Saturday, March 21, 2020

Woman helped elderly couple get food when they were too scared to go shopping during coronavirus outbreak

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By Caitlin O'Kane

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread throughout the globe, older Americans are among the most vulnerable. This poses a conundrum: Do they avoid crowded grocery stores or do they stock up on food?

One elderly couple from Oregon had recently driven to a Safeway in Bend, Oregon, but they were too scared to get out of their car.

After 45 minutes, the wife cracked her window and shouted out to a young woman, professional runner Rebecca Mehra. "She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store," Mehra wrote on Twitter.

The couple is in their 80s and heard the coronavirus was disproportionately affecting older people, Mehra wrote. They told her they don't have family nearby that could help them. "Through the crack in the window she handed me a $100 bill and a grocery list, and asked if I would be willing to buy her groceries," Mehra wrote in a series of tweets.

"I bought the groceries and placed them in her trunk, and gave her back the change," she continued. "I know it's a time of hysteria and nerves, but offer to help anyone you can. Not everyone has people to turn to."

After her story went viral, Rebecca Mehra spoke to CBS affiliate KBNZ. "It was the first time I thought about how much this is really affecting my community," she said of the elderly couple who asked her to help them get groceries. KBNZ
Mehra's Twitter thread resonated. "Overwhelmed by the positive response to my tweet yesterday," Mehra wrote on Thursday, one day after posting the initial story. "Over 11 million of you have seen my story and counting. Thank you to everyone who has shared it."

"Frankly most people I know would have done the same thing I did. I was just in the right place at the right time," Mehra wrote.

She spoke to CBS affiliate KBNZ after her story gained widespread attention online.

"It was the first time I thought about how much this is really affecting my community," Mehra said, adding that she was just at the right place at right time and wishes she had gotten the couple's names.

"It just felt like a no brainer thing to do in the moment," she said. "It seems like it's inspired thousands of people hopefully to check in on their neighbors, check in on their grandparents, and their parents."

Many elderly Americans, as well as those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus – and some of them might not have the help they need.

High-risk individuals should make sure they have a supply of their regular medications on hand in case there's an outbreak that forces them to stay home, according to the CDC. They should also consider a mail-order service for medications.

The CDC also recommended stocking up on over-the-counter medicines, including those that relieve fevers, as well as medical supplies and household items, such as tissues. Food supply is also important.

All Americans should also be practicing social distancing and proper hand washing to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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Woman helped elderly couple get food when they were too scared to go shopping during coronavirus outbreak

Police: Health care worker allegedly hit elderly woman at assisted living facility

A health care worker is accused of attacking an elderly woman.

Police say Andrea Richards allegedly hit a 92-year-old woman in the face at an assisted living facility in East Garden City on Tuesday. They say the victim suffered a black eye and substantial pain.

Richards is facing several charges including assault and endangering an incompetent person.

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Police: Health care worker allegedly hit elderly woman at assisted living facility

Report: Britney Spears Conservatorship To Remain Unchanged For Now

by  Katie Jerkovich

The status of Britney Spears’ personal conservatorship will reportedly remain unchanged for now to allow the judge more time to decide what to do, despite rumors she may be loosening the current restrictions.

According to court documents obtained by the Blast, the 38-year-old singer will remain under a personal conservatorship for at least several more months to allow for a determination in the case as they decide what’s best for the pop singer, according to a report published Monday.

Spears and her parents have been in the news recently following reports that they had gone back to court to review the status of the court order that has been in place for more than 11 years.

TMZ reported that Britney’s mother, Lynne Spears reportedly wanted to be involved in the process, but her attorney’s stopped short of saying if she planned to ask the court to relieve Jamie Spears of his role as their daughter’s conservator.
Each year, rules of the probate court require a review of the status of the legally mandated conservatorship headed by her father, Jamie, compelling the parties involved to justify continuing the arrangement that for more than a decade has controlled every aspect of Britney’s business and personal life since her well-documented and very public breakdown in 2008.
Since 2008, the “Womanizer” hitmaker’s father, Jamie, has served as his daughter’s conservator after the singer went through a public spell of mental health issues. Her father was put in charge to help out with her finances and personal issues, per an earlier report by the outlet.

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Report: Britney Spears Conservatorship To Remain Unchanged For Now

Friday, March 20, 2020

‘I’m Really Isolated Now’: When Elders Have to Fight Coronavirus Alone

“I started crying when I told the seniors we were closing down,” said Judy Zangwill, executive director of Sunnyside Community Services, which closed its senior center except for pickup food service last Friday, ahead of instructions from the city. “I heard audible moans.”
It is a terrible irony of the virus: that for older adults, steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 increase the risks of social isolation, which carries its own devastating health effects. A study by the AARP compared the effects of prolonged isolation to those of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Normally programs for elders aim to increase human contact. Now that contact is potentially deadly.

Nursing homes and assisted-living buildings, by order of the city’s health department, banned visitors — including, in many cases, residents’ private aides. Public libraries, houses of worship, neighborhood cafes — all social spots for elders — are also closed, pushing older people back into what are often lonely apartments: 30 percent of New Yorkers over 65, and 43 percent of those over 85, live alone, according to the Department for the Aging.

Sarah Arico, a regular at Sunnyside’s senior center, said the closing was “very hard to deal with emotionally.” She goes to the center for photography, for exercise classes, for the mental health group and “a good lunch.”

