Saturday, January 11, 2020

Treasure Coast Nursing Assistant Accused of Sexually Assaulting Elderly Woman

by Sabrina Lolo

A 25-year-old certified nursing assistant was arrested Monday for reportedly sexually assaulting an elderly woman at a nursing home.

Christopher Alan Lacau, of Vero Beach, is facing three counts of lewd and lascivious battery on an elderly person, according to the Indian River County Sheriff's Office.

Lacau forced the woman to perform oral sex three times between Dec. 16 and Dec. 20, 2019, according to the sheriff's office. The woman is wheelchair-bound and fully paralyzed from the waist down due to being a victim of attempted murder. She was also diagnosed with PTSD because of the incident.

The woman told deputies she didn't report it right away because of Lacau's physical size and her past experiences with domestic violence.

The Department of Children and Families was later contacted and Lacau was suspended, per policy procedure, the sheriff's office said. He had been working at the facility since February 2019 and had no previous complaints against him.

When detectives interviewed Lacau, he became emotional and told them it was all consensual, according to the sheriff's office. However, the woman said everything was forced.

Full Article & Source:
Treasure Coast Nursing Assistant Accused of Sexually Assaulting Elderly Woman

From the Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (the EARN Project) William Barr


In June 2019, Attorney General William Barr met with the general counsel of several major banks to discuss what financial institutions can do to slow the growth of financial elder exploitation. He has demonstrated a real interest in working with the financial industry to establish successful programs and protocols that identify and prevent not just national but also international criminals from targeting American seniors.

Senior financial abuse is an ever-growing problem and, after years of disinterest by the federal government, AG Sessions demonstrated a sincere interest in protecting America’s senior citizens. We are very happy to see that our new Attorney General Barr has placed America’s seniors high on his list of priorities, including establishing the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. This is made up of prosecutors and data analysts from the Consumer Protection Branch, FBI special agents, and postal inspectors, along with prosecutors from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, and Southern District of Texas and other law enforcement personnel to focus on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. These include telemarketing, mass-mailing, and tech-support fraud schemes.

“Fraud against the elderly is on the rise,” said Attorney General Barr. “One of the most significant and pernicious causes for this increase is foreign-based fraud schemes. The new Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will bring together the expertise and resources of our prosecutors, federal and international law enforcement partners, and other government agencies to better target, investigate, and prosecute criminals abroad who prey on our elderly at home. The Department of Justice is committed to ending the victimization of elders across the country.”

In addition, the Strike Force will collaborate with the Federal Trade Commission and industry partners, who have pledged to engage with the DOJ to help obliterate elder fraud. It will also receive help from elder justice coordinators now assigned in every U.S. Attorney’s Office.

With the protective arm of the justice department now stretching out across the country, we hope it will wrap itself around the nursing home industry and do something about their lack of reporting. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study showed that cases of abuse of elderly nursing home patients on Medicare are frequently not reported to state inspection agencies, even though nursing homes are required to report allegations of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment "promptly" so they may be tracked and recorded, in accordance with federal requirements.

JOIN The EARN Project


 
Full Article & Source:
William Barr

See Also:
The Unforgivable Truth documentary by the EARN Project

Avoid these five risk factors and live longer, study says

(CNN)How would you like to add seven to 10 healthy, disease-free years to your life as you age?

Try eliminating these five bad health habits: smoking, not exercising, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating an unhealthy diet.
 
That's the takeaway from a new study that analyzed the impact of those behaviors on the chance of living a longer life free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.
 
"We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free," said senior author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
 
"In particular, women who practiced all five habits gained over 10 years of disease-free life, and men who did so gained almost eight years," Hu said.
 

Additional data

 
The research is an extension of a study published last year that followed more than 38,000 men for 28 years and 73,000 women for 34 years. 
 
That research found women who adopted all five healthy habits at age 50 lived 14 years longer than women who did not; men who were following all five lifestyle factors at age 50 lived 12 years longer than men who followed none.
 
This new study, published Wednesday in the journal BMJ, examined the same data to see how chronic disease affected the quality of life during the study period. 
 
The research was designed to see how five healthy behaviors interacted to affect disease risk: never smoking, keeping a healthy BMI below 25, doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, drinking alcohol moderately and eating a good quality diet.
 
Women who practiced four or five of the healthy habits over the next 20 to 30 years, Hu said, had an additional 10.6 years of disease-free living compared to women who adopted no lifestyle changes. When broken down by disease, the healthier women gained an average of eight years free of cancer, 10 years with no cardiovascular disease and 12 years without diabetes.
 
Men who practiced four to five healthy behaviors gained 7.6 years' longer life expectancy; an average of six more years without cancer, almost nine more years free of heart issues and over 10 years without diabetes.
 
The results held true even after adjusting the data for age, ethnicity, family medical history and other potentially influential factors, 
 
Not surprisingly, men who were heavy smokers -- defined as 15 or more cigarettes a day -- or obese men and women with a BMI of 30 or more had fewer years without disease.
 
What happened if a person was diagnosed with a disease during the study? The data showed half of people diagnosed with cancer lived an additional 23 years if they adopted four of five healthy practices. Among those who didn't change, half only survived an additional 11 years. The same patterns were seen for both heart disease and diabetes.
 
"This is a positive health message because it means healthy lifestyle habits not only prolong life, but also improve the quality of life and reduce sufferings related to chronic diseases," Hu said.
 
The study had some limitations, including that the data on adherence to the five lifestyle factors were all self-reported, making an outcome vulnerable to measurement errors.
 
What if you've not eliminated these five bad habits from your life?
 
"it is never too late to adopt these habits," Hu said. "For smokers, the single most important thing that one should do is to stop smoking. For nonsmokers, eating a healthy diet and being physically active are important for keeping a healthy weight."

Full Article & Source:
Avoid these five risk factors and live longer, study says

Friday, January 10, 2020

How courts and guardians exploit the elderly and their estates and get away with it

"The Perfect Crime"

By Pam Zubeck

A California man spent $50,000 in legal fees freeing his stepmother from the clutches of a so-called guardian in Las Cruces, New Mexico, who charged $140,000 for services over a year’s time.

Prosecutors in Pinellas County, Florida, on Nov. 15 charged Traci S. Hudson, guardian and then-president of the Pinellas County Guardianship Association, with felony exploitation of an elderly person. She’s accused of stealing $541,541, via charges of $1,600 per day, from a 92-year-old man she persuaded to assign his power of attorney to her. Within 10 months, she allegedly stashed nearly all of his money in her own accounts. The case prompted a judge to order a review of 31 other cases in which she acted as guardian.

Last year, April Parks grabbed headlines when she was sentenced to six to 16 years in prison in Nevada for stealing from the elderly — the very people she, as legal guardian, was supposed to protect.

“She didn’t see them as people,” said Clark County public guardian Karen Kelly in a Las Vegas Review-Journal article. “They were paychecks.”

