Saturday, April 18, 2020

Walt Disney’s Grandson Continues Fight for $200 Million Inheritance With New Help

Credit: Disney
As Walt Disney’s Grandson Bradford Lund continues in his fight for his $200 million inheritance, he’s received new help in the process: a letter to the California Supreme Court in support of his case from the leading probate court watch-dog group Spectrum Institute.

The non-profit organization, which focuses in part on probate court reform, filed an amicus letter asking the California Supreme Court to support Lund’s right to appeal order by probate Judge David Cowan — who he says violated his due process rights concerning his inheritance and wrongly appointed him a legal guardian to monitor and approve his legal decisions.

Credit: Credit: Disney/Whosay
For those who have not been following along with this story, Judge Cowan, the judge appointed to Lund’s case in probate court, claimed Lund had Down Syndrome from the bench, even after being presented with DNA evidence proving the opposite. The judge also ruled Lund to be “unfit” to receive his $200 million inheritance from Walt Disney and appointed him a temporary guardian to make all of his legal decisions, all without a hearing.

“Replacing a litigant with a GAL (guardian ad litem or legal guardian) infringes on the constitutional right of a litigant to manage his own litigation,” Spectrum wrote in its amicus brief supporting Lund’s petition for review by the California Supreme Court. “The appointment of a guardian ad litem deprives the litigant of the right to control the litigation and subjects him to possible stigmatization.”

Lanny J. Davis, a co-counsel in the federal civil rights and anti-disabilities discrimination case filed against Judge David Cowan three weeks ago in LA federal district court, welcomed the Spectrum Institute’s filing, saying: “All Mr. Lund is asking for is a chance to have his day in court to challenge the probate court’s final decision to appoint a GAL (guardian ad litem), depriving him of his right to his own counsel and due process…It’s hard to see Judge Cowan’s decision to appoint and instruct the GAL as anything other than a final, effective decision and, thus, subject to appeal.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 12: Bradford Lund (R), Bob Wilson (C), AFP PHOTO John T. BARR/mn (JOHN T. BARR/AFP via Getty Images)
Via email, Davis told Inside The Magic exclusively: “It is time that the sunshine of transparency and accountability be applied to the probate process. Decisions by a probate judge must be accountable–no one is above the law, no one is above the constitution, and there is no such thing as alternative facts. The truth matters. We ask the California Supreme Court only for Brad Lund, finally, to get his day in court subject to due process standards in Judge Cowan’s courtroom.”

As we previously reported, Lund has been fighting for many years to get his Disney inheritance, including undergoing a 10-day trial in 2016 brought on by “disgruntled relatives” who had claimed Lund needed a limited guardianship.

During the comprehensive trial, Lund was examined by two court-appointed physicians, one court-appointed expert, and by Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig in open court–who rejected the family’s claims that Lund needed guardianship and ruled that Lund was “not incapacitated.”

However, Judge Cowan looked beyond this court ruling and DNA evidence, proving Lund does not have Down Syndrome, and instead stated from the bench: “Do I want to give 200 million dollars, effectively, to someone who may suffer, on some level, from Down syndrome? The answer is no.”

Full Article & Source:
Walt Disney’s Grandson Continues Fight for $200 Million Inheritance With New Help

Michigan Judge Directs Healthcare Workers To Arrest Covid-19 Patients

According to The Great Lakes Justice Center on April 6, 2020, Kent County Chief Circuit Judge Mark Trusock issued a court order

By Steve Gruber

In a case of stunning judicial overreach, a Judge in West Michigan issued orders to have people suspected of being sick with Covid-19 to be arrested, with no other charges.

According to The Great Lakes Justice Center on April 6, 2020, Kent County Chief Circuit Judge Mark Trusock issued a court order authorizing the police to involuntarily detain (arrest) anyone suspected to be a “carrier and health threat” to the community.

It appears the Judge doesn’t understand general arrest warrants are not legal in The United States. Just because you are a Judge doesn’t mean you can issue detention orders against an entire class of people. In America, arrest warrants are executed for individual citizens and must be specific in the charges being leveled. 

The 4th Amendment is something Judge Trusock must not understand. The Amendment states clearly, ‘no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation.’ And that is the bare minimum.

Judge Trusock recklessly focused on state law that allows law enforcement to arrest someone who is a public health threat but again that is an individual, not an entire county or group of people.

Under the order, Trusock writes, ‘if a health official determines (in his or her sole discretion) a person has Covid-19 that person may be detained for up to 72 hours with any opportunity to be heard at a court hearing.

Time to build Pandemic Prisons, so Judge Tussock can order doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants to fill them up with suspected sickos.

Seems the judge may have a fever because he is not thinking clearly. You cannot transfer or delegate decision making and due process obligations to anyone that wanders by just because you think it’s a good idea. 

The Covid-Cops don’t actually pass Constitutional muster for a variety of reasons and this judge cannot issue such an edict no matter how much he’d like to arrest the pandemic.

This is a warning to all public officials who think the illness is a license to press their will upon others.

Full Article & Source:
Michigan Judge Directs Healthcare Workers To Arrest Covid-19 Patients

Privatization, the pre-existing condition killing seniors in long-term care

A blind 94-year-old Chilliwack, B.C., woman is left confined for two weeks while bed bugs multiply on her mattress.