Last Friday, all of that came to a halt. “It is more isolating,” she said. Without the center, she was turning her attention to her dog and to phone calls with friends.
When she picked up food at the center, she said, the staff instructed everyone on line to stand six feet apart.

“Everybody was freaking out.”

But Ms. Arico said that she was making sure she walked outside, using physical activity to bolster her mental health.

“It’s a completely different way of living,” she said. “But I know we are going to get through this. I try to say, nothing is forever, not the good times, not the bad times. We all try to get through.”

As much as the activities and the hot meals, senior centers provide structure in lives that may not otherwise have it, said Ruth Finkelstein, executive director of the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College. “The way we remember to do something is that it’s tied to something else,” Ms. Finkelstein said. “When that gets disrupted, it disrupts when we eat, which disrupts our sleep, which disrupts whether we take our medications.

“We see this with the way older people experience delirium in the hospital after just a few days of disruption. I’m not saying the current disruption will come to that, but once the disruption starts, it’s very difficult to dam it.”
At JASA’s Club 76 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, run by the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, Stu Lahn said, “My family is being very hard on me because I’m not being as careful as they would want me to be.” Mr. Lahn said he was most disturbed by not knowing what would happen next. He could replace his social activities at the center using the telephone, but the uncertainty made him feel a loss of control, which in older people can be particularly damaging.

“What’s hard is thinking about how long it’s going to last,” he said. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow — it’s the unknown that’s scary.”

Mr. Lanz, who is 79, normally runs the center’s Monday bingo program with an older woman who survived the Holocaust (she did not feel up to being interviewed for this article). Since the center closed last week, he has been checking up on her by telephone. “I’m wondering at times whether the Holocaust survivors are better prepared than we are for this,” he said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

Stephanie Cacioppo, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, who studies loneliness and social isolation, said that the sense of losing control in the pandemic was both harmful and treatable. Social distance need not lead to social isolation, she said. “You can train your brain like you train your body,” she said.

Caregivers and family members should try to help elders feel in control of the precautions they are being told to take, so that they feel involved rather than punished by the new rules, she said. She also recommended asking about public health crises they lived through in the past, including polio or tuberculosis, even SARS or the H1N1 flu.

Clear information helps; alarmist news programs, on the other hand, can make people feel helpless. In a nursing home or assisted-living building, rumors run wild. “Just having someone giving you an update every three hours, saying I’ll see you later, gives people a sense that there is a future,” Ms. Cacioppo said. “It makes seniors not feel abandoned. They see themselves not as objects, but as contributing.”
Lujira Cooper, 72, said she felt this control slipping away. She goes three or four days a week to the Edie Windsor SAGE Center in Midtown Manhattan, the first full-time senior center for LGBT older adults. The center’s closing was a reversal of the common aging experience: she was staying healthy but the social world around her was unraveling.

Also, she missed the arguing and the birthday celebrations — hers was scheduled for later this month.

“I can clean my house and work on a book I’m supposed to be writing,” she said, “but it’s the missing of talking to people in another setting. I don’t mind being by myself. I mind being forced to be by myself. You can’t go anywhere, you can’t be around people.”

She liked to eavesdrop on people in museums and restaurants — gone. She wondered whether, when the virus receded, people would hug again, or if the practice would disappear. She felt a loss of herself as much as other people, she said. “When you can’t be around people altogether, and people are afraid of catching something, it creates a self-imposed prison.”

Alex Vadukul contributed reporting.

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‘I’m Really Isolated Now’: When Elders Have to Fight Coronavirus Alone

92 Years Old, Scared and Pleading to Come Home

A family grapples with a wrenching coronavirus question: Do we leave our father in the nursing home?

By Dan Barry

His daughters were not at his bedside, holding his hand. His sons were not making him smile with wisecracks about the institutional setting. His grandchildren were not cheering him up with reports from the distant world of youth.

Joseph Trinity’s family members were there one day, and then they were not, for the same reason much of the world is trying to suppress the human desire to be with one another: the coronavirus.

Mr. Trinity had found himself in a New Jersey rehabilitation facility that, like most health care institutions across the country, had declared a no-visitor policy to stem contagion. But he is 92, and in fragile health; family sustains him.

Several times a day, he would call his daughter, Mary Trinity, to ask in a faint, slightly garbled voice where everyone was — and to beg her to please, please, get him out of there.

Mr. Trinity was caught in a moment. And he wasn’t alone.

The federal government and various health care associations have issued strongly restrictive guidelines to prohibit family members and other nonessential personnel from visiting nursing homes, rehab centers and other facilities with older, vulnerable residents.

“We know there have been challenging episodes with family members, vendors, state survey teams and even a few ombudsmen or postal carriers, not wanting to comply,” Mark Parkinson, the president of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, wrote last week. As awareness of the coronavirus grows, he added, “hopefully those challenges will diminish.”

But Richard J. Mollot, the director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, an advocacy group for people in institutional residential settings, said in an email that he was “deeply concerned about residents being cut off from their loved ones.”

While emphasizing the need for extensive precautions, Mr. Mollot said that banning family members, but not employees who come and go — some to second jobs as home-care aides — makes no sense. He also noted that families are more than friendly faces; they help with eating and drinking and with monitoring medications and treatment.

“What are residents going to do without them?” he asked.

Mr. Trinity’s own odyssey began at his home late last month, as he pushed his walker to the bathroom to brush his teeth before calling it a night. He fell beside the sink, fractured his hip and could not get up. His live-in caretaker alerted his family.