Think that couldn’t happen in Colorado? Actually it happens here with some regularity, according to people who have observed guardianship.

But the extent of such exploitation of vulnerable seniors is hard to gauge, because it takes place behind a veil of secrecy in a court process closed to the public in which only those with a direct stake in the outcome have a voice. Sometimes guardians appointed by the court trump the wishes of family members and dear friends, all while cranking out billings to the elders’ estates.

One such case involves a 90-year-old Colorado Springs man who played tennis every day and enjoyed dinner parties regularly with friends until the court intervened and, as his friends tell the Indy, doomed him to an isolated life in a nursing facility from which his friends are barred.

In another, a 79-year-old woman simply disappeared from her home and later called a friend seeking help from an assisted living facility where she’d been admitted by a guardian. She later was moved by the guardian to a facility in another state.

Such cases are apt to become more common as baby boomers hit retirement like a tsunami, forming a pool ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous lawyers, guardians and conservators, abetted by a secretive court system that protects the exploiters, reformers say.

But rarely do the bad actors face criminal charges, due in part to court procedures that seem to sanction illicit actions and become a confusing morass to those unfamiliar with the system.

Further complicating the process, probate court procedures vary from state to state, and laws in many states, including Colorado, wall off guardianship records from everyone except those directly involved.

Anyone can file a petition for guardianship in Colorado, but many cases come to the courts through Adult Protective Services, a division of the Department of Human Services.

El Paso County’s APS responds to roughly 3,500 reports of elder abuse and exploitation per year. In 2018, APS filed 76 petitions for guardianship, which deals with oversight of an incapacitated person, and 29 petitions for conservatorship, which oversees that person’s property and assets.

Some reports come into a hotline staffed by law enforcement.

APS agents, who aren’t required to be certified by any agency but do complete nominal training, investigate to determine if the at-risk adult is being mistreated or self-neglected or is at risk for either.

Sometimes APS does little or nothing, Chris Garvin, county DHS deputy executive director, says.

“If I got to the home and the person says, ‘I don’t want you in my house,’ and the caseworker saw the house was in bad shape or multiple reports came from multiple people, they would investigate to see if the person is protected. If the person says, ‘I’m totally fine,’ [and] the caseworker doesn’t see anything red-flaggish, then they’ll leave a card, a senior guide and leave.”

But cases that are investigated can lead the County Attorney’s Office to petition the court for guardianship or conservatorship — or both.

“Through our investigative process,” says Andrew Bunn, director of the county DHS’ adult and family services, which includes APS, “if there are concerns about capacity, they’ll do a pre-screening to see if [the person] can track and answer questions, to see if they can manage decision-making on their own. If there’s a question about that, they’re connected with a neuro-evaluator to determine if they have capacity to make decisions on their own behalf.”

From there, based on evidence presented to a judge by APS and a medical provider, including a mental capacity evaluation, the person can be placed into a guardianship.

Garvin says 85 to 90 percent of guardians are family members. In the remaining cases, the court appoints a guardian who’s paid by the person’s estate, or the state if necessary, and makes decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person in every aspect of their lives. That includes where they live, the type of medical treatment they receive, and even who can visit them. A conservator also can be appointed to make decisions regarding assets, including liquidating property, investments and life insurance policies and sale of personal items. Theoretically, that money is then used to care for the incapacitated person, but all parties to such actions are paid from those proceeds, including attorneys hired by those parties.

At a court hearing, the court rules based on “convincing evidence” that the individual is unable to evaluate information and make decisions about their health, safety or self-care, according to the statute.

“DHS does not make decisions of whether someone needs a guardian,” says DHS spokesperson Kristina Iodice. Rather, a judge does so.

Guardianships and conservatorships can last for years, in which case guardians and conservators are required by law to file annual reports of spending, which are to be monitored by the court. It’s unclear how much scrutiny such reports actually receive, however. APS does not monitor the ongoing conservatorship after a permanent order is entered.

The El Paso County caseload has grown since laws were passed in 2014 and 2016 requiring anyone who observes self-neglect and exploitation to report those observations to authorities.

Iodice notes the increase also is tied to a rise in the aging population and efforts by APS to educate the public about signs of elder abuse.

Most of the county’s $1.8 million APS budget, the second largest in the state behind Denver’s, is spent on salaries and benefits for the county’s 11 APS employees, office rent and support services at the county’s Citizens Service Center; only about 5 percent goes toward direct aid, such as food, roof repairs, a new appliance and the like.

While statutes require guardians and conservators to account for their actions and spending, Garvin acknowledges it’s not a perfect system. “Overall, guardians in my experience do the best they can to protect their ward [probate parlance for incapacitated individual],” he says, but notes, “Exploitation of seniors is a crime that goes unnoticed.”

Moreover, anyone who isn’t directly involved in a case is hard-pressed to find a way to intervene on behalf of an incapacitated person.

Assistant County Attorney Lisa Kirkman says a “concerned person could petition the probate court, which has authority to remove a guardian or conservator,” but those actions might not yield results, considering the judge appointed those actors in the first place. Also, a lay person who lacks experience in court matters might not be taken seriously, and hiring attorneys comes with a hefty price tag.

“I do think it’s incumbent on the court to closely monitor, and that’s why the [annual] reports are filed,” Kirkman says.

A 2010 Government Account- ability Office review found hundreds of cases of guardian and conservator abuse between 1990 and 2010.
“Compared to the general population, adults over the age of 65 are more likely to live alone than those of younger ages,” the GAO reports. “Given these statistics, it is important to ensure that systems designed to protect seniors from abuse and neglect function properly.”

But often those systems don’t operate as expected, and while the GAO found misappropriation of funds from protected persons was the most common offense, it also found that physical abuse took place.

Among the GAO’s findings:

• A taxi driver in Kansas City, Missouri, housed an 87-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease in a “filthy” basement wearing only a dirty shirt and diaper. The guardian embezzled more than $640,000, purchasing a Hummer and writing checks to exotic dancers. The guardian was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $640,000 in restitution.
• A management agency in Alaska stole at least $454,000 over four years from 78 victims, with the executive director using funds belonging to the “wards” to pay his personal credit card bills, mortgage payments and camp fees for his kids. Victims received partial restitution, but no criminal charges were filed.
• Public guardians appointed to care for an 88-year-old California woman with dementia allegedly sold the woman’s properties below market value to buyers that included both a relative of the guardian and a city employee. One of the public guardians also moved the incapacitated person into various nursing homes without notifying family members, who had to call the police to help them find their relative. The woman developed bedsores during this time that became so serious her leg had to be amputated at the hip.

These abuses stem, in part, from states’ failure to properly screen guardians, and courts’ inadequate oversight of guardians they appoint, the GAO concluded.

To show just how lax states can be, GAO employees used two fictitious identities — one with bad credit and one with the Social Security number of a dead person — in four states, Illinois, Nevada, New York and North Carolina. All four granted the bogus applicants’ certification.

“The tests raise questions about the effectiveness of these four state certification programs,” the GAO reports.

In Colorado, anyone can become a guardian by asserting they’re qualified to act as one. Like many states, Colorado requires guardians to report in writing within 60 days of appointment the condition of the incapacitated person, the guardian’s personal care plan for that person and an accounting of money and assets in the guardian’s control. Thereafter, a guardian is to report annually.

But also like other states, Colorado lacks resources to thoroughly monitor such reports regularly, and there’s no evidence that judges and magistrates assigned to preside over probate courts have the depth of knowledge about forensic financial matters to detect fraud.

Officials with the Colorado Office of the State Court Administrator tell the Indy via email the state has no requirements or standards to certify guardians and has no certified professional guardianship board to oversee guardians. That office also notes each judicial district in Colorado has funding for a half-time position for reviewing initial and annual guardian and conservator reports, which number in the hundreds if not thousands.

As for the opportunity for outsiders to monitor guardian activities, Colorado law bars disclosure of probate records to anyone who isn’t directly involved in a case.

Under a directive issued by the Supreme Court of Colorado, probate records are closed, including those dealing with conservatorship and guardianship, financial statements and medical and mental health documents, among others.

In fact, even law enforcement and prosecutors are considered “member[s] of the public who would not have access to a case,” the state court officials say, though the records could be accessed via subpoena, search warrant or a request to the court.

Asked whether a prosecutor has ever successfully petitioned to gain access to a probate file, the state officials said, “Although such cases may exist, there are no compiled records and we do not have specific coding in place to track such matters, therefore, we are unable to answer your question.”

In late 2017, the then-88-year-old Colorado Springs resident, whom we’ll call Joe, was a vital, active senior citizen who enjoyed playing tennis and dined with friends frequently. He lived with a caregiver friend, who had served as his companion for seven or eight years, and another elderly citizen.
After a misunderstanding arose over a payment Joe routed to landscapers through the caregiver, Adult Protective Services paid a visit that started a process that changed his life forever. (Friends suspect the financial transaction, in which the money was transferred by the caregiver to the landscaping firm, was reported to APS by the bank.)

Court records are inaccessible to outsiders, but the Indy pieced together Joe’s tale through his friends, who say Joe shared information freely before being forced into a nursing home. The Indy is recapping Joe’s story without naming him or those involved due to a judge’s order barring public dissemination of any information about him or his case.

Joe was given less than 24 hours to show up in court for a hearing to weigh the need for a guardian. Attending without an attorney, Joe was placed in a temporary guardianship despite his objection.

Over the ensuing weeks, the court set aside the power of attorney Joe had assigned to the caregiver friend, who family members suspected was exploiting Joe, though his friends dispute that. The conservator took control of his bank accounts, life insurance, Social Security checks, property and other assets but failed to pay Joe’s bills at times, including utilities and property taxes on his $622,000 home. (Some bills eventually were paid.) The caregiver friend, whom Joe had previously paid a full-time salary, was cut off despite possessing Joe’s power of attorney, executed years before.

At one point, Joe had no money to eat and sought food at local food banks. Also, Joe’s caregiver friend used his own credit cards to make many payments but so far, months later, hasn’t been reimbursed by the conservator.

The guardian required that Joe contact his four children, who live in another state, by phone on a regular basis after years of being out of touch with them and not wanting to speak with them, the friends say. None of the children were appointed guardian or conservator.

Ultimately, the conservator liquidated Joe’s assets. Last spring he was admitted to a nursing home in Colorado Springs. By accident, in mid-summer, some of his friends stumbled onto him at the facility while visiting another person, the elderly citizen who had lived with Joe and who also was placed in a guardianship.

“We were so happy to spend time with him [Joe] but also in dismay at his condition,” the friends wrote in an eight-page letter to media urging coverage of Joe’s story. “[Joe] expressed that he was living a happy and wonderful life and he is now in a probate-ordered prison.” He referred to his room number as a cell number, they said.

The friends described Joe as having lost weight, being unshaven and experiencing isolation. “He begged repeatedly for someone to help and told us that he tried multiple times to escape,” the friends said in the letter, adding the man stated he felt “completely dehumanized and silenced.”

When the friends visited Joe again days later, Adult Protective Services and his guardian threatened to call police, according to the friends, who noted, “There is no court order against us and [we] find this to be bullying and fear tactics.”

APS and court personnel are barred by law from discussing specific cases due to privacy concerns.

The friends were then blocked from visiting Joe, who was relocated to another facility “to hide him from us,” the letter said.

The friends note it’s ironic the caregiver friend was accused of exploiting the man, when all signs point to the guardian and conservator doing the same through charges for lawyers and unnecessary services. He was billed $800 for one phone call, they said.

“If this sounds ridiculous,” the friends’ letter says, “the friends [of Joe] thought so as well. Until we witnessed it. This is organized crime and legal racketeering. It seems harsh to label it as such, but this is also ELDER and ESTATE TRAFFICKING and it is happening all over the United States and is particularly bad in Colorado. This needs to be exposed....”

(Similarly, Robert “Barney” Rummel, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, tells the Indy the story of Suncha Baldwin, who a guardian whisked away, “kidnapped” as he calls it, from her Colorado Springs home and placed her first in assisted living after her husband’s death, and later in a nursing facility in North Carolina. That’s where the guardian’s husband, who was in the Army, had been reassigned. Friends were prevented from visiting her in both places, Rummel says.)

An attorney who represented Joe’s first permanent guardian, who encountered pushback from the conservator, the judge and others involved in Joe’s case while trying to look after his best interests, expressed frustration and outrage in an early 2019 letter to those involved in the case and gave notice the guardian would resign.

“[N]ot until becoming involved in this case have I ever been so ashamed of how our legal system and participants in that system have so completely failed a truly vulnerable citizen,” the attorney wrote. “The Court has failed [him]. The legal system has failed [him]. And in my personal view, the professionals in this case have failed [him]. It is the greatest travesty I have witnessed/experienced in all my years of practice.”

The attorney closed by saying he would ask the judge to relieve his clients from the guardianship appointment to avoid participating in “this ongoing collateral denigration and abuse....”

The Foundation for Senior Care, of Fallbrook, California, urged a U.S. senator to intervene in Joe’s case after Joe, his long-time caregiver friend and two other friends in California reached out to the nonprofit seeking help in finding a good attorney.

In a letter to the senator, the foundation notes that APS sent a report to a psychiatrist ahead of an exam to determine competency, spelling out reasons a guardian and conservator should be appointed. The foundation also alleged mismanagement of Joe’s resources, noting $5,000 in penalties resulting from failure to make credit card payments, and that the so-called financial plan promoted by the conservator called for Joe to sell his car and use taxis for all outings. The conservator also stopped making payments to Joe’s tennis club — his “main joy in life.”

Meanwhile, the conservator and guardian charged the man’s estate $26,000 per month in fees, the foundation said.

Though the court records themselves are off-limits to the public, a so-called register of actions that lists dates of filings and hearings fills more than 50 pages; the case spans more than two years.

When a local television reporter attempted to investigate and report on Joe’s case, the judge issued orders that bar anyone from discussing the case, which effectively killed the story.

Authorities in some states have discovered guardians in charge of cases who have previously filed for bankruptcy or are in financial distress, which can color decisions about how much they pay themselves from estates. Some guardians have even been found to have been convicted of felonies.

The bottom line: Guardians and conservators often rack up huge bills with no one asking questions, she says, noting a case in Tennessee where a guardian’s attorneys charged an estate $110,000 a month.

If families try to dispute the charges, more filings are made and more hearings are held, so all the attorneys gobble up more of the estate’s assets, she says.

“Guardianship sounds like a warm and fuzzy word but there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about it,” Renoire says. “It’s a process that’s rife with exploitation by the very people appointed to protect you.”

She says efforts to isolate the incapacitated person serve as a warning that something is amiss. “I hear all the time of the drugging of elderly in nursing homes,” she says. “If you’re denied visitors, it’s like living in a jail cell.”

Some Reformers say one step forward would be for all states to adopt the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act drafted in 2017 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The act is an advisory measure that calls for more annual reporting of assets, more consistent data collection by the states and more attention paid to appointment of limited guardianships that specify narrow areas of responsibility rather than assigning total control over a person’s life.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging issued a report in November 2018 declaring its goal is to “encourage states to develop the proper tools to ensure that guardians and court officials have the resources necessary to serve the best interests of those under guardianship, and that guardians who instead use the system to exploit, abuse, or neglect are quickly identified and are held accountable.”

Among the committee’s findings:

• A lack of guidelines and education for court officials, community organizations and guardians results in guardianships being imposed without full knowledge of the responsibilities needed to ensure the individual at issue is properly protected and cared for. Few safeguards exist for oversight of guardians.
• Guardianships may remove more rights than necessary, and an individual’s rights are rarely restored.
• Few states collect data on the number of guardianships imposed. Better data would help policymakers make informed decisions on how to improve the guardianship system.

The committee also issued recommendations that called for more intense monitoring of guardianships and financial activities, requiring criminal background checks on guardians, creating visitor programs in which individuals help inform the court about what’s going on in a guardianship, and require more training for guardians, court staff and family members.

It also urged a national resource center be created to collect and publish information, such as statistics on guardianships, laws and regulations, published research and training materials.

In comments made in response to the committee’s work, the National Guardianship Association’s president Carleton Coleman said the only reliable estimate of guardianships comes from the National Center for State Courts, which pegged the number at 1.5 million, though it could range from 1 million to 3 million.

Coleman said the NGA, which has 1,100 members, supports raising the bar on oversight of guardians and advocates for more “finely tuned” guardianship orders.

Reformers also call for more auditing and law enforcement referrals when suspicious billings arise. Federal and state investigative teams should be formed, they say, and databases created so that consumers can track complaints against guardians and conservators.

Officials of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging advocate for states to better report numbers and types of guardianships in force. Most states don’t know how many guardianships there are, let alone whether there was any abuse, a commission official told the Indy on background.

The Colorado Office of the State Court Administrator says the state does track the number of cases filed each year, and numbers of guardian and conservator appointments. The office offered to provide that data, at a charge of $30 per hour in search fees.

Reports available through the judicial administrator’s office show probate caseloads are growing. While total case filings for all types of litigation increased by 23.5 percent statewide from 2009 to 2018, probate case filings soared by 43.3 percent. In the 4th Judicial District, which includes El Paso and Teller counties, probate cases increased by 32 percent during that time, rising from 1,340 in 2009 to 1,978 in 2018.

The ABA’s commission notes that up to 25 states have established interdisciplinary networks of stakeholders, including APS, the legal system, courts, guardians, conservators and the medical community that meet to discuss how to address emerging problems. Some states have adopted judicial education reforms, some are beefing up data collection systems and some are hosting town hall meetings to better educate the public about guardianships. Together, those measures could help, the commission says.

But advocates remain skeptical, such as Luanne Fleming of Denver, who runs Families Against Court Embezzlement and Unethical Standards, a loose-knit organization that gathers probate horror stories.
“As we always call it: Litigate, isolate, medicate, steal the estate and, sometimes, cremate,” Fleming tells the Indy by phone. Her family watched as millions were drained from her parents’ estate when 17 attorneys worked their way into the case. “My family had just been played,” she says.

She was finally able to rescue her mother from guardianship, she says, but the money was gone.

“This is one of the scariest things I know about,” Fleming says, adding that slipping on the sidewalk and requiring a hospital visit can lead a person to lose their freedom to a guardian. A woman in Michigan called for help to install a ramp for her wheelchair and wound up in a guardianship.

In one Colorado case, family members told Fleming they had to pay $750 an hour for a guardian to supervise their visits with their mom; another family told her as their mother was dying, a guardian blocked their visit, leaving her to die alone.

As for Joe, his friends have no idea where he’s being held. “We fear [Joe] will die in an undignified way,” the friends’ letter says, “and [he] deserves much more than this.”

Full Article & Source:
How courts and guardians exploit the elderly and their estates and get away with it

Cremated remains found in former state guardian’s office identified, FDLE says


ORLANDO, Fla. — Human remains found in a former state guardian’s office have been identified, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Former guardian, Rebecca Fierle, was accused of filing “Do Not Resuscitate” orders for people without the family’s or court’s permission.

Last year at least two judges ordered her removed as guardian from more than 100 cases in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

In August, the FDLE obtained a search warrant to go inside her office on Hillcrest Street. Inside, they found the cremated remains of 10 people and a dog. All but one of them have been identified.

The FDLE isn’t releasing the names of the nine people identified, but Channel 9 has submitted a Public Records request to obtain them.

Fierle isn’t facing any criminal charges. The FDLE said, “the presence of the cremated remains recovered at the office does not necessarily constitute a crime.”

Full Article & Source:
Cremated remains found in former state guardian’s office identified, FDLE says

Durango couple finds love at nursing home

Unexpected relationship blossoms into marriage

By Shannon Mullane
Don Shoub and Carla Vigil Shoub, both residents at Four Corners Health Care Center.
 Sometimes people search for love for years. Sometimes they find it when, or where, they least expect it.

One Durango couple found love in the hallways of Four Corners Health Care Center. Carla Vigil Shoub, 52, tried to pass Don Shoub, 71, both in wheelchairs. Don turned around, and it was love at first sight.

“She said, ‘Beep, beep’ with her horn, and I said, ‘Road runner, beep, beep,’” he said. “And that’s how we met.”

Carla Vigil Shoub leads her new husband, Don Shoub, down the halls at Four Corners Health Care Center, where they first met.
The couple married in a civil ceremony at the La Plata County Clerk’s Office on Dec. 5 and rode away as the only newlyweds on the Opportunity Bus, a local paratransit service. Their relationship was unexpected – neither one was looking for a new partner. Over time, they bonded over grief, movies and friendship.

“My brother’s always dreamt of having someone in his life, and I think Carla on some level has, too,” said Christine Mullholand, Don Shoub’s sister. “For them to just meet in the hallway like that ... that is just like a fairy tale.”

Carla, who was a greeter for new residents, supported Don when he was lonely after arriving in August 2018.

“I wasn’t looking for it. I had another boyfriend,” she said. “It blossomed into something else slowly.”

When her former relationship ended, Don helped her through the breakup. When a close friend and table-mate died, Carla did not want to eat lunch alone and invited Don to join her.

They stayed up late watching movies and bonded over The Bangles and Queen. They even went to prom together at the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine event.

The couple consoled each other after the deaths of Carla’s longtime friend and Don’s mother.

“I think it brought us together,” Carla said.

Don Shoub and Carla Vigil Shoub, both residents at Four Corners Health Care Center, show off their wedding rings after getting married Dec. 5.
Their engagement in December 2018 was a mix of traditional and modern, she said. They stayed up all night to pick out the rings. Don took a traditional approach by asking Carla’s brother for his blessing. Then she proposed to him.

The two match: She loves to read, and he loves to listen, Mullholand said. Don takes care of Carla, who has cerebral palsy, when her mobility is challenging. They talk about everything from politics to the environment and local events.

“Me and her, when we first met, she swept me off my feet,” Don said, which sent his new wife into a fit of giggles. “She smiled at me, and my heart melted.”

Full Article & Source:
Durango couple finds love at nursing home

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Daughter names Florida judge in federal lawsuit over elderly father's guardianship

(Jan. 8, 2020) A concerned daughter sued a Florida state judge in federal court over civil rights violations and alleged fraud upon the court after her elderly father became a ward of the State under guardianship.

The Plaintiff daughter Lesa Martino named the Honorable Hillsborough County Judge Daryl M. Manning in a petition filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

“Martino was not notified of the hearing for summary judgement,” states the Plaintiff Martino in her complaint. “The hearing took place without any testimony from Martino. There was no court reporter and there was no evidence entered at the hearing.”

The Defendant, Honorable Judge Manning, responded to Martino’s federal lawsuit on January 7, 2020 with a Motion to Dismiss the claims against him.

“The Complaint is barred by judicial, qualified, and Eleventh Amendment immunity,” wrote the state of Florida Assistant Attorney General Brittany Quinlan on behalf of the Honorable Judge Manning. “Judges are entitled to immunity when acting in their judicial capacity unless they acted in clear absence of all jurisdiction.”

The Plaintiff daughter, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy, complains there were First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment violations, according to a press release.

“Manning was presented evidence that a notice of hearing was not provided to Martino and allowed deprivation of property without due process,” alleges Martino who, in a separate lawsuit, is among a group of adult children suing the state of Florida in Florida Northern District Court. But Stone et al v. DeSantis et al, alleging theft, trafficking and abuse of the elderly under court appointed guardianship, was dismissed without prejudice on December 9, 2019.

Martino v. Manning has been assigned to the Honorable Mary S. Scrivens who was nominated by former President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2008.

“Martino lost rights without a meaningful hearing and opportunity to be heard,” states the Plaintiff in her December 12, 2019 pleading against the Honorable Judge Manning. “She was denied the constitutional protection of the First Amendment by denying her right to exercise her opinion. Martino’s opinions included financial exploitation of her father.”

As previously reported by the Southeast Texas Record, Traci Hudson [Samuel], 51, was reportedly Ronald Thomas Martino’s guardian at the time that Hudson [Samuel] was arrested for allegedly financially exploiting a 92 year old senior citizen named Maurice Myers.

According to a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office press release, detectives discovered a total of $541,541.12 was transferred from Myers account to accounts owned by Hudson [Samuel], founder of Florida Guardianship Services and President of the Guardian Association of Pinellas County. 

Full Article & Source:
Daughter names Florida judge in federal lawsuit over elderly father's guardianship

Agents ID Cremated Remains Found in Office of Embattled Guardian

By Greg Angel

Rebecca Fierle's downtown Orlando office was searched by FDLE agents in August 2019. The cremated remains of several people and one dog were found in urns. (File)

ORLANDO, Fla. — State agents have identified the cremated remains found last summer in the Orlando office of embattled professional guardian Rebecca Fierle.
  • FDLE executed search warrant on guardian's office in August 2019
  • Rebecca Fierle is subject of criminal probe into her handling of "wards"
  • Agents recovered cremains in urns; all but 1 individual identified
Gretl Plessinger with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told Spectrum News that agents were able to identify the cremated remains of nine humans and one pet. One individual has not yet been identified.

Agents recovered the remains August 5, 2019 during a search of Fierle’s office on Hillcrest Street as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Fierle has not been charged with a crime, although she remains the subject of a FDLE criminal investigation related to allegations of abuse and wrongdoing involving seniors she was court-appointed to care for as a guardian. Fierle is also the focus of a Medicaid fraud investigation being conducted by the Office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“The investigation into allegations against Fierle and her business is on going,” Plessinger said in a statement. “The presence of the cremated remains recovered at the office does not necessarily constitute a crime.”

With most of the cremated remains identified, investigators said they're in the process of obtaining court orders to release the remains to their families.

Fierle has been the focus of multiple investigations since the 2019 death of Brevard County's Steven Stryker. Orange County Judge Janet Thorpe appointed Fierle as Stryker's guardian in September 2018. The court appointment gave Fierle full legal authority to make health-care decisions for Stryker as well as control his money and assets.

State investigators say Stryker died in part because of neglect by Fierle.

Spectrum News later learned Fierle was registered as a guardian for at least 450 people, or "wards," in 13 counties.

Two investigations by the Orange County Comptroller’s Office accuse Fierle of mishandling cash and assets belonging to her wards, as well as receiving almost $4 million by overbilling AdventHealth and the court system.

Family advocates also place blame on the court system itself, saying judges routinely fail to provide the necessary oversight. 

Full Article & Source:
Agents ID Cremated Remains Found in Office of Embattled Guardian

6 CT nursing homes cited for violations

Six nursing homes have been fined by the state for violating a resident’s privacy, verbally abusing a resident and for violations that resulted in residents’ injuries.

Whitney Center in Hamden was fined $6,120 after a nurse aide used her personal cellphone to take a picture of a resident being transferred to a shower chair with a Hoyer lift on June 18, 2019, according to a citation issued by the state Department of Public Health.

The resident and nurse aide disagreed on what happened, according to DPH. The aide said the resident wanted the photo taken, but the resident said that was not the case. The aide deleted the photo from the cellphone.

According to the citation, the aide was given a written warning and ultimately fired. The resident’s family was contacted immediately and was satisfied with the facility’s response, said President and CEO Mike Rambarose.

“There’s really no greater priority than protecting the privacy and dignity of our residents,” Rambarose said. “This incident was really regrettable when [the aide] took the unauthorized photo, and it was in violation of our company policy,” he said. “We took immediate corrective action. I’m pleased to say the resident is doing well at Whitney Center.”

Apple Rehab West Haven was fined $7,440 for two violations.

On Dec. 14, 2018, two charge nurses witnessed a nurse aide verbally abusing a resident. The aide was talking on a personal cellphone and told the resident, “I’m on the phone. I’m not talking to you,” before referring to the resident by a derogatory name, according to DPH. The resident was upset, and a social worker was supposed to conduct one-on-one visits for support, but the clinical record failed to show the resident was monitored for the three days following the incident. The nurse aide was fired, according to the citation.

On June 14, 2018, a hairdresser at the facility’s salon noticed a resident had a large hematoma on the right shin, DPH said. The resident was bumped on the shin by a Hoyer lift while being transferred by two nurse aides. The resident was treated at a hospital and returned to the facility three days later.

Laurel Ridge Health Care Center in Ridgefield was fined $6,960 after a resident suffered a subdural hematoma in a fall. A nurse aide was changing the resident on Oct. 8, 2019, when the resident fell out of the bed. According to DPH, the nurse aide caught half of the resident’s body from the other side of the bed but couldn’t prevent the resident’s head from hitting the floor. The resident was taken to a hospital and returned to the facility the same day. The resident required two-staff assistance for bed mobility, but only one nurse aide was providing care at the time of the fall.

"Laurel Ridge Health Care Center takes the care of its patients and residents very seriously. We are confident that the issue raised in the report was isolated and not consistent with the care and customer service at our center," said Tim Brown, a spokesman for parent company Athena Health Care Systems. "All staff throughout our center were re-educated on our policies regarding two-person assist care and the importance of following policies. The center has further enhanced audits and rounds by our management team to ensure for compliance."

Harrington Court in Colchester was fined $2,160 after a resident with dementia left the facility twice. On July 7, 2019, the resident was found walking around the parking lot, looking through cars for keys. The staff escorted the resident back into the building. A WanderGuard bracelet subsequently was put on the resident, according to DPH. On Sept. 3, 2019, the resident left the building through an emergency door. According to the citation, there was a delay between the door alarm sounding and when staff arrived. The resident was found two streets away and taken back to the facility.

Bridgeport Health Care Center was fined $1 after staff failed to call 911 when a resident died. According to DPH, two registered nurses didn’t call 911 after a resident with a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order was found on May 15, 2019, with no pulse and no heartbeat and they couldn’t reach a physician. One nurse did not call 911 because of the resident’s DNR order. The other nurse didn’t call because there was no necessity to call because of the advance directives. The resident’s advanced directives specified that the facility not perform CPR but provide all other treatments, including transfer to a hospital. The two nurses were fired, the citation said. The fine was $1 because the facility is receivership, according to DPH.

Orchard Grove Specialty Care Center in Uncasville was fined $7,800 after a resident with dementia fell several times between Aug. 16, 2018, and June 7, 2019. The resident suffered injuries, including an ankle fracture on Aug. 21, 2018, when an aide failed to follow instructions to move the resident with two staffers, rather than one.

Officials at Apple Rehab West Haven, Harrington Court, Bridgeport Health Care Center and Orchard Grove Specialty Care Center didn’t return calls seeking comment.

This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to health reporting.

Full Article & Source:
6 CT nursing homes cited for violations

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Concerned daughter captures elderly mother’s nursing home abuse on hidden camera in N.C.

Click to Watch Video
By Nick Ochsner

CHERRYVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) – Late this past summer, Renee Herwin had suspicions about the care her 86-year-old mother, Skip MacNally, was getting at the Peak Resources nursing home in Cherryville, N.C. So, she decided to install a hidden camera to find out.

Herwin bought a picture frame with a tiny camera hidden at the bottom. She put it on a counter top in her mom’s room. She had disturbing video of staff at the nursing home abusing her mother almost immediately.

“I put the camera in on August 28. On August 29 I had a video of abuse,” she said. She had a second video within 24 hours of installing the camera.

The first video shows a nursing assistant yelling at MacNally—who is blind and suffers from alzheimer’s disease—while changing her. In the video, you see the nursing assistant go from yelling at MacNally to violently moving her across the bed while changing her. MacNally cries out in pain several times over the course of the video.

“Have I done something?” MacNally asks the nursing assistant towards the end of the video.

“Devil’s wife,” the nursing assistant responds.

Herwin expected the hidden camera to capture evidence of her mother not being properly fed or going long periods of time without being checked on. She didn’t expect to find her mom being violently abused by staff.

“I was livid,” Herwin said of the first time she saw the video. “It was, ‘oh my God, I can’t believe –‘ this was the last thing I expected.”

Herwin took the video to the nursing home’s director, who fired the two employees captured in the two videos and called DSS and police.

In a statement, the nursing home administrator, Kris Thompson, confirmed the incident but said he could not discuss the matter further due to federal privacy laws.

“The mission and main priority of our facility is the safety and well-being of our residents, and we endeavor to respond accordingly to anything that might negatively impact any resident,” Thompson said. “Our top priority, as always, is to remain committed to our residents and their families and we will continue to do so in this situation.”

A DSS report shows a social worker confirmed MacNally was abused but indicates the social worker didn’t open an investigation because, the form says, the two employees were fired.

Herwin said police also investigated and a detective called her to say he wanted to press charges.

“Well, he called me about four days later, told me the (assistant district attorney) was not going to file charges. I didn’t understand,” Herwin said.

To date, no charges have been filed against the employees in the video.

Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell did not respond to multiple messages seeking an explanation as to why he would not file charges for elder abuse, which is a crime under North Carolina law.

Herwin said she met with Bell but didn’t walk away from that meeting with any better understanding as to why he wouldn’t act.

“I told him that, based on the way the law is now, if a background check was run on this CNA, there would be nothing to alert them that there were abuse confirmations. That’s as far as I got with him and he blurted out, ‘You want me to destroy this woman’s life!’” Herwinn recalled of her meeting with Bell.

Herwin said Bell watched the video, told her he didn’t see anything criminal in the video and ended the meeting.

“That’s all he said,” Herwin recalled. “No explanation. Nothing.”

Herwin called WBTV in hopes the story of what happened to her mother would draw attention to a system that has lax regulation and little oversight.

Because charges weren’t pressed against either nursing assistant, Herwin fears no future employer will ever know what they did to her mother.

“They need to have consequences for their actions! If you don’t have any consequences, it’s just going to continue to get worse,” she said.

Full Article & Source:
Concerned daughter captures elderly mother’s nursing home abuse on hidden camera in N.C.

Camera captures thief stealing $10,000 from woman in grandparent scam

By Carter Evans

Click to Watch Video
Glendale, California — There's a new warning about deceptive thieves, robbing elderly victims on their own doorsteps. Video from a Ring doorbell captured a scam artist in action, taking $10,000 from Barbara McCullough. It started with a call from someone claiming to be her grandson.

"I said to him him, 'It doesn't sound like you.' He said 'I have a horrible cold,' and then he started crying," McCullough said.

The caller said he needed bail money fast.

"I went down to the bank and withdrew $10,000," McCullough said.

What's unusual is the scammer was caught on camera. Grandparent scams are one of the fastest growing crimes and they all begin with a cry for help. Nationwide, seniors are cheated out of nearly $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

"I've heard upwards of $10 billion every single year because a lot of these crimes aren't reported. Because a lot of times, they're very ashamed," said Sgt. Dan Suttles.

A former conman in federal custody provided chilling details about his scam to CBS News in an interview in 2014.

"Once you get them emotionally involved, then they'll do anything for you," he said.

As for McCullough, she said she heard someone calling and felt "flattered" that he called her.

"He didn't want to upset his parents. That's what I thought," she said.

Detectives are trying to track down that scam artist. Officials said seniors can verify who is calling by asking a personal question only the family member would know and by making a call to a relative before handing over any money.

Full Article & Source:
Camera captures thief stealing $10,000 from woman in grandparent scam

New Wife, 26, Charged With Exploiting Husband, 77, for Money

TAMPA, Fla. — A newly married 26-year-old woman has been arrested on charges alleging she tried to cash almost $1 million in checks from her 77-year-old husband's account.

Lin Helena Halfon was arrested earlier this month at Tampa International Airport. She is facing charges of money laundering, organized fraud and exploitation of an elderly person. During her first court appearance, a judge set her bail at $1 million.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that when her husband, Tampa businessman Richard Rappaport, was notified by investigators about what his wife was doing, he said wanted to give his wife the benefit of the doubt, according to a warrant affidavit. 

He said he didn’t want her to be deported to her native Israel.

An Amscot employee in Tampa refused to cash the checks. Eventually, two checks worth about $666,000 were cashed by an Orlando business.


Asked later if he felt he was the victim of fraud and fraud, Rappaport told investigators, “yes,” according to the arrest warrant.

Halfon and Rappaport were married in August in Sarasota.

Rappaport's daughter, Dayna Titus, said in an arrest affidavit that family members were unaware of the marriage.

“Titus believed that Halfon was ‘conning’ Rappaport due to his age,” FDLE Special Agent Victoria Morris wrote in the affidavit.

Halfon's attorney, Todd Foster, said the couple had a valid marriage.

"We look forward to bringing forward additional facts to bring clarity to this situation,” Foster said.

Full Article & Source: 
New Wife, 26, Charged With Exploiting Husband, 77, for Money

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Man paralyzed from chest down says he was kicked out of Okla. nursing home

MOORE, Okla. (KFOR/CNN) - A 34-year-old paraplegic man denies claims that he is a danger to others at the Oklahoma nursing home from which he was allegedly evicted on New Year’s Eve.

Richard Bloxham, 34, is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a
 wheelchair. He says he was kicked out of Hillcrest Nursing Home
in Moore, Okla., on New Year's Eve.
(Source: Richard Bloxham/KFOR/Tribune/CNN)
Richard Bloxham, 34, says he lived at Hillcrest Nursing Center in Moore, Okla., for six months before being told he had to be out by Jan. 27. He is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair.

After a short stay in the hospital, Bloxham returned to the nursing home on New Year’s Eve, only to be told he wasn’t allowed in the building.

"I was supposedly a danger to other residents and myself, which was a lie," Bloxham said.

Attorney Nick Slaymaker, who represents Hillcrest COO Tammy Whorton, says otherwise.

"The resident has committed assault on persons at the facility. He's aware of his actions. He knows they're wrong,” Slaymaker said. “He can physically hit people. He's thrown things at people… That's what I've been informed.”

In a police report, one Moore officer noted “the staff on scene did not have any issues with Richard” and “did not agree with the decision.”

The report also says Whorton admitted to telling Bloxham he had until Jan. 27 to gather his belongings and vacate the facility, but her attorney says they were forced to discharge him under an emergency provision for escalating misconduct and criminal behavior.

Authorities told Hillcrest a court order is needed for an eviction, but Whorton says the facility is not held to the usual eviction process and that if there was a violation of state statute, they would suffer the deficit.

Full Article & Source:
Man paralyzed from chest down says he was kicked out of Okla. nursing home

Arizona, 2 doctors sued over rape of incapacitated woman

FILE - This Jan. 25, 2019, file photo shows the Hacienda HealthCare, a long-term care facility in Phoenix where an incapacitated patient was raped and gave birth in 2018. AP Photo

Read more here: https://www.bradenton.com/news/local/health-care/article238953668.html#storylink=cpy
The parents of an incapacitated woman who was raped and later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care center say in a negligence lawsuit that the state of Arizona and her doctors failed to follow their request to have only female caregivers tend to their daughter.

The two doctors who cared for the 30-year-old patient at Hacienda HealthCare also are accused in the lawsuit of failing to spot signs that she was carrying a baby, such as her swollen abdomen. The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 only after a nurse saw the boy’s head during the surprise delivery.

The lawsuit said Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse charged with sexually assaulting the woman, had cared for her on hundreds of occasions from 2012 through 2018, despite promises from state employees that only women would tend to her.

The state, which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, is accused of doing a poor job of monitoring Hacienda’s operations.

Chris Minnick, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Health Services, declined Friday to comment on the lawsuit.

The birth triggered reviews by state agencies, highlighted safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated and prompted the resignations of Hacienda's chief executive.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 24 against Dr. Phillip Gear, who cared for the woman for a 25-year period ending in mid-September 2018, and Dr. Thanh Nguyen, who succeeded Gear.

Just For Kids, the medical practice that employed Gear, and Internal Medicine Consultants LLC, where Nguyen worked, also were sued.

The lawsuit said the woman would not have been sexually assaulted had Gear ensured that only female staffers cared for the patient.

A phone message left for Gear wasn’t immediately returned Friday. A woman who answered the phone at Just For Kids hung up twice when The Associated Press called seeking comment on the lawsuit.

No one answered the phone at Nguyen’s office on Friday afternoon, and Internal Medicine Consultants didn’t immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

The victim had lived at Hacienda for 26 years, until the child’s birth. Her medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and vision loss. She was also left with no functional use of her limbs.

The woman’s mother is the boy’s guardian.

While the lawsuit mentions Hacienda HealthCare, the company wasn’t sued. Hacienda spokesman David Leibowitz didn’t immediate return a call Friday seeking comment.

Sutherland's DNA matched a sample from the woman's son, investigators say.

Sutherland, who wasn’t a target of the lawsuit, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

He was fired and gave up his nursing license after his arrest. His attorney, Edwin Molina, didn’t return a message Friday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit didn’t specify how much money her family was seeking. But an earlier notice of claim — a precursor to the lawsuit — requested $45 million.
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Full Article & Source:
Arizona, 2 doctors sued over rape of incapacitated woman 

See Also:
Trial Date Set For Man Accused Of Raping Incapacitated Woman At Hacienda Healthcare

Judge orders former Hacienda nurse accused of raping patient to take HIV test pending appeal

Arizona care unit where incapacitated woman gave birth to stay open

Hacienda HealthCare to cease operation at South Phoenix facility

Arizona governor calls for stronger protections after incapacitated woman’s pregnancy

Ex-nurse accused of impregnating a severely disabled Arizona woman pleads not guilty

Lawyer: No proof nurse raped Arizona patient who had baby

Nurse arrested in rape of woman in vegetative state who gave birth at care facility

Center where comatose woman had baby faced criminal probe

Lawyer: Incapacitated woman who gave birth not in coma

Patient alleges abuse at Hacienda Healthcare, two staff members placed on leave

Facility CEO resigns after woman in vegetative state gives birth; new allegations emerge

Patient in vegetative state gives birth, sex abuse investigation underway: report

As labor crunch tightens, employers offer more flexibility to those serving as family caregivers

By Robert Weisman 

From his Westborough home, Cigna New England president Mark Butler has a remote check-in with his elderly father, who lives in Vermont. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
When his mother died two years ago, Mark Butler was thrust into the unaccustomed role of caregiver for his 89-year-old father, who has prostate cancer and kidney disease.

Butler, 63, the Newton-based president for Cigna in New England, had to find time in the workday to call his dad in Bennington, Vt., and help him navigate the health care system. Butler also began driving 220 miles round trip to accompany him to medical procedures.

“I realized, ‘Holy cow, this takes a lot of time, energy, and discipline,’ ” he said.

Butler had joined the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of working caregivers in Massachusetts juggling the demands of their jobs with shopping for groceries, paying bills, and sorting meds for older parents. They duck out of meetings to haggle with insurers. They come to work late after shuttling parents to doctor appointments.

These caregivers have long suffered in silence, fearing employers would assume their responsibilities meant lost productivity, absenteeism, and workday interruptions. But a worsening labor shortage, and the personal odysseys of bosses like Butler, are transforming corporate attitudes.

Drawing on his experiences, Butler sought to bring the issue front and center at a recent business roundtable retreat at Babson College in Wellesley that drew top executives from the high-tech and biotech, real estate, construction, and financial services industries. At the same time, he’s worked to create a more welcoming culture for employee caregivers at Cigna New England, which has 60 employees in Newton and 350 across the region.

“Workers used to be quiet about it,” said Tom Riley, chief executive of Seniorlink, a Boston company whose technology aids family caregivers. “If you worked in the bowels of a business, you were petrified and you feared retribution if you talked about it. But that’s changing. Nothing brings it home more than the 50-year-old CEO who suddenly finds that he’s a caregiver and he can’t get to that morning meeting because of his caregiving duties.”

With the state’s unemployment rate dipping below 3 percent, many employers are now seeking to accommodate working caregivers through more family-friendly leave benefits and increased flexibility about when and where employees work.

Business leaders joined with their health care, education, and government counterparts last month to launch a Massachusetts Caregiver Coalition aimed at finding ways to support employees.

“It’s seen as a talent retention and workforce development issue,” Riley said. “Some employees have a half-time job as caregiver just at the time their careers are taking off.”

More than 612,000 workers spend at least some of their time out of the office caring for older adults in Massachusetts, according to a recent report from the state Executive Office of Elder Affairs along with the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the Massachusetts eHealth Institute. Many of these employees see themselves more as dutiful sons or daughters than caregivers. One survey showed more than four in 10 hadn’t told their supervisors about their responsibilities.

“For the longest time, I never considered myself a caregiver,” said Scott Williams, who leads the patient advocacy group at the Rockland-based biopharmaceutical company EMD Serono. Williams has spent years helping his aging mother cope with multiple chronic illnesses from a distance. He recently moved her from Eastern Pennsylvania to suburban Maryland, where his family lives.

The number of working caregivers is swelling partly because the over-65 population — their parents — are living longer than previous generations. To complicate the challenges, families are more spread out. And more of today’s employees are having children later, so they and their partners are caring for young children at the same time as they’re helping their parents.

Sara Quist, 42, Cigna’s director of community engagement, is typical of a large subset of working caregivers raising children and caring for parents at the same time.

When her family gathered at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill just before Thanksgiving to celebrate her son’s 7th birthday and watch a Boston College basketball game, her 86-year-old father collapsed just before tipoff.

“I could be a poster child for the sandwich generation,” Quist said.

She took time off from her job to accompany her father to a workup at Massachusetts General Hospital, where doctors determined he had suffered an attack of vertigo.

Quist knew she was fortunate: She could have taken advantage of Cigna’s four-week caregiver leave policy if needed. And throughout the ordeal, her manager was supportive, she said, even texting her early in the morning to ask how her father was doing.

“They let us bring our whole selves to work,” she said. “If you share your caregiver story, people understand what you’re going through and it makes it easier for others to share theirs.”

Many aren’t as lucky. They care for loved ones with conditions that persist for months or years, often with little or no help. Some talk of sitting at work near new parents who complain of being up at night with crying babies, afraid to tell them they’ve lost sleep trying to comfort parents with dementia.

And not all employers are sympathetic. In a 2017 survey by Transamerica Institute, more than three-quarters of employee caregivers said the stress caused them to make changes to their jobs, ranging from switching to part time to getting a new job or taking early retirement.

Liz O’Donnell of Dedham first had to string together vacation days but ultimately left her job at a marketing firm after her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and her father with Alzheimer’s disease on the same day in 2014. Her book about her experience, “Working Daughter: A Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Making a Living,” was released last summer.

O’Donnell said she “felt so unprepared and so alone” at first. “I didn’t hear anyone in the workplace talking about it,” she said. “I didn’t realize people in the next [cubical] or the next office might be going through it. And the open office design made it harder to talk when your parents called.”

Marc Bernica, senior vice president for Boston-based child-care provider Bright Horizons, recalled hiring a product manager in the company’s Colorado office who had left her previous job because she felt that employer hadn’t given her the flexibility to care for her aging mother. Bright Horizons tries to recognize and accommodate employees’ outside commitments, he said.

“These are people who are in their peak earnings years, and of peak value to their employers,” Bernica said. “We have to be able to think about their well-being holistically.”

Sometimes that means enlisting colleagues to pick up the slack for working caregivers.

Meagan Silva, an executive assistant at Rockland Trust in Hanover, said she’s grateful to the coworkers who cover for her when she has to take a call about the finances or insurance of an older relative struggling with depression.

“I have to take these calls on my work hours because that’s when the insurance people are working,” Silva said. “I have to be the voice for someone who’s lost their voice.”

Full Article & Source:
As labor crunch tightens, employers offer more flexibility to those serving as family caregivers