Saturday, February 1, 2020

News10NBC Investigates: Nursing homes sue family and friends of residents, one case for $280,000

Photo: News10NBC.
by Berkeley Brean

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC is exposing the trend of nursing homes suing the friends and families of residents whether they're dead or alive.

Mobile app users: Click here to watch all three videos that go with this story on

In the lawsuits, the nursing homes say they are owed money for the care they give but instead of going after the money from Medicaid.

News10NBC found out the nursing homes are going after spouses, children, grandchildren and friends.

They are suing these people because they signed an admission agreement when their loved one moved into a nursing home.

The nursing homes and their lawyers also accuse many relatives and friends of hiding money, including a 79-year-old woman who was trying to help her friend.

Ms. Robinson and Ms. Patterson

Two years ago, Barbara Robinson agreed to help her friend move into Monroe Community Hospital, the county's nursing home.

Robinson was her only caregiver for years but in 2018, her friend got very sick. Janet Patterson died two months after she moved into MCH.

"It was a loss," Robinson said. "I still miss her."

Robinson was already Patterson's power of attorney. But to get her friend a bed, Robinson signed the 25-page Admission Agreement to Monroe Community Hospital which included an addendum making Robinson the "financial agent."

That act of charity would come back to bite her.

More than a year later, a lawsuit showed up at Robinson's home in Bloomfield. Monroe County, the owner of Monroe Community Hospital, sued the estate of Janet Patterson and Barbara Robinson for $21,000.

Robinson: "At first I thought it was a joke."

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "It must have scared you though."

Robinson: "Well it did when I realized they were serious."

Not only does the county say Robinson owes $21,000, the lawsuit accused her of "breach of contract" and "fraudulent conveyance," intentionally moving Janet Patterson's money with "actual intent" to not pay the nursing home.

Robinson says Patterson lived on social security, just $800 a month. And she says the hospital had all of her friend's financials.

Robinson: "They know there wasn't an estate."

Brean: "They were looking for the money."

Robinson: "Yeah."

Brean: "And they started coming after you."

Robinson: "Yep."

"This is a classic example of no good deed goes unpunished," said Anna Anderson, a lawyer with Law NY, a non-profit legal office in Rochester. Anderson defended Robinson for free.

Brean: "The nursing home provided services for Janet Patterson. They're owed money."

Anderson: "Yes."

Brean: "Somebody's got to pay them."

Anderson: "Yes but Barbara doesn't owe the money. Barbara didn't receive any of these services.”

For the last two months, I compiled a list of more than six dozen lawsuits by non-profit nursing homes against residents, some of them dead, and their daughters, sons, spouses, nieces, nephews and friends.

The plaintiff in 30 of the cases, four out of every 10 filed, is Monroe County, the owner of Monroe Community Hospital.

The Highlands at Brighton sued eight times.

St. Anne's Homes for the Aged sued 12 times.

The Highlands Living Center sued five times.

St. John's Healthcare Corp. sued 14 times.

Some lawsuits demand huge amounts of money.
  • $18,000. 
  • $121,000. 
  • $280,000.
In Robinson's case, the nursing home bill shows Medicare covered her friend's first two weeks in MCH.

After that Medicaid was supposed to kick in. But Robinson's lawyer says the Medicaid application was never filed by the nursing home. So the bill, filed as evidence in the lawsuit, shows the cost of care of $420 a day built up until Patterson died.

The total was $21,000.

"Yes the resident likely owes something," Anderson said. "But that does not mean the nursing home can pursue whomever the resident knew and was helping to try to collect on this bill."

"I guess they thought, they must think there's an estate. I don't know what they think," Robinson said. "Or they're just hoping they can scare me into paying a bill I don't owe."

Why the lawsuits happen

"The lawsuits represent a very small percentage of accounts that have essentially gone bad," said David Tang is an attorney at Rochester law firm Underberg and Kessler.

That's the firm that represents nine non-profit nursing homes in the lawsuits we identified naming daughters, sons, spouses and friends.

Tang says the lawsuits represent about two to three percent of the total number of residents.

We've also learned that over the same period of time, Harris Beach filed seven similar cases. The firm Pullano and Farrow filed five.

Brean: "Why are you suing family members and friends?"

Tang: "The only time we'll name an individual in addition to the resident is because that individual has identified themselves as someone who is responsible for the resident's finances."

Tang says that happens when relatives and friends signed the admission agreement that includes the same document Barbara Robinson signed.

Remember, addendum five said Robinson agreed to be the financial agent for her friend.

Brean: "But by agreeing to do this, they're opening themselves up to being sued."

Tang: "So, that's an interesting question. If there is no missing money then no lawsuit would take place."

"I just never dreamed when I signed that that there was anyway there would be trouble for me," Robinson said.

I asked Tang about alleging "fraudulent conveyance" against people like Robinson even though the lawsuits don't provide proof.  

"I can't comment on a specific case but typically the allegation would not be included unless there was evidence of some kind of transfer or some kind of control over the assets which were not used to pay towards the cost of care," Tang said.

"Well there wasn't any money to hide," Robinson said.

Robinson says Janet Patterson lived on her social security check and rented an apartment.

Robinson says the nursing home told her it would take care of getting her friend's social security checks and Medicaid.

"Maybe they really think I did something wrong. I doubt that," Robinson said. "I think they just knew I had power of attorney so they took a shot at me."

The case gets dismissed

In October, Supreme Court Justice Debra Martin dismissed the case against Robinson. But five days before Christmas, Monroe County appealed. So the case is still active.