Soon an ambulance was taking him away from his home in Maplewood, N.J., in a blur of flashing red lights.

This was the house that Mr. Trinity and his wife, Mary, bought in 1959, the same year the couple, both public schoolteachers, married. This was the house where they raised five children on not a lot of money; brief summer vacations meant a motel pool and pizza as a special treat.

He taught drama and speech at Jonathan Dayton High School in nearby Springfield for 30 years. The photos of him in yearbooks stored in the basement mark time’s passage, progressing from military-style buzz cuts to blondish-gray hair touching the ears.

Mr. Trinity retired but sold real estate part-time. Children married. His Mary died at 62: irreplaceable. Grandchildren crawled, then walked, then invited him to high school and college and law school graduations.

Mobility declined, and some independence was forfeited, reluctantly. But there was a cocktail before dinner, and “Jeopardy” at 7, and family gatherings on Sundays and holidays — until it was all interrupted by a fall.

Mr. Trinity waited until five the next morning before receiving a bed at a hospital in Summit, six miles away. Two of his children stayed with him through the night and into the next day, when he underwent surgery. The three other children soon arrived, from western New Jersey and Boston and Washington, D.C., to hold hands, crack wise and just be there, as February gave way to March.

They took note of the bathroom signs recommending that they sing the ABCs while washing hands to scrub out the H.A.I.s, or hospital acquired infections. They made liberal use of the hand sanitizer dispensers at every entrance and exit.

Mr. Trinity barely caught his breath before being taken, again by ambulance, to a rehabilitation center, where he was to engage in physical and occupational therapies. But this was a 92-year-old man who had had trouble walking even before his hip fracture, and who was also navigating the disorienting sea of pain, medication and an institution that was not his home.

Then, at noon on March 13 — only a week ago — the facility barred visitors. No familiar faces. No jokes. No reassuring squeezes of his hand.

Mr. Trinity begged by telephone to be rescued, his words weak, anxious, sometimes disconnected. His children faced a heartbreaking dilemma.

Should their father remain in the care of professionals who were much better equipped to handle his myriad needs? Or was he at greater risk of contracting the virus by remaining in an institution?

And given the prevailing threat and the open-endedness of restrictions, was it possible they would never see him again?

On Saturday night, the five Trinity children talked it through by conference call. But they already knew there was really only one answer.

On Sunday, they divided assignments: calling the doctors and hospice services and the home health care agency; preparing the family home by moving the table out of the dining room and clearing clutter; ordering a bed; reassuring him when he called again.

And they arranged for an ambulance, which pulled up to the facility early Monday afternoon. Soon a wheeled-out Mr. Trinity was squinting in the daylight.

“I’m so happy,” he said from the gurney. “This is the second-happiest day of my life.”

Two emergency medical technicians locked him in place, closed the back doors and headed off for Maplewood. The ambulance wended its way through a landscape thoroughly altered from the one Mr. Trinity had left behind less than three weeks earlier.

Past the West Essex Y.M.C.A., closed, and the Livingston Public Library, closed. Past an electronic sign reminding people to wash hands, and a ShopRite so packed that the presence of a police car with blinking lights was required.

The ambulance passed through a suburban landscape that looked the same, yet was transformed somehow, as if existing in a state of suspension. Then it drove into his hometown, where the schools are closed and the playgrounds padlocked.

The ambulance turned right onto his street and passed the century-old houses he still identifies by the surnames of the families who lived there 30, 40, 50 years ago. Finally, it pulled up to his own home, where six family members were waiting.

“Welcome home!” someone called out.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said, failing not to cry.

The two E.M.T.s, wearing blue latex gloves, wheeled him up a ramp and gently placed him in the bed that now centered the dining room. Family photographs were displayed on a cabinet, along with a fresh bouquet of yellow roses.

“The flowers are beautiful,” said Joe Trinity, my father-in-law.

Full Article & Source: 
92 Years Old, Scared and Pleading to Come Home

Risk Factors for Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Financial Abuse and Scamming Nursing Home Residents of Their Money

Several research studies, including an analysis by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimate that seniors in the U.S. are scammed out of anywhere from $3 billion to $37 billion a year. Those over age 70 lose an average of $10,000 to elder financial exploitation each year, and the losses are even higher when the scammer is a friend, trusted caregiver, or relative.
  • In 2018, the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans received over 180,000 encounters of suspicious elder financial exploitation (EFE), involving a total of more than $6 billion since 2013.
  • Noted in a 2019 report published by the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans, banks reported a total of $1.7 billion in suspicious activities in just 2017, including actual losses and attempts to steal the older adults’ funds.
    • When a filer lost money, the average loss per filer was $16,700.
    • One-third of the individuals who lost money were ages 80 and older.
    • Adults ages 70 to 79 had the highest average monetary loss ($45,300).
Officials say these occurrences likely represent only a tiny fraction of actual incidents of elder financial abuse. Family members or someone the victim may know, such as a nurse or care worker in a nursing home, are too often the guilty party in these cases.

