect victim, Virginia Olthoff. In a news release on Tuesday, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's office noted how the nursing home where Blank's mother resided and died "received the highest possible ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for quality of resident care, though it had been fined for physical and verbal abuse a year before Olthoff's death."
"How a place with the highest possible rating could yield such a tragic incident is just outrageous," he said in the news release. "Things need to change, both for the standards at care facilities and for how CMS rates them. When American families consider where their loved ones can get the care they need, they should be able to rely on CMS information. That's clearly not the case right now."
After the hearing, Grassley said in a statement that Fischer's and Blank's stories were "troubling."
"Today I heard troubling accounts, which lead me to believe continued oversight is needed in this area. There are two government watchdog agencies currently working on reports for Congress. One is the Inspector General of Health and Human Services and the other is the Government Accountability Office. I plan to convene another hearing on this topic after these agencies release their reports. I also intend to submit follow-up questions to each of the witnesses as we work toward reforms," he said.
On Tuesday, CMS announced that updates will be made next month to the online tools for consumers to research nursing home quality: the Nursing Home Compare database, which allows users to compare nursing homes, and the Five-Star Quality Rating System, which rates nursing homes based on inspections, staffing and quality measures. 
CMS also issued new guidance Tuesday that "clarifies what information is needed to identify immediate jeopardy cases across all healthcare provider types, which we believe will result in quickly identifying and ultimately preventing these situations," such as abuse or neglect cases.
"Every nursing home serving Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries is required to keep its residents safe and provide high quality care. We have focused on strengthening requirements for nursing homes, working with states to enforce statutory and regulatory requirements, increasing transparency of nursing home performance, and promoting improved health outcomes for nursing home residents," Dr. Kate Goodrich, director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a statement Tuesday.
At Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers pressed Goodrich on what has been done and what more could be done to ensure quality at facilities.
There were several factors mentioned about why a nursing home might fall behind certain quality standards, including being unable to retain qualified staff and conduct comprehensive background checks on staff. 
"We do have expectations for nursing facilities for having the appropriate staffing for their patient population, and we survey for that on a regular basis," Goodrich said in the hearing.
At the hearing, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said in response, "I think there's a gulf between the expectations and the reality in several of these instances and we look forward to working with you to bridge the gulf."

'The most vulnerable people in our society'

Wednesday's hearing came just weeks after a sexual assault case at an Arizona health care facility involving a 29-year-old woman who has been in a vegetative state for years and gave birth in December. She has been a patient at the facility since 1992, according to court records. In January, a 36-year-old nurse was arrested on suspicion of impregnating the woman.
Among nursing homes, an exclusive CNN investigation in 2017 found that the federal government has cited more than 1,000 for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of sex abuse, including rape and assault, at their facilities between 2013 and 2016 -- before revisions were made in November 2016 relating to how CMS surveys and inspects long-term care facilities. Fischer's mother's case was one of several in CNN's 2017 investigation. Her mother has since died.
"My goal by attending the hearing is simply to be my mom's voice and to put a face with her name. I don't want her to go down as being just another horrible statistic," Fischer said. "Stronger legislation needs to be enacted to protect the elderly. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and I don't think that we're doing enough to ensure their safety."
Anyone -- a nurse, family member or resident -- can report nursing home abuse or neglect to CMS through state groups or a state's long-term care ombudsman program, whose information is provided on the Medicare website.
State health investigators examine all types of abuse reported at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In the case of nursing homes, state officials typically conduct these investigations on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates the more than 15,000 facilities that receive government reimbursements that pay for many residents' care. 
Additionally, states conduct standard survey inspections of nursing homes that are unannounced and can come at any time. Both state health agencies and the federal government use the information from routine surveys to rate facilities.
If abuse or neglect is found in a nursing home, penalties are enforced, ranging from monetary penalties to termination from the Medicare and Medicaid program. 
A database of nursing home penalties in the United States can be found on the Medicare website, and there is a national registry of Medicare-funded nursing homes where you can find out how the facility ranks and whether it has any recent citations.
The American Health Care Association represents nursing centers, assisted living communities and centers and homes for individuals with disabilities. 
Dr. David Gifford, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at the association, who testified at the hearing, said in a statement after the hearing that the group "remains committed to reducing any future cases of abuse and neglect." 
"AHCA stands ready to work with Congress, members of the Senate Finance Committee, CMS, and other providers to keep residents safe and continue improving the quality of care provided. There are robust regulatory requirements and penalties already in place to ensure patients are protected and corrective measures are implemented after a case of abuse or neglect occurs. But we can -- and must -- do more," Gifford said in the statement.
"We should expand federal programs that attract health care workers to the nursing home profession. We should strengthen federal regulations around reporting and sharing of information about employees who have engaged in abuse through the creation of a national background check registry. And we should make resident and family satisfaction ratings of nursing homes publicly available."
This isn't the first time lawmakers looked into nursing home safety. In September, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a subcommittee hearing on "examining federal efforts to ensure quality of care and resident safety in nursing homes."
In a response at that time, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said in a statement that long-term care providers have made improvements in quality of care, such as by reducing rehospitalization rates and increasing staffing. 
"Instead of praise for this progress, we have been subjected to additional scrutiny and criticism," Parkinson said.
"The reality is that nursing homes are a convenient political punching bag. Over the years, Congress has turned to us to pay for everything from student loan debt relief to Medicare physician payments," he said. "At a time when Congress faces public criticism for its failure to work together and accomplish shared goals, this hearing seems like a misguided effort to find more ways to regulate an already overburdened sector. Long term care is one of the most regulated industries in the country, yet we've shown some of the most dramatic improvement on both self-reported and government quality measures."

'I find it hard to believe that the time he was caught was the first time'