A 79-year-old woman in Viking, Alberta, dies of dehydration and a urinary tract infection caused by remaining too long in unchanged wet diapers.

A 63-year-old Brampton, Ontario, man is provided so little food and water that he has to be hospitalized for dehydration.

A 94-year-old woman in Dorval, Quebec, who has both Alzheimer’s and dysphagia dies from choking on her food. No written incident report is filed by the home where she resides.

If you presumed that these incidents relate to long-term care homes being overwhelmed by the current coronavirus crisis, you can be forgiven. The absolute horror stories emerging from Canada’s long-term care facilities have focused our attention as never before on the vulnerability of the residents that rely on these institutions.

But every one of these incidents came from media reports that predate the pandemic. They reflect Canada’s system of care for the elderly and people with disabilities in “normal” times, not times of crisis. In worsening this system’s failures, the coronavirus crisis is opening our eyes to realities that far too many Canadian families have long known all too well.

In his response to the gut-wrenching revelations that recently emerged at a Dorval nursing home (the same one where the woman choked on her food), Quebec premier Fran├žois Legault stated that the situation “looks a lot like major negligence.”

The negligence Legault referred to was that of the privately owned company that ran this home. But there is a more important negligence to consider: that of Canada’s entire political class.

Its reckless embrace of neoliberalism has for far too long left many of Canada’s most vulnerable residents in conditions that can only be described as shamefully unacceptable. Such conditions are the bitter fruit of what happens when our newspaper editorial boards along with our politicians prioritize austerity, privatization and corporate profits over dignified care for vulnerable human beings.

The picture painted by all this research is of a clear and obvious conflict of interest that subordinates the safety of our loved ones to the profit-making prerogatives of heartless corporations.
While our politicians can claim to be saddened over the tragedy that is now unfolding in long-term care homes around the country, none should claim to be surprised at this situation. Unions and organizations that advocate for the various people that depend on long-term care have for years decried the worsening conditions of these facilities. Many have also been extremely clear about the central reason for these worsening conditions — privatization.

Indeed, every one of the examples mentioned at the beginning of this article occurred at one of Canada’s privately owned for-profit facilities. While the number of for-profit care homes varies from province to province, such facilities house 37 per cent of Canada’s long-term beds.

The connection between private ownership and diminished standards of care has been documented in numerous studies and reports. One recent study from the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine found that for-profit facilities not only provided “inferior” care but also were more likely to have been cited for serious deficiencies than facilities making less profit.

Similarly, a recent report from B.C.’s seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, noted that for-profit care homes failed to provide hundreds of thousands of the hours of care for which they received government funding, while not-for-profit homes significantly overdelivered in terms of hours of care. The picture painted by all this research is of a clear and obvious conflict of interest that subordinates the safety of our loved ones to the profit-making prerogatives of heartless corporations.

While our politicians can claim to be saddened over the tragedy that is now unfolding in long-term care homes around the country, none should claim to be surprised at this situation.
Thus far the solution being proposed by politicians and mainstream media pundits alike is to establish tougher regulations. At best, this transforms the problem into a game of government whack-a-mole. It naively presumes that regulations can cause private corporations, whose CEOs are hired and handsomely rewarded to deliver profits to shareholders, to magically begin acting in the interest of ordinary people.

We should know better.

We Canadians can be so smug about how superior our healthcare system is compared to that of our U.S. neighbours. We wonder how it is that Americans can’t see that the delivery of high-quality healthcare for all is completely at odds with the profit-making interests of large corporations.

However, if this crisis teaches us anything, it should be that when it comes to the care of the most vulnerable Canadians, the politicians we have been electing have been just as negligent about the consequences associated with for-profit care as their American counterparts.

If we want to finally bring an end to the decades-long tragedy that has been concentrated in the growing number of for-profit care homes, we need to stop electing politicians unable or unwilling to see for-profit care as the disaster it is. Until we can start electing governments with the courage to make meaningful public investments and reverse the pattern of privatization, many of us will continue to be left with no choice but to trust the care of our loved ones to institutions that are massively incentivized to neglect their needs.

Whether or not we have family members in need of long-term care, we should all see this situation as completely intolerable.

Full Article & Source:
Privatization, the pre-existing condition killing seniors in long-term care

Friday, April 17, 2020

Press Release: NASGA Calls for Immediate Federal and State Tracking and Transparency of Covid-19 Nursing Facility Cases and Rejection of Requests by Facility Trade Groups for Civil Lawsuit Immunity

APRIL 17, 2020  

Contact:      Elaine Renoire –
                     Gretchen Hammond –


As both the number of individuals infected with Coronavirus and the nationwide death toll continues to climb, one set of statistics remains obscure: the number of residents in US nursing and assisted living facilities who have contracted the virus and those who have succumbed to it. 

An April 13, 2020 report from USA Today estimated that “at least 2,300 facilities in 37 states have reported positive cases of COVID-19. More than 3,000 residents have died. The incomplete picture of what is currently known about COVID-19 in nursing homes comes from a patchwork of data collected at the local and state level.”

Families who have reached out to nursing and assisted living facilities in order to determine if their loved ones are safe have received no answer and, instead, have had to rely on local media outlets across the country in order to determine if a facility has any cases of coronavirus. The majority of those reports paint a horrific picture.

After ten deaths at an Athens, Georgia nursing facility were reported by a local media outlet, County Commissioner Russell Edwards said “I am extremely frustrated that it would take a whistleblower talking to an Atlanta TV station for us in Athens to get information about these 10 fatalities. I can’t yet wrap my head around why this information was withheld from us.”

Some nursing facilities are struggling to remain full staffed and those workers are struggling for PPE. But even though their employees are on the front lines of caring for our most vulnerable, a lack of transparency seems to fall squarely on the heads of facility management and/or a complete lack of corporate oversight. As caregivers at a Detroit nursing facility told the Guardian. “Management refused to tell them when a patient tested positive for COVID-19 or was suspected of having the virus.” 

Indeed, in states like Florida, facility administration priorities are more focused upon avoiding the consequences of civil action. A state trade group asked Governor Ron DeSantis to provide nursing homes with sovereign immunity to protect them against negligence lawsuits.

According to the Miami Herald, while the move was painted as an attempt to shield their workers, it is “Just the latest ratcheting up of a long campaign by the elder-care industry for protection against negligence suits” and that Governors in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania are considering similar requests. 

It is inexcusable that some nursing and assisted living administrators have been concealing coronavirus outbreaks in their facilities putting their residents in danger and leaving their families in the dark. 

While States like New Jersey, Ohio and Connecticut have taken action by ordering nursing facilities to disclose COVID-19 cases, those with higher numbers of vulnerable individuals such as Florida still refuse to make publicly known which facilities have cases of COVID-19. 

According to President Trump’s plan to reopen America, a top priority is to “protect the health and safety of those living and working in high-risk facilities (e.g. senior care facilities).

NASGA calls upon the Center for Disease Control to begin tracking outbreaks of the virus in nursing and assisted living facilities nationwide, for federal health regulators to mandate complete transparency from nursing facilities to families and staff about suspected COVID-19 cases and for individual States to demand that facilities immediately disclose to whether or not there has been an outbreak among their residents and what preventative and containment measures are being taken for both their populations and their caregivers. 

Furthermore, NASGA calls upon State governors to reject requests by nursing facility trade groups for sovereign immunity from civil action. Without stronger federal and state oversight, these suits are the only recourse families have for the maltreatment and neglect of their loved ones. As USA Today noted, prior to the pandemic, 75 percent of U.S. nursing homes “have been cited for failing to properly monitor and control infections in the past three years.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare numerous inequities in our society. While NASGA applauds the nursing facility workers and volunteers on the frontlines of the fight against this virus, it does not help them, their residents and their families to keep those lines in the shadows. 

The tragedy in our nation’s nursing facilities has clearly demonstrated that our most vulnerable seniors and developmentally disabled individuals deserve better. 

The National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse is a non-profit, grassroots organization. Over the last 12 years the organization has grown into a leading, national voice for reform, accountability and an end to the abuse of America’s most vulnerable who are placed under the guardianship system. 


After Anonymous Tip, 17 Bodies Are Found at Nursing Home Hit by Virus

Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover, NJ
by Tracey Tully

The call for body bags came late Saturday.

By Monday, the police in a small New Jersey town had gotten an anonymous tip about a body being stored in a shed outside one of the state’s largest nursing homes.

When the police arrived, the corpse had been removed from the shed, but they discovered 17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue intended to hold no more than four people.

“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” said Eric C. Danielson, the police chief in Andover, a small township in Sussex County, the state’s northernmost county.

The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus.

For the others, the cause of death is unknown.

Of the patients who remain at the homes, housed in two buildings, 76 have tested positive for the virus; 41 staff members, including an administrator, are sick with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to county health records shared on Wednesday with a federal official.

Andover Subacute is not alone. Coronavirus has swept through the New York region’s nursing homes with devastating and deadly speed, killing thousands of residents at facilities struggling with staff shortages, increasingly sick patients and a lack of personal protective gear.

But with beds for 700 patients, Andover Subacute is, records show, the state’s largest licensed facility — and the risk of continued spread is terrifying to family members who have turned to social media and their local congressman, desperate for answers and extra personnel.

“The challenge we’re having with all of these nursing homes, is once it spreads, it’s like a wildfire,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat who got the call on Saturday, asking for body bags. “It’s very hard to stop it.”

One of the owners of the facility, Chaim Scheinbaum, did not return calls or emails. Staff members who answered phones at the facilities said they were not authorized to speak to the news media.

Even before the pandemic, the nursing home had struggled. Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II recently got a one-star rating of “much below average” from Medicare for staffing levels, inspections and patient care.

“I feel so helpless,” one woman, who started a group for family members, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “I feel like everyone is going to get Covid. What do we do?”

Staff members at the facility were asking the same thing.

“To all the people calling into the governor’s office, the congressman’s office to help us tell them WE NEED HELP,” a representative of Andover Subacute & Rehab Center Two wrote at 7:18 p.m. on Monday, in a Facebook post that was deleted on Wednesday.

After news began to be shared on Wednesday about the bodies found in the makeshift morgue, a discovery first reported by The New Jersey Herald, the fear intensified.

Mr. Gottheimer said his office had fielded calls from staff members and worried relatives pleading for help. He said he had spoken to a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency about the possibility of sending National Guard medics.

The state Department of Health sent two shipments containing 3,200 surgical masks, 1,400 N95 masks and 10,000 gloves to the nursing homes, said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman. The first shipment went out about a week ago and the second should have been delivered Tuesday or Wednesday, she said.

“It’s scary for everybody — for the residents and for the staff,” Mr. Gottheimer said. What is surprising to me is how many are dying in house, versus the hospital.”

The nursing home has told local health officials that they are housing sick patients on separate wings or floors, Chief Danielson said. And local residents have been gathering supplies to donate to the nursing home.

Several women created a Facebook page and a website, Sparta Helps Healthcare Heroes, to gather needed gowns, gloves and masks.

“At first, it was kind of like, ‘What can we do?’” said one of the organizers, LeeAnne Pitzer. “Now we have an army of sewers who are making handmade masks that can be washed and reused.”

One resident of Sparta, Cheryl Boggs, said she found three boxes of Tyvek suits and bootees in a storage room at the company where she works, Petro-Mechanics. She dropped them off on Monday after seeing the pleas for help on Facebook.

“We just wanted to help,” she said.

Lily Repasch, 84, died three weeks ago at Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I.

Her son and three daughters were regular visitors to the facility, even talking through a window in her final days after the state ordered all long-term care facilities to stop allowing visitors.

The women said the facility offered no way for them to communicate with their mother, who had dementia, and provided family members no information. Their mother was never tested for the coronavirus.

“Her death was inevitable,” said one daughter, Lee Repasch. “But she was a vulnerable woman with dementia. It was inevitable, but it didn’t need to be like this.”

Most of the state’s nursing homes have reported at least one case of the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday had infected 6,815 patients of long-term care facilities in New Jersey. At least 45 of the 351 coronavirus-related deaths announced on Wednesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy said that once the threat of the pandemic passes, New Jersey must take a hard look at what went wrong.

“It’s pretty clear that a big weakness in the system, and in reality, is long-term care facilities,” he said.

Thirteen of the bodies discovered on Monday at the Andover facility were moved to a refrigerated truck outside a hospital in nearby Newton, Chief Danielson said. A funeral home had made arrangements to pick up the other four.

He said he was not entirely surprised by the number of bodies discovered.

“I don’t know if I’m shocked by any means,” he said.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Full Article & Source:
After Anonymous Tip, 17 Bodies Are Found at Nursing Home Hit by Virus

A mom of an ICU nurse covered her daughter with a bed sheet to give her a hug

By Alaa Elassar

Cheryl Norton hugs her daughter, Kelsey Kerr, 28, an ICU nurse at Christ Hospital.
Millions of people around the world are wishing for something they took for granted before the coronavirus pandemic changed life as we know it. For Cheryl Norton, that something is a hug from her daughter.

Norton's daughter, Kelsey Kerr, is an ICU nurse at Christ Hospital in Ohio. Although Kerr hasn't had to interact with any coronavirus patients yet, she is still afraid of an uncertain future.
Like most mothers of health care workers whose children are on the frontlines of the dangerous battle against the pandemic, Norton felt like she had no way of helping her daughter. That was until a quick, spur of a moment decision led her to cover Kerr in a bed sheet and give her a big hug.
"For a single second, everybody else was gone and I was just hugging my daughter," Norton told CNN. "It was like she was safe for that one minute and I could take it all away from her."
Cheryl Norton (left) and her daughter, Kelsey Kerr (right).
Kerr had been visiting her mom to pick up prayer shawls to give to her patients at the ICU as a way to ease the pain of being at the hospital alone due to the hospital's visitor restrictions. 
Right before her daughter left, Norton saw a basket of clean clothes and said she "didn't even think about it" before grabbing a sheet and throwing it over her daughter's head.
While the two were closer than the recommended six feet of distance, Kerr had not been in contact with any Covid-19 patients and was wearing a mask under the bed sheet. She and her husband, along with their dogs, have been self-isolating at their home just 15 minutes away from Norton.
"It's been so hard to be away from her and not even be able to touch her or give her a hug," Kerr said. "Everything's just been so difficult but she made me feel so much better. It was a moment of normalcy. We both really needed that."
The hug was more than just a way to tell her daughter that was she was still there for her. It was a way to show her they would be in it together -- all the way until the end. 
"As a parent, you know you'd take a bullet for your kid," Norton said. "I don't want her to face what she's facing, but that's what she was built for. I'm so proud of her and all the health care workers out there. I wish I could give them all a hug."
Full Article & Source:
A mom of an ICU nurse covered her daughter with a bed sheet to give her a hug

After Canceling Their Annual Tulip Festival, This Oregon Farm Began Delivering Flowers To Isolated Seniors

by Elizabeth Brownfield

Mt. Hood provides a backdrop to colorful blooms at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn
I was visiting friends in my former hometown of Portland, Oregon several weeks ago when it became clear I’d be staying in town indefinitely due to the coronavirus crisis. Since I write about travel, I had long been scheduled to fly back to New York City and then depart for trips abroad from there. One by one, of course, those travel plans were canceled. The silver lining, I thought at the time — long before the full scope of the crisis was understood and Oregon’s stay-at-home recommendations were made — was that I’d still be in Oregon to catch the annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn. I’d visited the farm (which is located about a half hour’s drive from Portland) for the festival during my first spring living in Oregon. I was astonished that Dutch-style red windmills set amid vast fields of Technicolor tulips existed outside of The Netherlands, and I returned to the festival year after year until I moved back East.

Of course when the coronavirus crises worsened, the family-run Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm was forced to cancel the festival and close its fields for the sake of public safety. That not only meant that they were stuck with 40 acres of tulips in every shade of pink, crimson, purple, gold, and orange planted in tidy rows — but also that there would be no festival-goers to buy the 9,000 pots of blooms the company had counted on selling as a major part of their annual revenue. They feared most of the flowers would remain unsold and be left to rot.

Then Wooden Shoe started getting suggestions from their social media community: Why not bring the flowers to seniors citizens living in assisted living facilities who were isolated and unable to have outside visitors due to COVID-19? What about asking people to sponsor these gifts so the farm could recoup some of their costs? Due to safety issues and logistics, Wooden Shoe wasn’t sure if they could pull the project off. But that’s when they got a call from Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse in Red House, WV. 

Gritt’s had been in a similar situation: they’d been counting on selling thousands of tulips, hyacinths, and lilies to area churches to display during their Easter services. But since church services were no longer being held, those flower orders were canceled too. Like Wooden Shoe, they had been facing a loss of 9,000 bulbs. But Gritt’s had already launched their Send a Smile to a Senior” program, delivering donated flowers to brighten the days of assisted living facility residents. Even though the folks at Gritt’s didn’t know those at Wooden Shoe, they had reached out to share the idea and learnings with their fellow tulip growers.

That’s how Wooden Shoe came to add an option on its web site for people to sponsor a flower delivery to an isolated senior. For $15, anyone can anonymously give a pot of tulips or daffodils (with the option of a personalized note) to a resident of an assisted living facility near Woodburn that Wooden Shoe is working with on this initiative. The farm is taking extra precautions to protect the recipients, like disinfecting the pots with an alcohol solution and dropping deliveries just outside the doors of the facilities. Sponsors aren’t able to pick the recipient or facility individually. Although if people are interested in going that route, they can call Wooden Shoe to ask if the facility they have in mind is one that the farm is working with. So far, they’ve delivered about 1,700 pots, and more orders are coming in quickly.

For people living in the area, Wooden Shoe’s farm stand is also open daily from 10AM-4PM selling potted and fresh-cut tulips along with their estate-grown wine. You can also buy plenty of products that are perfect for de-stressing, like bath bombs and salts, and hemp-based tinctures and muscle gels made with hemp that was grown, dried, and put through extraction on the farm. And then there’s their house-made fudge, which should definitely count as a de-stressor in these trying times.

Wooden Shoe is also shipping tulips with next-day delivery within Oregon and Washington states for $34.99 for three bunches, including shipping — which is a bargain. Delivery is available elsewhere in the country, although they warn that the cost of next-day shipping to other states is much more expensive.

More than anything, the farm is just glad to have found a creative way to get their beautiful blooms to people who will really be able to enjoy them. To Emily Iverson, Wooden Shoe’s Social Media Manager and a 3rd-generation member of the family-run company’s team, it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring a smile to those in isolation: “Seniors in the area have visited us for the festival for so many years, we’re happy to bring them some color at the time when they need it most.”

Full Article & Source:
After Canceling Their Annual Tulip Festival, This Oregon Farm Began Delivering Flowers To Isolated Seniors

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Fugitive couple involved in Ayudando Guardians case arrested in Oklahoma

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M (KRQE) – A couple who stole from veterans and people with disabilities in New Mexico have been arrested in Shawnee, Oklahoma on Wednesday. According to a release, US Marshals arrested New Mexico fugitives and Ayudando principals Susan and William Harris with the assistance of the Bernalillo County Sheriff Department.

Susan and William Harris were supposed to be sentenced in March as part of the Ayudando Guardians Inc. case, but they didn’t show up. Ayudando was one of the state’s largest guardianship firms which helps people pay their rent and other bills.

Susan Harris who was president at the time along with her husband used their client’s money as part of the fraud scheme and money laundering conspiracy. According to court records, the stolen funds were used to pay off more than $11 million in credit card charges incurred by the defendants and their families.

Statement of U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson on arrests of Susan and William Harris by U.S. Marshals Service in Oklahoma:
“In keeping with its highest traditions and revered reputation, by tracking and apprehending these fugitives the United States Marshals service has demonstrated once again that any attempt to flee from justice is a fool’s errand,” said USA Anderson. “Thanks to the dedication of the Marshals Service, these defendants will face sentencing for their crimes, and their victims will be afforded some measure of closure to the lengthy ordeal they have endured. I also thank the Albuquerque and Oklahoma City divisions of the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in the fugitive investigation.”U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson
Full Article & Source:
Fugitive couple involved in Ayudando Guardians case arrested in Oklahoma

Attention Advocates: Here is a Chance to Help!

Longtime NASGA member and lawyer Lisa Belanger’s near nine year battle to protect her Father, Marvin Siegel, from guardianship abuse took an extreme twisted turn.

At first, Lisa followed the normal channels, filing complaints (including racketeering) against attorney Marsha Kazarosin (from the law firm of Burns & Lewinson) through the MA Board of Bar Overseers (BBO).

But when those complaints fell on deaf ears, Lisa was forced to go public in a series of articles published by Boston Broadside. and several guest appearances on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network.  Recently, Lisa appeared in the “Dirty Money” episode on NetFlix - which is seen all over the world. Dirty Money referenced Lisa’s Father’s case as she narrated the tragic and outrageous case of victim John Savanovitch.

Atty Kazarosin
Instead of investigating Lisa’s complaints against Atty. Kazarosin, the BB0 is coming for Lisa – to take her law license. (Note: Atty Kazarosin is on the Board of the BBO.)

With the coronavirus affecting courts, it’s possible the hearing to determine Lisa’s future might be held by phone rather than give her the opportunity to look her accusers in the eyes and deny the allegations made against her.

Lisa’s Father is now deceased, so you can’t help him. But you can help her by making a couple of calls to express your support of Lisa and your outrage about what is happening to her. Please also share this post.

*Call the BBO:
(617) 728-8700
Jeffrey R. Martin, Chair

*Call Governor Charlie Baker
(617) 725-4005

*Call the Supreme Justice Court
Justice Gazinao
(617) 557-1000

READ Marvin Siegel's case profile

Woman stole from mother to bond out husband, who’s accused of stealing from elderly, records show

Lynrod and Millicent Douglas
By Hannah Winston

A woman is accused of taking $25,000 from her mother to pay bail for her husband, who is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands from at least two people who he was the guardian for, according to court records.

WEST PALM BEACH — A woman is accused of taking $25,000 from her mother in order to pay a bail bondsman to get her husband out of jail. Her husband is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from at least two people who he was the guardian for, including one who resided at an assisted living facility he owned, according to court records.

Millicent Douglas, 64, was arrested April 7 and faces charges of exploitation of the elderly and money laundering, according to court records.

Douglas’ husband, Lynrod Douglas, faces charges of elderly exploitation for allegedly taking more than $200,000 from a 94-year-old man and more than $100,000 from an 90-year-old woman he was the guardian for, according to court records. The 94-year-old also was living at one of the assisted living facilities Douglas owned, records show.

There may be several others under his care that he took money from, prosecutors wrote in a motion concerning his bond.

In early March, Lynrod Douglas was being held in the Palm Beach County Jail on $250,000 bail. As a condition of his release, a judge ordered he would need to show where the source of the funds for his bond came from.

Recorded jail phone calls revealed he and his wife “conspired to commit additional crimes of exploitation of the elderly in order to secure a bond for the defendant’s release,” records show.

On March 5, investigators say Millicent Douglas took $25,000 from her mother’s account that had funds from the sale of her Boynton Beach home in 2019. That money, her son and primary caretaker later told police, was used to pay for her healthcare. The 91-year-old woman, who lives in Canada with her son, has dementia.

Investigators said additional jail phone calls and financial documents showed Millicent Douglas turned the $25,000 she took from her mother into a cashier’s check and used part of it to hire a private attorney for her husband. After parting ways with that attorney on March 16, she had the money returned to her and planned to use those financial documents to secure her husband’s release, law enforcement records show.

On March 19, Lynrod Douglas had a court hearing where his new attorney, Jason Weiss, asked to reduce his bond not only because his client couldn’t afford it, but because of concerns of 68-year-old would contract the coronavirus while in the jail.

Prosecutors argued “the defendant’s motion failed to disclose that (Lynrod Douglas) actually sold the property as (his mother-in-law’s) Attorney-in-Fact.”

Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo granted Douglas his request and reduced his bail to $180,000, but still required the source of the money had to be proven.

On March 31, Weiss filed another motion stating his client’s family had only been able to raise about $6,000 less than needed to pay a bail bondsman.

In her reply to the motion, Assistant State Attorney Stacey Ibarra wrote the jail calls between Douglas and his wife showed their continued effort to “circumvent the laws.”

On April 2, Circuit Judge Joseph Marx wrote an order stating Douglas had satisfied the bond source condition for his release, according to court records, but said the $180,000 bond would remain.

Two days later, Lynrod Douglas was arrested on charges in connection to his wife’s arrest. According to court records, prosecutors are now asking for his bond to be revoked in his first case as well. That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

By April 7 his wife was also arrested, jail records show.

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Woman stole from mother to bond out husband, who’s accused of stealing from elderly, records show

Former DeKalb County attorney arrested on theft charges

Teresa Darwin Phillips (Source: DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office)
By Jonathan Grass

SYLVANIA, Ala. (WAFF) - A former Sylvania attorney was arrested Tuesday.

The arrest stems from a joint investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Payne Police Department and the district attorney’s office.

Teresa Darwin Phillips, 40, was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree theft of property.

Phillips was taken to the DeKalb County Detention Center, where bond was set at $30,000. She bonded out shortly after her arrest.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office did not do into details of the charges.

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Former DeKalb County attorney arrested on theft charges

Dept. of Aging: Essential Court Functions and Legal Assistance Are Available

By Pennsylvania Department of Aging

As Pennsylvanians follow the Governor’s stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 emergency, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Office of Elder Justice in the Courts remind older adults and their families that essential court functions and legal assistance remain available.

“The Wolf administration is committed to protecting Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens in every aspect of their lives during this outbreak,” said Aging Secretary Robert Torres. “Situations requiring immediate legal protections don’t stop during this crisis. The courts and legal advocates for older adults are available to provide essential services and assistance.”

“The Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Office of Elder Justice in the Courts are committed to the protection of older Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd. “During these uncertain times, we want all older Pennsylvanians to know that the courts in Pennsylvania remain available for emergencies to ensure you are protected.”

While courts have generally been ordered closed to the public through April 30, there are essential court functions that are still being conducted. These essential functions include:
  • Temporary protection from abuse actions;
  • Civil mental health reviews;
  • Guardianship defense and representation;
  • Any pleadings or motions relating to public health concerns and involving immediate and irreparable harm;
  • Emergency petitions related to protection of abused or neglected children; and
  • Any other function deemed by a president judge to be essential and consistent with constitutional requirements.
Senior-serving organizations available to help with legal assistance during this crisis include:
  • Pennsylvania SeniorLAW HelpLine: 877-PA SR LAW (877-727-7529)
  • Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE):  800-356-3606
  • PA Pennsylvania Law Help: Help Line 800-274-3258 or
Two essential functions of the Department of Aging are advocating for the rights of older adults and protecting them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and/or abandonment. Anyone suspecting elder abuse can contact their local Area Agency on Aging or call the statewide Elder Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-800-490-8505 which is operational 24/7, 365 days per year.

Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. Information about the statewide court response to COVID-19 is available here.

Learn more about the various programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging at

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Dept. of Aging: Essential Court Functions and Legal Assistance Are Available

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Guardianship Programs See Rising COVID-19 Death Toll

Kimberly George, Director of the Guardianship Project, Vera Institute of Justice, at her home. Since March 13th George has picked up and scanned nearly 600 pieces of mail containing clients’ bills, benefits paperwork, income checks and health insurance.
On March 27, John, a 68-year-old, succumbed to COVID-19 one day after he was diagnosed with the disease. He was one of 167 people that passed away in the city that Friday. Already afflicted with COPD, peripheral vascular disease and diabetes John (not his real name) had little chance of surviving. In fact, his health had been so fragile for so long he’d spent a dozen years in the state’s guardianship program—a program now facing immense challenges protecting its extremely vulnerable charges from the ravages of the pandemic.

In 2008, after 20 years of homelessness, a hospital petitioned for John to be enrolled in the state’s guardianship program, and he spent the last 12 years of his life under the watch of The Guardianship Project, an initiative of the Vera Institute. The guardianship program was implemented for individuals like John who are unable to make their own health or financial decisions. They are often those determined by a judge to be “incapacitated” due to a wide variety of issues, including dementia, serious medical problems, pending evictions, elder abuse, and placement in institutional settings against their will. If family or friends are unavailable to take responsibility, the court will appoint a legal guardian.  While anyone over 18 qualifies for the program, most participants tend to be the elderly.

Data on how many guardianship cases in the system are fuzzy but from 2007-2011 there was an average of 2,400 cases per year, according to court data.

From disrupting grocery delivery services to shaping how medical decisions are made, COVID-19 has disrupted the arrangements that have helped the vulnerable New Yorkers enrolled in guardianship programs achieve a semblance of a normal life.

In most cases, staff in these organizations have to take on multiple roles to meet the needs of this vulnerable population. About 40 percent of the 174 clients in the guardianship program run by the Vera Institute live independently at home. Some rely solely on social workers for groceries, medication, or money. Without gloves or masks, social workers have to make grocery runs because grocery delivery services are hard to obtain. “We’ve had to find alternative methods for getting groceries to 25 clients,” says Kimberley George, director of the guardianship program. “Our social workers are going to grocery stores, doing the shopping, and delivering the groceries to clients in their homes,” she added.

As of Monday, 11 Vera clients have died since the pandemic began. At least six were confirmed to have COVID, and it is suspected in the other cases. Fifteen other clients are sick.

Marco Damiani, CEO of AHRC NYC, an organization that supports thousands of intellectually and developmentally disabled people, says staff now have to act as counselors to those clients who have lost friends. The organization has already lost 12 clients and four staff members to COVID-19. “Our staff are also now … being mental health counselors,” he says to City Limits. “People no longer have their roommates or their friends and it’s harder for them to understand it,” he added. Damiani says his organization has launched a virtual mental-health platform where psychologists and social workers can now talk to staff and residents. 

Because most clients in the guardianship program are elderly and already suffer from poor health, simple decisions such as whether to send someone to the hospital —where they risk exposure to the virus— are now complicated. “While in normal times sending a client to the hospital is a safety measure, with the pandemic, we are trying to avoid sending clients to the hospital if at all possible,” George writes in a follow-up email.

George says another challenge guardianship programs face is convincing some clients who live independently—and may not understand the gravity of the situation—to stay home. “We have some clients who want to go out either because they don’t understand what’s going on right now or they don’t understand that they need to stay put.”

Damiani echoes a similar sentiment. He says the pandemic is affecting some residents who may not fully understand the disruption in their daily routines. For example, some programs have been temporarily shut down and face-to-face services have been limited. Movement in and out of the group homes is also restricted.“This is very upsetting to folks with autism. It’s very hard for them to communicate their fear. So, they act out of fear. They may strike out at somebody. They may become very isolated and not cooperate,” he says.

But for Damiani and his organization, another threat looms large on the horizon: anxiety about a possible delay in state funding. In a little over a week, funding for organizations such as AHRC NYC will run out. Damiani says they have been unable to get assurances from the state about whether funding will continue at pre-COVID-19 levels. Despite many programs shutting down, Damiani  says he is concerned that any cuts will make it harder for organizations to retain their workforce. “We do have increased call out rates. I think with every organization the workforce is less robust than it was,” he says. “In a week or two if we don’t have additional resources, we may have a staffing challenge,” he added. 

In a statement to City Limits, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, the state agency responsible for the funding says it is working with the federal agencies “to sustain providers by providing retainer payments to provider agencies in recognition of the costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”  The agency says it “will continue to work with providers of services through this difficult time to ensure they receive the needed resources to continue to provide quality services,” the statement continued.

While guardianship programs face many challenges, George says she worries more about those elderly New Yorkers that are unknown to the system. “What we are most concerned about is people who do not have family, friends or guardians. We are worried that those people would fall through the cracks,” she says.

Ruth Finkelstein, executive director of the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, agrees. She says people who have guardians or are in congregate settings are in better shape than those not known to the system. “People who are frail and may lack capacity in all kinds of ways are even more worrisome because they are not necessarily known to any system of care,” Finkelstein says. “It’s very concerning to think about people who are behind those doors and what do they need,” she added.

According to George, the actual number of cases among clients is unknown since some nursing homes have stopped testing. Some of those tested positive suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or dementia. “We are also being told by the nursing homes that they are understaffed and lack the appropriate protective equipment,” George says. “One of our ill clients is completely bed-bound and in their own room, leading us to believe they must have caught the illness from a staff member.”
As case counts begin to subside, the focus will shift to what could have been done better to protect all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable, from the coronavirus.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons on what we need to do to be prepared,” George says. “We have to ensure that our safety net is robust enough that every person in society has somebody looking after them whether it’s family or friends, community-based organization,” she added.

Unlike many unforeseen service disruptions, John’s funeral went relatively smoothly. Thanks to a prepaid funeral contract signed in 2010, it was one set of decisions that didn’t have to be made under the pressure of a pandemic.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship Programs See Rising COVID-19 Death Toll

Nursing home deaths soar past 3,300 in alarming surge

A patient is evacuated from the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside, Calif., Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
NEW YORK (AP) — More than 3,300 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming rise in just the past two weeks, according to the latest count by The Associated Press.

Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, the AP has kept its own running tally based on media reports and state health departments. The latest count of at least 3,321 deaths is up from about 450 deaths just 10 days ago.

But the true toll among the 1 million mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities is likely much higher, experts say, because most state counts don’t include those who died without ever being tested for COVID-19.

Outbreaks in just the past few weeks have included one at a nursing home in suburban Richmond that has killed 40 and infected more than 100, another at nursing home in central Indiana that has killed 24 and infected 16, and one at a veteran’s home in Holyoke, Mass., that has killed 37, infected 76 and prompted a federal investigation. This comes weeks after an outbreak at a nursing home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland that has so far claimed 43 lives.

And those are just the outbreaks we know about. Most states provide only total numbers of nursing home deaths and don’t give details of specific outbreaks. Notable among them is the nation's leader, New York, which accounts for 1,880 nursing home deaths out of about 96,000 total residents but has so far declined to detail specific outbreaks, citing privacy concerns.

Experts say nursing home deaths may keep climbing because of chronic staffing shortages that have been made worse by the coronavirus crisis, a shortage of protective supplies and a continued lack of available testing.

And the deaths have skyrocketed despite steps taken by the federal government in mid-March to bar visitors, cease all group activities, and require that every worker be screened for fever or respiratory symptoms at every shift.

But an AP report earlier this month found that infections were continuing to find their way into nursing homes because such screenings didn't catch people who were infected but asymptomatic. Several large outbreaks were blamed on such spreaders, including infected health workers who worked at several different nursing home facilities.

This past week, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that regulates nursing homes issued recommendations urging nursing homes to use separate staffing teams for residents, and to designate separate facilities within nursing homes to keep COVID-19 positive residents away from those who have tested negative.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus response, suggested this past week that as more COVID-19 tests become available, nursing homes should be a top priority.

“We need to really ensure that nursing homes have sentinel surveillance. And what do I mean by that? That we’re actively testing in nursing homes, both the residents and the workers, at all times,” Birx said.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home deaths soar past 3,300 in alarming surge