Identifying Risk Factors for Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Financial abuse targeting nursing home residents can happen over time, making it one of the most difficult crimes to detect. The elderly have become more vulnerable to this type of abuse for several reasons, including having less access and comprehension of banking technology. Those living in nursing homes may be less capable, both physically and mentally, to check-in on savings, have access to their mail before others, and may rely on others to assist them. Some of the most common examples of financial abuse include:
  • Forging Resident’s Signature
  • Cashing Resident’s Checks without Authorization
  • Taking Money or Property
  • Using a Resident’s Bank Card or Checks
  • Deceit or Forcing Resident to Sign Over Money or Possessions
  • Improper Power of Attorney
Financial losses are almost always more significant when the older adult knows the suspect. This is because residents may be very trusting to their caregivers and family members. But when uncovered, there is legal recourse for those who have been taken advantage of financially. Any type of stealing or misappropriation of someone else’s’ money is not only immoral; it usually creates a trail of criminal behavior against everyone in the nursing home who is also being financially exploited.

Financial Abuse and Neglect Attorneys for Nursing Home Residents

Levin & Perconti is one of the most widely-known and respected elder abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million-dollar verdicts and settlements for individuals and families who have been impacted by all types of elder abuse, malpractice, or neglect. We can help if the personal finances of a loved one have been mismanaged by a nursing home or stolen by a care worker.

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Risk Factors for Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Thursday, March 19, 2020

John Scalzi, who cares for his 95-year-old mother, shares emotional impact of nursing home visitation ban

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By Noel Rehm

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - On Saturday, Gov. Ron Desantis announced that there would be a 30-day ban on visits to nursing homes as he acknowledged that the virus is spreading through some communities.

The recent visitation ban can make it lonely while staying at any assisted living facility, and it also impacts family members who are concerned about their loved ones.

I had the chance to sit down with John Scalzi and talk about his recent experience regarding not being able to visit his mother who is currently in a rehabilitation center.

Transcript for the interview below:

Noel - How has it been lately with the Coronavirus and trying to help out with your mom?

John - "It has so many ramifications. The first time that I experienced any kind of personal involuntary involvement with the Cornonavirus situation as supposed to voluntary, which is washing your hands and buying food stuff that you can control. The involuntary relationship began early Sunday morning when I went to visit my mom in a rehab center.

"My mom is 95-years old; she lives with us. We have been the primary caregivers for her for the last five years. Taking care of her wounds, making sure that she has clean clothes, cooking her food when necessary, cutting her food when necessary, taking care of all of her medications, everything really. And because of the new requirements for nursing homes, we were not allowed to visit. I was not allowed to visit my mom.

"So, this is the first time that she has been in a hospital environment which she has not had me there for the bulk of the day as her advocate, medical surrogate, general caretaker when nurses or CNAs where not around. It was a very very difficult thing for me. Initially, I was incredulous that it could be. When I went to the rehab center to get in, I did not know that this new regulation had come down from the Governor, so it caught me by surprise. Then following that there was that moment of anger. Then following that kind of the realization that it’s understandable that it would be case.

"There was also the understanding that the poor healthcare worker who had to stand on the other side of the glass tell loved ones that they couldn’t visit their spouses, their parents or husbands, wives. It must have just been horrific for that individual to have to be able to do that. So, that was a pretty large change in my relationship with the Coronavirus.

"As somebody’s legal medical surrogate you want to make sure that they have the best health care possible that’s number one and number two this was my mother so obviously I had that to deal with as well, not being able to see her. I understand what those regulations were about unfortunately I think that the definition of caregiver is still a rather vague one and I think everyone is coming to grips with that, and what that definition actually means.

"But you know you have to realize that we are all in this for the greater good for that population that is so highly at risk. So, we have to accept that and move on deal with it the best that we can.

"I think about when I was standing there watching a gentleman who was easily in his 80s, silver hair walking up to the door, impeccably dressed with a picture frame. And, that picture frame was a picture that span generations of family members. I’m sure. And they had been married for years; 50 years who knows. And he was told that he was there to see his wife and that and he was told that he could not do that. I can only imagine how that must have affected him and it must have been the first time in his life that he was not allowed to see his wife.

"You don’t know how many lives are affected. So, when you wash your hands, you may well be saving the life of a grandmother somewhere. It is wonderful to be able to connect in any way that you can. There are some facilities I understand which are purchasing tablets so that you can face time with your loved ones in the hospital. It’s a wonderful thing. It also helps to remind you how much you desperately want to be there. But for them, at least it’s an opportunity to connect with you and if you can do that, absolutely.”

You can also watch John’s interview on a special Suncoast View below:

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John Scalzi, who cares for his 95-year-old mother, shares emotional impact of nursing home visitation ban

Nursing home staff spread coronavirus to other facilities, CDC investigation finds

Healthcare workers load a patient into an ambulance at Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. Six people in the state have died from the coronavirus. (Getty Images)
Staff members at the Seattle-area nursing home overrun by COVID-19 spread the coronavirus to other facilities where they worked, an investigation led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

The report published Wednesday said that as of March 9, the CDC confirmed 129 COVID-19 cases among people linked to Life Care Center of Kirkland. These comprise 81 residents, 34 staff members and 14 visitors.

Separately Wednesday, public health officials reported five more deaths associated with the facility, bringing the total number who have died to 35.

"Limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to intra- and interfacility spread," the CDC report said.

The report urged other such facilities nationally to immediately work to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

"Long-term care facilities should take proactive steps to protect the health of residents and preserve the health care workforce by identifying and excluding potentially infected staff members and visitors, ensuring early recognition of potentially infected patients, and implementing appropriate infection control measures," it said.