George Kpingbah, the 76-year-old nursing assistant accused of assaulting Fischer's mother, Sonja Fischer, had a history of sexual assault allegations.
Personnel records obtained by prosecutors during the investigation into Sonja Fischer's case and reviewed by CNN showed that Kpingbah was suspended three times as officials at Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis investigated accusations of sexual abuse at the facility, including at least two in which he was the main suspect.
The earliest complaint was in 2008, when police investigated allegations that he had engaged in sexual intercourse with a 65-year-old with multiple sclerosis. In another case, an 83-year-old blind and deaf woman who lived on the same wing as Maya Fischer's mother said she was raped multiple times -- always at midnight. 
Police investigated her report just seven months before Fischer's mother was assaulted. Though the woman could not identify her assailant, Kpingbah was suspended, along with several other male staffers who were on duty during the nights of the alleged assaults.
None of these allegations was found to be substantiated by the facility or the state. For years, Walker Methodist kept Kpingbah on the overnight shift -- until one early morning in December 2014, when someone caught him in the act.
It was 4:30 a.m. December 18, 2014, when a fellow caregiver saw Kpingbah in 83-year-old Sonja Fischer's room at Walker Methodist. The witness noticed the aide thrusting back and forth, which is when she said she knew that a sexual assault was occurring. 
Kpingbah ultimately pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a mentally impaired or helpless victim and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
In a court statement in 2015, Maya Fischer said that her mother, who had Alzheimer's disease, was "unable to speak" and "unable to fight back" against her assailant.
Fischer detailed her mother's story, recounting how she had fled Indonesia with her family to escape the rape and killing of young girls by Japanese soldiers, only to fall victim decades later to a man whose job was to care for her.
Sonja Fischer in earlier days.
"I find it hard to believe that the time he was caught was the first time he assaulted her, and that will always haunt me," Fischer said Monday.
Abuse cases typically get reported to state departments of health, and Fischer hopes nursing homes and state agencies will be more transparent when there are future cases of abuse.
"The Department of Health needs to take these accusations and investigations more seriously," she said. "It's my understanding that Mr. Kpingbah was a suspect in prior investigations before he was caught raping my mother, and my mother lived there for 12 years."
Regarding Sonja Fischer's case, the Minnesota Department of Health found that the facility acted immediately to ensure the resident's safety and promptly removed Kpingbah. The state also noted that the facility had provided Kpingbah with required abuse training. As a result, the facility was not cited for any wrongdoing; only Kpingbah was held accountable for the assault.
Maya Fischer had no way of knowing about the previous allegations against Kpingbah uncovered by CNN. But she sued Kpingbah, who agreed to an unusual arrangement in which, as of 2017, he is on the hook for a $15 million judgment only if he abuses again.
Walker Methodist refused to comment on the previous allegations against Kpingbah, who worked at the facility for nearly eight years, but said in a statement that it fully cooperated with authorities and that "the care and well-being of all of our residents and patients is our primary focus."
Mark Kosieradzki, a Minnesota attorney who has represented a number of victims and their families, including the Fischer family, said he has seen the number of nursing home abuse cases rise within his own practice. 
"The number of calls we get are increasing. The severity of some of the problems we're seeing is increasing. Whether more people are calling because there's a greater awareness in the community or whether there's more problems, I guess it would be nice if we had information from [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] about that, but the fact of the matter is, we'll get six to eight calls a day in our law firm," Kosieradzki said. 
"Certainly, there's good nursing homes out there, but there's also nursing homes that are focused on their profits as opposed to the care they're giving, and that's what we try to focus on to change," he said. 
Although laws require abuses to be reported and investigated, these laws may not always be followed by some nursing homes. Then there are concerns that if an incident gets reported, some experts say, investigations should be conducted more aggressively.
Many nursing home employees promptly report abusers to authorities, as required by federal law, and assist in the investigations, but in numerous examples of abuse uncovered by CNN in 2017, some facilities made it possible for violent rapes and sexual assaults to go unchecked.
In those facilities, allegations were routinely questioned or dismissed because victims had cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer's. Workers often lacked the specific training needed to spot sexual abuse, keeping reports of abuse from ever reaching authorities, and the reputation and safety of the facility may have taken priority if there was fear that bringing investigators into a cash-strapped facility could expose other issues or threaten a nursing home with closure or costly lawsuits.
As for Wednesday's hearing, Kosieradzki said he hopes for more awareness about various types of abuse: sexual abuse, overmedicating with opioids and neglect.
"I'm looking for the CMS and the [state] Department of Health to start looking at these consumers and these patients to help them."
Despite the litany of abuses detailed in government reports, there is no comprehensive national data on how many cases of sexual abuse have been reported in facilities housing the elderly.
In CNN's 2017 analysis, the health departments and other agencies that oversee long-term care facilities in all 50 states were surveyed. Of the states that could provide at least some data, the responses varied widely.

Some improvements in care

There can be difficulty in identifying abuse and neglect in nursing homes, and so gathering that data has been a challenge, said David Stevenson, assistant professor of health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, who has conducted research on negligence claims against nursing homes.
"We try to identify broader trends about quality of care, but specifically identifying abuse and neglect can be challenging," Stevenson said, adding that progress has been made recently. 
"Broadly speaking, I think there have been a lot of quality improvements in nursing home care over the last few decades," he said. "But I also think that data have shown that also poor-quality care has been kind of frustratingly persistent and has been around for a long time."
Stevenson added that he hopes Wednesday's hearing called attention to the issue.
"Hearing from the relatives of people who have suffered abuse and neglect in nursing homes will be incredibly important and powerful, and also hearing from industry leaders and researchers and those who are engaged in nursing home oversight and accountability I think will be really important," said Stevenson, who was not involved in the hearing.
"The big challenge of abuse and neglect in nursing homes is, I think, it has been persistent over a number of years," he said. "I don't think it's incredibly prevalent, but really having any abuse and neglect in nursing homes is not acceptable."
CNN's Denise Powell contributed to this report.

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Senate hearing examines 'devastating' nursing home abuse