Saturday, April 11, 2020

Visitor restrictions extended to May 3 during COVID-19 outbreak

By Aileen Wingblad

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has extended restrictions for visiting hospice care centers, nursing homes, juvenile detention facilities and other residential places providing care through May 3.

Executive order 2020-37 renews the restrictions on entry into designated facilities that were put in place in March and set to expire on April 5. It applies to:

• Health care facilities

• Residential and congregate care facilities including nursing homes, adult foster care facilities, hospice facilities, substance abuse treatment facilities, independent and assisted living facilities, conand others

• Juvenile justice facilities

The order requires the facilities to prohibit entry by visitors who aren’t “necessary for the provision of medical care, the support of activities of daily living, or the exercise of power of attorney or court-appointed guardianship” for someone under the facility’s care. For residents of facilities age 21 and under, visitors will be prohibited if they aren’t a parent, foster parent or guardian.

Also prohibited are visits to people who aren’t in serious or critical condition or in hospice care. Visits from people performing official governmental functions or “exigent circumstances” such as a doula and partner accompanying a mother in labor are permitted if they pass required health screenings.

“We must continue to do everything we can to protect Michiganders,” Whitmer said. “This is a hard time for families, and we will continue to put their health and safety first when making these decisions. I encourage everyone in Michigan to remain flexible and do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The order further requires facilities to “use best efforts to facilitate remote visitations between individuals under their care and their loved ones, using phone or video conferencing software.”

Full Article & Source: 
Visitor restrictions extended to May 3 during COVID-19 outbreak

A California nursing home was evacuated after its staff didn't show up

Ambulance personnel get ready to evacuate patients from the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside, California.
By Cheri Mossburg

(CNN) Dozens of patients from a nursing home in Southern California were evacuated to other centers Wednesday after employees stopped showing up for work, officials say.

Magnolia Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Riverside, California has been hit hard by coronavirus, with at least 34 of 84 patients and five staff members testing positive, according to a news release from Riverside County Public Health Department.

Wednesday is the second day in a row employees didn't show up to care for patients. Thirty-three nurses were brought in by Riverside University Health and Kaiser Permanente to fill in on Tuesday, the release states.

Noting that rehab centers and nursing facilities present a particular challenge due to the age and health conditions of the residents, the county's health department said the centers receiving patients will follow strict Covid-19 containment procedures.

Riverside County has seen at least 1,016 confirmed cases, and 28 people have died, according to the county's public health department.

CNN is continuing to try to reach Magnolia and its staff members.

Full Article & Source:
A California nursing home was evacuated after its staff didn't show up

‘Alexa, help me:’ Nursing home virus patient asked smart speaker for help dozens of times before death

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the days leading up to LouAnn Dagen’s death from COVID-19, the Metron nursing home patient repeatedly asked her Amazon Echo Show for help with her pain.

Dagen, 66, died Saturday shortly after her arrival at the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s emergency room in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dagen was one of 31 residents and five staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 at the nursing home, which is now called Mission Point. The residents with COVID-19 are quarantined away from the rest of the community’s population.

It wasn’t until after her death that her sister, Penny Dagen, discovered the recordings from the Amazon device in her sister’s room at Metron.

“Alexa, help me,” LouAnn Dagen said in one of the exchanges.

There appeared to be 40 such recordings over the last three or four days of her life.

Penny Dagen played some of them from behind the storm door at her home in Sparta, Michigan. She said her sister would want her story shared to help others understand how relentless coronavirus is.

“I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it,” LouAnn Dagen told Alexa.

“Can you help me cope with pain?”

“Oh, Alexa, I’m going to hurt.”

At one point, she asked for help reaching law enforcement: “How do I get to the police?”

The recording shows the device provided directions to the nearest police station.

She told her sister the pain was everywhere. Penny Dagen said Metron was giving her a pain reliever to try to control it.

“I just kept telling her there wasn’t anything I could do,” Penny Dagen said.

Through tears, she apologized to the little sister she had looked after since birth.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more. I’d take your pain away,” she said, sobbing.

Penny Dagen said her sister had been short of breath early last week, but Metron told her that despite the COVID-19 infection, LouAnn Dagen did not have an elevated temperature.

“It wasn’t until Thursday that they started the saline solution because she was getting dehydrated,” Penny Dagen said. “She just kept saying, ‘I’m thirsty.’ She didn’t drink anything, though.”

Penny said her sister’s oxygen level and blood pressure dropped Saturday morning, prompting Metron to send her to the ER at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

“They said she talked to the ambulance people all the way there, but when she got there, she went into convulsions,” she said.

“The hospital called me right away and said that they put her on a respirator. They asked me about giving her CPR if her heart stopped, and I said, ‘No, she didn’t want that.’ And then her heart stopped and that was it. A half-hour after they called.”

LouAnn Dagen had long struggled with diabetes and hypertension. She suffered a stroke almost a decade ago and had lived at Metron since then. According to the medical examiner’s office, her death was caused by “coronavirus infection, diabetes and hypertension.”

WOOD reached out to Metron, but the home had not responded by late Tuesday night. It is not known if the home was aware of the extent of Dagen’s pain or if there was anything Metron could have done differently.

Penny Dagen said her sister was a talented artist who played piano, organ and guitar. She also tried ventriloquism.

“She was such a talented girl. Very, very smart,” she said.

“It’s good to know she’s not in pain anymore, but I still miss her,” she continued through tears. “She’s up in heaven now, so she’s pain-free, and she’s walking … with my mom and my dad, so I have to be happy for her.”

Full Article & Source:
‘Alexa, help me:’ Nursing home virus patient asked smart speaker for help dozens of times before death

Friday, April 10, 2020

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Fuels America’s Loneliness Epidemic

Isolation and loneliness are already huge health-related problems among older adults. Social distancing is poised to make those problems worse.

By Joseph P. Williams

Needed social distancing measures amid the coronavirus pandemic could increase potentially dangerous loneliness among older adults.(Tetra images RF/Getty Images)
Ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic forced California to issue a stay-at-home order to prevent spread of the virus, Fred Davis' phone has been ringing almost nonstop. The callers: senior citizens who are shut in, alone and eager to know when the statewide lockdown might end.

"They're calling me because they're lonely," says Davis, 74, a retired mortgage broker and part-time minister who volunteers at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in San Diego, his hometown. Some clients, he says, are alone after having outlived spouses or even children, while others depend on the senior center's bingo games, dances and luncheons for social contact. The shutdown order, he says, is pushing his peers further into isolation.

Avoiding others "is OK when you choose to do it, if you want to go home and rest," Davis says. The harm, he says, comes "when you are forced to do it – when you're locked out of places. It's just a sad experience for them."

For years, experts have warned that seniors in the U.S. are experiencing high rates of social isolation and loneliness, a silent problem that has quantifiable, harmful health effects – similar even to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

But with the nationwide spread of COVID-19 forcing travel restrictions, community center closures and shutdowns of entire states, advocates for the elderly warn that social distancing could result in a second, invisible pandemic.

In normal times, the isolation of seniors "can have a detrimental effect on their health. It can be just as deadly as smoking, high blood pressure (or) diabetes," says Dr. Sharon Brangman, chair of the department of geriatrics at State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Brangman says the coronavirus pandemic has created a paradox: Because data indicates the virus has a disproportionate, more severe impact on seniors – as well as those with chronic, underlying health conditions – isolation "just becomes another compounder."

In other words, the very thing society must do to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect highly vulnerable seniors "can weaken their immune system," she says. "And right now, you need the strength of your immune system to fight the virus."

There's widespread data revealing a longstanding, wide-ranging "epidemic" of loneliness among the millions of older adults in the U.S. And it's an issue not just for those who live by themselves: According to a 2012 University of California-San Francisco study, 43% of older people felt lonely, even though only 18 percent lived alone. Among a sample of senior nursing home residents, another study showed, despair was prominent, and data pointed to a "lack of social relationships as a source of suffering."

Meanwhile, researchers have associated loneliness – if not necessarily being alone – with cognitive decline, including the potential progression of Alzheimer's disease, and have tied social isolation to an increased risk of stroke and even premature death. A 2017 study in Health Psychology found that people who reported feeling lonely also reported more severe symptoms associated with the common cold than those who said they were less lonely.

Brangman, a practicing clinician who specializes in treating older patients, notes there's a difference between being lonely and being alone.

"We have some (patients) who are content to be by themselves, but others need social interaction," she says. "I have some patients who would never want to go to a senior center because that was never their style. But I have other patients who are very used to social contact and find it hard to be alone."

Yet as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, and data shows that keeping people apart is effective at slowing the rate of transmission, social distancing may be the best prescription to fight COVID-19, Brangman says.

"We are trying to keep our patients at home," she says. "They are definitely high-risk and there is a mandate for them to stay home. We have canceled all of our office visits to keep them out of harm's way."

The measures also may mean adult children must restrict their visits, and their physical affection, during the pandemic, even if their parents might depend on both. "We try to say, 'Pick one person, be careful about washing hands, be careful about hugging, but it gets really hard," Brangman says of advice to older patients.

Then there are people with Alzheimer's or dementia; Brangman says consistency and a routine is critical to their care and keeping them safe. Stay-at-home orders, she says, can upend their routines and aggravate their condition.

"They may not understand what's happening, but can sense the anxiety around them," Brangman says.

Paul Downey, president and CEO of Serving Seniors – a San Diego nonprofit that operates the senior wellness center where Davis, the minister, volunteers – agrees that enforcing social distancing for an already marginalized demographic uses one problem to prevent another, far deadlier one. His organization also serves seniors at around a dozen "congregate dining sites" that have closed due to the pandemic, and has similarly ceased fitness and game activities.

"If you asked me three weeks ago what's the most important thing that happens at the senior center, I would say socialization," Downey says. For his clients, many of whom are living alone, he says, such a venue means "having a place to go where they belong, where they have a group of friends."

A week earlier, "you would have seen people around the table enjoying lunch" and hanging out with their friends, Downey says. The ability to socialize, he says, is "critical" to keeping older people healthy, as seniors with "a good social environment, being happy in their lives, are going to have better health outcomes."

Now, "we have had to transition all of our services to homebound, and people are more isolated than ever," Downey says. "We're now taking seniors who were otherwise active and healthy and going to Rotary and bridge club meetings – we're now taking those folks and socially isolating them. Even your next-door neighbor can't come over and have a cup of tea in the afternoon" for fear of transmitting an infection.

Both Brangman and Downey say technology and social media can help bridge the gaps, allowing seniors to keep in touch with friends and family. Among seniors who aren't tech-savvy, Downey says, a phone call or even a quick door-knock visit can help – provided that the appropriate precautions, including a 6-foot distance between visitor and resident, are maintained.

Still, "if you and I are talking in person, and I'm wearing a mask or glove and you're not, it creates a disparity," Downey says.

Only time will reveal if social distancing on top of social isolation has a lasting, detrimental impact on older adults, he says.

"None of us really understand, not even for ourselves, what the long-term impact of being cooped up in our houses will be for months, weeks at a time," Downey says. "It could exacerbate their condition greatly. We need to come up with solutions for social isolation of seniors, regardless of the coronavirus."

Brangman concurs: "It's a big testament as to how we treat the most vulnerable of our society," she says. "We are too quick to write off older adults, even though ageism is the one '-ism' we all will experience. We really have to look at it because we're all going to be there."

"Unless you die young, you will be old," she says.

Davis, the retired mortgage broker and volunteer, agrees. Everyone is struggling, he says, and although "I keep pretty positive" and read the Bible daily, the shutdown has tested his faith.

"The first two, three days I had a talk with myself – 'Shoot, I'm going to have to reboot my schedule,'" Davis says. After a period of adjustment, he concluded, "I still want to help people" so he continued making his rounds of visiting homeless camps and delivering meals to shut-ins while taking precautions and staying upbeat.

"I tell people, 'Don't give up hope. This is going to pass,'" he says. "I have one guy I have to go see. He's one of my wellness checks. If I don't check on him, his whole world will crash in. He's so worried that the government will crash and he won't get his home-delivered meal."

"He said, 'What's gonna happen with me?'" Davis says. "I reassured him: 'You've got me.'"

Full Article & Source:
How the Coronavirus Pandemic Fuels America’s Loneliness Epidemic

Coronavirus quarantine violators can be jailed without bond in some Florida counties. Critics worry it could expose more to infection

By Monivette Cordeiro, Katie Rice, Grace Toohey, Tess Sheets and Cristóbal Reyes

The Orange County Jail's Booking and Receiving Center. Orange is one of several Florida counties where people who break a coronavirus quarantine can be jailed without the ability to post bond.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
When Seminole County caught residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus ignoring quarantine orders to go shopping and run errands, shocked officials quickly issued a mandate last week requiring the infected to stay home or face a $500 fine and possible criminal charges.

Under a judicial order issued Monday, people who leave home after being ordered to isolate or quarantine could be held at the jail on a second-degree misdemeanor — without the chance to immediately post bail for release.

At a time when jails across the state are working to reduce inmate populations because of fears they could be breeding grounds for the virus, other judicial circuits in Florida, including the Ninth Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties, have issued similar no-bond mandates.

So far, there have been no quarantine-related arrests in Orange, Osceola or Seminole, law enforcement agencies say.

The orders allow the indefinite detention of anyone who violates a directive to isolate or quarantine, including those who test positive, those suspected of being infected and those who have been exposed. The bond for a second-degree misdemeanor is typically up to $250.

Shalini Agarwal, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the act of jailing people for quarantine violations is “problematic on many levels.”

“[T]here’s no real social distancing that is feasible in our jails and prisons, so the idea that we’re deliberately going to introduce folks who are at risk of being infected is really just stirring the petri dish to a degree of unacceptable risk,” Agarwal said.

“This is a public health emergency, and for us to criminalize it is … the wrong solution to the problem.”

‘There are consequences’

Seminole-Brevard Chief Judge Lisa Davidson said in a statement her order holding quarantine violators in jail without bond, at least until their initial appearance within 24 hours, is “intended solely for an individual who is COVID symptomatic and flagrantly defies all common sense guidelines for social distancing and self-quarantining.”

But Public Defender Blaise Trettis said the order appears to violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits excessive bail. He is concerned it could be used to hold someone in jail indefinitely on a misdemeanor, including those without a positive test or symptoms.

“You not only have no bail, but you might be put into isolation," he said, noting isolated inmates usually have no access to phones or attorneys, as has happened in Brevard County.

Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Donald Myers Jr. said he issued his March 25 order after the Florida Department of Health expressed concern that people jailed for violating quarantine orders would be able to pay $250 and bond out immediately before seeing a judge at initial appearance.

“That would raise concerns about the ability to know where they are,” Myers said.

The state Department of Health did not answer specific questions from the Orlando Sentinel. An unsigned statement from the state’s Joint Information Center on COVID-19 said isolation is required for people who test positive for COVID-019 and quarantine is required for anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Myers’ confirmed his order, which is worded similarly to Davidson’s, applies to people with positive COVID-19 test results, but also to people who’ve been told to self-isolate after being exposed to the virus, he said. Both orders give the initial appearance judge the discretion to modify bond.

Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Donald A. Myers issued an order, dated March 25, that states anyone who violates isolation or quarantine is subject to arrest and being held without bond.
Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Donald A. Myers issued an order, dated March 25, that states anyone who violates isolation or quarantine is subject to arrest and being held without bond.
Myers said he is concerned for the health of inmates and corrections officers but added that local jails have appropriate procedures in place to isolate someone who they suspect has COVID-19.

“I think it’s important for people to recognize that there are consequences,” he said. “We don’t take any pleasure in issuing orders like this, but it is driven towards insisting upon compliance with these stay-at-home orders for the benefit of the safety of our community.”

But Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala said she was concerned that jailing an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, could expose jail employees and other inmates.

“We need to develop a common-sense solution that effectively responds to individuals who flout public safety without putting even more people at risk in our local jails,” Ayala said in a statement. "I have been in touch with both Chiefs and am committed to working with them and others to come up with a workable and humane solution to this situation.”

Orange-Osceola Public Defender Robert Wesley said his biggest concern is that jails are historically places where “sick people get sicker.”

He pointed to Cook County Jail in Chicago, which was determined to be the largest-known source of U.S. coronavirus infections by the New York Times. The rapid rise of infections at the Rikers Island jail in New York was called a “public health disaster” by its chief physician.

Three Orange County Jail corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19, but no inmates had tested positive as of Monday, according to jail spokeswoman Tracy Zampaglione.

“I think that the jail is dedicated to having a good process in place,” Wesley said. “I think they’re doing everything possible to contain it, and we want to assist in that effort, too.”

‘Like martial law’

In support of the no-bail orders, chief judges have cited a 1943 Florida Supreme Court decision involving a woman in Duval County who was held due to a suspected gonorrhea infection. The justices ruled that a quarantine order is not a criminal proceeding and therefore not subject to bail. The lower court in that case had ordered her release on bail as soon as she was cured.

“To grant release on bail to persons isolated and detained on a quarantine order because they have a contagious disease which makes them dangerous to others, or to the public in general, would render quarantine laws and regulations nugatory and of no avail," the high court’s opinion said.

Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger, whose circuit issued an order similar to those in other circuits on March 27, said the Ninth Circuit’s order went too far by failing to require that a person is “reasonably believed to be infected” with COVID-19 in order to be subject to indefinite detention.

The order was presented “almost like martial law,” he said.

“Our first appearance judges were told to treat this as a second-degree misdemeanor unless it was truly a public health risk,” he said.

Stephen Thompson, a spokesman for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, which covers Pinellas and Pasco counties, said Chief Judge Anthony Rondolino’s order “applies only to those who are reasonably believed to have been infected with the coronavirus or who have been exposed to it.”

One person has been arrested in the Sixth Circuit for breaking isolation or quarantine: James Curry, who reportedly claimed to have been infected with COVID-19 and spat in a St. Petersburg police officer’s face. A judge released Curry on his own recognizance on that charge, but he is still being held on other charges.

Dillinger said there was nothing indicating Curry was infected with COVID-19.

People arrested for violating quarantine are to be held in a separate medical building, he said, and area jails have negative-pressure cells which keep air from those cells from circulating to other parts of the jail. When the jail has had inmates with tuberculosis and HIV, it has similarly isolated them from the rest of the jail population, he said.

Dillinger said jails are staffed with medical professionals capable of assessing the risk of potential COVID-19 transmission from people booked on quarantine violations.

The order is necessary, he said, but in general, it is not a good idea to have no bond on a second-degree misdemeanor charge. He said the courts in his circuit will release people, under the condition that they get treatment.

“The order follows the law, and we will address it in a way that protects the community and doesn’t violate the defendants’ rights,” Dillinger said.

Other circuits in the state have not yet issued no-bond orders for quarantine violators. No such order appears in an administrative order database for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Lake and Marion counties, or those for the 17th or 11th circuits, which cover Broward and Miami-Dade counties, two of the hardest-hit areas in the state.

No arrests yet locally

Orlando police spokeswoman Heidi Rodriguez said the quarantine orders cited in the Ninth Circuit’s administrative ruling would be issued by the state health officer, though OPD isn’t aware of any in effect. In Orlando, it’s up to the Department of Health to ask for an injunction or an arrest warrant if a resident who has been issued a quarantine order violates its conditions, Rodriguez said.

“If the judge does issue a warrant, then OPD will enforce the warrant the same way it enforces other warrants,” she said in an email. “However, this is something that has not occurred.”

Orange County sheriff’s spokeswoman Michelle Guido said that the agency has not made any arrests for violations of public health orders, but will continue to work with the community to respond and educate, if there are concerns.

“We don’t want to arrest anyone for violating these orders, we would rather they comply with the orders,” Guido said. “But we will make arrests, if necessary, to keep the community safe.”

Kissimmee and St. Cloud police departments have also not arrested anyone who defied quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, but the agencies have detained people for violating the county-imposed curfew before Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide shutdown.

St. Cloud Police Department spokesman Sgt. Frankie De La Rosa said his agency is struggling with a lack of guidance from state officials on how to identify people infected with the virus.

“There are some questions that need to be answered, like how do we prove that someone has COVID-19?” he asked. “Do we take the word of someone who says an individual has it? Should we rely on people self-reporting? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

Seminole County sheriff’s spokesman Bob Kealing said harsh penalties have not yet been used against quarantine violators but, if blatant disregard of emergency orders becomes an issue, the agency is prepared to fine or arrest people.

The Seminole County jail has specific “medical and safety protocols” for inmates who have tested positive, and new inmates have their temperature taken upon booking and are kept in an observation pod for at least seven days to monitor for symptoms, he said.

‘We all share a responsibility'

Davidson’s order helped provide "both guidance and the discretionary authority for law enforcement to act quickly” if they find someone has ignored or refused to comply with public health orders, which puts the entire community at risk, said Todd Brown, spokesman for the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office.

If presented with such a case, Brown said prosecutors have been instructed to “carefully consider” accepting a request to release someone without monetary bail, but said they could request GPS monitoring or other conditions to help ensure the quarantine is being adhered to.

The office will work with the court and defense attorneys to make sure quarantine violators comply with isolation orders without continued incarceration, he said.

“In this national emergency we all share a responsibility to conduct ourselves with reasonable consideration for the safety and welfare of others,” Brown said. “But we must also be prepared to act quickly and decisively to protect our communities from the reckless behavior of those who do not.”

Still, Agarwal, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is concerned arrests may disproportionately impact minorities and people of lower socioeconomic statuses, as they will “more likely be in a position where they feel like they need to be … violating some of these quarantine orders to make ends meet.”

It’s not only inmates who can become at increased risk for COVID-19. Corrections officers, contractors and those who come in contact with people who were in jail after they’re released can all be impacted, said Jackie Azis, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We can’t pretend like the jail is some separate entity from the rest of the community. It’s not,” Azis said. “If we want to protect the community, we have to protect all individuals who are in custody of the jail or who go into the jail.”

Full Article & Source:
Coronavirus quarantine violators can be jailed without bond in some Florida counties. Critics worry it could expose more to infection

Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force warns of financial scams

By  Kristal Dixon

Kim Swanson never planned to speak publicly about the time she almost lost $1,000 to a stranger who called to tell her she missed jury duty.

Swanson, the assistant to Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott, recently received the call from a person who said she missed three jury summons and there were three warrants out for her arrest. Swanson panicked and did the wrong thing: she followed the scammers’ commands.

“Jail isn’t really a happy place to be,” she said while explaining how she nearly became a fraud victim.

Swanson’s story was one of many cautionary tales recounted Tuesday during a seminar at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta which discussed ways seniors can fall victim to financial exploitation.

Joe Gavalis, a law enforcement coordinator with the North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force, said a little more than half of those who financially exploit older residents are their relatives, caretakers or “someone you trust.” The rest, he said, are carried out by professionals who target seniors because that generation “has been very trusting.”

Jason Marbutt, Cobb County’s senior assistant district attorney and head of the Cobb task force, said only one in 24 fraud cases are reported to police because the victims are ashamed and embarrassed they fell for the ruse. But reporting the crime is the first step to catching the criminal, he said.

“We can only prosecute and punish what we can catch,” Marbutt said.

In 2018, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office charged 29 defendants with at least one count of neglect, abuse or exploitation of the elderly. The number rose slightly to 35 in 2018. There have been five defendants charged so far this year.

Cobb County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Glenn Daniel said his agency investigated 290 reports of elder exploitation cases in 2018. That figure increased to 320 in 2019. So far this year, the department has investigated 60 reports. Daniel said those numbers include scams targeting the elderly.

“Most of these cases we were not able to obtain enough evidence to prosecute, or they have no identifiable suspect,” he added.

Schemes used on older adults include the imposter scam, home repair/improvement scams and the jury duty scam.

The imposter scam, where the scammer poses as a person or business to try to get the potential victim to pay off a debt, relies on the “idea of urgency” that instills fear into the potential victim, Marbutt said.

Marbutt said his own wife, Olivia, fell victim to an imposter scam. He described his wife as a “very intelligent patent attorney” who received an email from someone claiming to be a partner at her law firm. The email asked Marbutt’s wife to go to Target and purchase iTunes cards to help with a payment. The lawyer spent $500 to $1,000 performing the task. Twenty minutes went by before she reached out to her husband, who informed her she was scammed.

“All the money was gone and there was nothing we could have done,” Jason Marbutt said.

Home improvement scams are also common crimes targeting older adults. James Duncan, an investigator with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, said residents have to do their due diligence and ask these potential scammers to provide at least three references. In a lot of cases, older adults may live alone, so the “nosy neighbor” can help thwart scammers by simply asking questions and reporting their suspicions to police.

“The nosy neighbor is probably the best deterrent to help us solve crimes,” he said.

The jury duty scam happens when a person receives a phone call informing them a warrant has been issued for their arrest. The person is told they have to pay a fine or they will go to jail.

Swanson, Ott’s assistant, said the scam was convincing enough that she got in her car and began driving to the Cobb sheriff’s office to pay off the fine. However, the scammer told her to stop by the bank to withdraw about $1,000 to apply towards the payment. The scammer then told her to go to Kroger and purchase several Green Dot cards. She was directed to call a bail bondsman and read him the number on the back of the Green Dot cards to pay the fine. At this point, Swanson said she began to feel uneasy about the situation. She told the men on the phone that they could meet her outside the Sheriff’s Office to get her payment.

Swanson said when she insisted on making the payment in person, the scammers ended the call. She called a friend who is an attorney who told her she was scammed.

“You get all caught up in to it,” she said. “The more I talk about it the dumber I feel. You have to take a minute and breathe.”

Full Article & Source:
Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force warns of financial scams

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Faced with tough choices, Italy is prioritizing young COVID-19 patients over the elderly. That likely 'would not fly' in the US.

Paramedics in a tent set up outside the hospital of Cremona, Italy, on February 29.
Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP
  • Epidemics force medical professionals to make tough choices, including which lives to save first. 
  • In Italy, where more than 9,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, doctors are prioritizing the young and otherwise healthy patients over the older people who are less likely to recover.
  • A NYC medical ethicist told Insider the medical community in the US would also have to make decisions about who to prioritize if hospitals become overwhelmed.
  • Choosing patients simply based on their age, however, "would not fly," he said.
With the number of coronavirus patients rising every day, the medical community in New York City is discussing what to do if hospitals in the US become overwhelmed.

In Italy, where more than 9,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, doctors are scrambling to secure resources and treat patients. They have been forced to prioritize the young and otherwise healthy.

"It's very hard to just prioritize the young over the old. That would not fly in the US," Arthur Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU School of Medicine in New York City, told Business Insider. "People would protest the idea that young lives are worth more inherently than older lives."

Caplan said hospitals, like NYU's Bellevue Hospital, have already begun discussing how to ration scarce resources if need be. While there hasn't yet been a hospital committee meeting that addressed which patients would get priority in treatment, he expects that to come up down the line.

Those conversations, which will likely vary by hospital and region, should touch on not just the age of the patients but also their health and a number of other factors, Caplan said.

"If you had, let's say, an ICU that was overwhelmed, you're probably going to try and give some extra attention to healthcare workers because you need them to deliver care," he said. "The rationale isn't that they're more worthy; it's that they can contribute in the longer run to saving more lives."

When a medical center discharges a coronavirus patient, it would make sense for healthcare workers to consider whether the person is homeless before doing so, he said, because they might not have somewhere to safely self-quarantine and recover.

Arthur Caplan.
NYU School of Medicine
In a crisis, hospitals try to "maximize the chance of saving a life and make sure that we save the most years of life," Caplan said.

"In that way, younger people tend to have a huge priority, but not exclusively," Caplan said.

In fact, most people who are young with the coronavirus won't even be treated in US hospitals because they will likely recover at home.

"So what we're really talking about is the very sick young versus the sick elderly, who we know aren't likely to do well," he said. "It's not like every young person is going to get ahead of every old person."

The coronavirus is far from the first time that hospital workers have had to grapple with which patients to treat at the expense of others.

In New York, there are guidelines on how to allocate ventilators during a flu epidemic, Caplan said.

"They suggest that you may take someone who is desperately ill and not likely to live off that ventilator and put someone else with a much better chance on," Caplan said. "I'm not against that, but I will tell you that doctors hate to do that because they don't want to abandon their patient."

That is a topic that will likely also have to be addressed when hospital committees meet to come up with coronavirus policies, Caplan said.

While it's important to have conversations about how to ration resources, Caplan is concerned that not enough people are thinking about how to share resources among institutions.

"I've been complaining that we also need a strategy for sharing. So if NYU Bellevue ... got overwhelmed, how do we direct patients to other hospitals in New York City or the VA?" he said. "You need to be thinking about that right now because the better solution to shortage is sharing, not rationing."

The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 4,000 people and infected over 116,000, with the majority of cases in China. It has spread to more than 100 countries.

The US has confirmed 28 coronavirus deaths: 23 in Washington state, two in Florida, two in California, and one in New Jersey.

Full Article & Source:
Faced with tough choices, Italy is prioritizing young COVID-19 patients over the elderly. That likely 'would not fly' in the US.

A 22-year-old is using her sled dogs to deliver groceries to her elderly neighbors in rural Maine

Lucas and her team of 12 dogs help make grocery deliveries across northern Maine.
Hannah Lucas
  • After seeing seniors buying just a few necessities, like eggs, milk, and fruit, Hannah Lucas knew she wanted to help those at higher risk for severe illnesses from the COVID-19 virus.
  • The 22-year-old started a grocery delivery service using her sled dogs.
  • Now, two teams make four to six deliveries across northern Maine each day.
  • Lucas is hoping it becomes a permanent service in her town, even after the pandemic.
In New York City, groceries are delivered across the city on a bike. In suburban Atlanta, perishables might be transported in the trunk of a car.

But in Caribou, Maine, groceries are now being delivered by dogs. The goal is to protect the community's most vulnerable, including seniors and immunocompromised individuals who are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

Hannah Lucas, a 22-year-old working at Circle K, knew she wanted to help after noticing that older adults were coming in for just a few grocery items.

"I was seeing the elderly coming in and only buying small amounts of food, like a gallon of milk or eggs or fruit," the 22-year-old told Insider. "And I really just wanted to help minimize their risk with the pandemic going on."

Hannah Lucas Dog Sled

The teams meet at trail openings to deliver the food.
Hannah Lucas
Lucas moved to Caribou for sled dog racing. Most of her time is spent out on the trails training with the Northlane Siberian Huskies and Seppala Siberian Sled Dog Team.

Lucas realized that her team could deliver food to people, thus helping them avoid public spaces and lowering their risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Lucas posted her idea for a delivery service in a local Facebook group, and the response was overwhelming

"I never really expected it to blow up the way that it has," Lucas said, as it was clearly a service her community needed. So on March 5, she set out and made two deliveries.

The next day, her orders tripled.

Hannah Lucas Dog Sled 4

The teams make four to six deliveries each day.
Hannah Lucas
Lucas, her two dog handlers, and 12 dogs set out in two teams and make four to six deliveries each day.

"It feels really bigger than myself, to be able to know that I'm helping keep these people safe," Lucas said.

They receive requests through the phone and Facebook, and they map out a route along Maine's Interconnected Trail System. The seniors and families meet at the trail opening.

Lucas described how thankful they are for the help. One older couple cried when they saw the dogs coming, Lucas said.

"A lot of the people really enjoy seeing the dogs, and they're always really thankful when they see us coming up with their groceries," Lucas told Insider.

Hannah Lucas Dog Sled 6

They travel an estimated 50 to 75 miles each day.
Hannah Lucas
The dogs are thrilled to be helping out. "They love it. As soon as we start to pull their harnesses down off of the wall, they kind of know that they're getting the chance to go out and have some fun."

After seeing how needed this service is in her rural community, Lucas doesn't plan on stopping

"I'm actually hoping to still be able to do the grocery delivery for years to come, not just while the pandemic is going on," Lucas said.

Hannah Lucas Dog Sled 5

The dogs love it, said Lucas.
Hannah Lucas
In a few weeks, the warmer temperatures will melt the snow and she'll have to pause her sledding service.

But come next winter, she said she hopes to pick it back up.

Full Article & Source:
A 22-year-old is using her sled dogs to deliver groceries to her elderly neighbors in rural Maine

Elder abuse concerns heightened amid COVID-19 isolation

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As we continue to self-quarantine, many of us may be going a little stir crazy — but part of our community is especially vulnerable and some people will try to take advantage of that.

“Abuse, scammers, they prey on the isolation and loneliness of older adults,” said Lori DiCaprio-Lee, the ID Theft and Outreach Coordinator at Vera House.

Time away from family and friends is what DiCaprio-Lee says can make our older adults even more vulnerable to financial abuse and other scams.

“If you’re an older adult and you’re feeling lonely and isolated and you get a phone call and that person is saying, ‘hey I have something that’s going to prevent you from getting coronavirus, you’re already afraid, you might listen to that,'” she said.

Our older adults tend to be more loving and have assets such as jewelry, cars without payments, homes without mortgages, etc. making them a target.

“One of the first abilities that older adults have that starts to decline is the ability to make good financial decisions,” said DiCaprio-Lee. It makes them even more vulnerable.

Here are some tips to prevent being scammed:
  • Don’t give out your social security number
  • If someone is being pushy it’s likely a scam
  • If it’s unsolicited by you it’s likely a scam
  • Put pins on your accounts
  • Shred paper with your personal information
  • Don’t give out your information or social security number
Oftentimes, abuse doesn’t come from a stranger, it comes from someone you know and trust. “When there’s financial exploitation in particular, it’s done by an insider, a family member, a relative, a loved one, a caregiver,” said DiCaprio-Lee.

Full Article & Source:
Elder abuse concerns heightened amid COVID-19 isolation

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Lori Stiegel, Early Champion of Elder Justice

by Edwin L. Walker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging
Lori Stiegel
A week ago, a bright light went out.  I was shocked and profoundly saddened to learn of the death of our dear colleague and friend, Lori Stiegel.  I knew Lori for decades, so long that I cannot recall exactly when we met.  She was such a presence in my life – and in the lives of so many others.  Lori was gentle, humble, a consummate advocate for justice, and a great friend. 
Lori was a valued member of the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging for over 30 years.  She started her career as a legal aid lawyer, working with older Americans. She then worked supporting legal assistance through legal assistance development and as the Georgia Legal Assistance Developer prior to joining the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.  Her dedication and passion for her work was always informed by what she learned from having “boots on the ground” experience.
Lori was one of the earliest, and certainly the most consistently passionate, advocates for the agency and rights of all adults to make their own decisions.  She taught many of us how to fight against financial exploitation of seniors. She led the way in pushing for guardianship reform and was the national leader and force behind WINGS, Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders.  She believed deeply that collective action and bringing together diverse arrays of constituencies can move the needle on seemingly intractable barriers – and she was right. She educated, nurtured and encouraged generations of legal aid lawyers, policy makers, and thought leaders.
Many considered Lori a dear friend and I was among them.  I treasured our conversations, whether they were about deep pressing issues of the day or about light topics that would bring out a shared smile or laugh.
Our memories of Lori can comfort us and propel us forward, as advocates and as friends. I will miss her, and mourn our loss. As we share stories of what she accomplished and how she united disparate communities to advance the cause of autonomy and self-determination, we will continue her work, inspired by her spirit and positive approach, and her belief that we can come together on difficult issues.  We will succeed, led by her example, and because of that, Lori will live on.

Nursing home presuming all 800 patients, staff have COVID-19

Click to Watch Video
Beaver County, Pennsylvania — A Beaver County nursing home is operating under the presumption that all of its 800 patients and staff members have COVID-19, reports CBS Pittsburgh. The Brighton Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, northwest of the city, said they'll all be treated as such.

Over the weekend, a union representative from the nursing home reported at least 42 of the 450 patients living there had tested positive and three had died.

The union said 10 of the more than 300 workers have tested positive.

Last night, the nursing home spoke with the Department of Health and it was decided test results would no longer be considered. Instead, anyone showing symptoms will be isolated and aggressively treated. It's thought that will better protect others from asymptomatic cases.

Staffers are using N-95 masks and other protective equipment to try to stay safe.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home presuming all 800 patients, staff have COVID-19

Coronavirus In Minnesota: Housley Calls For Transparency On Care Facilities With COVID-19 Cases

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Republican state senator is calling for officials to disclose the names and locations of the long-term care facilities in Minnesota where residents or staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Karin Housley, the chair of the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee, issued a statement Wednesday, urging Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health to release those details to the public going forward.

“As Minnesotans confront a new reality, access to information is critical as we make decisions for ourselves and our loved ones,” she said. “We must make full disclosure the standard in Minnesota, just as they have done in Colorado, Oregon, and other states hit by the coronavirus.”

Currently, the Minnesota Department of Health reports daily on the number of COVID-19 cases in the state by county. However, it does not release information on the precise location of these cases. Health officials say providing those precise details is against the law, as it would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPA).

So far, COVID-19 has killed 17 people in Minnesota, 11 of whom were residents in long-term care facilities, The Star Tribune reports. Additionally, health officials have confirmed that more than 50 residents and staff in long-term care facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Full Article & Source:
Coronavirus In Minnesota: Housley Calls For Transparency On Care Facilities With COVID-19 Cases

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Guardianship - Conservatorship Abuse - Elder Financial Fraud Documentary Guardians Inc.

"Conservatorship is a legal concept in the United States. A guardian or a protector is appointed by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another due to physical or mental limitations, or old age. A person under conservatorship is a "conservatee," a term that can refer to an adult. A person under guardianship is a "ward," a term that can also refer to a minor child. Conservatorship may also apply to corporations and organizations. 

"The conservator may be only of the "estate" (financial affairs), but may be also of the "person," wherein the conservator takes charge of overseeing the daily activities, such as health care or living arrangements of the conservatee. A conservator of the person is more typically called a legal guardian." Wikipedia: 

Guardianship: "A guardianship for an incapacitated senior will typically arise where someone determines that a senior has become unable to care for their own person and/or property. In some cases, there may be a belief that the senior is being financially exploited or about to be exploited. In other cases, the person may be unable to care for him or herself and is not able to properly engage in the activities of daily living without assistance. There will typically be a precipitating incident that causes a professional, family member, health care worker or clergyman to initiate guardianship proceedings. 

 "In most states, the process will start with a determination whether the alleged incapacitated person is actually incapacitated. There will often be an evidentiary hearing. Only if a finding of incapacity is made will the next step take place: whether a guardian is necessary and to what extent (e.g. a guardian may be needed for the person's finances but not for the person) and, if so, who the guardian should be. 

The determination of whether a guardianship is necessary may consider a number of factors, including whether there is a lesser restrictive alternative, such as the use of an already existing power of attorney and health care proxy. In some cases, a guardianship dispute can become quite contentious, and can result in litigation between a parent and adult children or between different siblings against each other in what is essentially a pre-probate dispute over a parent's wealth. Stopping the guardianship is often pursued in such cases as well." 


 "A report published in 2010 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office looked at 20 selected closed cases in which guardians stole or otherwise improperly obtained assets from clients. In 6 of these 20 cases, the courts failed to adequately screen guardians ahead of time and appointed individuals with criminal convictions or significant financial problems, and in 12 of 20 cases, the courts failed to oversee guardians once they had been appointed. 

"In October 2017, The New Yorker published an article looking at the situation in Nevada in which professional guardians sometimes have a number of clients, and argued toward the conclusion that in a number of cases the courts did not properly oversee these arrangements. In 2018 the investigative documentary 'The Guardians' was published, alleging 'legal kidnapping of elderly people' in Nevada by private guardianship businesses with no familiar relations, seeking to economically profit from seniors' savings." Wikipedia: 


~ The Guardians documentary: ~ Guardians Inc documentary: Netflix Dirty Money docuseries Season 2, Episode 5.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship - Conservatorship Abuse - Elder Financial Fraud Documentary Guardians Inc.