The advanced age of many long-term care facility residents, their underlying health conditions and their proximity to one another put them at risk for sickness and death, the report said.

"Substantial morbidity and mortality might be averted if all long-term care facilities take steps now to prevent exposure of their residents to COVID-19," the report said.

Representatives of Life Care Center of Kirkland and its parent company, Life Care Centers of America, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The CDC conducted the investigation with the Seattle & King County Public Health agency and EvergreenHealth, the medical center that treated most of the patients hospitalized from the nursing home.

The investigation found that infected healthcare workers at the Kirkland, Wash., nursing home had a broad range of occupations: doctor, nurse, nursing assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist assistant, environmental care worker, health information officer and case manager.

Once the outbreak was discovered, investigators emailed about 100 long-term care facilities in King County to check for other clusters of the disease and visited nursing homes with suspected outbreaks to conduct emergency tests for the virus, the report said.

"As of March 9, at least eight other King County skilled nursing and assisted living facilities had reported one or more confirmed COVID-19 cases," the report said.

Several conditions probably made these facilities vulnerable, the investigation found.

Staff members worked in more than one facility. Staffers worked while symptomatic. Workers weren't familiar with standard precautions concerning droplets from patients, surface contacts and eye protection. Facilities had inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment and other items such as alcohol-based hand sanitizer. And supplies of test kits were limited.

"These findings demonstrate that outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities can have critical impact on vulnerable older adults," the report said.

"The findings in this report suggest that once COVID-19 has been introduced into a long-term care facility, it has the potential to result in high attack rates among residents, staff members and visitors."

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home staff spread coronavirus to other facilities, CDC investigation finds

Ambush shooting of judge was 'personal,' police chief says

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Updated: Police have been reviewing surveillance video in their investigation of a Monday morning shooting that critically wounded a Mississippi judge.

Judge Charlie Smith was shot after he got out of his truck to enter the Lauderdale County Courthouse in Meridian, report the Meridian Star, the Associated Press, WTOK and the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

Interim Meridian Police Chief Lewis Robbins said on Tuesday that the shooting was “personal” and directed toward the judge, the Meridian Star reports in a separate story.

“We are continuing to follow leads. We are continuing to investigate. We are continuing to look at suspects in reference to this shooting,” Robbins told the Meridian Star. “We’re doing everything that we can to bring this to a closure.”

Smith was ambushed and shot in the back with a high-powered rifle, according to a Facebook post by Chancery Court Judge Larry Primeaux. The Mississippi Clarion Ledger had coverage in a separate story.

Smith became a judge in January 2019. He presided in chancery court, which handles divorces, child custody cases, adoptions and guardianships. Before becoming a judge, Smith was a prosecutor in youth court and county court.

Primeaux said at a county meeting on Monday that Smith had undergone surgery and was expected to be transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, according to the Meridian Star.

“Judge Smith is a decent, fair person and he certainly did not deserve this,” Primeaux said.

In his Facebook post, Primeaux said Smith “has several surgeries ahead” and his injuries are serous.

Story updated on March 18 with new information.

Full Article & Source:
Ambush shooting of judge was 'personal,' police chief says

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Funeral home director sentenced to prison for stealing from elderly clients

UNIONTOWN, Pa. — A Uniontown funeral home director who authorities said stole a half million dollars’ worth of prepaid funeral policy payments from the elderly was sentenced to prison on Tuesday.

Stephen Kezmarsky has been sentenced to four to eight years in prison, 20 years of probation and $555,000 in restitution. The district attorney had asked for 15-30 years.

Kezmarsky pleaded guilty in October 2019 and owes more than $500,000 to clients for prepaid funeral expenses.

According to the Office of Attorney General Josh Shaprio, Kezmarsky accepted the payments from 2005 until 2017 but never submitted the policies to the insurance company.

“Anyone who defrauds Pennsylvanians, especially vulnerable people planning for the end of their lives, will be held to account for their crimes,” Shapiro said. “For 12 years, Kezmarsky deceived dozens of Pennsylvanians who believed they were making final plans, and now he will spend a long time behind bars and repay what he stole.”

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Funeral home director sentenced to prison for stealing from elderly clients

Parent company of Carlisle nursing facility to pay $15.4 million to settle overbilling allegations

Forest Park Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is located at 700 Walnut Bottom Road, Carlisle.
Guardian Elder Care Holdings, the owner of Forest Park Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Carlisle, has agreed to pay $15,466,278 to resolve allegations that it over-billed patients.

The Department of Justice announced the settlement in a news release last week.

Guardian operates more than 50 nursing facilities throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

According to the news release, Guardian facilities allegedly billed patients at the highest level of Medicare reimbursement from January 2011 through December 2017. Services at that level were not medically necessary, and were influenced by financial considerations.

“Seniors rely on the Medicare program to provide them with appropriate care, and to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The department will not tolerate nursing home operators that put their own economic gain ahead of the needs of their residents, and will continue to hold accountable those operators who bill Medicare for unnecessary rehabilitation services.”

The allegations were originally introduced by two former Guardian employees, Phillipa Krause and Julie White, under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The whistleblowers in this case will receive approximately $2.8 million.

The settlement also resolves allegations voluntarily disclosed by Guardian that it had employed two people who were excluded from federal health care programs. As a result of its employment of those two people, Guardian inappropriately received payment for ineligible services.

Contemporaneous with the civil settlement, Guardian agreed to enter into a chainwide Corporate Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The agreements are intended to promote compliance and protect nursing home residents.

