Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Rise of the Predator Class: Systemic Elder/Guardianship Abuse by Professional Predators

By: Don Bowman



Are guardians, professionals in the legal system, and influential people in the political system stealing from wards (elderly and disabled individuals who have been placed in guardianships) and laundering the money through shell companies? Specifically, can shell companies be found by examining the April Lynn Parks court case and/or IKOR? In addition, is there a connection between the two? This document presents raw data about court-appointed guardian Parks and IKOR, an elder services franchise. Criminal wrongdoing in individual guardianship abuse cases is known. The criminal network, that runs from county courts and county Area Agencies on Aging (Adult Protective Services) to high-level government offices, is not known. Shell companies may be one piece of the puzzle.

Facts About Shell Companies:

A shell corporation is a company with financial assets but no significant business activity.

Shell corporations don’t create products, hire employees, or generate revenue. Rather, they store money and engage in financial transactions. Shell corporations can be used for illegal purposes like money laundering or legitimate purposes like storing funds in the early stages of a startup. According to the research group Global Financial Integrity, the U.S. is the second easiest country to create a shell corporation in. Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming are the most popular states for creating a shell company due to lax incorporation requirements and strict privacy laws. Storing personal assets in a shell company makes sense for people with a large amount of wealth from investments.

The Panama Papers implicated a number of government officials and public figures in crimes ranging from tax evasion to money laundering. The investigation, which exposed the rogue offshore finance industry, showed that owners of shell companies can hide their identities from United States authorities This constitutes a “significant loophole” in the country’s ability to tackle money laundering and illicit financing. The Panama Papers may offer clues about how money is laundered after it is illegally obtained through guardianship scams.

Facts about Systemic Elder Abuse/Guardianship Abuse:

Systemic elder abuse/guardianship abuse is one of the three primary prey on the vulnerable schemes that has been perpetrated in family (civil) court by government agencies, judges, attorneys, and others in the legal system for over thirty years. This scam is known to include state legislators and may include members/former members of Congress. The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, or NASGA, is an organization that advocates for victims of guardianship abuse.

Unlawful and abusive guardianships ensnare the most vulnerable people in a larger and larger trawling net, which now includes those merely physically “incapacitated.” A corrupt court system has created a feeding trough for unethical lawyers and other “fiduciaries.” A growing number of these professionals have become nothing more than predators.

Wards in these circumstances are victimized under the deception of protection. Wards are defenseless and subject to neglect, abuse and/or exploitation by the very people chosen to protect them; they become invisible and voiceless.

Strangers (guardians) are often given total and absolute control of life, liberty, and property of their wards, who are denied:

•the right to contract, including the right to choose a lawyer;

•the right to control their assets and make financial decisions;

•the right to remain in their own home and protect it from sale;

•the right to protect and enjoy their personal property;

•the right to choose where to live;

•the right to accept or refuse medical treatment, including psychotropic drugs;

•the right to decide their social environments and contacts;

•the right to assure prompt payment of taxes and liabilities;

•the right to vote;

•the right to drive;

•the right to marry; and

•the right to complain.

Nevada Investigation of Guardianship Abuse:

The FBI refuses to investigate guardianship abuse, a form of public corruption. Previously, no state attorney general would investigate the crime either. Then Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt brought charges against professional guardian April Lynn Parks (and several others), and on November 5, 2018, Ms. Parks pleaded guilty to elder exploitation, theft, and perjury charges. Higher-ups weren’t prosecuted, but at least the problem of guardianship abuse was recognized.

Parks fled Nevada to avoid prosecution, but was later arrested in Pennsylvania. According to her online criminal report, she had an address in Malvern, which is about twenty miles from IKOR’s Kennett Square headquarters. IKOR is an elder services franchise that may be defrauding the elderly by illegally placing them in guardianships.

It is noteworthy that a corrupt Nevada guardian ended up close to a franchise that places elders, who have family and friends to offer assistance, in guardianships, contrary to Pennsylvania law.

Pennsylvania Guardianship Law 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5518. In determining whether a person is incapacitated, the court must also make specific findings concerning the respondent’s need for guardianship services in light of existing alternatives, such as the availability of family, friends, and other supports to assist the individual in making decisions, and in light of the existence of any advance directives such as durable powers of attorney or trusts. 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5512.1(a)(3); see also In re Peery, 727 A.2d 539, 541 (Pa. 1999) (a person cannot be incapacitated and in need of guardianship services if his impairment is counterbalanced by friends or family or other supports).

April Lynn Parks 1

Full Article & Source:
The Rise of the Predator Class: Systemic Elder/Guardianship Abuse by Professional Predators

AG Nessel Charges Manistee Adult Foster Care Homeowner with Elder Abuse

LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday her Health Care Fraud Division is charging a woman with four misdemeanor counts of Fourth Degree Vulnerable Adult Abuse and four felony counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance.

Danielle Baysinger, 41, of Manistee was arraigned at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 2, before Manistee’s 85th District Court Judge Thomas Brunner.

She is the owner of Manistee adult foster care home where she cared for nine adult residents.

It is alleged, Baysinger allegedly provided Ativan – an anxiety medication – to an elderly resident without a prescription or the resident’s knowledge.

The medication was prescribed to a now-deceased former resident of the home and was not intended for any other resident under Baysinger’s care. The investigation further revealed that the medication was never documented in the resident’s pill book and was not kept in a locked medication cabinet as required by law.

“Caring for vulnerable adults can be challenging work, but there is never an adequate excuse to compromise the health and safety of those entrusted to their care,” said Nessel. “My office continues to work tirelessly to protect the health and safety of all elderly Michiganders.”

For more information on the Elder Abuse Task Force, please visit here.

Full Article & Source:
AG Nessel Charges Manistee Adult Foster Care Homeowner with Elder Abuse

ILLINOIS STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 112: Stuart Appointed to Elder Abuse Task Force, Highlights Elder Abuse Awareness Month

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ILLINOIS STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 112: Stuart Appointed to Elder Abuse Task Force, Highlights Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Friday, July 5, 2019

Four charged in relation to woman's 2017 elopement from Amherst assisted living facility

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — Four employees at Brompton Heights assisted living facility have been arrested and charged with abandoning the care of a vulnerable elderly resident. They face up to four years in prison.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the arrests of personal care assistants George Stokes, LaQuanda Johnson and Caprice Newbern, as well as medical technician Stephanie Shinault on Monday. The arrests stem from a December 2017 incident where an 87-year-old woman wandered out of the Amherst facility and was found three hours later outdoors in freezing temperatures. The woman, who deals with dementia, was found wearing only a nightgown. The woman's granddaughter told 7 Eyewitness News that the woman was suffering from frostbite, and had a body temperature of 83 degrees.

Brompton Heights responded to this in a statement saying “Following a thorough investigation of the December 2017 incident, it was determined the former employees in question had violated multiple organizational policies – and the former employees were promptly terminated as a result.”

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team had uncovered a history of violations at Brompton Heights.

The attorney general's office alleges George Stokes, a personal care assistant, slept four-and-a-half hours during the overnight shift that started December 8 and ended December 9. By doing so, the residential hall he was assigned to monitor was left unattended, and the woman wandered out through an emergency exit.

Medical technician Stephanie Shinault, and two other personal care assistants, LaQuanda Johnson and Caprice Newbern, have also been arraigned. The attorney general's office alleges the trio was at a nurse’s station that monitored the wing of the assisted living facility on which the resident lived. The three allegedly muted or ignored the alarms that were set off when the resident wandered through the exit doors. They then allegedly took their breaks at the same time and departed from the facility together, while knowing that Stokes was asleep and not doing his duties. When they left the facility, the entire wing was left unmonitored by employees and staff, the attorney general's office claims.

In a statement, the NYS Department of Health said “The safety and wellbeing of assisted living residents is of paramount importance to the Department of Health. In Dec. 2017, we immediately began an investigation of this incident, which resulted in Brompton Heights being cited for multiple deficiencies. The Department will continue to hold providers accountable for their actions.”

The four defendants were each charged in the Town of Amherst Court with felony Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Elderly Person in the Second Degree and misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent Person in the Second Degree. The defendants face up to one to four years in prison if convicted of the felony charge.

Full Article & Source:
Four charged in relation to woman's 2017 elopement from Amherst assisted living facility

Seniors should not have to leave their constitutional rights at the nursing home door

Editorial: Signing an arbitration agreement when entering a nursing home means forfeiting your right to judicial recourse if you're harmed

Iowans in nursing homes are frequently not able to advocate for themselves. They may be confused. They may be too sick to report abuse. Family may not be nearby to help out.

The rest of us have an obligation to do everything we can to protect them. That includes not only working to prevent abuse, but providing recourse if it happens and sending a message to nursing homes they will be held accountable.  

Sen. Chuck Grassley prides himself on being an advocate of seniors. He held a hearing this year on abuse and neglect in nursing homes. He was the lead author of an abuse prevention bill signed into law by former President Obama. 

Now he should devote his attention to protecting the constitutional rights of people in care facilities. He can do this by advocating for legislation banning homes from requiring residents to resolve disputes through arbitration. 

Bear with us while we explain what’s at stake.

When you enter a nursing home or assisted living center, there is a stack of paperwork to sign. It likely includes an arbitration agreement requiring you to take any grievance with the home to an arbitrator instead of the courts.

If you don’t sign it, you may not be admitted. If you do sign it, you may forfeit legal recourse if you’re abused, neglected, not fed, dropped, stolen from, not given medication or encounter other problems.

Iowans entering nursing homes are fragile and will typically sign anything put in front of them, said West Des Moines attorney Tom Slater, whose firm represents people injured in long-term care facilities.  

“Whether or not the nursing home admission personnel explains the documents, the explanation is colored in favor of the nursing home, and the resident is encouraged to sign the document believing that the home has their best interest at heart,” he said.

Giving up your constitutional right to judicial recourse is not in anyone’s best interest. 

Former President Obama knew this. He knew homes entrusted with the care of seniors, frequently for-profit businesses, should not be sheltered from public accountability before a judge and jury. His administration finalized a federal rule prohibiting homes paid by Medicare or Medicaid from requiring that incoming tenants sign these agreements. 

The nursing home industry sued to stop the rule from going into effect. Donald Trump was elected. The Trump administration is crafting a new rule opposed by senior advocates, including Dean Lerner, the former director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which oversees nursing homes. 

Numerous U.S. senators supported Obama's rule. A 2017 letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) signed by 31 of them urged it not to reverse the prohibition on arbitration agreements that “stack the deck against residents and their families who face a wide range of potential harms, including physical abuse and neglect, sexual assault, and even wrongful death at the hands of those working in and managing long-term care facilities.”

But instead of letting the years-long labyrinth process of rule making play out, Congress can address this issue now. The Des Moines Register editorial board asked Grassley his thoughts on legislative action.   

He said it’s worth Congress having more information on how agreements are used, and there are “pros and cons” to arbitration. He also raised questions about the impact of the cost of lawsuits on nursing home care. “And does that increased cost just mean more money in lawyers’ pockets, instead of victims?”

Of course, nursing homes are less likely to be sued if residents are not hurt. The fear of public lawsuits may encourage hiring adequate and trained staff.

Lawyers are not the problem. They help deliver justice for victims when no one else — including the government — stands up for vulnerable Americans.

Grassley can work across the aisle with other lawmakers already crafting legislation related to arbitration in care facilities. This is a bipartisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans find themselves at the mercy of a nursing home.

This reminds us of the ruling in the landmark 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines schools case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” 

No Iowans should have to leave their constitutional rights at a nursing home's door. 

Arbitration agreements strip Iowans of right to sue for wrongdoing

West Des Moines attorney Tom Slater knows firsthand how arbitration agreements can rob people of their rights: His firm represents clients injured by nursing home neglect. 

He told a Register editorial writer about a woman who was left alone, fell and sustained serious injuries that required several months in the hospital. 

“When she sought an attorney to file a case in court, she could not do so because buried in the volumes of admission papers that she was required to sign was a 'pre-dispute arbitration' clause,” he said. The arbitrator awarded “a pittance of the medical expenses she incurred" and little for her anguish. The award could not be appealed. 

“At some point in a person’s life, whether they are in the lowest valley or on the highest mountain, they will likely enter a nursing home and will suffer an injury. This would include our legislators and their loved ones," Slater said. "They should ponder this when considering legislation to prohibit pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home admission agreements.”

This editorial is the opinion of the Des Moines Register’s editorial board: Carol Hunter, executive editor; Kathie Obradovich, opinion editor; Andie Dominick, editorial writer, and Richard Doak and Rox Laird, editorial board members.

Full Article & Source:
Seniors should not have to leave their constitutional rights at the nursing home door

'Man's best friend' is a robot dog to some with dementia

By Omar Younis

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (Reuters) - A robot dog under development in California is vying to be a best friend to people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, offering comfort by responding to human touch with life-like motions.

Entrepreneur Tom Stevens recently presented a test version of the robotic yellow Labrador puppy to residents of a nursing home in Thousand Oaks, California.

Stevens said his company Tombot, in the northern Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, partnered with Jim Henson's Creature Shop, a firm founded by the late Muppets creator, to give the robot realistic movements.

"It didn't just have to look real and feel realistic but it had to behave realistically as well," Stevens said.

Stevens believes the Tombot dog, which moves its head from side to side, grunts and wags its tail, is lifelike enough to help people with dementia. It also is easier to look after than a real dog, he said.

The robot has 16 motors to control its movements and is loaded with sensors to respond to voice commands and detect how people are touching it, such as the difference between a slow caress and a vigorous pet.

Stevens said he came up with the concept for the robot after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011.

"Of the many bad days that we had early on, by far the worst was when I had to take away her dog," Stevens said. His mother had "a beautiful two-year-old Goldendoodle" but Stevens said the dog ended up being aggressive toward her caregiver.Japan's Sony Corp pioneered the use of robot dogs in 1999 with the AIBO, billed as a pet that behaves like a real dog using artificial intelligence.

Unlike the AIBO, which looks robotic, the Tombots closely resemble real dogs.

Stevens had a background in investing in robotics and he wondered whether the technology could help in providing companionship to people like his mother.

His test version has the name "Jenny." The puppy cannot walk and is carried on a small bed.

At the Sage Mountain nursing home in Thousand Oaks, where many residents suffer from dementia and other memory-related illnesses, petting the robot put smiles on people's faces during a visit last month.

Jenny has stopped by the facility a number of times.

"The dog is very interactive, the tail wagging, responding to them calling her name," said Caroline Gibson, a spokeswoman for the nursing home. "It's really amazing to watch them have a lot of ease and reduce anxiety."

Tombot plans to have its first commercial deliveries of its robot dogs in 2020.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

Full Article & Source:
'Man's best friend' is a robot dog to some with dementia

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July

Have a fun & safe holiday!

Illinois Estate Guardians Receive a New Job: Guardianship Estate Planning No Longer Optional?

When guardianship estate planning entered Illinois law in 1996, it was viewed as an optional benefit available to guardians to give disabled adults the tax savings available to abled people. That may be changing.

In In re Estate of Rivera, the Appellate Court of Illinois addressed the process as part of a duty possessed by guardians of the estate of disabled adults. Estate guardians may now be required to petition the court to enact new estate plans – or modify existing plans – on behalf of their wards to include only those individuals whom the estate guardian has reason to believe the ward would choose to include if the ward was not under disability. The “best interests” standard that governs 755 ILCS 5/11a-18(a-5), has been interpreted in Rivera as not only allowing deviation from intestacy in such plans, but perhaps even requiring it where the facts are compelling. Compelling facts likely include cutting out intestate heirs with no relationship or poor relationships with the disabled person. Compliance with this duty appears to impose a substantial burden on estate guardians.



The Illinois guardianship estate planning statute, 755 ILCS 5/11a-18(a-5), allows the guardian of the estate of a disabled adult to establish estate plans for their ward on petition to the court. Historically, most estate guardians followed the rules of intestacy in implementing these estate plans. However, in 2015, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District held Section 5/11-18 statutorily empowers an estate guardian to petition a court to enact an estate plan that deviates from the rules of intestacy. Estate of Howell v. Howell, 2015 IL App (1st) 133247, ¶ 41, 36 N.E.3d 293.

The court in Howell held that an estate guardian may petition the court to enact an estate plan that includes only those persons whom the guardian believes the ward would choose to include as beneficiaries because Section 11a-18(a) provides that the estate guardian shall apply the income and principal of the estate “for any other purpose which the court deems to be for the best interests of the ward, and the court may approve the making on behalf of the ward of such agreements as the court determines to be for the ward’s best interests.” The court in Howell concluded that it is in a ward’s best interests for the estate guardian to petition the court to enact an estate plan that disinherits a ward’s family members if the estate guardian has reason to believe that the ward would not wish for those family members to benefit from his or her death. The court in Howell also found that, in the event an estate guardian files such a petition, the court should conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine the ward’s “best interests” before granting the petition and enacting the plan.

The Rivera Decision

While Howell provided an estate guardian with the ability to take such action, the recent decision in Rivera has turned that ability into an obligation to consider taking such actions, particularly where heirship exclusions seem justified. In re Estate of Rivera, 2018 IL App (1st) 171214.

The ward in Rivera, Inez Rivera, had never had testamentary capacity. In 2015, Inez’s estate guardian petitioned for and received authority to enact an estate plan for Inez. Since Howell was pending at this time, the guardian’s proposed estate plan followed the rules of intestacy.

After Howell was decided, the estate guardian petitioned the court to amend Inez’s estate plan to benefit only Inez’s mother, who was the guardian of her person; Inez’s full sister; and Inez’s three half-sisters who lived with Inez. The estate guardian, after consulting with Inez’s mother, had reason to believe that Inez would only choose to benefit those individuals. Other facts about Inez’s relationship to her father suggested that she would have cut him out if she could.

After conducting an evidentiary hearing on Inez’s best interests, the court granted the estate guardian’s petition over the objection of Inez’s father and eight of Inez’s other half-siblings. In particular, the court found that Inez’s mother cared for Inez exclusively from the time of Inez’s birth. Conversely, Inez’s father had never lived with Inez, had never cared for Inez, had been violent to Inez’s mother, and had fathered eight other children with other women besides Inez’s mother. Inez’s half-siblings who were children of her father did not have any relationship with Inez either.
On appeal, the Court held that:

“A ward’s best interests are not fixed and it would be unsound to conclude that a ward’s estate plan should be unmodifiable, particularly in this case where the ward is a young adult and her best interests may change over her lifetime. We find that an estate guardian is empowered and obligated by the Probate Act to amend a disabled ward’s estate plan when material circumstances change and an existing plan, whether it be an original or amended version, is no longer in the ward’s bests interests due to a change in circumstances.”

In re Estate of Rivera, 2018 IL App (1st) 171214, ¶ 55 (emphasis added).

The Result

As a result of this holding in Rivera, guardians of the estate in Illinois should consider, in each case, whether compelling facts about family relationships dictate a need to compose a plan and offer it to the court for a hearing. If an estate guardian has reason to believe the ward’s plan should be implemented or modified to exclude any family members, the estate guardian should petition the court to establish or amend the plan.

Full Article & Source:
Illinois Estate Guardians Receive a New Job: Guardianship Estate Planning No Longer Optional?

Daughter fights to move mother from hospice

Attorneys are working to free an Alabama woman from hospice care and restore legal rights.

Life Legal Defense Foundation is working with Nancy Scott, daughter of Marian Leonard, who is attempting to take care of her mother in Birmingham.

Foundation spokesperson and attorney Alexandra Snyder tells OneNewsNow the mother had signed over power of attorney to the daughter.

“A court in Alabama had stripped her of those rights and has installed what is called a third-party guardian,” the attorney advises, “essentially a complete stranger.”

But Life Legal claims that was no indication Scott was anything but a good custodian for her mother, who is more than 100 years old, and now the mother has witnessed the legal guardian place Leonard in hospice care.  

“And this is a woman who is not terminally ill. She is elderly,” Snyder insists. 

Since being placed in hospice, Leonard has been heavily sedated and Snyder says Life Legal attorneys are working right now to have her transferred to a nursing home to receive appropriate care.

Full Article & Source:
Daughter fights to move mother from hospice

Sex and dementia: the intimate minefield of consent in a care home

Training care workers can help break the taboo about sexual relationships between residents

‘While sexuality and sexual intimacy may change with age – and dementia – they do not disappear, and positive physical relationships are good for mental health and wellbeing.’ Photograph: ImagesBazaar/Getty Images

Frank and Mary loved each other’s company. They would sit together and hold hands. Both had dementia and were living in a care home. Their closeness made them happy and their families were delighted.

Mary wasn’t bothered when Frank called her by his wife’s name, nor that he began to intervene in her day-to-day life. They were besotted. He started sitting her on his knee, and, after a few drinks, they could be found canoodling in the corner.

This is not a fictional scenario. It is a story told by a care home worker that touches on a taboo about dementia and sex. It is now well established that while sexuality and sexual intimacy may change with age – and dementia – they do not disappear, and positive physical relationships are good for mental health and wellbeing. With the numbers of people with dementia expected to soar from 850,000 (40,000 of them under 65) to more than one million by 2025 , the issue can no longer be allowed to hide in the shadows, campaigners argue.

“There isn’t much empirical evidence – and some care groups are more ready to talk about it than others,” says Colin Capper, head of research development at the Alzheimer’s Society, “but our experience is that this is a commonplace issue for care homes”. As a result, it recently launched “Lift the Lid” – a resource box aimed at encouraging discussion among care workers. The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates residential care and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have both released guidance in the last year.

No guidelines can, however, make this a simple matter, admits Dawne Garrett, the RCN professional lead on older people and dementia care (whose PhD was on sexual intimacy in older people). Consent can be complex at the best of times; never mind the uncertainties of dementia. “Legally, it’s a nightmare,” says Garrett. On the one hand, you have an adult’s human right to choose their relationships and continue to be sexual if they wish (and this includes the right to make “bad” decisions). On the other, there’s the need to ensure sexual activity is consensual and protect vulnerable people from abuse.

The core problem, says Alex Ruck Keene, a barrister specialising in mental capacity, is the clash between these “two competing policy goals – both absolutely laudable and absolutely incompatible”.

The law is, in one sense, very clear: sexual activity (a broad term that can cover everything from intercourse to kissing) requires consent. This involves being able to understand what you are consenting to and communicating this at the relevant moment. Sexual relations are explicitly excluded from the best interests test so nobody – not even with legal power of attorney – can consent for you.

“None of us would want a world in which consent is not essential,” says Ruck Keene. “Imagine what could happen in a dodgy care home.”

But he adds: “This does mean the law can be very harsh.” If you’ve been married for 50 years, for instance, then one of you gets dementia and is deemed not to have capacity, continuing a sexual relationship makes the healthy partner technically a sex offender, he points out. But, if both partners lack capacity, they are legally safe, though an enabling care home worker could still find themselves in breach of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The public nature of life in a care home adds another layer of complexity to this normally private matter, says Esther Wiskerke, who trains care home staff about dementia and sexuality. Sexual attitudes are deeply, culturally and religiously ingrained and a simple (totally unsexual) touching exercise between participants in one of her training sessions in a care home in Kent quickly reveals personal differences. Care workers need to be very conscious of their own beliefs to ensure they don’t affect residents, says Wiskerke. “Whether someone can carry on a relationship should not depend on who is on shift.”

Everyone who is attending her training session, hosted by family-run Hallmark Care Homes, has first-hand experience and stories ricochet about the room. Many include the difficulty of dealing with the residents’ families – usually their children (rarely the best people to consult about a person’s sexuality) who are frequently also paying the bills. Some carers feel they have to take relatives’ views very seriously, others say, “it isn’t about them – it’s about the resident”. One carer says she is (unusually, she adds) about to take a resident out to buy a vibrator and that, no, she will not be mentioning this to the woman’s daughter.

In the case of Frank and Mary, their adult offspring found their parents’ increasingly intimate relationship disturbing. A meeting was called and the decision made to separate them – moving him to another floor.

“It destroyed her,” Millie, then a young care worker at the home, tells the other participants. “She became really challenging. It was so cruel. We had no idea how to handle it. There was no training, no support. We failed them. It was awful, awful for everyone.”

So how can older people with dementia be allowed to have relationships without weakening the law that protects them?

First, says Ruck Keene, we need to bear in mind that, “the [legal] bar for capacity to consent to sexual relations is deliberately set quite low”. Nobody wants to “barge in and interfere” if it isn’t necessary, and mental capacity is specific to each behaviour so just because you can’t handle your own bank account or run your own bath, doesn’t mean you can’t consent to sexual relations.

The CQC guidance is clear: people with dementia “can, and do consent to sexual relations” and care homes will now be judged on allowing and – in the right circumstances - supporting them to do so.

Care home staff do have to be vigilant and notice non-verbal signs of discomfort, says Wiskerke. If in doubt, she adds, it’s time to call in the multi-disciplinary team to assess and collectively decide what is best. “Managers need to have big shoulders and not be too risk-averse,” says Ruck Keene. “It is clearly not in the public interest for the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute in the case of a loving relationship where nobody believes there is any problem, even though it is technically breaking the law.” But the fear that this could happen may distort how institutions treat their residents. CPS guidelines of the type recently produced for deciding when to prosecute in assisted dying, could be helpful, he suggests. But there are no plans for such guidance yet.

Ruck Keene is involved in a project exploring whether the law should be changed to enable a person with deteriorating cognitive ability who is in a long-term relationship, to provide some kind of conditional advance consent to intimacy with the existing partner. He admits it is not proving easy.
While the legal situation may be far from perfect, the only way forward is to break open this taboo and talk honestly, discuss, train, share best practice, and take each case on its merits, mapping the best path through this intimate minefield.

Some names have been changed

Full Article & Source:
Sex and dementia: the intimate minefield of consent in a care home

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Thefts from seniors in assisted living topped $117K, UMN researcher finds

By Christopher Magan 

Minnesotans in assisted living facilities lost more than $117,000 to theft over the past five years, according to an analysis of state data.

Eilon Caspi, a research associate at the University of Minnesota school of nursing, examined confirmed reports of theft between March 2013 and August 2018. He found 116 residents were victims of theft and $1,130 was the average amount lost by the 104 residents who provided that information to investigators.

“This is the hard-earned money of people who are aging and becoming more vulnerable physically and cognitively,” Caspi said. “They become a target.”

Caspi’s analysis was funded by the Steven’s Square Foundation for Elder Voice Family Advocates. Caspi is an active member of the Elder Voice group, which played a leading role in the recent passage of new state laws to protect seniors and vulnerable adults.

While physical abuse and neglect of seniors has received a lot of attention in recent years, Caspi says financial exploitation is also a big problem. “We know it is one of the most common types of maltreatment against elders,” he said.

Jean Peters, a retired nurse and one of the founders of Elder Voice, says the substantiated reports of theft from the Minnesota Department of Health that Caspi analyzed are likely a fraction of the financial exploitation of seniors and vulnerable adults happening in Minnesota. Thefts can be tricky to prove and many seniors and their families fear retaliation so many offenses go unreported.

“I don’t feel that. I believe it,” Peters said. She added that the increased electronic surveillance and other new protections established in a bill passed in May by the state Legislature should provide more evidence of how rampant theft is in assisted living.

“We are going to find out just how much of this is going on once camera use becomes more popular,” Peters said.

But Patti Cullen, president of Care Providers Minnesota, doesn’t believe thefts and financial exploitation are substantially under reported. Older residents may temporarily misplace things or forget where they spent some money, but that doesn’t mean they’re being robbed.

“To the extent there was a real theft,” Cullen said. “These are reported. If it’s an employee, we don’t want them working for us. If it’s outside people, we want to find them. We want the police involved.”

“We don’t want anyone stealing from the people we serve,” she said.


Financial exploitation of residents in assisted living typically involves the theft of jewelry, cash or unauthorized use of credit, debit or gift cards, Caspi’s analysis found. Of the 64 substantiated reports, state officials determined individuals were responsible for all but two of the thefts.

In those two incidents, individuals and the facility shared in the blame.

In nearly half the cases, electronic surveillance was used to catch the perpetrator. That includes video from a resident’s room, a store or ATM where a credit or debit card was used or a pawnshop where jewelry was sold.

Lindsey Krueger, director of the Office of Health Facility Complaints, says that type of hard evidence is important to proving allegations and catching the perpetrators. Investigators also rely on bank records, credit card statements and other evidence to substantiate allegations.

In 2018, the state was able to substantiate 66 percent of theft allegations it received from residents of assisted living facilities. That’s an improvement over the period Caspi examined when about 58 percent of allegations were substantiated, according to an analysis by his Elder Voice colleague Anne Sterner.

Allegations are typically received one of two ways — a complaint directly from a resident or a so-called self-report from a facility after suspicious activity is discovered. When a facility staffer is believed to be involved state investigators step in and turn over their findings to police and the county attorney.

If a family member or visitor is believed to be the culprit, local law enforcement is asked to handle the inquiry, Krueger said.

If a staffer is found to have committed a crime it should be noted in the state database used for mandatory background checks when a facility hires new staff.


Sean Burke, policy director for Elder Justice Minnesota, agrees that financial crimes against seniors and vulnerable adults are likely under reported.

National data shows for every reported instance of abuse, neglect, theft or other offense when a senior is victimized there are roughly 24 other offenses in the community when elders are the victims that are not reported.

Often, seniors and their families don’t report minor offenses because they fear it will have an impact on the care provided, Peters said.

“They don’t want to say anything because they fear they will be retaliated against,” she said.
Burke says it also is important to remember workers at assisted living facilities and nursing homes are often the ones reporting these crimes.

“I think it is important to say for every perpetrator we see there are a lot of very good employees who get really upset when this happens and often are the ones who are reporting this stuff,” he said.

In fact, most crimes against seniors are not committed by care providers, but by family members.

Burke believes age discrimination and “a pervasive devaluing of older people” are often the root cause of these crimes.

“Older people are victimized because they are easy targets and because there’s a perception they are easy targets,” he said. “They are devalued.”


Minnesota lawmakers approved in May sweeping reforms to how seniors and vulnerable adults are protected. Most of those changes impact assisted living facilities, which the state will license for the first time beginning in 2021.

Minnesota is the last state in the nation to license assisted living facilities.

The changes come after lawmakers learned in 2017 that state officials failed to adequately investigate many allegations of abuse, neglect and other crimes against seniors and vulnerable adults. An investigation by the state Legislative Auditor, a government watchdog, found widespread disfunction at the agency responsible for reviewing and investigation allegations.

The new law implements new standards of care at assisted living facilities, bringing them more closely in line with nursing homes that are already state and federally regulated.

Residents now have a “bill of rights” that includes the ability to install cameras in their rooms.
Peters, of Elder Voices, says the new rules regarding cameras were the result of a compromise with industry advocates. Before, Minnesota had no law regarding so-called “granny cams” so residents could install them without notifying leaders of the facility where they lived.

Now, facilities must be notified if a camera is installed, although there are provisions in the law to use hidden cameras if abuse is suspected. While Minnesota was the last state to license assisted living facilities it is one of the first to implement rules regarding cameras.

Advocates and industry leaders are hopeful the new rules and regulations, specifically the increased use of cameras, will help to deter crimes against seniors and improve reporting when offenses do occur.

“We are hoping we got the right balance,” Cullen, of Care Providers Minnesota, said. “We are hopeful the assisted living licensing law sets standards and expectations not just for staff, but for families and tenants we serve in assisted living.”


While new rules and regulations should better protect seniors and vulnerable adults, advocates say residents and their families can do more to improve safety.

Krueger, at the state Department of Health, says families should ask about what facilities do to prevent crimes and abuse when they are shopping for long-term care. She says facility leaders should be able to share specifics about how they protect clients.

Krueger added that its also important to limit the valuables residents bring to facilities and lock them up.

“Try to eliminate crimes of opportunity,” she said.

Peters agrees that is good advice, but she notes that moving a family member into assisted living is often done in a hurry.

“You don’t always plan to go into assisted living,” she said. “Something happens and you are scrambling.”

Caspi, who continues to research crimes against seniors, said assisted living residents deserve to feel safe.

“What I see is a need to connect the dots,” Caspi said. “Do we need to be looking at this in a more coordinated way?”

Full Article & Source: 
Thefts from seniors in assisted living topped $117K, UMN researcher finds

New Survey Finds Older Adults Are Concerned About Opioid Abuse But Admit Misusing Drugs

By Robin Seaton Jefferson

It’s an epidemic from which no one is immune. Yet while opioid addiction continues to make headlines every day in America, much of the news focuses on what’s happening with young adults. But the truth is, no demographic is insusceptible to the risks of dependence and addiction—including older Americans. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare beneficiaries are now the fastest growing population with diagnosed opioid use disorder.

In 2017, nearly 25 Americans over the age of 55 lost their lives each day to an opioid overdose. And a data brief put out the same year by the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported that over 22,000 Medicare beneficiaries appear to be doctor shopping or seeking medically unnecessary prescriptions in order to receive high amounts of opioids from multiple prescribers and pharmacies.


The aging population is particularly vulnerable to the side effects of opioids, including long-term use and abuse. To better understand their attitudes about opioids, Reader’s Digest and Choices Matter—a patient education campaign designed to inform and empower patients to proactively discuss pain management options, including non-opioids—surveyed Americans ages 50+ about their thoughts and behaviors with regard to opioids. The new data—"Seniors & Opioids: A Choices Matter Survey”—was gathered from 1,239 adults ages 50 and over in April 2019.

Opioids include narcotics which are intended to be used to manage pain from surgery, injury or illness, but since they can produce feelings of euphoria, they are vulnerable to misuse and abuse. Their side effects may include respiratory depression, confusion, tolerance and physical dependence. And for seniors, it can be worse. Long-term use of prescription opioids increases the likelihood of falls and fractures which can lead to disability and premature death for older adults. Commonly prescribed opioids are tramadol, hydrocodone-acetaminophen (including the brand-name version, Vicodin), and oxycodone-acetaminophen (including the brand-name version, Percocet).

Researchers found that nearly 60% of older adults surveyed said they are concerned that taking opioids can lead to addiction and dependence, yet nearly half believe Americans ages 20-39 are most at-risk for opioid addiction or dependence, not their peers.

Despite the concerns older adults admitted having about taking opioids, the lack of education around non-opioid options leads many seniors to continue to use them. Some 82% agree that patients and doctors need more access to non-opioid options, but some of their actions may actually increase opioid-related risks. For example, about one-third of those prescribed opioids admitted keeping unused pills in their homes, making them available for diversion or misuse. Survey respondents also confessed to misusing these medications with nearly 40% taking leftover opioids for conditions the drugs were not initially prescribed to treat.

“I can’t stress enough how crucial it is for doctors to have an open dialogue with their patients on pain control and what options are available, including opioid alternatives,” said Dr. Shariff K, Bishai, an orthopedic surgeon at Associated Orthopedists of Detroit in Michigan and an advocate for non-opioid options. “While there may be situations where opioids are still prescribed, having a conversation beforehand ensures that all parties are aware of the risks that come with taking opioids. Today there are safe and effective opioid alternatives available that do not compromise care. In my practice I utilize a non-opioid, long-acting numbing medication that is injected during surgery to provide pain management for the first few days following a procedure when pain is often at its peak. This has allowed me to reduce my opioid prescribing by more than half, and most of my patients report virtually no pain following surgery.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in three Medicare Part D beneficiaries—14.4 million people—received an opioid prescription in 2016, with some receiving what is considered extreme amounts of opioids—an average daily morphine equivalence greater than 240 mg for 12 months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published guidelines on prescribing opioids to patients with chronic pain. Those guidelines recommend that prescribers use caution when ordering opioids at any dosage and avoid dosages that are equivalent to 90 mg or more of morphine a day.

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that opioid misuse doubled among Americans ages 50 and older between 2002 and 2014, and that Medicare beneficiaries are now the fastest growing population with diagnosed opioid use disorders.

“Many perceive the face of opioid addiction as young.  The epidemic, however, intersects just as much with older adults,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who last year, along with U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging examined the challenges of identifying opioid misuse among older adults, the efforts to reduce older Americans’ dependence on opioids, and the need to expand access to treatment for those battling substance and opioid misuse.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging is concerned that as the baby boomer generation ages and the population of older adults in the United States continues to grow, opioid dependence among older Americans could intensify.

“The opioid crisis is ravaging our communities and harming every generation—from newborn babies to aging grandparents,” said Casey at the committee hearing held on the issue last year in Washington, D.C.. “Older Americans are among the unseen victims of this epidemic. We must expand access and affordability to evidence-based treatment and support for all, and we must ensure that those services are affordable.”

According to the Committee, in 2017, the CDC reported that the amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks. “Older Americans are at increased risk of opioid misuse, largely due to the high incidence of opioid prescribing among this population. Many older adults experience pain related to acute illness or injury, and they are more likely to have chronic disorders associated with pain. Health care providers play a critical role in ensuring older adults’ pain is managed while reducing the risk for addiction.”

National Council on Aging (NCOA) director and pharmacist, Kathleen Cameron, said that NCOA research uncovered earlier this year that while 70% of organizations that partner with the council to serve the aging population have had to increase their efforts to address the opioid epidemic, less than 28% routinely screen vulnerable aging clients for opioid abuse or dependency. “NCOA believes resources need to be invested in educating our aging population and those who serve older adults in order to reach those at-risk before they become dependent on opioids,” she said.

While older adults are often prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain, they are particularly vulnerable to long-term opioid use after surgery. According to the CDC's National Health Statistics Reports, Americans ages 65 and up undergo nearly 16 million surgical procedures each year and are commonly prescribed opioids to treat pain following surgery.

According to the survey, older adults do want alternatives to opioids, as most seniors (82%) agreed that patients and doctors need more access to non-opioid pain management options. Additionally, the majority believe that access to non-opioids would reduce addiction (61%) and related deaths (55%). Still, while older Americans acknowledge the benefits of non-opioids, 60% said they would still choose an opioid over a non-opioid option for postsurgical pain.

Bishai said patients are prescribed opioids for a number of reasons, including shoulder surgeries and knee or hip replacements, as well as injuries or chronic pain. “While opioids can be effective if taken properly for a short period of time, the risk of dependence and addiction becomes greater if the medication is taken improperly or for too long,” he said. “If a patient is prescribed opioids, they should discuss with their doctor the expectations for how long they should be taken and when the dose should be reduced.”

“We must work to slash the notion that opioids are the only effective option to treat pain after surgery when we have safe and effective non-opioid options available that can eliminate the risks of taking opioids without compromising patient care,” Bishai said. “This epidemic is a wildfire. And while it’s clear efforts are being made to try and slow it down, it will take time before it’s extinguished. Educating healthcare professionals and patients about non-opioid options is an important step in the right direction.” 

In its examination of caregivers’ behaviors, attitudes and knowledge related to opioids, the Seniors & Opioids survey found that caregivers are more familiar with non-opioid treatments than non-caregivers (37% vs. 22%, respectively). Those who care for older adults also feel more strongly that patients and doctors need better access to non-opioid treatments (60% vs. 49%) and are more likely to proactively ask doctors for non-opioid treatments following surgery (45% vs. 38%).

Bishai said opioid addiction is everyone's problem. “If someone suspects their loved one is misusing or abusing an opioid, regardless of their age, it’s important that they seek help as soon as possible by professionals who work in the addiction and recovery space to come up with a treatment plan,” Bishai said. “It’s important that we educate older adults on the risks of opioid use. We must work educate the public on the safe and effective non-opioid options available that eliminate the risks of taking opioids while still providing optimal pain management.”

Full Article & Source:
New Survey Finds Older Adults Are Concerned About Opioid Abuse But Admit Misusing Drugs

These commonly prescribed medications may increase your risk of dementia, study finds

A study out of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom found there is a link between dementia and certain classes of anticholinergic drugs.

The drugs — particularly antidepressants, bladder antimuscarinics, antipsychotics and antiepileptic drugs — resulted in nearly "50% increased odds of dementia," according to the observational study published Monday in the peer-reviewed JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

Anticholinergic drugs help contract and relax muscles, according to Mayo Clinic. They can also be used to treat ulcers and prevent nausea. This is done by blocking a neurotransmitter in the brain, acetylcholine, from entering the nervous system.

Doctors prescribe these kinds of drugs to treat a variety of conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bladder conditions, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

The risk is only associated with 1,095 daily doses within a 10-year period, which is equivalent to an older adult taking a strong anticholinergic medication daily for at least three years.

"The study is important because it strengthens a growing body of evidence showing that strong anticholinergic drugs have long term associations with dementia risk," said study author Carol Coupland, professor of medical statistics in primary care at the University of Nottingham.

"It also highlights which types of anticholinergic drugs have the strongest associations. This is important information for physicians to know when considering whether to prescribe these drugs," she told CNN. "This is an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn about whether these anticholinergic drugs cause dementia."

The study warns people against stopping any of the medications listed without consulting their doctors.

The researchers found no significant increases in dementia risk associated with antihistamines, skeletal muscle relaxants, gastrointestinal antispasmodics, antiarrhythmics, or antimuscarinic bronchodilators, but associations were found among other classes of anticholinergic drugs.

An estimated 47 million people worldwide were living with dementia in 2015, while in the United States around 5.7 million people have Alzheimer dementia, according to the study.

Anticholergenic drugs include, but are not limited to, Artane, Bentyl, Oxytrol, Neosol, Symax and Vesicare. A full list can be found at Mayo Clinic.

Full Article & Source:
These commonly prescribed medications may increase your risk of dementia, study finds

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Mother questions retaliation after advocating for son with developmental disabilities

Pam Dahl is the mother of Derrick Dahl, a 36-year-old man with developmental disabilities who lives in a group home in Medford. Beth Nakamura/Staff

The mother of a man with developmental disabilities, whose story of advocacy was recently published in The Oregonian/OregonLive, is now questioning if she’s facing retribution for challenging the care her son receives.

A visit with her son Thursday was cut short, Pam Dahl said, when a worker complained she badmouthed the company that runs the southern Oregon group home where he lives.

Then, on Monday, a Jackson County employee pushed to find a public guardian for Derrick Dahl, according to an email reviewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Someone other than Pam Dahl should serve as a guardian, the government employee wrote in the email, because of the mother’s inconsistent contact with her son and the “disruptive nature” of her visits.

The story of Pam Dahl and her son was published a month ago as an example of the difficulties facing parents with developmentally disabled adult children and flaws in Oregon’s system that cares for them. Derrick Dahl’s caregiving team and his doctors came under scrutiny after Pam Dahl fought for specialized medical advice after learning about her son’s health issues.

Pam Dahl said she wasn’t disruptive in her visit last week but instead questioned if her son would be better-served at a different group home operated by the same company. Derrick Dahl, 36, has required medical attention for two recent falls, she said, leaving him with a concussion and a split lip.

Just days later, Pam Dahl discovered a county worker pushing to officially hand decision-making power to someone else, a move that could limit her input.

The government employee didn’t contact Pam Dahl before making the recommendation to identify a guardian, the mother said.

“I don’t think that I should be cut out of his life, and that’s what it makes me feel like,” said Pam Dahl, 55. She chose not to become her son’s guardian when he became an adult but remained involved in his life, visiting from her home several hours away.

Alternative Services-Oregon, the group home operator, denies any retribution toward Pam Dahl. Jackson County officials didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Oregon’s Office of Developmental Disabilities Services did not immediately respond to questions about Pam Dahl’s allegations or whether the state would review the matter.

“Anyone with a concern about services can file a complaint,” an agency spokeswoman said, adding that the mother could still seek guardianship to determine where her son lives.

The state of Oregon operates a public guardianship program only as last resort. Instead of tapping a family member or professional guardian to serve in that role, a guardian from the Oregon Public Guardian and Conservator Program would make decisions for an individual.

“Guardianship is one of the most severe restrictions on a person’s right to self-determination and should never be considered lightly,” according to the agency’s website.

Chris Rosin, appointed the Oregon public guardian and conservator, in February said his office served as guardian for just 55 adults statewide, 11 of whom have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Pam and Derrick Dahl were featured in a front-page investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive in May examining Oregon’s flawed system for people with developmental disabilities who cannot make medical decisions and who lack legal guardians.

In such cases, medical decisions are made by an appointed health care representative with approval by a team of caregivers, service coordinators or family members.

In 2017, doctors at Providence Medical Group evaluated Derrick Dahl and identified a mass that was “concerning” for a sarcoma, a cancerous tumor, records show. But he wasn’t immediately seen by a cancer specialist.

Pam Dahl pushed for Derrick’s care team to obtain an opinion from a specialist in 2018, leading to surgery at OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute and the revelation that the tumor apparently was not cancerous.

Pam Dahl’s decision to publicly share her son’s cancer scare exposed simmering tension with Alternative Services, the group home operator, which began years ago, according to a former employee.

The company’s executive director, Pat Allen-Sleeman, initially responded to newsroom inquiries about Derrick Dahl’s medical care from 2017 and 2018 by saying “there is really no story here to tell, except misinformation, a dramatic self-serving version and an inaccurate and harmful story.”

Pam Dahl said interactions with Alternative Services have gone downhill since the story’s publication. A visit Thursday with her son ended when a company employee asked her to leave, she said.

Pam Dahl said she questioned caregivers at the group home about her son’s injuries and said she would like him to move to a different group home, also operated by Alternative Services, where he lived until early 2018.

One of the caregivers called a supervisor and then handed over the phone.

“She said, ‘You’re going to have to leave,’” Pam Dahl said of her conversation with the supervisor. “‘We can’t have you badmouthing the company to other employees.’”

Pam Dahl said she questioned how she could be badmouthing the company when she was advocating for him to move to a different home operated by Alternative Services.

“There was no reason to ask me to leave,” Pam Dahl said. “I was stunned.”

Allen-Sleeman, the company’s executive director, said Pam Dahl was told “she should not be speaking badly about ASI to our staff, and that if she couldn’t calm down, she would be asked to leave.”

Pam Dahl asked the employees if she was being disruptive, and, when told she was, flipped the phone back to them and left, Allen-Sleeman said.

On Monday, Derrick Dahl’s services coordinator at Jackson County proposed the need to find Derrick Dahl a public guardian, according to an email Pam Dahl shared with The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Melissa Walker wrote that she received a few calls and emails about Thursday’s incident. It was her “understanding” that Pam Dahl wanted her son to move to a different group home, Walker wrote, but Pam Dahl “cannot dictate” where her son lives because she is not his guardian.

“Because of the disruptive nature of Pam’s visits and the inconsistency of her contact with Derrick, I don’t feel she would be the best guardian for him, hence my proposal of a public guardian,” Walker wrote.

Pam Dahl acknowledges that she hasn’t been consistent in her visits but disputes that she was disruptive. Pam Dahl said she didn’t speak with Walker before Walker proposed a guardian.
Neither Walker nor her boss, Rick Hammel, responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

Last week’s incident was only the latest hint of friction between Pam Dahl and Alternative Services, according to a former employee at the company.

Jamie Gregory said she was the manager at the group home where Derrick Dahl lived until April 2018. Gregory told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she remembered hearing disparaging comments about Pam Dahl and being instructed to withhold information from the mother after she learned about her son’s tumor that spring.

Around the same time Alternative Services moved Derrick Dahl to a different group home operated by the company, a move Gregory said she vocally opposed. Gregory said she was fired shortly after, which she attributes in part to speaking up for Derrick Dahl.

“If Derrick could voice his own opinion, he would not agree with the move either,” Gregory told the newsroom.

Allen-Sleeman said the program manager who allegedly made disparaging comments is on vacation and unable to respond. Allen-Sleeman said she could not comment on a former employee’s “performance issues” but said Gregory’s statements are “very questionable.”

“A disgruntled ex-employee is not a credible reporter in my estimation,” she said. “But of course that makes a better story than the actuality of what really occurred.”

It’s not clear who may make decisions for Derrick Dahl going forward.

Walker’s recommendation Monday was emailed to a Jackson County employee, Allen-Sleeman, three other Alternative Services staff members and one former company employee, who serves as Derrick Dahl’s unpaid health care representative.

Allen-Sleeman said every member of Derrick Dahl’s care team agreed he should have a public guardian.

Pam Dahl hasn’t responded to the email.

Pam Dahl said she would be interested in becoming her son’s guardian if he moved to Eugene, Corvallis or Salem. Those cities are closer to her home on the Oregon coast and would allow her to be more involved, she said.

Pam Dahl said she thinks she needs a lawyer but isn’t sure who to contact for help.

“I feel like I’m on one side against all of them,” she said, “and I need someone to represent me.”

-- Brad Schmidt

Full Article & Source:
Mother questions retaliation after advocating for son with developmental disabilities

State auditor posts recommendations to improve oversight of judge misconduct

The Joint Legislative Auditor Committee met June 12 to consider recommendations to improve the oversight process of the Commission on Judicial Performance. Joint Legislative Audit Committee chair Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, is at background center (under the painting), and the State Auditor, Elaine Howle, is at right, next to Salas. Courtesy Photo, Jaclyn Qirreh
By Richard Bammer

A state legislative committee earlier this month issued several proposals, including an amendment to the state Constitution, that would make investigations of alleged judicial misconduct more fair to judges and, at the same time, increase public awareness of a commission that hears complaints about judges and disciplines them, The Reporter has learned.

During a mid-June meeting of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in Sacramento, the state auditor, Elaine M. Howle, made several recommendations to the panel, made up of state senators and Assembly members and others, to improve state oversight of judicial misconduct:
  • Improve the quality of investigations by boosting the Commission on Judicial Performance’s budget by $419,000, allowing for the hiring of an investigations manager and improving the CJP’s ability to analyze complaints for trends. “Weaknesses in CJP’s investigation process could allow judicial misconduct to continue,” Howle noted.
  • Amend the California Constitution to ensure the CJP’s process is fair to judges, increase public control of judicial discipline, and, at the same time, reconfigure the commission from a single unit of detectives to a “bicameral” structure, or two units, to make sure disciplinary decisions are made fairly.
  • Require courts to publicly post information about the CJP. “There are no requirements that courthouses post information about the CJP,” Howle pointed out and added, “Thus, people who witness judicial misconduct” — a harsh and angry tone and demeanor, excessive arrogance, lack of impartiality, incompetence, sexually harassing conduct, among other examples — “may be unaware of CJP’s ability to discipline judges.”
Jaclyn Qirreh of Vacaville, an advocate of the Protective Mothers of Solano County, attended the committee meeting in the state Capitol and said local attorneys have long contended the CJP “isn’t doing enough about complaints” about judge misconduct.

Jaclyn Qirreh
In a text sent to The Reporter, she called the joint committee’s meeting with Howle “a historic moment” that affirmed local lawyers’ sentiments.

Qirreh also noted that the president of the California Judges Association, Paul Bacigalupo, described those filing complaints, many of them in connection to Family Court cases, as “traumatized litigants.”

“Which is certainly what we’ve seen locally,” she added. “The entire judiciary is tainted when the few bad actors are not held accountable; we have definitely felt the repercussions of that here in Solano County.”

Qirreh and other Solano victims’ advocates have, over the years, cited several county court cases, including one filed against Everett Highbaugh. He was charged with the Nov. 23, 2016, shooting death of Kenesha Jackson, 36, the mother of his children, in Vallejo. Highbaugh was acquitted of the allegations earlier this year after a jury trial, during which, as the defense attorney argued, the prosecution’s case was largely based on circumstantial evidence and contended the crime may have been committed by someone else.

Be that as it may, Jackson’s murder occurred exactly two months after a Solano County Family Court judge, Garry Ichikawa, denied Jackson’s request for a permanent restraining order against Highbaugh. The judge had noted that while Jackson had been the victim of domestic violence, she did not face an imminent threat of death and, therefore, did not grant the order.

After Jackson’s death, Ichikawa faced the possibility of a recall mounted by outraged victims’ advocates, but he resigned his judge’s post before it began.

In such cases, victims advocates contend, the killings come with clear warning signs while law enforcement and the courts fail to stop what victims often see as inevitable.

The protests against Ichikawa preceded a December 2018 Washington Post analysis of nearly 4,500 slayings of women in 47 major U.S. cities during the past decade that found that almost half of the murdered women — 46 percent — died at the hands of an intimate partner. In many cases, they were among the most brutal killings and the most telegraphed.

Additionally, according to The Post’s analysis of homicides in five of the cities, one-third of all men who killed a current or former intimate partner were publicly known to be a potential threat to their loved one ahead of the attack, facts Qirreh and others often cite, contending that some judges do not take the victims’ concerns seriously, an attitude they equate with misconduct.

The executive director of California Protective Parents, Catherine Campbell of Davis, also attended the joint committee meeting, saying her group and others are “trying to bring change to the Family Court system” in California.

She said her group, formed 20 years years ago when members saw “a crisis” in the Family Court system, asked lawmakers for the audit three years ago. It was approved, but the CJP sued the state auditor.

“And that took two years,” she said, adding that, during appeals, CPP asked lawmakers to defund the commission “because we believed CJP was not doing its job.”

But before he left office, former Gov. Jerry Brown fully funded the CJP, noted Campbell. The lawsuit ended, the audit was complete and it was released in April.

She agreed with Howle’s recommendations “but there needs to be more,” including evaluations of judges by the CJP and “anyone who sits on the bench,” including a retired or visiting judge, or a commissioner. “We’re approaching the problem by looking at each player and who was involved in the case.”

“It is my hope that all the recommendations are enacted and that the CJP will comply with the audit,” said Campbell. “We believe CJP has been in denial that they were complying with the audit after the lawsuit ended.”

The executive director of the Center for Judicial Excellence, Kathleen Russell of San Rafael, noted that some of the audit’s recommendations were for the Legislature to carry out, while others were directed at the CJP.

For years, the judiciary has had “no checks and balances,” especially in the Family Court system, where “the vast majority of complaints get tossed out,” she asserted. “They’re protecting the judges, not the public.”

Russell said she and others were “concerned about the public being seriously harmed in court,” adding that her research indicated only 4 percent of judges cited in misconduct complaints are ever disciplined.

Rudy Salas
After the Sacramento meeting, the chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, issued a press release.

“This audit report clearly identifies changes that are needed at the CJP to improve its processes for investigating allegations of misconduct,” he said. “Oversight and accountability are critical to ensuring that the public is protected and standards for proper judicial conduct are enforced.”

In the prepared statement, Salas noted the committee heard testimony from, besides Howle, Gregory Dresser, director and chief counsel at Commission on Judicial Performance; Bridget Gramme of the Center for Public Interest Law; and Bacigalupo.

“The problems of the Family Court system are being exposed,” Campbell said. “The only people who asked for the audit are people who are working to change the Family Court system.”

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee meets again in October in the state Capitol.

Full Article & Source:
State auditor posts recommendations to improve oversight of judge misconduct