Saturday, March 14, 2020

Judge: Hawaiian ‘princess’ needs help managing $215M estate

HONOLULU (AP) — A 93-year-old Native Hawaiian heiress needs someone to handle her estate despite taking testimony from the so-called princess on Monday that she didn’t need a conservator because she’s still alive, a judge ruled Friday. 

“Ms. Kawananakoa is a charming and gracious lady, in the best sense of the word. She has a great sense of humor and is tremendously endearing,” said state Judge James Ashford. “Nevertheless, the Court finds ... that for reasons other than age Ms. Kawananakoa is unable to manage her property and business affairs effectively because of an impairment.”

Abigail Kawananakoa’s $215 million trust has been tied up in a court case since she had a stroke in 2017. 

Kawananakoa says she’s fine. After the stroke, she married her partner of 20 years, Veronica Gail Worth, who later took the heiress’ last name. Board members of her foundation and ex-employees say the wife is manipulating Kawananakoa. Lawyers for the couple dispute that.

Kawananakoa inherited her wealth as the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.

Native Hawaiians consider her a princess because she’s a descendant of the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. They have been closely watching the case because they are concerned about the fate of a foundation she set up to benefit Hawaiian causes.

When Megan Kau, an attorney representing Kawananakoa’s former housekeeper, asked if Kawananakoa understood who her trustee is, she said, “Well, I’m not dead yet, so what do you mean trustee? Who needs to handle my estate if I’m still alive?”

On the witness stand, Kawananakoa said she disputed that she suffered a stroke.

Full Article & Source:
Judge: Hawaiian ‘princess’ needs help managing $215M estate

Florida lawmakers pass Guardianship bill, send it to governor’s desk for signing

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Tallahassee, FL – Florida lawmakers unanimously passed a bill Wednesday designed to protect people under the care of Florida’s guardianship program sending the legislation to Gov. Ron DeSantis to become law.

The vote comes after a former Central Florida guardian was caught placing do not resuscitate orders on clients without their permission.

This week, Florida lawmakers went through the final readings of the State Senate version of the Guardianship bill before the final vote. The bill passed unanimously in the Florida Senate last week and went to House vote Wednesday.

A news conference is scheduled for Thursday morning at the state capitol with the bill co-authors, Rep. Colleen Burton, of Lakeland and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, of Naples, along with Richard Prudom, the secretary of Elder Affairs.

The bill will now go to DeSantis’ office to be signed into law.

Last summer, DeSantis ordered a statewide probe into the guardianship program after state investigators launched a criminal investigation into former Orlando-based guardian Rebecca Fierle and the hundreds of guardianship cases she had across the state.

The measure entered as HB 709 and SB 994, would clamp down on what guardians would be allowed to do -- and create more supervision on cases involving vulnerable and elderly patients entrusted with their care. The bills come right on the heels of a court date being set for Fierle.

Fierle is a former guardian who was arrested in February on two felony counts of abuse and aggravated neglect. Fierle is scheduled for a court hearing on arraignment in Hillsborough County to face two felony counts on March 23.

Fierle was under a state criminal investigation for months over how she handled the case of Stephen Stryker, a Brevard County man who died at a Tampa hospital while under her care. State investigators allege she ordered his feeding tube to be capped and a DNR order to remain in place against the recommendations of doctors, and against Stryker's wishes. She is also being investigated for how she handled her clients' finances.

As a result of this case, Passidomo and Burton recommended stricter guidelines and more court supervision over what state guardians can and can’t do. Fierle’s former attorneys contend she acted within the current guidelines set forth by Florida law and did nothing wrong when she placed DNR orders on hundreds of clients without their permission, and without notifying the court.

The attorneys representing her in her criminal case have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Full Article & Source:
Florida lawmakers pass Guardianship bill, send it to governor’s desk for signing

‘It was unbelievable, the filth’: State investigators find several violations at Platte City nursing home

PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- A Northland nursing home is under the microscope after multiple people reported health and safety violations at the facility.

Laura Spooner is grieving the loss of her aunt, Dee Feldman.

“She was a really special lady to us,” Spooner said.

But she said she is very worried about how her aunt spent her final moments in Hillview Nursing & Rehab in Platte City. She said the quality of care started to slip late last summer.

“It was 100 degrees out, and she was in somebody else's clothes. It was full-on sweat pants, and she was just totally red, soaked hair, just sweating,” Spooner said.

She said the family tried to give Hillview the benefit of the doubt. However, Spooner said things didn't get better.

Dee had dementia and needed help bathing and eating. Yet, in January, she was allegedly left in the shower alone. She fell, and a medical chart shows her entire body was bruised.

A few weeks later, Laura's daughter got a call that Dee wasn't doing well.

“She was bedridden," Spooner said. "Just two weeks prior, my daughter was in there, and she was sitting up in her wheelchair, and she was fine."

The family insisted Dee go to the hospital. The doctors there said her condition was dire.

“They found out she was severely dehydrated. She had to have five bags of fluid,” Spooner said.

Spooner flew in from Wyoming. After her aunt Dee was released from the hospital and sent back to Hillview, Spooner and her daughter stayed there around the clock.

“The conditions that we saw were just unbelievable,” she said.

She snapped photos of filthy and busted floors, dirty bathrooms, and she even caught an employee sleeping on the job, twice. She said it was on nights when he was the only CNA on duty for 66 patients.

“We couldn't find people to help as my aunt was choking on her own secretion. We were running down those hallways. It was unbelievable, the filth in that establishment,” Spooner said.

They also got Dee's patient logs, which show her aunt hadn't been bathed in 23 days. There's no record of her having dinner in weeks. The time stamps on meals are also off, including meals listed on days Dee was hospitalized.

“Every life matters. Every resident at Hillview Nursing Home matters," Spooner said. "I want family members to know they're not being taken care of. They're sitting in soiled pull-ups. Soiled pull-ups. And that should not be."

After a current resident, past employee, and Laura Spooner called the state’s nursing home neglect hotline, state inspectors visited. They issuing several citations for health and safety violations.

FOX4 spoke with the administrator of Hillview Nursing Home. She said:
“Patient safety is top priority. We are taking the concerns very seriously, with the issues brought from the state. We’ve thoroughly investigated and are promptly addressing those issues. We comply with state and federal patient privacy and employment laws and cannot discuss anything further about this matter.”
Hillview has 10 days to make a plan for improvements and report back to the state.

Documents show Hillview is tied to a company called Health Systems Incorporated. HSI has faced numerous wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits in Missouri at various facilities and was also part of a $30 million Medicare fraud case in 2014.

However, the party listed from Health Services Incorporated on state records told FOX4, “Health Systems, Inc does not have any ownership interest in Hillview Nursing & Rehab.”

Full Article & Source:
‘It was unbelievable, the filth’: State investigators find several violations at Platte City nursing home

Friday, March 13, 2020

DIRTY MONEY : Guardians, Inc.

ZigSaw Productions has been working many months on a documentary episode about guardianship abuse which began airing a couple of days ago on Netflix on a documentary show called, "Dirty Money."

Guardianship abuse can be a very complex subject and also hard for people who aren't familiar with it to understand. ZigSaw Productions did a masterful job of condensing a lot of easy to understand information into a one hour show. We are so grateful to them for all of the awareness already being raised (thanks to them) across our nation of the abuse, neglect and exploitation our Seniors and persons with disability can suffer at the hands of their court-appointed "protectors."

If you are a subscriber to Netflix, you can click the link below to watch "Dirty Money: Guardians, Inc."

If you aren't a subscriber, you can go directly to to subscribe (and pay the subscription fee) and then click the link below to see the episode.


Protections for vulnerable Pa. seniors lag, reforms to guardianship system ‘stuck’

by Sara Simon

HARRISBURG — More than five years ago, Pennsylvania identified widespread problems with its system of appointing and overseeing guardians — the legal decision-makers, chosen by judges, who manage the affairs of adults who are unable to care for themselves.

In response, the state Supreme Court established an office to oversee the implementation of 130 sweeping recommendations made by experts in the field. An update from 2019 noted significant progress, marking more than half as “accomplished.”

But a Spotlight PA review found the report paints an overly rosy picture of the situation. Experts say that critical changes needed to better protect vulnerable seniors lack funding, are incomplete, or are stuck in limbo in the state legislature.

Of the recommendations marked as “accomplished,” many were not actually put into practice, the review found. One of those recommendations — to guarantee legal counsel to people who might be put in the care of a guardian — has been at least temporarily shelved.

Other reforms marked accomplished will be included as “best practices” in a new guidebook for judges who handle guardianship cases. The book, still in draft form, was originally slated to be published in early 2019 but is now expected this summer.

The “most significant accomplishment,” the update said, was the rollout of a highly touted technology to collect data about guardianships and to automate portions of oversight. One year later, however, there is little consistency as to how, and how well, counties are using it.

Other recommendations are caught in stalled legislation or unfunded mandates.

“Having protection systems that function properly is a bipartisan, commonwealth-wide issue,” said Katherine Pearson, a professor of elder law at Penn State’s Dickinson Law School, who served on the task force that drafted the recommendations. "Am I frustrated with the Pennsylvania legislature’s slowness to address and adopt carefully considered reforms, such as a clear right to counsel for alleged incapacitated persons? Yes."

Those involved with the guardianship system — from judges to court clerks to attorneys — say they are impressed with the state’s efforts to bolster protections in recent years. Court officials are committed to improving the new tracking and oversight technology, and nearly all agree the data it provides will offer crucial insights into the system.

“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” said Kathryn Holt, a senior court research analyst for the National Center for State Courts. From a national perspective, Holt said, she has been “very impressed” with Pennsylvania’s progress.

But a lot of work remains.

Stewart Greenleaf, a former Republican lawmaker from Montgomery County, spent years attempting to pass sweeping changes to the system. But he was unable to get a bill establishing better guardianship protocols for courts to the governor’s desk before retiring in 2018.

The legislative process takes time, Greenleaf said.

“It’s as simple as that,” he said. “That it’s not that simple.”

Around the time of Greenleaf’s retirement, Sen. Art Haywood (D., Philadelphia) announced his intention to reintroduce and update the bill, but more than a year later, he still hasn’t. He said he can’t find bipartisan support.

Asked where Pennsylvania’s guardianship system stands now, Haywood responded with one word: “Stuck.”

Commonwealth Media Services
Sen. Art Haywood (D., Philadelphia) said further reforms to Pennsylvania's guardianship system are "stuck" in the legislature and lack bipartisan support.

‘We need to appoint counsel’

In Pennsylvania, there are about 18,400 adults living under guardianship. More than half are age 60 and up.

Guardianships begin when someone is perceived to be unable to care for themselves. If they do not have an existing legal document describing their preferences, like a durable power of attorney, their case is sent to the local Orphans’ Court. There, a judge can appoint a guardian to take control of financial, medical, and personal decisions.

Unlike many states, Pennsylvania does not require that courts provide lawyers to represent people facing guardianship. Vulnerable seniors who cannot find or afford an attorney can be left to navigate the process alone.

“It’s stressful for courts,” said Karen Buck, executive director of SeniorLAW Center in Philadelphia and a member of the task force that made the recommendations. Judges cannot give legal advice, and without representation, Buck said, people might not be aware of their rights.

In 2014, the task force recommended changing court rules to make legal representation a requirement.

But the Orphans’ Court rules committee dismissed the recommendation, instead deciding that appointment of attorneys, in cases where someone doesn’t provide their own, should be left to a court’s discretion. In a notice, the committee cited concerns about the financial burden and added that “a large majority” of guardianship cases go uncontested.

Haywood, who was previously an attorney for people who could not afford legal representation, said the committee’s analysis doesn’t cut it.

“Failure to contest is not an indication of the lack of the need for legal representation,” he said. “In fact, it can be conceived as the exact opposite.”

Still, the recommendation to mandate counsel was marked as “accomplished.”

Cherstin Hamel is the director of the state’s Office of Elder Justice in the Courts, which is overseeing the implementation of the 130 recommendations. She said that if a recommendation was considered, but not adopted, it was marked as “accomplished.”

Hamel added the guidebook for judges will indicate that it is best practice for counsel to be appointed in every case.

Lawmakers could mandate the right to counsel through legislation. But according to Haywood, there has been “tremendous” pushback to the idea, primarily over “perceived costs.”

Some judges have taken matters into their own hands.

George Zanic, president judge of the Huntingdon County Court of Common Pleas, appoints an attorney each time someone facing a guardianship hearing does not provide their own. In situations where the individual cannot cover the fees, he said, the county pays upfront and is later reimbursed by the state.

According to Zanic, who served on the task force, the issue is vital.

“We need to appoint counsel,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”

Sara Simon / Spotlight PA
Old reports and docket books at the Cumberland County Orphans’ Court, which is still grappling with how to manage a new technology to monitor legal guardians.

Improved oversight with a tech assist

In 2014, the task force found that nearly 70% of Orphans’ Courts did not track whether they were receiving annual updates from guardians with information about an individual’s finances, health, and well-being.

The task force recommended a new technology that could automatically notify Orphans’ Courts when guardians failed to file required updates. An algorithm would also search across those reports and trigger automated alerts when something seemed amiss.

By December 2018, the new technology was in place across Pennsylvania, and one year in, many who interact with it say the tool is progress.

“I really like it,” said Lauren Cascino Presser, an elder law attorney in Johnstown, who helps her clients use the technology to submit their annual reports.

But for a tool intended to ease and streamline oversight, it falls short of addressing the disparities in how counties are monitoring guardianships.

Once a guardian submits a report, the tool automatically searches for 32 problem scenarios. The majority are related to finances. A report showing a drastic drop in assets, for example, triggers an automated flag.

But flags don’t directly imply wrongdoing. They require follow-up to determine whether harm is being done and what action, if any, should be taken.

In some counties, court staff is tasked with reviewing the incoming flags. In others, law clerks do the work. Some counties have outsourced the job to outside attorneys. One, so overwhelmed by the scale of alerts, said they recently tapped a retired judge to step in and assist.

By comparison, Minnesota has a similar tool that sends alerts to centralized teams of trained auditors.

“Any system is only as good as the people running it,” said Zanic, the judge in Huntingdon County.

Pennsylvania’s new technology is also susceptible to an old problem: bad actors.

Guardians are self-reporting and are not required to provide bank statements, receipts, or other documentation. And reports can only reveal so much, said Sherry Baskin, a longtime volunteer helping to monitor Dauphin County’s guardians.

“Unless there was something egregious and glaring, that wouldn’t be reflected,” Baskin said.

One benefit of the new system, many agree, is that when courts have questions, they can order guardians to submit evidence or appear for a hearing. Prior to the tool, court officials said, they lacked the authority to follow a hunch.

It’s when courts can’t keep up, though, that issues creep in.

Alerts arrive daily in Philadelphia, courts spokesperson Gabriel Roberts said.

They come not only for every flag raised in a file, Roberts said, but also for reminder notices and for reports that are overdue. There are flags for guardians removed from a case and flags for people who have died. Staff resources are “stressed and overwhelmed,” Roberts said.

When asked in January how Cumberland County is managing the tool’s alerts, Lisa Grayson, clerk of the county’s Orphans’ Court, said: “We’re still working that out.”

“You need to review the entire report,” Grayson said.

But, she added, that “takes manpower, it takes hours, it takes money.”

Hamel, the director of the office overseeing reforms, said the tool is “meant to enhance a court’s existing statutory obligation to monitor guardianships,” and that the office is “actively working to recommend best practices in reviewing reports.”

Still, her office has marked two recommendations for adequate funding to support guardianship monitoring as “accomplished,” citing the new technology.

Full Article & Source:
Protections for vulnerable Pa. seniors lag, reforms to guardianship system ‘stuck’

Attorney again charged with theft as trial nears

by Tena Lee

Andy Allman
A Hendersonville attorney scheduled to go to trial next week for stealing money from several clients was booked into jail on Monday on an additional theft charge.

Andy Allman, 50, was indicted by a Sumner County grand jury on charges of theft of more than $10,000 and falsely representing himself as a lawyer, according to court documents filed March 5. He was arrested March 9, and is being held on a $2.5 million bond.

A once popular attorney and former candidate for state representative, Allman was temporarily suspended by the Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Board of Professional Responsibility in September 2016 after complaints of misconduct and the misappropriation of funds. He was disbarred from practicing law in 2018.

His arrest comes exactly one week before a jury trial is set to begin in Sumner County Criminal Court where he is charged with 35 crimes that allegedly occurred over a four-year period between Dec. 2012 and Dec. 2016.

Following an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, a Sumner County grand jury indicted him on 28 charges in Aug. 2017. A separate grand jury indicted him in Dec. 2017 on 11 more charges.

The charges included 12 counts of theft of $1,000 to $10,000; 12 counts of theft of $2,500 to $10,000; 9 counts of falsely representing himself as a lawyer; two counts of theft of $10,000 to $60,000; two counts of theft of $60,000 to $250,000; impersonating a licensed professional and practicing law without a license. Four of the theft charges were dismissed by prosecutors in June of 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

According to the most recent indictment, Allman unlawfully took control of more than $54,000 by telling and convincing the victim that the property was in a trust account when it had in fact been unlawfully converted and used by Allman. The disbarred attorney also falsely represented himself as a lawyer to the same victim from August of 2019 until February of 2020, the indictment states.

Sumner County Assistant District Attorney Ron Blanton said the most recent case was also investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations.

Blanton said he hopes the new charges won’t delay next week’s trial.

“We are opposed to any continuance,” he added. “We’re ready to go.”

Allman’s trial is expected to last two weeks and will include more than 60 alleged victims and other witnesses, according to Blanton.

Allman is also charged with theft of $60,000 to $250,000 in Davidson County for allegedly depositing a $230,000 check belonging to a client into one of his personal accounts. That trial is scheduled to begin April 13.

Full Article & Source: 
Attorney again charged with theft as trial nears

Coronavirus in NY: Most nursing homes dogged by poor infection control

Failure to wash hands is a frequently cited infection control violation at New York nursing homes. (The Plain Dealer/Lisa DeJong)The Plain Dealer
By James T. Mulder

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – While New York’s nursing homes say they are prepared to protect elderly residents from coronavirus, government inspection reports show more than half the state’s nursing homes have histories of failing to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

Of 621 New York nursing homes, 329 were cited for one or more infection control violations between 2017 and 2019, according to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Inspectors cited 11 of Onondaga County’s 14 nursing homes for infection problems over the three-year period. A recent analysis by Kaiser Health News found 61% of nursing homes nationwide were flagged for infection violations during the same time frame.

These violations include lapses such as not wearing gloves, masks and gowns when caring for residents with contagious diseases and not washing hands. Infection control problems are the most frequently cited nursing home deficiency nationwide.

The federal government recently ordered nursing home inspectors to focus almost exclusively on infection control practices following the deaths of 18 Seattle nursing home residents who got the virus. Older people with chronic medical conditions are at extremely high risk of getting the virus and developing serious complications.

“I would argue that on balance nursing homes are among the most prepared to handle viral situations,” said Steven Hanse of the New York State Health Facilities Association, a nursing home trade group. He said nursing homes have rules designed to limit the spread of diseases like coronavirus.

But inspection reports show those rules are frequently broken.

*After two residents at The Centers at St. Camillus nursing home in Syracuse were diagnosed with the flu last May, signs were posted on their doors to alert nurses and aides to don gloves, masks and gowns before entering the residents’ rooms. That precaution is designed to protect health care workers and prevent the spread of infection to other residents.

But three aides and a nurse went in and out of both residents’ rooms several times without wearing the garb, even though there was a supply of gloves, masks and gowns on a cart in the hallway, according to an inspection report.

During the same inspection, a nurse was observed handing out drugs to eight residents without washing her hands as required before and after giving each resident medications.

*After cleaning a resident’s bedsore at the Jewish Home of Central New York in September, a nurse failed to remove her gloves, wash her hands and don a new pair of gloves before applying a fresh dressing to the resident’s wound. Skipping that hand hygiene could have contaminated the wound and caused an infection, an inspection report said. The Jewish Home also was cited in 2018 for failing to make sure its drinking water system was free of Legionella, a type of bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly pneumonia-like illness.

*During flu season, the state requires unvaccinated nursing home employees who work near residents to wear face masks. Four unvaccinated staff members at Bishop Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Syracuse were observed during a 2017 inspection wearing masks incorrectly or not at all. One nurse aide without a flu mask was coughing. A nurse was observed passing out medications to residents with a flu mask below her nose. The mask requirement is intended to prevent unvaccinated workers from transmitting the flu to residents. Bishop, formerly known as James Square, was cited for infection control violations four times between 2017 and 2019.

Central Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Syracuse was cited for a similar mask violation in 2017. A certified nurse aide wearing a mask below her nose told an inspector she was sick and the mask was bothering her. “During the interview, the CNA sniffled continuously,” the report said.

*Catheter bags that collect urine are supposed to be clipped to the side of nursing home residents’ beds. A 2018 inspection at the Onondaga Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Minoa found a resident’s catheter bag and tubing lying on the floor. A catheter bag left on the floor can get dirty and cause infection, the report said. Someone could also accidentally trip on the bag and accidentally pull out the resident’s catheter, the report said.

*Loretto was cited in 2017 after a nurse reattached a part of a resident’s tracheostomy tubing after the part fell on the floor and became contaminated. The tracheostomy tube was inserted in the resident’s neck to provide humidified oxygen. A small plastic bottle attached to the tube to trap excess water became disconnected and dropped to the floor. A nurse picked it up and reattached it to the patient’s tube. She then went and got a new water trap to replace the contaminated one. A nurse manager told the inspector that was OK because the contaminated part was only reconnected for a minute. But an infection control nurse said the contaminated water trap should have been thrown away and not reused.

*Glucometers used to test nursing home residents’ blood sugar levels are supposed to be cleaned after every use. Elderwood nursing home in Liverpool was cited in 2017 after nurses failed to use a Chlorox bleach wipe to clean the devices after testing two residents’ blood sugar levels.

The only three Onondaga County nursing homes not cited for violating infection control rules over the last three years are the Nottingham and Iroquois, both in Jamesville, and Syracuse Home Association in Baldwinsville.

Officials of St. Camillus and Bishop said they are closely following state and federal guidance on how to protect their residents from coronavirus.

Richard Mollot of Long Term Care Community Coalition, a Manhattan-based nursing home consumer advocacy group, said the prevalence of infection control violations is a symptom of widespread substandard care in nursing homes.

He cited federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that show an estimated one million to three million serious infections occur annually in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, killing as many as 388,000 residents.

Mollot said the infection control problem combined with inadequate staffing at many nursing homes could have “catastrophic implications for residents” during the coronavirus outbreak.

Hanse of the New York State Health Facilities Association said “while some folks may not follow the rules,” state nursing homes are paying more attention than ever to infection control because of coronavirus.

Last week the federal government ordered nursing home inspectors to focus almost entirely on infection control to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Connie Steed, president of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, welcomes that move. “There does need to be more emphasis on it than there has been,” she said.

But she’s concerned about another federal proposal that could weaken infection control at nursing homes.

Since 2016 the government has required nursing homes to have an infection preventionist in their facilities at least on a part-time basis. Infection preventionists are experts on preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases in health care facilities.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a proposed rule in July that would allow nursing homes to have an infection preventionist who only devotes “sufficient” time to infection control and prevention.

“What a nursing home administrator thinks is sufficient may not be truly sufficient,” she said.

To keep coronavirus out of their facilities, the nursing home industry is taking steps to curtail visitors. Loretto in Syracuse, for example, is prohibiting anyone who has recently traveled internationally from visiting its residents.

Bishop Rehabilitation and Nursing Center has begun taking the temperature of everyone entering its building as part of a screening process. Elderwood in Liverpool is also screening everyone who enters its facility and asking friends and family to postpone visiting residents unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Hanse said nursing home visits should be limited “… only to those individuals whose entry is essential to the provision of care to residents.”

“The over 80 population is the most sensitive to harm from coronavirus,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to protect them.”

These Onondaga County nursing homes were cited for infection control violations from 2017 through 2019.

Bishop Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 4 violations

Centers at St. Camillus, 2 violations

Elderwood at Liverpool, 2 violations

Jewish Home of Central New York, 2 violations

Onondaga Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 2 violations

Central Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 1 violation

Loretto, 1 violation

Sunnyside Care Center, 1 violation

The Cottages at Garden Grove, 1 violation

Upstate University Hospital at Community General, 1 violation

Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 1 violation

Full Article & Source:
Coronavirus in NY: Most nursing homes dogged by poor infection control

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Watchdog: In Courtroom, Senior Pleads With Judge for Guardian's Removal

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Eraida Miller is a Cuban immigrant who fled her native country for the U.S. more than 50 years ago on an initial quest for freedom. Now, she says she's again fighting for her freedom — this time from the state court system and her appointed professional guardian.
“The freedom that I came here seeking was taken away from me," Miller said.

For months, our ongoing Watchdog series "Senior Care in Question" has exposed problems with the state of Florida’s professional guardianship program. Now, for the first time, we were given rare access inside a courtroom during a guardianship hearing, this one in Brevard County.

Miller, 87, says she wants her current guardian removed and her daughter named as her guardian.

“I want to be free. I don’t want the court. I don’t want a guardian," she says.

But that decision isn’t hers.

Court documents show Miller's daughter, Karen, petitioned the court in October for a guardian to help with her mother’s care because at the time, she thought her mother was being taken advantage of by a friend.

Brevard County Chief Judge Lisa Davidson appointed Danica Scuderi-Carluccio as emergency temporary guardian of Miller.

A short time later, a court-appointed committee of health professionals examined Miller and concluded she is mentally incompetent.

“The reports that came back, we were all shocked. They basically have her completely, mentally gone, and I don’t agree with that," Karen Miller-Berling said. "I think that she can function but just needs to be supervised."

Miller-Berling has since petitioned the court to become her mother’s guardian, asking that Scuderi-Carluccio be removed. But it’s not that simple.

“The guardian is contesting my petition for guardianship, so we are both fighting over my mother,” Miller-Berling said.

As we joined them in court, Miller pleaded with the judge about her mental capacity, asking that she be placed in the care of her daughter.

"I have a mind of my own, and you have made me incapacitated, damn it," she said angrily.

“I am not incapacitated..." Miller cried. "I do my checking account, my billings."

The judge ultimately continued the hearing, pending another health evaluation. She also says she wanted time to explore the possibility of Miller being placed in her family’s care.

 “Unfortunately, I can’t give you a comment,” the guardian, Scuderi-Carluccio, said.

Although Miller's court-appointed guardian wouldn’t talk to us after the hearing, her attorney did.

“As you may know, guardianships are private matters, and professional guardians are not allowed to comment on their case,” Attorney William Johnson said.

Meanwhile, Miller says it's crystal clear what is happening.

“I want all this guardianship canceled. I want to be free. If I have two or three more years to live, I want to live happily,” Miller said. She holding on to hope that the sweet sounds of her piano will fill her home again.

One week ago, Scuderi-Carluccio's attorney filed a motion requesting she be removed as Miller's temporary professional guardian. That motion also recommends that Miller's daughter, Karen, not be appointed guardian of her mother.

Meanwhile, Miller-Berling filed a response to the guardian’s recommendations in that motion, laying out reasons why she is the best person to care for her mother.

At last check, the judge has not granted the guardian’s motion for removal of guardianship.

Full Article & Source:
Watchdog: In Courtroom, Senior Pleads With Judge for Guardian's Removal

Concord home health worker charged with fraudulent use of elderly client's credit card

By Paul Feely

Katherine Price
HUDSON — A Concord home health care worker is facing fraud charges after Hudson police say she racked up more than $1,500 in fraudulent charges on an elderly client’s credit card.

According to Hudson police, on Jan. 20 officer Matthew Blazon launched an investigation after an elderly and disabled Hudson resident reported she had been the victim of unauthorized access to her bank accounts by a home health care worker over an eight-month time frame in 2019.

According to police, following a monthlong investigation, Blazon issued an arrest warrant for Katherine Price, 29, of Concord on charges of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult, fraudulent use of a credit card and forgery.

On March 7, Price was taken into custody by state police in Concord and was transferred to Hudson police. She was booked on the charges and released on $140 cash bail. Price is scheduled for arraignment in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua on March 19.

According to Hudson police Lt. Mike Gosselin, the charge of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult, and the charge of fraudulent use of a credit card, are Class A felonies because the alleged amount for each criminal charge exceeds $1,500. Forgery is charged as a Class B felony because it involves a suspect check, police said.

Full Article & Source: 
Concord home health worker charged with fraudulent use of elderly client's credit card

Alarming Number Of Seniors Go Entire Week Without Talking To Anyone

lonely older woman

As our population continues to age, loneliness among senior citizens is becoming an increasingly problematic issue. According to a report conducted by the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Ageing, nearly thirty percent of older adults in the United States live alone. That equates to almost fourteen million people [1].
Researchers are quick to point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of these people are lonely, but it raises some important questions about social isolation and loneliness among elderly populations [2].

Why Are Seniors Lonely?

There are a number of reasons why an older adult might be more prone to loneliness than someone who is younger. One of the primary causes of loneliness is that as people age, their social circles tend to shrink.
Friends and family members move to other places, and gradually begin to pass away. Age can often bring about mobility issues, which can make it difficult even to get together with people who live nearby, and issues with hearing or vision can make communicating seem more of a hassle than it’s worth.

What’s more, many senior citizens experience feelings of embarrassment if they require the use of a cane or a walker or any other device that they need to assist them with everyday tasks. These devices are obvious signs of aging and can leave the user feeling ashamed, and therefore less likely to want to leave their homes.
It is difficult enough when one person is feeling this way, but often many of their peers are dealing with similarly difficult feelings, which creates an even stronger barrier for bringing them together [3].

How Does Loneliness Affect the Edlery’s Health?

The National Poll on Healthy Aging has determined that one in three older adults are lonely, and it is having a detrimental effect on their health. The authors of the report explain that loneliness can impact memory, physical well-being, life expectancy, and mental health.
“In fact, some research suggests that chronic loneliness may shorten life expectancy even more than being overweight or sedentary, and just as much as smoking,” they said [4].
Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weaker immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s Disease [2].
Conversely, those who engage in regular social activities appear to live longer, experience an improved mood and tend to have a stronger sense of purpose, which has been shown to improve cognitive function [5].

Donate Your Words

A study in the UK recently found that nearly one in five older adults had conversations with only three people during a one-week period. What’s even more alarming is that of that group, nearly nine percent regularly go an entire week without speaking face-to-face with a single person. That means there are approximately 225 thousand elderly adults going without social contact regularly [6].

Caroline Abrahams, charity director for an organization called Age UK, explains that these statistics show that hundreds of thousands of older adults won’t even share a simple “hello, how are you?” with someone this week. It is something that many of us take for granted, but can really brighten the day of an older person [6].

The organization has partnered with Cadbury Dairy Milk to launch a new campaign called “Donate Your Words”, to help combat loneliness in senior citizens.

The campaign is educating the public about loneliness among older populations and is encouraging them to simply say hello to an elderly neighbor, invite them over for a coffee or cup of tea, or even offer to help them with some daily tasks.

They also encourage people to call older relatives on the phone and offer ways in which local people can get involved with Age UK [7].

How Else Can We Combat Loneliness in The Elderly?

There have been many different initiatives put in place across the globe to combat senior loneliness, including a nightclub for the elderly, coffee corners at grocery stores, and playgrounds for seniors.
The number one thing you can do to help the older adults in your life is to really listen to them. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist, and author of The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty, says that asking a senior citizen “tell me more” is like giving them a gift.
“You’ve got to really dig deep and find out what their interests were before and get them to try and awaken those forgotten activities,” she says [3].
Finding out what an older person likes to do can provide you with a blueprint for a “loneliness eradication plan”. Encourage them to participate in activities that align with their interests- sometimes older people just need a push to get involved in activities again [3].

Another way to connect with an older person and to spend time with them is to get them to teach you something. Perhaps there’s a skill they have, like sewing, that you could learn from them, or maybe they have a famous apple pie recipe they could teach you. This is a fun way to spend time with them, and giving them the opportunity to share their knowledge with you can give them a purpose [3].

Don’t be afraid to encourage other friends or family members to reach out to the elderly person in your life, too. Our days tend to get very busy and our schedules fill up quickly, but if you remind others to take twenty to thirty minutes a couple of times a week to reach out to your elderly mother, aunt, or neighbor, it will go a long way in bringing joy into that person’s life [3].

Aging can be difficult, but we have the power as a collective to help the older generation enjoy their time during old age, simply by taking an interest in them and engaging with them regularly.

A simple hello to your neighbor as you leave for work in the morning, or a quick phone call to your aging mother can make a massive difference in their day, and may even help prolong their life.

Full Article & Source:
Alarming Number Of Seniors Go Entire Week Without Talking To Anyone

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Former St. Pete Trust Attorney Charged With Grand Theft

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By Josh Rojas

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A former trust attorney is accused of stealing more than $278,000 from a trust account that he oversaw and was charged with grand theft on Monday, according to St. Petersburg Police.
  • Darce Jay Snyder, 68, makes first court appearance
  • Victim says she didn't notice money missing until last year
  • Judge orders Snyder to surrender his passport
  • More Pinellas County headlines
That former attorney, Darce Jay Snyder, 68, made his first appearance in court before a Pinellas Judge on Tuesday. Snyder told Judge Pat Siracusa that he didn’t have any money to hire an attorney and asked that his $150,000 bond be reduced.

“I haven’t worked in over two-and-a-half years. I actually have an interview today for a census job,” he said. “They were giving me a call. So, I’m in pretty dire straits right now, your honor.”

Judge Siracusa denied Snyder’s request and kept the bond at the same amount.

According to an arrest affidavit, Snyder was in charge of a trust account that was originally valued at more than $700,000. Police said in 2015, Snyder stole $278,690 from the victim’s account by writing checks to himself.

The victim, Valerie Sexton-Maher, 50, said she didn’t notice the money was missing until last year because she could not take control of the trust account until she turned 50 years old.

“Unfortunately, you can’t always trust a trustee on an account,” she said. “They are very good at hiding money.”

Sexton-Maher said there isn’t any money left in her account and prosecutors can’t charge Snyder for stealing the entire amount because of the statute of limitations.

“What he was charged with is not the full extent of what he took from me,” she said. “At the beginning of the trustee account, there was close to a million dollars in it and that was when my mother passed away in 2001. So, at a conservative rate of interest we would be talking about millions.”

In 2018, The Florida Supreme Court revoked Snyder’s license to practice law after the attorney was accused of withdrawing $1 million in advance fees from another client without his authorization.

Sexton-Maher said she lives in the Jacksonville area and didn’t find out about Snyder’s disciplinary revocation, which is tantamount to disbarment, until last year.

“It’s beyond upsetting. It makes me sad that unfortunately my mother trusted this person and thought that he was going to do the right thing for me,” she said. “I’ve prided myself on not touching any money from that trust until I needed it… I planned on using it for my retirement. I’ve had some health issues in the last couple of years and… that money would be a big deal for me now and I don’t have it.”

Sexton-Maher said she’s speaking out publicly to try and prevent this from happening to anyone else.

The judge also ordered Snyder to surrender his passport after the prosecutor told him that the defendant has the means and the ability to travel internationally.

Full Article & Source:
Former St. Pete Trust Attorney Charged With Grand Theft

Florida Guardianship bill moves on to final vote

Bill undergoing final readings in Florida House, expected to go to vote Wednesday

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Tallahassee, FL – State lawmakers are now one step closer to making major changes to Florida’s guardianship law. The changes come after a former Central Florida guardian was caught placing do not resuscitate orders on clients without their permission. Right now lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives are going through the final readings of the senate version of the Guardianship bill.

A news conference is scheduled for Thursday morning at the state capitol with the bill co-authors, Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland and Senator Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, along with Richard Prudom, the Secretary of Elder Affairs.

The bill passed unanimously in the Florida Senate last week and is expected to go up for a House vote tomorrow. Should it pass as expected, the bill will go to Governor DeSantis’ office to be signed into law. Last summer, DeSantis ordered a statewide probe into the guardianship program after state investigators launched a criminal investigation into Rebecca Fierle and the hundreds of guardianship cases she had across the state.

The measure entered as HB 709 and SB 994, would clamp down on what guardians would be allowed to do -- and create more supervision on cases involving vulnerable and elderly patients entrusted with their care. The bills come right on the heels of a court date being set for Rebecca Fierle.

She is a former guardian based out of Orlando who just last month was arrested on two felony counts of abuse and aggravated neglect. Body camera video from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office shows the arrest at her Ocala home. Fierle is scheduled for a court hearing on arraignment in Hillsborough County to face two felony counts on March 23rd.

Fierle was under a state criminal investigation for months over how she handled the case of Stephen Stryker, a Brevard County man who died at a Tampa hospital while under her care. State investigators allege she ordered his feeding tube to be capped and a DNR order to remain in place against the recommendations of doctors, and against Stryker's wishes. She is also being investigated for how she handled her clients' finances.

As a result of this case, Senator Kathleen Passidomo of Naples and Representative Colleen Burton of Lakeland have recommended stricter guidelines and more court supervision over what state guardians can and can't do. Fierle's former attorneys contend she acted within the current guidelines set forth by Florida law and did nothing wrong when she placed DNR orders on hundreds of clients without their permission, and without notifying the court.

The attorneys representing her in her criminal case have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Full Article & Source:
Florida Guardianship bill moves on to final vote

FERRIER FILES: Disbarred lawyer arrested again

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UPDATE: Hendersonville Police are searching the home of a disbarred former lawyer recently arrested for impersonating a lawyer and stealing $54,000. Andy Allman was set to go on trial next Monday for stealing from 20 clients in Sumner County. That trial was postponed after Allman was arrested on new charges yesterday.

The indictment says Allman stole $54,000 from a man named Mario Herrera after posing as a lawyer.
Allman is disbarred and has not legally practiced law since the summer of 2016.

The search went on for more than two hours. Police officers were seen in the crawlspace of Allmans home on Bonita Drive in Hendersonville.


The most disciplined lawyer in the history of the state of Tennessee has been arrested again on new charges. Hendersonville lawyer Andy Allman known for a lavish lifestyle and accused of cheating or stealing from 127 clients was arrested this morning.

FOX 17 News learned exclusively that Allman was arrested for impersonating a lawyer and theft of more than $10,000. These new charges come just one week before his Sumner county theft trial.

A State of Tennessee indictment accuses Allman of "unlawfully and falsely hold himself out as a lawyer to Mario Herrera, against the peace and dignity of the State of Tennessee." The indictment states that from December 16, 2014 to about March 3, 2020, Allman unlawfully took $54,269.11 from Herrera without Herrera's effective consent.

The indictment states that Allman did so by telling and convincing Herrera that the property was in a trust account, but was instead unlawfully coverted and used by Allman himself.

Allman is charged with stealing from 20 people in this case. He is also charged with a felony theft in Davidson county of $230,000.

In that case, Allman is accused of stealing the entire inheritance of the Bramble family. Baylor Bramble was in the news after he suffered a catastrophic brain injury in a high school football game.

Allman has delayed his trial for nearly two years by constantly changing attorneys. The Tennessee supreme court ordered him to pay 79 of his clients $320,000 in restitution.

Full Article & Source:
FERRIER FILES: Disbarred lawyer arrested again

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Embattled Guardian Rebecca Fierle Charged in Ward's Death

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By Asher Wildman and Greg Angel Marion County
OCALA, Fla. — Rebecca Fierle, the professional guardian ousted from hundreds of cases following the death of a ward in her care, has bonded out of jail after her arrest Monday night.
  • Rebecca Fierle bonds out in Marion County, where she lives
  • She's charged with aggravated abuse of an elderly person
  • One of the seniors in her care died last year after she ordered "DNR"
State agents arrested Fierle on Monday in Marion County, where she lives. Records show Fierle was booked into the Marion County Jail at about 6:30 p.m.

She bonded out of jail at about 10 a.m. Tuesday. She did not comment as she walked out.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that Fierle was charged with aggravated abuse of an elderly person and neglect of an elderly person on a warrant out of Hillsborough County. The arrest was in connection to the death of 74-year-old Steven Stryker, a Brevard County man who died in her care last year at a hospital in Tampa.

"The guardian who caused my dad’s death has been arrested. It’s encouraging that the state has brought charges. But the problem of guardian abuse does not go away with her. The laws vary state to state and God forbid you, or someone you love, falls into the control of a bad one like her," Stryker's daughter, Kim, said Tuesday.

Sources told Spectrum News the charges are related to a series of criminal investigations being conducted by FDLE and the Florida Attorney General’s Office. Those investigations are ongoing.

In July 2019, Orange County Judge Janet Thorpe first called Fierle’s conduct into question after the death of Stryker, a senior whom Thorpe appointed Fierle to care for as a professional guardian. The FDLE in its investigation said Fierle ordered a "do not resuscitate" order on Stryker against his wishes.

"Despite the wishes of the elderly man and those of his family and friends, Fierle-Santoian ordered his doctors ​not perform any life prolonging medical procedures saying she preferred 'quality of life versus quantity of life,' " agents said.

She also ordered Stryker's feeding tube capped, despite the man asking to continue being fed, FDLE said.

Thorpe accused Fierle in court filings of abusing her powers as a court-appointed guardian.

"She has executed numerous 'Do Not Resuscitate' (DNR) orders on many of the Wards under her supervision without family or court permission," Thorpe wrote. "She has been compensated as a Medicaid caseworker for her wards, having received payments from hospitals and other facilities without disclosure or court permission."

Following the July 11, 2019 emergency hearing in front of Thorpe, judges across Central Florida began to remove or accept Fierle's resignations in at least 450 guardianship cases.

Stryker’s family long accused Fierle and AdventHealth of improperly petitioning the court for guardianship in the first place.

Fierle is also the focus of two Orange County Comptroller investigations: one questioned Fierle’s handling of her wards' assets; the other uncovered evidence showing AdventHealth paid Fierle almost $4 million.

Spectrum News's investigation into the claims of neglect and failures within the state’s guardianship system prompted Florida Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom and Gov. Ron DeSantis to take action. Prudom told Spectrum News that his office has been involved in crafting legislation to give more safeguards to seniors. That legislation is now pending in the Florida legislature for the 2020 session.

In response to the issues highlighted in Spectrum News's reporting, DeSantis is also pushing for lawmakers to approve an additional $6.4 million to boost oversight of the state's guardianship program.

"I thought I would feel relief, but I’m just sad that this had to happen, and that one person can be allowed to cause so many people pain. This cannot be allowed to happen anymore to anyone. Demand better oversight, close the loopholes, hold lawmakers and judges accountable. Elder abuse is not isolated. It is a symptom of a very sick system," Kim Stryker said.

Making a scheduled appearance in Ocala today, Attorney General Ashley Moody took time to answer questions about Monday’s arrest of Fierle in connection to the death of Stryker.

“As attorney general and as any law enforcement prosecutor across the state we are not going to sit back and let people that were put in positions of trust take advantage of that position and neglect or abuse our seniors,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

Attorney General Moody also noted that the state does not believe Fierle is a flight risk at this time, and when asked about the Medicaid fraud allegations against Fierle, Moody said that part of the investigation is ongoing.  (Click to see Infographic)

Full Article & Source:
Embattled Guardian Rebecca Fierle Charged in Ward's Death