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Parent company of Carlisle nursing facility to pay $15.4 million to settle overbilling allegations

Bloomfield Man Accused of Bilking $1,000 From Elderly Woman For Home Repairs

Robert Henderson
(BLOOMFIELD) – A Bloomfield man was arrested after police say he took $1,000 from an elderly woman to remodel her bathroom but never did the job.

Greene County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrested 55-year-old Robert Henderson on Feb. 19th after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a felony charge of theft.

According to police, a 78-year-old woman paid Henderson $1,000 to upgrade her bathroom in October 2019.

The woman told police that Henderson arrived at her home on October 19, 2019 to give her an estimate on pulling out her old bathtub and replacing it with a new one with a grab bar and a new faucet.

The woman provided police with a copy of the receipt where she paid Henderson with ten $100 bills with a balance due and an additional $1,165 when the job was completed. Henderson was to begin work on Monday, October 21, 2019.

The woman said Henderson did not show up on that Monday. He showed up on Thursday, October 30th. The woman then told Henderson that she wanted her money back.

Henderson allegedly told the woman he didn’t have it.

The woman told Henderson she needed the job done because she had no way of taking a shower. Henderson told the woman she could take a shower at his house.

The woman provided the deputy with another receipt dated October 30th that stated, – “I, Robert J. Henderson DBA RJH Flooring will refund the down payment of $1,000 for bathroom. Because I was late for the job. 10-30-2019. After I take materials back and get the rest!!!!? 1-1-2020.”

Police spoke to Henderson in February 2020. Henderson admitted he had not done the work and did not repay the money and had no way of paying it back and that the woman could just sue him.

Henderson was arrested after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He posted a $400 bond and was released from jail.

He is scheduled to appear in Greene County Superior Court on March 2.

Full Article & Source:
Bloomfield Man Accused of Bilking $1,000 From Elderly Woman For Home Repairs

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Why is a Michigan Court that handles those most at risk from Coronavirus still open?

Parking lot at the Oakland County Probate Court still filled with cars on Monday March 16. Photo courtesy of Chris Abood.
As of Monday morning, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer had announced the closure of the state’s bars and restaurants, while venues were asked to reduce capacity by half. Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a recommendation against gatherings of more than 50 people. In New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, governors insitituted bans in line with that advice.

All of this to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially to the country’s most vulnerable elderly population and those suffering from physical conditions that place them at greater risk.

But, at a courthouse complex in Pontiac, Michigan, you’d never know that life has changed at all.

As of the morning of March 16  the parking lot was still full and business proceeding as normal at the Oakland County Circuit and Probate Courts.

At present Oakland County has 14 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and Oakland County Chief Executive David Coulter “expects those numbers to grow.”

The Probate Court, which operates in Coulter’s building, is set up to serve Michigan’s most vulnerable who must regularly attend hearings to determine whether they are to be placed under guardianship or conservatorship as well as those dealing with mental health and estate matters.

An investigation, released last year in the Daily Kos, found numerous and disturbing issues in the way the court has treated it’s most vulnerable with accusations of rampant abuse and exploitation of elderly and developmentally disabled individuals.

The Oakland County Probate Court’s four cramped, courtrooms are routinely packed, particularly on Wednesdays (called Motion Days) and there is little or no room for social distancing. Each courtroom has the capacity for more than 50 people.

At present, cancelling a hearing is a matter of judicial discretion.

Judges have routinely punished individuals who have not shown up for or been late for hearings. Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that Oakland County Circuit Judge Leo Bowman jailed real estate developer Howard Baum who was late to his hearing on a real estate dispute because he had pneumonia that was so acute, he was “throwing up in a wastebasket under the counsel table.”

It was a story that did not go unnoticed by those with upcoming hearings at the Oakland County Probate Court, which operates as an autonomous division of the Circuit Court.

They are terrified that, if they do not attend a hearing, because they are at risk from Coronavirus or even feeling unwell, they could very well find themselves sanctioned or worse.

Since very few Oakalnd County probate and elder law attorneys are willing to challenge the court’s four judges or charge unaffordable retainers, many litigants appear pro-se (wthout an attorney to argue on their behalf).

One such elderly woman, who wished to remain anonymous, has a hearing coming up on Motion Day March 18 at The Oakland County Probate Court and is running a fever. She had a friend call the court Monday morning to receive clarification on when she should come in.

She recorded the conversation.

After being placed on hold numerous times, a clerk told her “I can transfer you to the chambers of the judge and they would have the power to make the decision to either postpone the court date or [your friend’] could attend by phone.”

When asked how long cases would continue as normal, the clerk responded that “It’s an ongoing situation that could be changing. Our judges are currently discussing options. We are doing everything that we can at this time to accommodate people. We’ve waived all our judge online fees to try and limit the traffic in and out.”

Those fees are $30 for a service that supposedly allows people to appear from home or work  for “motion hearings and other court proceedings at the discretion of the presiding judge.”

There is an application that must be filled out, but a great many elderly people are not online savvy. Those confined to a nursing home at present may not have access to a computer neither can families assist them because visitation at facilties nationwide has been curtailed.

“I’m frightened,” the woman tells me. “If I tell the judge I don’t think I should come in, what if it gets me into trouble. I don’t know what to do.”