Why did the judge throw it out? Court documents show Judge Martin believed Robinson never got billed while she was still power of attorney, there was no proof that Robinson moved money and no proof that Robinson didn't try to help.

The solution: know what you're signing

"By signing an agreement, a contract with a nursing home, a friend or family member is actually exposing themselves to liability whether they know it or not," said Miles Zatkowsky, attorney at Dutcher and Zatkowsky.

He is an expert at this since his firm specializes in elder law.

Brean: "So what is the answer here? Don't sign these agreements if you have a loved one going into a nursing home?"

Miles Zatkowsky, Dutcher & Zatkowsky Elder Law: "Again that gets complicated because what clients are telling us is that if I don't sign the agreement as is, I'm not getting a bed offer."

Zatkowsky's firm offers free reviews of the nursing home contracts.

"They should know what they're signing," he said. "The concern is that I want my loved one cared for properly and if this is a pre-requisite or requirement to get them into the nursing home, 'show me where I sign?'"

Click here to get to Dutcher and Zatkowsky's website?????.

Click here for another article describing the issue.

We analyzed the lawsuits and found:

            • 79 total cases
            • 33 cases resulted in default judgments totally $1,395,636.53
            • 21 still pending
            • All the cases where the defendants had attorneys were discontinued or settled
            • No default judgments were entered in cases where defendant had an attorney
            • No fraud claims brought against spouses because they can recover automatically against them under the "doctrine of necessaries"

Full Article & Source:
News10NBC Investigates: Nursing homes sue family and friends of residents, one case for $280,000

State fines nursing homes over falls

Injury fatal for one resident, report says

by David C.L. Bauer

Two west-central Illinois nursing homes were among those fined by the Illinois Department of Public Health after one resident was injured and another died, according to the department’s quarterly report released Tuesday.

Aperion Care Jacksonville, a 113-bed skilled care facility at 1021 N. Church St., was fined $25,000 for failure to provide supervision and implement intervention for a resident to prevent multiple falls, according to the state.

Pittsfield Manor, an 89-bed skilled care facility at 610 Lowry St. in Pittsfield, was fined $25,000 for failure to provide supervision to prevent a fall, according to department records.

According to Illinois Department of Public Health documents, policies and requirements were not followed and that resulted in a resident falling, lacerating her head and suffering a fracture that required surgery and the pinning of her hip.

When the woman was admitted to the facility in 2018, it was determined she was at risk for falls, according to the state, but “the facility failed to implement effective interventions and provide supervision to prevent injury for multiple falls.”

At Pittsfield Manor, according to Illinois Department of Public Health documents, the facility also failed to provide supervision to prevent falling for a resident, resulting in her falling, hitting her head and being sent to the emergency room.

The resident suffered “a traumatic skull fracture, subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain) and subdural hematoma (a pool of blood between the brain and its outermost covering) that caused her death.”

The woman had been admitted to the facility in February and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a history of falls, unsteadiness, anxiety and vertigo.

The state documented a series of falls that occurred although the resident was urged to use a call light to get staff assistance. In the days before the most significant fall, nursing home staff reported she required more assistance and complained more often of headaches and dizziness.

In June, the woman was taken from the facility for a dental appointment, according to the state’s report. A nurse’s aide and bus driver called a few hours later and said the woman had fallen and was taken to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a brain bleed. The diagnosis was that the woman would “likely soon pass related to the intracerebral hemorrhage.”

She died about three days later, according to the report. The cause of death was “blunt force trauma” resulting from “falling and striking head on ground.”

Both facilities were cited with type “A” violations of the Nursing Home Care Act and processed between October and December. An “A” violation pertains to a condition in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious mental or physical harm will result or has resulted, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Full Article & Source:
State fines nursing homes over falls

Families seek big changes to guardianships

By: Mike Vasilinda

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- State lawmakers are about to crack down on guardians after an Orlando guardian allegedly initiated 'Do Not Resuscitate' orders against her patients’ wishes.

People from across Florida whose loved ones are in a guardianship assert major reforms are necessary.

There multiple stories of people who were put into guardianships, isolated from their families and had their assets liquidated.

Their family members came to the capitol to tell their stories.

“There is no due process, so its really open season on families,” said Dr. Teresa Kennedy, whose Aunt Lilly was put in a guardianship.

Dr. Kennedy came from New York to try and free her aunt in Deland.

"A family friend, who said he was a nephew petitioned without any of us knowing, and that started it off,” said Kennedy.

Lynn Sayler came from St. Petersburg.

Her mother was put in a home an hour and a half away.

Her mom died in 2012 and Lynn has been fighting for change ever since.

“We couldn’t get an emergency hearing. We couldn’t get her home for any holidays while other people were coming and leaving the facility,” said Sayler.

Hillary Hogue came from Naples.

“My father, who was doing quite well financially, was left with five dollars in his wallet,” said Hogue. “And I am begging for changes. This is happening. Thousands of people are being held captive.”

All of the families said they would expect what happened to them in another country, but not in America.

And attempts to get a meeting the Governor have been futile, until on Thursday, they hijacked A Seniors Day event at the Capitol.

It got them a meeting with the Secretary of Elder Affairs and now they hope that will turn into meaningful conversations that could eventually protect Florida Seniors.

In addition to requiring a judge to sign off on a do not resuscitate order, lawmakers are also looking to put a timeline for the state to investigate valid complaints within 45 days.

Full Article & Source:
Families seek big changes to guardianships

Friday, January 31, 2020

Pennsylvania woman charged with keeping sister, 53, in wooden cage with ‘dirty’ mattress, officials say

A Pennsylvania woman was charged earlier this month with imprisoning her sister inside a wooden cage with only a “dirty” mattress and almost no medical care, officials said.

Leona Biser, 51, had claimed she was caring for her 53-year-old sister, Loretta Lancaster, when authorities found her in a “man-made” cage in the living room of Biser’s “deplorable” home in Washington County on Jan. 15, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said in a news release.

“This defendant professed to be caring for her sister when, in fact, the home was in deplorable condition, had no running water, and the victim was not getting her prescribed medicines,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

Investigators said they found Lancaster "disheveled" and wearing "extremely dirty clothes," WPXI-TV reported. A baby bottle containing what appeared to be milk was also found in the cage, officials said.

Leona Biser kept her sister in a cage with only a dirty mattress and almost no medical care, officials said. (Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General)

Biser was charged with neglect of a care dependent person, abuse of a care dependent person, recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, and false imprisonment. She appeared in court Friday, the station reported.

Lancaster suffered from a urinary tract infection and Rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle that can be caused by infection, when she was taken from the home, officials said. She was treated at a hospital, where officials said her condition is improving.

Authorities had been working to help Lancaster, who family members say had the mental capacity of an infant, for at least three months, according to documents obtained by the station.

An arrest warrant said an agent with Adult Protective Services first visited Biser’s home on Aug. 19 and discovered Lancaster “locked in a wooden cage,” the station reported. The agent worked to get guardianship of Lancaster but did not return to the home until Nov. 1.

The Attorney General’s Office did not become involved until Nov. 22, when agents took Lancaster from the home in an ambulance to get treatment at a hospital, the warrant said.

“We fight to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Shapiro said in the news release. “And our agents have made sure the victim has received needed care and will no longer have to suffer daily living in a cage.”

Full Article & Source:
Pennsylvania woman charged with keeping sister, 53, in wooden cage with ‘dirty’ mattress, officials say

Woman gets probation for exploiting elderly Wichita Falls man, bleeding him for cash

Mary Ann Lujan (Photo: Courtesy/Wichita County Jail)
One of two sisters allegedly benefiting from bilking an elderly man out of over $90,000 was sentenced to probation Thursday, according to court records.

Mary Ann Lujan, 62, and Sandy Lujan,  53, have been accused of preying on an 85-year-old man with memory loss and diminished judgement, court documents show.

Mary Lujan pleaded guilty to exploitation of an elderly person Thursday in 89th District Court as part of a plea deal, court documents show.

Judge Charles Barnard sentenced Lujan to 10 years of deferred-adjudication community supervision, according to court records. 

If Mary Lujan successfully completes probation, the case against her could be dismissed. 

The third degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

Sandy Lujan faces charges of exploitation of an elderly person and fugitive from justice/failure to appear, according to court records. 

She was free from Wichita County Jail Thursday on $107,753 in bonds, according to online jail records.

An arrest warrant affidavit for Lujan gave the following account: On Aug. 9, 2018, a man reported to police that his father was being financially exploited.

A report was also filed with Adult Protective Services.

The total taken from his bank account was $90,761 between March and August of 2018. The family noticed suspicious expenditures from his account.

The account showed that between March 2018 and Aug. 4, 2018, 31 checks totaling $32,882 had been made out to Mary Lujan.

She had met the elderly man at the casino and stayed in close contact with him. Mary Lujan met him at a Pioneer Restaurant and Sam's Club, taking money and checks from him there.

Detectives met with the elderly man. He appeared to lack clear judgment and was easily confused with the facts of the case. He couldn't recall how much money he had given to the two sisters.

Sandy Lujan (Photo: Courtesy/Wichita County Jail)

The elderly man told detectives he was helping Mary Lujan pay her medical bills and buy medication at $100 per pill.

Detectives asked him about cash withdrawals from his bank account totaling $57,879.74. He said that money was also given to the sisters. 

The elderly man was mentally unaware and unable to recall how much money he had given to Mary Lujan or how often he wrote her checks.

Detectives and APS investigators believe the elderly man suffers from short-term memory loss, confusion and diminished judgment.

On Aug. 21, 2018, detectives and investigators interviewed Mary Lujan at her residence.

She said she knew why they were there and that the elderly man had given and loaned her money.

She appeared deceptive and misleading.

She said the elderly man was giving her money for medical reasons but was unsure if she was cured. She didn't know her doctor's name.

Mary Lujan did not have medications, receipts or billing statements to verify a need for assistance. She refused to allow police to review her medical history.

She said she and her new live-in boyfriend were unemployed.

Detectives believe she was grooming the elderly victim weekly. 

Mary Lujan said she gives some of the money from the cashed checks to her sister, Sandy Lujan.

Mary Lujan told detectives she does not intend to stop her relationship with the elderly man.

A doctor examined the victim and reported him as having diminished mental capacity and cognitive ability.

A detective believed the exploitation would financially ruin the elderly man at the rate it was going. 

Full Article & Source:
Woman gets probation for exploiting elderly Wichita Falls man, bleeding him for cash

Virginia lawmakers reject setting standards for nursing home staffing — for now

By Dave Ress

Sen. Jennifer Kiggans, seen during the opening of Virginia's General Assembly on Jan. 8, said she'll keep pushing for new regulations of nursing homes. (Jonathon Gruenke/Daily Press)
Brushing off — for the 16th time — a proposal to set minimum staff levels for Virginia nursing homes, which are ranked among the nation’s worst for the number of patients per caregiver, a state Senate panel decided to recommend a study group instead.

The Senate Health subcommittee rejected on a voice vote a proposal from state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, that would have said nursing homes need to provide at least one direct care staffer for every six patients.

“Families are stressed to the max trying to make sure their loved ones get the care they need,” said Sam Kukich of Poquoson, after telling the panel about her late mother-in-law’s 55 falls while in a Peninsula nursing home and the 65 pounds she lost there because she didn’t get the help she needed to eat.

Residents who need help eating, showering, moving around and going to the bathroom get an average of two hours of direct care staff time a day, she said.

“A lot have given up,” she said.

Erin Hines, a certified nurse assistant from the Peninsula, said she often is assigned 20, 30 or 40 patients a shift.

“Call lights are going unanswered because there is no one to answer," she said.

But Scott Johnson, a lobbyist for the state nursing home association, said the bill wouldn’t help because it was a one-size-fits-all standard. He said the real problem was that nursing homes have problems attracting enough good staff members.

Subcommittee Chairman Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, said the problem was serious but the cost to address the issue could be large. And subcommittee member Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, said that while nursing home shortfalls in care are egregious, she thought Kiggans’ bill would do more harm than good.

Kiggans said she would be back.

“These are my people,” she said, afterward. “This is why I ran for office.”

Most Hampton Roads nursing homes have fewer nurses and aides and more violations of health standards than the national averages, putting patients at increased risk of injury or untreated illness, Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot investigations found last year.

Inspectors found multiple violations of state standards of care at virtually every nursing home in Hampton Roads, a review of the latest round of reports shows.

Out of 64 area nursing homes, only two had no deficiencies in care reported, the papers’ analysis of U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services records found.

Many of the facilities where Hampton Roads’ most vulnerable adults live — those often unable to feed themselves, move around or even speak — exceed national averages for resident injuries from falls and open wounds from lying too long in one position, the newspapers found after reviewing several hundred pages of state inspection reports and federal data.

Roughly 60 percent of Hampton Roads homes reported patients having open skin wounds more often than the national average. The same percentage of homes reported above average numbers of residents became less mobile during their stay.

Since 2001, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said homes needed to have enough registered nurses to provide 45 minutes of care a day for each resident. Only 11 of Hampton Roads’ 57 homes met this standard.

Full Article & Source:
Virginia lawmakers reject setting standards for nursing home staffing — for now

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Cautionary Tale About Living Wills

By Dr. Lynn Webster, PNN Columnist
If you become sick and incapacitated, who will decide what type of medical treatment you receive?
Many people don’t want to leave it to chance. They document their end-of-life preferences in an advance healthcare directive – also known as a living will -- believing that will ensure that their wishes are followed.
However, too often that doesn't happen. As The New York Times reported, the language in advance healthcare directives is often unclear, so doctors and family members may not know what their legal obligations are under specific circumstances. Having an advance healthcare directive may also provide a person a false sense of comfort -- if nobody knows it exists.
One woman’s story is an example of how end-of-life wishes can be ignored. “Frances” was estranged from her family, so she asked her longtime business associate, Eleanor, to be her health care proxy.  If there ever came a time when Frances couldn't make her own decisions, Eleanor would do so as proxy. They signed the paperwork, but then Eleanor lost track of Frances.  
After an incapacitating stroke, Frances was placed in an assisted living facility. She suffered from aphasia and, perhaps, dementia. She no longer had a voice in where she was, what happened to her home or what medication she was given. All control of her life had been ceded to an unknown and potentially self-serving guardian.
States can legally give strangers control over a debilitated person's money, home and medical care. Court-appointed guardians are professionals who handle the affairs of the elderly or infirm when there are no family members to take on that responsibility and no paperwork leading to anyone else who is willing to do so.
Guardians may be honest and very much interested in the best for the incapacitated person, but this is not guaranteed. The guardian may have minimal accountability, and the person placed under guardianship can be at the mercy of this individual. Loss and abuse may follow.
A HuffPost article likened this situation to a “con game” that has led to “a silent epidemic of elder abuse.”
According to AARP, court-ordered guardianship "often leads to isolation and exploitation of older Americans." Approximately 1.3 million adults, most of them older than 65, are currently under guardianship in the United States. Frances is one of them. Her story strikes a chord with me, because people of a certain age or those with a disability, can so easily find themselves in that position.  

The Missing Health Care Proxy Document 

A neighbor remembered Frances had once appointed someone named Eleanor (whose last name was unusual enough and whose profile was high enough that she could be found online) as her proxy. The neighbor tracked Eleanor down, hoping she would be able to legally advocate for Frances.  
Eleanor was unable to find her copy of the healthcare proxy document. However, she drove eight hours to the assisted living facility where Frances had been placed and was able to ascertain that Frances was relatively comfortable and safe.  
Eleanor was still worried that the court-appointed guardian had questionable motives for getting involved in the case and was brokenhearted to know that the advance healthcare directives Frances had put in place had not been honored. No one besides Eleanor knew what they were and she was not allowed to participate in the decision-making process.  
"Frances had a will, a trust, a health care power of attorney, and other documents executed. She chose me as her health care proxy because I have extensive experience in finance administration. We'd worked in the same industry for decades and had a mutually trusting relationship. But we both failed to do what we needed to do to be sure Frances's preferences were honored,” Frances explained. 

Difficult Conversations Can Make All the Difference 

At some point in our lives, many of us may find ourselves in a position where we can't communicate our preferences. It can be helpful to think through the type of medical care you will and will not want to receive in various situations, and commit your wishes in writing by filling out your state's advance directive form.  
Unfortunately, if the probate court (or whatever it is in your area) chooses, the judge can set these arrangements aside and institute whatever she or he deems necessary, which usually includes appointing a professional guardian. This is most likely to happen when trustees or guardians cannot be located, so do your best to cover your bases in advance.  
It is important to have conversations with your closest family members, friends and healthcare providers about the medical care you would prefer in the most difficult situations. Give them copies of the paperwork.  
Avoid creating a vacuum that a professional guardian may be ordered to fill by firming up your own support network now—while you still have time.
Lynn R. Webster, MD, is a vice president of scientific affairs for PRA Health Sciences and consults with the pharmaceutical industry. He is author of the award-winning book, “The Painful Truth,” and co-producer of the documentary, “It Hurts Until You Die.” You can find Lynn on Twitter: @LynnRWebsterMD. 

Opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not reflect the views or policy of PRA Health Sciences.

Full Article & Source:
A Cautionary Tale About Living Wills

Adults 80+ reported $72 million in fraud and losses in 2019, FTC says

Adults aged 80 or more years reported fraud and losses of $72 million in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2019, released Thursday.

These older adults, with a total of 49,995 cases, accounted for 5% of all fraud and loss reports for which consumers included their ages, according to the 90-page report. The book shares information compiled via a secure online database available only to members of law enforcement.

Eleven percent of the cases reported by those 80 or more in 2019 involved a loss of money. The median amount lost was $1,600, two times the median among those aged 70 to 79, who had the next-highest median loss, $800.

Identity theft

Those aged 80 or more years also reported 5,687 cases of identity theft in 2019, according to the FTC.

The most common type of identity fraud in this age group was credit card fraud, accounting for 1,991 cases. Bank fraud was the next most frequent type of specific fraud in this age group, with 1,107 cases, although “other identity theft” accounted for 1,160 cases.

There were 957 reported cases of identity theft involving government documents or benefits fraud, 567 reported cases of employment or tax-related fraud, 518 reported cases of phone or utilities fraud, and 272 reported cases of loan or lease fraud among those aged 80 or more years.

Suspected elder financial abuse may be reported to the FTC at or 877-FTC-HELP and to the Senate Special Committee on Aging at 855-303-9470 or

Full Article & Source:
Adults 80+ reported $72 million in fraud and losses in 2019, FTC says

Ex-nursing home worker given probation in Iowa abuse case

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - A former nursing home worker has been given two to five years' probation for abusing a nursing home resident.

The Courier reports that 61-year-old Michael Ritchie Kane, of Westgate, pleaded guilty earlier this month to dependent adult abuse with injury.

In exchange for his plea, Kane was granted a deferred judgment, meaning the offense will come off his record if he successfully completes probation.

Kane had worked at Ravenood Specialty Care in Waterloo, and investigators say that in June 2018, he pinched and punched a resident there, attempted to suffocate the patient and threatened to shoot him.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-nursing home worker given probation in Iowa abuse case

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Geraldo: The story 'branded on my soul' that caused a revolution

By Matt London

In 1972, a young reporter exposed a sickening, state-run system of neglect and abuse carried out under the noses of millions of Americans and in one of the country's biggest cities.

When the horrors of Willowbrook State School, in Staten Island, New York, were finally exposed, the ill-equipped, disease-ridden facility housed more than 6,000 developmentally and physically disabled people, and it had been in operation for decades.

Fox Nation's new documentary series "I am Geraldo: 50 years" looked back over Geraldo Rivera's storied television news career, beginning with the exposé that sparked a national reckoning over America's treatment of its most vulnerable, catapulted Geraldo to national fame and continues to haunt him to this day.

"It changed the trajectory of my life completely," said Fox News' roaming correspondent-at-large. "It made me a celebrity in many ways, ironically. ... That's part of the guilt that I bear over the decades."

Willowbrook State School was opened in 1942 to house and educate the developmentally disabled, but two just decades later, it had already become a nightmare.

"I visited the state institutions for the mentally retarded," said Sen. Bobby Kennedy in 1965, using an outdated term to describe people with intellectual disabilities. "I think, particularly at Willowbrook, we have a situation that borders on a snake pit."

Kennedy's condemnation and subsequent newspaper reports about deteriorating conditions at Willowbrook would momentarily raise awareness, but they did little to force change.

Budget cuts exacerbated the situation and soon only 2,000 workers remained to care for a population over 6,000. Efforts to provide therapy and education at the facility were abandoned, as the staff struggled and failed to keep patients clean, clothed and fed.

"I began working at Willowbrook in 1970," Dr. William Bronston told Fox Nation. "The first time I went there, I stood there, I was crying. ... I'd never seen such wanton disregard for children."

"It was much worse than I thought," recalled Dr. Michael Wilkins, another Willowbrook physician.

Dr. Wilkins was eventually fired for organizing the parents of Willowbrook's patients to advocate for the proper care of their children. With nowhere left to turn, he reached out to a 28-year-old lawyer, who he had previously asked to help a group of nurses in a wage dispute.

That young attorney was Geraldo Rivera. Geraldo had recently joined the Eyewitness News team at WABC in New York, where he was looking for stories that resonated in his community. Little did he know -- this story would shock the nation and start a movement.

"I get a call from Dr. Wilkins," remembered Geraldo in the Fox Nation show. "He said, 'These are the worst conditions you've ever seen in your life. There are children that are being abused here."

Geraldo and a TV news camera crew were dispatched to Staten Island to see what they could find. They scrambled over a fence and snuck into Willowbrook's Building Six where they discovered, what Geraldo later described as, "a crime against humanity."

(Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Geraldo: The story 'branded on my soul' that caused a revolution

Concerns Continue Over Guardianship In New Mexico

Credit Peter Goodman
Commentary: Doris and Rio Hamilton allege that after they consulted lawyer CaraLyn Banks, she proceeded — without telling them — to have Ms. Hamilton declared mentally incompetent and Advocate Services (AS) appointed to take over her life and make all her decisions, including banning her son, Rio, from the house they own together.

Kise and Larry Davis would understand the Hamiltons’ situation. A well-meaning acquaintance of Kise reported her deteriorating cognitive abilities. Soon AS controlled her life, vilifying her beloved stepson, Larry. Banks was appointed “Kise’s” lawyer. Even after the court ordered Kise be transferred to California, near Larry, AS and Banks battled for another year, costing the family another year of agency fees — PLUS both Larry’s legal fees spent trying to free his stepmother, and Banks’ fees for opposing on Kise’s behalf, what Kise and Larry wanted.

While I’m sure that AS must do some good, families and friends of some AS “clients” say they don’t like or trust AS. Professionals who know the guardianship scene here have expressed similar feelings; and there’s a surprisingly strong dislike of Banks among lawyers who’ve opposed her in these matters. One lawyer with firsthand experience with AS said he'd like to see AS shut down, although there's a shortage of  such businesses here. Others have expressed the belief that judges are "in on it." However, I’ve seen no basis for believing judges are involved in any dishonesty. Nor can I say anyone’s committed crimes.  

The Hamiltons say Banks and AS “have demonstrated a pattern of exploitation of the elderly.” Lawyer Raul Carrillo told a reporter that in the Davis case, the fight to keep Kise in Cruces was “because of the vested interest of (AS).”

Banks says AS is one of three firms she uses, more or less in rotation, that “all three do a good job,” and that complaints from families are no more frequent with AS than with others in the field.

We all eventually need help. The need grows as we age, often living far from family, some of us without friends or family to provide that help. Too, not all families are benign, honest and competent enough to provide care.

But even where intervention is initially necessary and helpful, do AS and Banks fight to maintain their roles beyond when they’re really needed? They say they’re looking out for the “client’s” needs, but it seems a disturbing pattern. The owner of another agency, though she wouldn’t comment on AS, said that her company did everything possible to turn over control quickly to family or friends, as long as someone competent and honest was willing to take on the responsibility. That makes sense, both emotionally and financially. AS’s default mode seems to be to fight for their turf, above all; and some claim that’s particularly so when real property is involved.

The handyman who called for help with Kise offered to withdraw the petition once he met her stepson Larry, saying the move to California made sense. In the Goldberg case, the well-meaning friend who called Banks regretted it, and was appalled by how AS conducted its business. Doris Hamilton’s guardian ad litem, David Lutz, has stipulated to Rio being named his mother’s guardian. But that hasn’t happened. Maybe AS likes collecting fees or knows something we don’t.

I’m sure these folks started with great intentions and do some good; but even “professionals” don’t always know what’s right.

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Concerns Continue Over Guardianship In New Mexico

Crestview caregiver arrested for exploitation and fraud

Danise Adkins
Danise Adkins, a 55-year-old caregiver, was arrested Wednesday on charges of exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a credit card.

CRESTVIEW — A TLC caregiver was arrested last week on charges of exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a credit card.

According to her Crestview Police Department arrest report, 55-year-old Danise Adkins was arrested on January 15.

The report states that Adkins was employed as a home health care provider for the victim when the alleged crimes occurred.

According to the report, Adkins took possession of the victim’s Eglin Federal Credit Union debit card and made seven fraudulent purchases totaling $334.20 during a two-month period.

According to the report, Adkins used the card for a $90.25 purchase at Out O’ Space Storage in Cantonment. Adkins told deputies the victim allowed her to use the card to pay the monthly payment for her daughter’s storage.

Adkins also used the card to make a purchase of $56.21 at Bealls Outlet in Milton, the report said. Adkins was recorded on the store’s security camera making the purchase with the victim’s card.

Other purchases made by Adkins with the victim’s card included food and various nail salon appointments.

On September 21, Adkins was recorded at Eglin Federal Credit Union trying to make a balance inquiry on the card but was denied, the report said. She was terminated from her job two days later, according to the report.

According to the report, the victim told deputies he did not authorize any of the purchases Adkins made, the report said.

Jail records indicate that Adkins was released on $3,000 bond four hours after her arrest. Court records show she is set to plea on Feb. 18.

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Crestview caregiver arrested for exploitation and fraud

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Diagnosed with dementia, she documented her wishes for the end. Then her retirement home said no.

When she worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, long before cellphone calculators, Susan Saran could perform complex math problems in her head. Years later, as one of its top regulators, she was in charge of investigating insider trading deals.

Today, she struggles to remember multiplication tables.

Seven years ago, at age 57, Saran was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a progressive, fatal brain disease. She had started forgetting things, losing focus at the job she had held for three decades. Then tests revealed the grim diagnosis.

“It was absolutely devastating,” Saran, 64, said. “It changed everything. My job ended. I was put out on disability. I was told to establish myself in an [extended] community before I was unable to care for myself.”

So Saran uprooted herself. She sold her home in 2015 and found a bucolic retirement community in rural New York whose website promised “comprehensive health care for life.”

And now, she is fighting with that community over her right to determine how she will die — even though she has made her wishes known in writing. Similar fights could ensnare millions of Americans with dementia and similar end-of-life directives in coming years.

In 2018, after two brain hemorrhages, Saran conferred with a lawyer and signed an advance directive for dementia, a controversial new document that instructs caregivers to withhold ­hand-feeding and fluids at the end of life to avoid the worst ravages of the disease.

“It’s not something that I am willing to endure,” she said. “I don’t want my life prolonged beyond the point where I’m participating in life.”

But when Saran submitted the document to her New York continuing care retirement community, Kendal at Ithaca, where she has spent more than $500,000 to live, officials there said they could not honor her wishes.

In a letter, lawyers told Saran that the center is required by state and federal law to offer regular daily meals, with feeding assistance if necessary. No provision exists, the letter said, for “decisions to refuse food and water.”

When asked about Saran, Kendal’s executive director, Laurie Mante, wrote in an email: “We recognize the great complexity in balancing our residents’ wishes with what is required of us. We have a dedicated team who works to balance those interests, and, when appropriate, work with our residents and their families to seek alternative paths.”

It’s a cruel quandary for Saran and other Americans who have turned to dementia directives that have been created in recent years. Even when people document their choices in these directives — while they still have the ability to do so — no guarantee exists that those instructions will be honored, said Stanley Terman, a California psychiatrist who advises patients on end-of-life decisions.

“It is, in my opinion, a false sense of security,” Terman said.

That may be especially true for the 2.2 million people who live in long-term care settings in the United States. People with dementia are most likely to die in nursing facilities, according to new research from Duke University and Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

“If you’ve got the resources, where you’ve got family and paid caregivers at home, you’re all set,” said Karl Steinberg, a California geriatrician and hospice physician who has written extensively about dementia directives. If you’re living in a facility, he said, “it’s not going to happen.”

One key question is whether patients with dementia — or those who fear the disease — can say in advance that they want oral food and fluids stopped at a certain point, a move that would hasten death through dehydration.

It is a controversial form of VSED — voluntarily stopping eating and drinking — a practice among some terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. In those cases, people who still have mental capacity can refuse food and water, resulting in death within about two weeks.

Many states prohibit the withdrawal of assisted feeding, calling it basic “comfort care” that must be offered. Only one state, Nevada, explicitly recognizes an advance directive that calls for stopping eating and drinking. And that’s via a little-known law that took effect in October.

Critics of such documents, however, say they could lead to forced starvation of incapacitated people. The directives may be biased, reflecting a society prejudiced against age, disability and cognitive change, said James Wright, medical director of three long-term care facilities in Richmond and lead author of a recent white paper advising facilities not to honor dementia directives.

Based on his years of clinical experience, Wright said many people with dementia become content with their situation, even when they never thought they would be.

“To enforce an advance directive on someone who may have had a complete turnaround on what they think of a life worth living is unethical and immoral,” Wright said.

The dementia directives offered in the past few years are aimed at filling what experts say has been a major gap in advance-care planning: the gradual loss of capacity to make decisions about one’s care.

One version, published in 2018 by Barak Gaster, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, was downloaded 130,000 times after being mentioned in a New York Times story and continues to be retrieved about 500 times per week.

“This is an issue that people have really thought a lot about,” Gaster said. “They worry about it a lot. They’re so eager and excited to have a structured opportunity to make their wishes known.”

Traditional advance directives focus on rare conditions, such as a persistent vegetative state or permanent coma, Gaster said. “And yet the No. 1 reason a person would lose ability is dementia,” he said.

In addition to Gaster’s document, directives drafted in New York and Washington state have drawn hundreds of users. The aid-in-dying advocacy group Compassion & Choices released a dementia directive in December.

As the U.S. population ages, more people — and their families — are grappling with dementia. By 2050, nearly 14 million Americans 65 and older may be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We are right now experiencing the very first upswing of the giant wave of dementia that’s heading our way,” Gaster said.

Saran is on the crest of that wave.

Divorced, with no close family, she turned to Kendal — with its 236 independent units and 84-bed health center — as her final home. During her four years there, she has noticed some decline in her mental clarity.

“Even some of the simplest mathematical problems, like even seven times seven, I can’t think of it now,” Saran said.

Still, she is able to manage her affairs. She cooks her own food and cares for her three cats — Squeaky, Sweetie and Pirate, a one-eyed tabby. A longtime Buddhist, she often drives to a nearby monastery to practice her faith.

In late summer, Saran invited visitors to her small cottage at Kendal, where tapestries hang on the walls and bookshelves are filled with tomes on religion, death and dying.

Frontotemporal dementia affects about 60,000 people in the United States, and patients often die within seven to 13 years. But Saran’s disease appears to be progressing more slowly than expected.

“I think I have great capacity,” said Saran, who wears her silver hair long and favors jeans, linen shirts and turquoise jewelry.

She chain-smokes, lighting up the Seneca cigarettes she buys for $3 a pack from a nearby Indian reservation. She thought about quitting but decided it was not worth the effort and continues to indulge her habit. “If you had my diagnosis, wouldn’t you?” she said.

When Saran was hospitalized after her strokes, she suddenly understood what losing her abilities might mean.

“I realized, oh, my God, I might get stuck in a situation where I can’t take any independent action,” she recalled. “I better make sure I have all my paperwork in order.”

She was stunned to learn it might not matter, even after her local lawyer, Chuck Guttman, drafted health-care proxy documents and a power of attorney. “I thought this was it,” she said. “I thought I’d move here and everything was taken care of, everything was settled. And now it’s not.”

Mante, Kendal’s executive director, declined to comment on Saran’s specific situation, even after Saran authorized her to do so. “As with all of our residents,” she wrote, “we are working diligently to provide for an enriching, quality living environment that honors her independence and wishes.”

Saran said no one from Kendal has yet reached out to discuss an “alternative path.”

Not all dementia directives include instructions about assisted feeding. Gaster said he and his colleagues had “heated conversations” before deciding to leave that issue off their popular document.

Instead, he said, his option helps more people by addressing general goals of care for each stage of the disease. The most important thing, he said, is for people to consider their choices and share their desires with their loved ones.

The debate, Gaster said, boils down to whether “assisted feeding is basic support” or “a medical intervention that can be declined in advance.”

“There’s still a very wide perspective of viewpoints on that,” he said.

Backed by statute and practice, facilities say they are bound to offer food to all residents willing to eat, and to assist with hand-feeding and fluids if a person needs help. The controversy centers on the definition of those terms.

Wright says late-stage dementia patients who show any interest in food — a flick of the eyes, grunting or gestures, opening the mouth — should be fed until they refuse it. Steinberg and others contend the default should be “don’t feed unless they ask for it.”

It is always going to be “somewhat of a guess,” Wright said, about whether hand-feeding someone is help — or force. “I’ve not seen any guidelines that can faithfully give good unbiased guidance,” he said. “I feel that I personally can determine when food means something to my patients and when it doesn’t.”

The growing efforts to use advance directives were inspired, in part, by high-profile cases of dementia patients who were spoon-fed against their apparent wishes. In Oregon and in British Columbia, courts ruled that food and water were basic care that could not be withdrawn.

But so far, there has been no court case that says a clear advance directive for VSED “may or must be honored,” said Thaddeus Mason Pope, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law who studies end-of-life decisions.

Pope said he has heard of many people who move out — or their families move them out — of long-term care facilities to avoid assisted feeding in the last stages of dementia.

Saran has considered that, too.

“I should probably just leave,” she said, although that would mean losing the nonrefundable investment she already has made. She thinks about moving out every day, but then what? Hospice might be a solution, but only if there is room when she needs it, she said.

Saran said her situation should be viewed as a cautionary tale. She wishes she had asked more questions before moving into her community and insisted on answers about how she would die once her dementia progressed.

“I didn’t realize I was signing away my right to self-determination,” she said. “I am appalled that my future demented self takes precedence over my competent current self.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Diagnosed with dementia, she documented her wishes for the end. Then her retirement home said no.

Woman accused of financially exploiting multiple elderly victims

Jaylon George
by: Antoinette Odom

FOLEY, Ala. (WKRG) — Jaylon George, 19-years-old, is accused of financially taking advantage of at least four elderly residents of a local nursing home, formerly George’s place of employment.

Officers and Criminal Investigators from the Foley Police Department, with the assistance of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Investigative Unit worked together to issue a search warrant for George.

This investigation is being conducted in a cooperative effort by a newly formed team created by the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office targeting financial exploitation and abuse of the elderly.

George, who was out on bond for previous financial crimes, was arrested and charged with two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly, two felony counts of Theft of Property, and one felony count of Possession of Forged Instrument.

The Foley Police Department says additional victims may have been discovered during the search and additional charges are likely.  George’s previous bond has been revoked.

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Woman accused of financially exploiting multiple elderly victims

Dementia patient and her carer sing Sinatra classic and hit number 7 on the charts

By Jakob Neeland

When 31-year-old carer Jamie Lee Morley first heard aged care resident Margaret Mackie sing, he automatically assumed that the beautiful voice he heard was coming from a nearby radio.

While it is certainly not uncommon for aged care staff and residents to develop strong bonds, nobody at the Northcare Suites Care Home in Glasgow, Scotland, could have imagined what would happen next.

The pair were recently thrust into the public spotlight as heartwarming footage of the young carer and the 83-year-old resident performing Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ at the nursing home Christmas party became a viral internet sensation.

And if that wasn’t enough, this dynamic duo have now recorded the song professionally and it is soaring up the charts in the UK.

Like many seniors living with dementia, Margaret experiences significant issues with short-term memory loss, but her ability to recall classic songs and the positive effects of this process highlight why musical therapy is an area of growing interest.

According to an interview with Margaret’s daughter, new-found fame has given the 83-year-old a “new lease on life”, noting that living with dementia was beginning to take a toll on her mother’s emotional wellbeing.

Margaret and Jamie’s rendition of ‘My Way’ currently sits at number 31 on the iTunes Top 40 UK Pop Songs live chart, ahead of international megastars like Ed Sheeran, Justin Beiber and The Black Eyed Peas.

But the single actually reached number seven on the charts just last week.

The single is currently available to download on iTunes, with all profits from song sales to be split between the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK.

While Margaret’s vocal abilities may have come as a shock, her carer Jamie is a part-time singer who regularly performs other classic renditions of Elvis songs with Margaret at the nursing home.

Jamie grew up watching his grandfather live with Alzheimer’s disease, and topping the charts is allowing the young man to raise money for charity and bring joy to his favourite resident’s life.

It appears that Jamie has found his calling working with seniors, as the former barista’s musical talents provide a walk down memory lane for those living with dementia.

Picture courtesy of Jamie Lee Morley YouTube Channel.

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Dementia patient and her carer sing Sinatra classic and hit number 7 on the charts