The question is, with the lethal nature of COVID-19 to the very population the Oakland County Probate Court serves, why are even non-emergency cases moving ahead as normal despite the urgency to use every day to further contain and not spread the virus? Why is the court remaining open still a matter of debate?

I reached out to Oakland County Probate Court Administrator Edward Hutton, Oakland County Chief Executive David Coulter and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to get some answers and, as of time of publication, there has been no response.

Retired Michigan attorney and elder advocate Bradley Geller believes for probate courts like Oakland County to remain open is irresponsible and not only to litigants.

“The courts should close for all but emergencies,” he says. “Particularly with guardianship hearings where older people are involved, they should not be exposed to large groups. To keep the courts open not only puts respondents at risk but petitioners, Guardian at Litems and court staff. If we are closing schools and restaurants, to keep the court open makes little sense.“

While the option exists for people to call in, should a judge permit it, Geller does not believe it is the best way to litigate a case especially if those acting as their own attorney.

“You have the right to cross examine but that can’t be done effectjvely over the phone,” he asserts.

Christine Abood is part of a group of individuals fighting for reform at the probate court on a county level believes that for the Oakland County Probate Court to stay open even one more hour than it should is “dangerous.”

“The majority of people entering the court building are older adults,” she says. “On Motion Days you have people sitting in courtroom galleries or standing shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for their case to be called and there is just no room. You may not be heard for hours so you are forced to remain in a confined space.”

“Why is this court still open? This isn’t a criminal court,” she wonders. “For it to do so while everyone else is shutting down is about nothing more than greed.”

“This puts so many people at risk,” Geller argues. “I cannot see it being a benefit to anyone.”

A Monday afternoon press conference held in Ferndale, Michigan, attended by Coulter alongside Michigan Attorney Dana Nessel and Rep. Andrew Levin (D-09), provided an update on measures such as restrictions on local businesses and venues as well as issues such as jail intake, price gouging and COVID-19 scams targeting seniors.

However, the county’s probate court was not mentioned.

 “It is time that we get very serious,” Coulter stated. “The actions that we take now will help save lives.”

Full Article & Source:
Why is a Michigan Court that handles those most at risk from Coronavirus still open?

Michigan bill to combat elder abuse would allow cameras in nursing home rooms

MICHIGAN, USA — Michigan lawmakers proposed a new bill that would allow cameras to be installed inside nursing home rooms. The action is an effort to combat elder abuse.

The bill, which was proposed by Republican Michigan Sen. Jim Runestad, would allow a resident's loved ones to oversee their treatment. Patients would have to give their consent for the cameras to be placed. If the patient is in a shared living space, all roommates would also have to give their consent before a camera is permitted. If a patient was not coherent to make the decision, the resident's power of attorney could authorize camera use.

Under the bill, Runestad said there must be signs in each room that notify the community of the cameras and filming.

"There’s going to be no surprise to anyone that this is going to be going on," he said.

Through the bill, caregivers can close the curtains in a room to block the camera's gaze when performing private procedures or when a resident needs to tend to other private matters.

However, the Healthcare Association of Michigan (HCAM) has spoken out against the bill, calling it a invasion of privacy and dignity.

"I’ve heard this being compared to preschools, or doggie day cares or even cameras on porches to look after your Amazon packages. These are adults. To compare them to a preschooler, or a dog or a package is really insulting. They deserve their privacy, dignity and respect and we should not treat them like dogs," Richie Farran, vice president of government services for HCAM said.

Runestad called HCAM's concern over privacy "comical" asking, "How are you imposing it on them when they want this when the family member wants it?"

HCAM also has concerns that the bill could open a threat to patient security.

"We have seen web-based video devices be hacked and actually used maliciously against those who are on camera. If any medical care is captured and that’s used unauthorized, that’s a HIPAA violation," Farran explained, adding giving a power of attorney the right to make a decision to film the patient is a privacy issue.

"If the individual while they were of sound mind, continuously said 'I would never want to be recorded' and now they’re not competent to make that decision for themselves, a family member could put that camera in the room," Farran said.

When asked about opposition from health organizations, Runestad said, "There's privacy provisions built into it (the bill), so it's really a matter of them not wanting the transparency, the oversight. They don't want people to know what's going on."

According to the National Council on Aging, as many as 5 million elders are abused each year, and one in 10 Americans age 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. The organization said one study estimated that only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported to the authorities.

Last year, Attorney General Dana Nessel charged three Kent County women with elder abuse.

The bill has been referred to the committee on Health Policy and Human Services. Runestad said he hopes push it through to law as soon as possible.

Full Article & Source:
Michigan bill to combat elder abuse would allow cameras in nursing home rooms

A taxi driver saved an elderly woman from being scammed out of $25,000

By Christina Zdanowicz

Rajbir Singh saved an elderly passenger in his cab from giving a scammer $25,000 in Roseville, California. He is flanked by Roseville Police records clerk Megan Harrigan and police Capt. Josh Simon.
Rajbir Singh saved an elderly passenger in his cab from giving a scammer $25,000 in Roseville, California. He is flanked by Roseville Police records clerk Megan Harrigan and police Capt. Josh Simon.
(CNN)A California cab driver knew something sounded fishy when his elderly passenger said she needed a ride to the bank to withdraw $25,000.

Rajbir Singh picked up a 92-year-old woman in Roseville, California, two weeks ago. When he started chatting with her, Singh said she told him she was about to withdraw the money to settle a debt with the IRS.
He pleaded with the woman to reconsider, saying he thought this could be a scam. Singh even detoured to a police station to help convince his passenger not to withdraw her money.
"I am an honest guy, and these are old people. They need help," Singh, the owner of Roseville Cab, told CNN on Thursday. "It just made sense."
As Singh talked to the woman, she told him that someone had called her and asked for the money. When he asked if it was a family member, the woman grew silent.

Singh said the woman agreed to let him call the number to the person who was posing as an IRS employee. 
"We called this number again and I asked the man, 'Do you know this lady?' He said no," Singh said. "I knew something was wrong."
When Singh pressed the man, saying the woman was 92 years old and she was nervous, the man hung up on him. After repeated calls back, Singh said the number blocked them.
Despite that, Singh said the woman still didn't believe him, so he came up with another idea.
"Raj pleaded with the woman to reconsider so they agreed to stop by the Roseville Police Station to ask an officer," the police department said in a post on Facebook.
Singh spoke with an officer in the station, who then spoke with the woman, police said.
The conversation with the officer worked, and the woman believed she was being scammed.
"We love this story because several times throughout, Raj could have just taken his customer to her stop and not worried about her wellbeing," Roseville police said in the Facebook post. "He took time from his day and had the great forethought to bring the almost-victim to the police station for an official response."
Roseville police said Singh deserved a "great citizen award" in a statement.
"His quick thinking saved a senior citizen $25,000 and for that, we greatly appreciate his efforts," police said.
Singh took his passenger home, her bank account saved. A week after the potential scam was thwarted, Singh said he got a call asking him to come back to the station.
Officers gave Singh a $50 gift card to thank him for what he did.

Full Article & Source:
A taxi driver saved an elderly woman from being scammed out of $25,000

Monday, March 16, 2020

Court tosses disgraced guardian Rebecca Fierle’s appeal of ruling she misused DNRs

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For a second time, a panel of judges has dismissed an appeal by former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle, who sought to quash an Orange County judge’s order finding she violated state rules by misusing “do not resuscitate” orders on incapacitated clients.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach on Thursday tossed Fierle’s appeal, in which she argued Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe overstepped when she wrote in a Sept. 12 order that she had “no confidence in Ms. Fierle’s actions, reliability, or truthfulness as a professional guardian.”

“This court finds probable cause to permanently remove Rebecca Fierle from any appointment in Orange County as a professional guardian,” Thorpe wrote.

The embattled guardian, who had overseen hundreds of wards across the state, was arrested last month on charges of aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly person in the death of 75-year-old Steven Stryker, an incapacitated client who died at a Tampa hospital in May.

Medical staff were unable to attempt to save his life because Fierle had signed a DNR order against his wishes and the protests of his daughter, health-care surrogate and psychiatrist.

The court-appointed decision maker later admitted to routinely filing DNRs on her wards.

Fierle’s attorney, Harry Hackney, argued in the rejected appeal that Thorpe’s decision should be reversed because she wrongly suggested the guardian needed permission from a judge or family members before signing a DNR for a ward.

“[Fierle] can consult family and friends to discern what the ward would have done when competent,” Hackney argued. “She is NOT required to get their permission nor the court’s.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office called that a “strawman argument.” Thorpe did not object to Fierle signing DNRs on behalf of incapacitated clients but rather to her doing so against wards’ wishes, like in Styker’s case, said Senior Assistant Attorney General William H. Stafford III.

“The circuit court found probable cause that [Fierle] failed to act in the best interest of at least one of her wards by signing a DNR, not that court approval was required in all instances,” Stafford wrote.

In November, the appeals court denied a separate petition by Hackney that sought to remove Thorpe from the case.

Hackney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The Stryker case embroiled Florida’s guardianship system in scandal. Since Fierle resigned from all cases statewide in July, further investigations have found she mismanaged wards’ fiances, double-billed for services and improperly billed AdventHealth Orlando for nearly $4 million in unauthorized payments.

A series of Orlando Sentinel special reports exposed gaps in Florida’s guardianship system, including potential conflicts of interest on committees that determine whether a person should be placed under guardianship and loopholes that allow guardians to seek their own appointments, despite state law generally requiring a rotation system.

State lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday to fix those flaws by requiring guardians to get a judge’s approval before signing DNRs on behalf of incapacitated clients, prohibiting them from seeking their own appointment to specific cases and revising provisions related to conflicts of interest.

If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law would go into effect July 1.

Full Article & Source:
Court tosses disgraced guardian Rebecca Fierle’s appeal of ruling she misused DNRs

See Also:
Marion deputies release video of arrest of former Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle

Attorney General Ashley Moody fires back at embattled former Florida guardian

Guardian at center of Florida scandal appeals judge’s ruling that she broke state rules by misusing DNRs

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle charged Altamonte Springs facility $100K, illegally pocketed refunds, investigation finds

Florida Elder Affairs chief announces ‘immediate’ changes as embattled Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle resigns from all cases

Florida professional guardian Rebecca Fierle: Devoted or dangerous? | Exclusive

Cremated remains of 9 people found at Orlando office of disgraced former guardian Rebecca Fierle

Expert’s complaint against Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle was ignored for years before scandal erupted | Exclusive

Orlando guardian accused of filing unauthorized ‘do not resuscitate’ orders resigns from Seminole cases

Watchdog: In Short Hearing, Fierle Given Guardianship Over Patient

Judge releases confidential information to authorities investigating former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle