Saturday, August 22, 2020

Colorado nursing homes face financial challenges even as coronavirus outbreaks decline

Fairacres Manor resident Sharon Peterson, inside, has a visit through the window and shares lunch with her sister Kat Nelson, left, and her nephew Brandon Branan, right, at Fairacres Manor on June 10, 2020 in Greeley.
By Meg Wingerter

The worst of COVID-19 seems to be over for Colorado nursing homes, but they continue to face challenges trying to cover higher costs with decreased revenue.

Nursing homes were hit hard in the first months of the pandemic, both in Colorado and around the country, with residents accounting for a disproportionate number of deaths. Since mid-May, outbreaks in Colorado have shifted away from health care facilities to places where the general community gathers, like stores and restaurants. Nursing homes have to continue taking extra precautions, however, because an asymptomatic employee or visitor could easily ignite another outbreak.

The American Health Care Association, a nursing home trade group, said a survey of 463 facilities around the country found 55% were operating at a loss, and most others had thin profit margins. About 72% thought they couldn’t sustain their current pace of spending on protective equipment and extra staff time for a year, unless they receive additional funding.

Colorado nursing homes are dealing with higher costs for protective equipment and staff time, and they report anywhere from 10% to 40% fewer residents than they had before the pandemic, said Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association. That’s due to a combination of families putting off the decision to find long-term care for parents and grandparents due to the virus, and fewer people getting surgeries that require a short stay for physical therapy, he said.

If the number of residents stays below normal, that creates concerns about nursing homes’ financial viability, Farmer said. Most have slim profit margins, and their overhead costs don’t fall proportionately when they have fewer residents, he said.

“There definitely have been increased costs, and with decreased residents, that puts a squeeze on,” he said.

Jay Moskowitz, CEO of Vivage Senior Living, said costs for protective equipment are still high, though not as bad as they were in the spring. Vivage has 29 facilities in Colorado, and 21 had outbreaks, though all but three are over.

A few months ago, disposable gowns that normally cost 40 cents were selling for $5, Moskowitz said. The price has improved somewhat, but homes still have to pay about $2 for each gown, which staff need to wear over their scrubs when providing care to potentially infectious residents, he said.

“We’re seeing supplies get a little better, but it’s still way above what we were paying” before COVID-19, he said.

Nursing homes’ supply chains improved over the summer, but the progress could reverse as health care facilities have to compete with reopening schools and businesses for gloves and other supplies, Farmer said. The state has set up an online tool where nursing homes and assisted living facilities can report how much protective equipment they have and how much they need, to learn the scope of the issue, he said.

Three companies supply most of the nursing home market for protective equipment, and under normal circumstances homes will have about three days’ worth of supplies on hand, Farmer said. When the pandemic hit, all homes needed substantially more supplies, and the major manufacturers couldn’t scale up fast enough, he said.

“The expansion in what was needed was so great, they didn’t have the capacity,” he said. “Everybody was trying anything they could to get their hands on masks.”

The association tried to help, but ran into frustrations along the way, Farmer said. Federal officials stepped in and bought out the first shipment they’d secured, the second couldn’t make it through customs at the Los Angeles port, and only the third reached Denver and their member homes, he said.

Julian Hazlett, executive director of The Peaks Care Center in Longmont, said the protective equipment situation has improved since this spring, though gloves can still be hard to find. The Peaks had 51 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases among residents and 36 among staff before the state health department determined its outbreak was over on July 9.

“We have had to use different channels and vendors to obtain them, but thankfully we currently have what we need,” he said.

Ryan Mertz, administrator of the Good Samaritan Society’s Bonell community in Greeley, said they still have some challenges getting enough protective equipment, but their parent company has helped with supply chains. Weld County also has offered some for free, which is a significant help, he said. Bonell had 33 confirmed or presumptive resident cases and 27 staff cases in an outbreak that ended in June.

The Bonell home has seen fewer people moving in for long-term care or rehabilitation, Mertz said, but they’ve used that as an opportunity to move all residents to single rooms, to reduce the odds of spreading the virus.

All three administrators and executives said they had difficulty covering shifts at the most severe point, when many employees had to isolate themselves after testing positive. The Bonell community had to rely on staffing agencies to fill in gaps during the spring wave, but that hasn’t been an issue in more recent weeks, Mertz said.

“It’s our people now,” he said.

In March and April, it was difficult to cover all shifts at some homes because so many employees needed to go home and quarantine, Moskowitz said. It’s eased up somewhat since then, but people still are reluctant to take jobs in a setting where they perceive their risk of getting the virus is high. A few hundred staff members across the company chose not to return to work because of their own health concerns, he said.

Low funding has long been a concern for nursing homes, but they haven’t experienced anything where patient revenue is decreasing at the same time costs are going up in decades, if ever, Moskowitz said. Staff have done great work, but homes need more people and the money to pay them, he said.

“This is different. Every one of our employees who come to work every day put their life on the line,” he said. “We’re still a hands-on profession. We need people who are willing to be caregivers.”

Full Article & Source:
Colorado nursing homes face financial challenges even as coronavirus outbreaks decline

Disbarred attorney stole more than half of client’s settlement, prosecutors say

By Matt Reynolds

A disbarred Pennsylvania attorney faces felony theft charges after prosecutors accused him of misappropriating more than $563,000 from a client who was seriously injured in a car crash.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele announced the charges Thursday against 50-year-old disbarred Warrington attorney Michael Bradley. He is accused of commingling insurance settlement funds awarded to his client Branden Thornton and using them to fund his home renovations, vacations, plastic surgery and other personal expenses.

“The defendant’s theft of more than half a million dollars – funds that were dedicated to helping his client receive the care he needed to live – which he used to pay for extravagant goods and vacations, is not only illegal but disturbing on a basic human level,” Steele said in a prepared statement.

Bradley’s attorney, William Brennan, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he had known his client for 30 years.

“He’s been totally cooperative with this investigation, and when I have the opportunity to review the discovery in this case, we will decide on an appropriate way to resolve this matter,” Brennan said.

Thornton had received more than $1.1 million after he was injured by a vehicle in September 2012 as he was walking along a road in Upper Merion, a township in southeast Pennsylvania, according to Steele’s office.

Thornton was 18 at the time, the Inquirer reports, and was left with a traumatic brain injury that put him into a coma for three months. After he recovered, he needed around-the-clock care, says the newspaper, citing an affidavit.

For his work representing Thornton, Bradley received $276,250, or 25%, of his client’s award, according to Steele’s office.

Investigators allege Bradley placed the funds earmarked for Thornton’s care in his bank account, using the money to pay college tuition, student loans and vehicle payments, and for hundreds of purchases on Amazon.

The Inquirer says Bradley’s purchases included a new driveway at the lawyer’s home, vacations in Key West and $10,000 for plastic surgery.

Steele’s office noted that Bradley was disbarred in February 2019 after Thornton’s mother, Tammy Howard, filed a complaint against him with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Bradley was arraigned on multiple first-degree felony charges including receiving stolen property and theft. He was released on a $250,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Disbarred attorney stole more than half of client’s settlement, prosecutors say

Nurse creates hospital pantry to help fellow health care workers: 'Everybody has the right to have food on their table'

by Megan Johnson

Virginia nurse Stacy Mason created a pantry to help her fellow hospital workers get through the pandemic. (Photo: Stacy Mason)
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, Stacy Mason recognized that some of her colleagues were struggling.

The Virginia nurse, who works at Mary Washington Hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Fredericksburg, saw that some employees couldn’t find the items they needed to care for their families.

“Some of the staff I work with in the ICU weren’t able to find things like wipes for their children, or they didn’t realize they needed toilet paper until they went to the cupboard and didn’t have any,” Mason told Yahoo Life. “You kind of heard staff talking amongst themselves, saying, ‘Hey can you pick that up’ and ‘I’ll run out and get it, and you’d find that item appear within a couple of days. And I thought if we could do that, amongst our ICU group, and we’re about 80 people or so, why couldn’t we do it on a larger scale?”

To make matters worse, a lot of hospital employees were becoming the sole earners for their families because their significant others lost jobs due to the pandemic.

With the full support of the hospital, Mason established a “Team Cupboard” in May that allowed her ICU colleagues to donate or grab items they might need, like diapers, wipes or food items. Her endeavor is similar to the trend of mini-pantries, “blessing boxes” and other makeshift food donation receptacles that are helping the hungry and those hit hard by the pandemic get fed.

“Myself and my family, we went to the grocery store and just bought things,” says Mason, who set up donation tables, and had flyers made by the hospital’s marketing department. “I just set it up, and by word of mouth it kind of grew, and people would see me out stocking and say, ‘How can we contribute?’ It kind of blossomed from there.”

Though Mason, who continued working full-time in the ICU, was the initial person contributing to the cupboard, it’s now become a group effort. In addition to contributions from employees themselves, several of Mason’s friends and family have helped, as well as several local businesses and realtors.

“So many people have joined in with me,” she said. “They’re helping to donate items or keep the pantry running or stocked.” Even Mason’s two young children have joined in. “I was out this morning to get stuff for the pantry, and even the kids are kind of into it!”

Items at Mary Washington Hospital's pantry. (Photo: Stacy Mason)Items at Mary Washington Hospital's pantry. (Photo: Stacy Mason)
Because of Mason’s pursuit, the pantry has expanded far beyond just the ICU. In addition to the branch at her hospital, there’s now one at their sister facility, Stafford Hospital, as well as the Mary Washington Healthcare corporate office. But Mason isn’t slowing down yet; she hopes the cupboard will continue on through the pandemic and even become a permanent fixture.

“Hopefully this will continue kind of indefinitely,” she said. “I think hunger is a very real thing. Everybody has the right to have food on their table. I think it’s just a way to help people meet that need, whether that’s acutely because of COVID, or an ongoing issue for people.”

Full Article & Source:
Nurse creates hospital pantry to help fellow health care workers: 'Everybody has the right to have food on their table'

Friday, August 21, 2020

California Nursing Homes Likely Won’t Get Legal Immunity During Pandemic

By Amita Sharma

Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Above: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pictured in an April 2020 photograph.

Despite months of pressure from the senior care home industry, it appears that neither Gov. Gavin Newsom nor state lawmakers will shield facilities from most lawsuits related to the coronavirus.

“This governor has shown a tremendous amount of empathy for the elderly here,” said Lea-Ann Tratten, political director for the Consumer Attorneys of California, which opposes giving immunity to the facilities.

In an April letter, hospitals, along with nursing homes and assisted living communities, asked Newsom for protection from lawsuits and criminal prosecution for decisions made during the COVID-19 crisis.

For weeks, sources told KPBS the governor was close to granting the legal immunity.

But with July approaching, there’s still no executive order from Newsom and no language for immunity legislation from the state Legislature. Newsom’s office has not responded to repeated requests for comment, and lawmakers would not go on the record to talk about the matter.

Tratten attributed the lack of movement on the issue to a gradual shift in thinking. She said Newsom and senior care facilities were in panic mode in “battlefield-like conditions” at the start of the pandemic.

But she said media coverage of how some nursing homes have treated its residents during the pandemic has exposed a need for more accountability, not less, which would have been a consequence of legal immunity.

“We’re talking about our most vulnerable population in an industry where we’ve seen gross violations,” Tratten said. “The problem with immunities is that they don’t encourage good behavior — they discourage it.”

Tratten added that Newsom and state lawmakers are likely hesitant to act after seeing what happened in the more than 20 other states where immunity has been granted. Many advocates and families of people living in the facilities say the immunity gave them no way to hold negligent facilities responsible.

A little more than half of California’s 5,515 COVID-19 deaths are tied to senior care facilities.

The California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF), which represents nursing homes, said the state’s nursing homes are asking for the same immunity given hospitals during emergencies.

“We’re asking for a level playing field,” said Deborah Pacyna, director of public affairs for CAHF.

Full Article & Source:
California Nursing Homes Likely Won’t Get Legal Immunity During Pandemic

Coronavirus: 'The care home lockdown sent my senile grandad into spiral of decline'

By Tom Brada

Image copyright Family handout
Martin and Gwen recent

As I wheeled my grandad Martin up the ramp and into a taxi which would take him away to the care home, I repeated the white lie my family had agreed might make this painful scenario slightly easier.

"You're going to see the physio who will look after your leg and then you'll be able to get better." 

Thankfully his dementia meant that he couldn't fully understand what was happening or where he was going. In fact, he seemed to quite enjoy the novelty of being outdoors for the first time in months. But my granny and I were raw with emotion. 

Grandad, nonplussed as to why I might be crying, instinctively reached out to stroke a part of my cheek not hidden behind my face mask. Granny blew him a final kiss and the taxi pulled away, leaving me, Granny and my brother-in-law silent in the middle of the street, awash with guilt and relief. 

Well into his 80s, my grandad still looked immodestly young and was frequently challenged for his pensioner ID when boarding a bus. During retirement he spent many years volunteering at an elderly care home, caring for people who were often much younger than him. 

But as his 10th decade arrived, so did dementia and things started to fall apart. He'd lose track of his words mid-sentence. Making a cup of tea became a challenge. One time the fire brigade descended after he fed a cracker into the toaster. Family rescue efforts were appreciated by my 92-year-old granny, but in truth they were just stop-gaps - like fixing plasters on a broken leg. 

"Ageing isn't for sissies," she warned me. 

When lockdown began, the situation only worsened. Grandad had no understanding of the virus and the changes and restrictions it brought. In late June, my grandparents quietly celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Just three days later, Martin moved into a care home. The decision was agonising, but by that point, unavoidable. 

Our family's situation is not uncommon: more than 300,000 people with dementia are living in care homes across the UK, according to Alzheimer's Research UK. Covid guidelines, which allow limited visiting, at a distance, are designed to keep this vulnerable community safe. But the flipside is families being kept apart from their loved ones, unable to do anything to counter their decline.
Image copyright Family handout Julia Hailes and mother Minker
Image caption Julia Hailes with her mother, Minker: "It felt like I'd lost her"
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Julia Hailes, a writer who lives in Dorset, has struggled to remain in meaningful contact with her 90-year-old mother, Minker. Minker's worsening dementia meant her move to a care home was, at first, a lifeline for her family. But the pandemic has changed everything. 

"Before lockdown I would visit mum and she still knew who I was. I'd go and read her poems, we'd sit and listen to music," says Julia. "Now everyone's being kept in their rooms. It's vital for people with dementia to have structure in their day, so that isolation is in some ways worse than death." 

Video calls often do little for those with dementia. The notion of holding a "moving picture" of a loved one, as they talk, sounds promising. But it can be a hollow, even disturbing experience. 

"Mum's care home introduced FaceTime calls, which I did a few times," says Julia. "But it was horrendous. What good is that when someone is in such a confused state? Part of how I connect with her is holding her hand and giving her a kiss. Weeks later I was eventually allowed to visit Mum in the garden. By that point it felt like I'd lost her - she wasn't even able to speak anymore."
Image copyright Family handout Tom Brada with his grandad
Image caption Tom Brada, and his grandad Martin
Dr Hilda Hayo, of the charity Dementia UK, says for people with dementia, technology is no match for human interaction. 

"Physical contact is such an essential tool in looking after someone with dementia. If someone is agitated, stroking their hands or putting your arm around them can be really helpful. So, for families, not being able to do that is really damaging." 

This resonates with my own grandad's experience. Video calls left him more confused than when we'd begun; he could scarcely focus on the screen and struggled to understand where our voices were coming from. The only thing which seemed to cut through was the repetition of a simple message, "I love you, Martin". To which he could still reflexively respond, "I love you too, Bubala." 

By the time his home was able to permit visitors, his stark decline was clear to my granny. Sunken-cheeked and unable to speak - he was barely recognisable as the man who had left their home just six weeks before. 

The dementia of Philippa Thomson's mother, Marjorie, is so advanced Philippa knew better than to attempt a video call. Before lockdown her in-person visits to the care home would have a restorative effect on her mother. 

"We would do relaxing things like colouring in or simple jigsaw puzzles," she says. "I would sit and hold her hand, or brush her hair. And over two-and-a-half to three days, I would see her coming alive." 

Government guidelines in England only allow for one person to visit each resident indoors; two if it's outside. But with two older sisters, Philippa has recently been unable to see her mother. 

"The carers are amazing, but no matter how good they are, they can't offer that same intimacy or affection. I do feel a huge amount of guilt and frustration. My mother is 97 years old and it's not any kind of life that she's got."
Image copyright Mark Harvey Donna Pierpoint
Image caption Donna Pierpoint, care home manager
Care homes have borne immense pressures over the past few months. Aware of the burden on both the residents and their families, many made great efforts to maintain a thread of communication. Donna Pierpoint, the manager of a nursing home in Sheffield, described her role in restricting family visits as being "a cross between a prison governor and a headteacher". 

In the meantime she's focused the home's efforts on keeping residents as well looked after as possible.

"If someone is being isolated in their room then, you've got to take the stimulation to them," says Ms Pierpoint. "Our staff will go to their rooms and read letters from their family, go through old photographs." 

She sends out a weekly email to keep relatives in the loop and uses social media. 

"We post pictures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We celebrated VE-Day on May 8th. We had a wonderful day and posted pictures so our residents' families could see we were having a good time."

On 1 August my grandad died at his care home. The majority of his 92 years were happy ones, but his final months were not. The home came to the rescue for my family at our time of need and looked after my grandad wonderfully in gruelling circumstances. 

But as relatives, there's a lingering guilt that we were unable to provide that support ourselves. We did everything we could to let my grandad know how much he was loved. But we cannot shake the sense that the lack of our loving physical presence may have worsened his decline.

Full Article & Source:
Coronavirus: 'The care home lockdown sent my senile grandad into spiral of decline'

Alleged victim's dementia leads to dismissal of exploitation of elderly case in Wichita County

by Trish Choate

Brenda Szymanski Trish Choate Via Facebook
An exploitation charge was dismissed because the 88-year-old alleged victim, a Wichita Falls woman, has developed severe Alzheimer's disease and dementia, according to a prosecutor.

The case was dropped two days before it was scheduled for bench trial Friday in 78th District Court, according to the prosecution's motion to dismiss.

Prosecutors figured the best thing they could do to protect the alleged victim was not to press the issue, Wichita County Chief Felony Prosecutor Dobie Kosub said.

“We had a long discussion with her family, and they just agreed that she couldn’t handle going through the trial process," Kosub said.

Brenda Kay Szymanski, 66, was charged with exploitation of an elderly person in connection with an incident March 26, 2018, court records show.

But the 88-year-old woman could no longer recall the details of the allegations against Szymanski because of her condition, according to the motion to dismiss.

In addition, another person involved died just before the allegations were reported to police, according to the motion.

"Without competent testimony from the surviving witness the State will not be able to meet its burden beyond a reasonable doubt," the motion stated.

Judge Meredith Kennedy granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the charge against Szymanski Aug. 12, court filings show.

Szymanski's defense attorney, Ryan Streich of Wichita Falls, did not respond to requests for comment.

Szymanski is a resident of Kaufman, about three hours southeast of Wichita Falls, according to court records.

The Wichita County Jail has no record of her being booked in there, so no mug shot was available from the jail.

A Wichita County grand jury returned a sealed indictment against Szymanski on May 10, 2018, according to court records.

She had been free from jail on a $10,000 bond, pending the outcome of the case, according to court records.

The case was referred directly to the grand jury, so there was no probable cause or arrest warrant affidavit detailing the allegations.

Kosub said Szymanski was accused of taking advantage of the alleged victim's funds.

The defendant, a family member, was alleged to have accessed the funds through a power of attorney, Kosub said.

There was also an allegation of missing property, but most, if not all of it, was returned, Kosub said.
The alleged victim's husband was still alive when she contacted Szymanski about handling her affairs, Kosub said.

The husband died shortly after the power of attorney was executed, and then the victim’s mental situation deteriorated significantly, Kosub said.

The husband was 91 years old when he passed away in 2018, according to his obituary.

Kosub said there was never any suggestion of foul play in connection with the husband's death.

“It’s just a very unfortunate situation all the way around," Kosub said. "We just did the only thing we could under the circumstances.”

Kosub said Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie has made such cases a priority, and local prosecutors takes them seriously, prosecuting them to the best of their ability.

Full Article & Source:
Alleged victim's dementia leads to dismissal of exploitation of elderly case in Wichita County

Thursday, August 20, 2020

California’s top court caps penalties on nursing homes to $500 for certain lawsuits

California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar dissented in Monday’s ruling, arguing that residents of nursing homes were entitled to more compensation for the violation of their rights.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
By Maura Dolan

As COVID-19 continues to ravage nursing homes, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a state law allowing residents to sue facilities limits compensation to $500.

The ambiguous 1982 statute was aimed at allowing nursing home residents to sue on the grounds their rights had been violated, but in a 5-2 decision, the state’s highest court interpreted the law to mean that residents may collect no more than $500 for violations, regardless of how many. The two dissenting justices argued the law actually intended to set a $500 cap for each violation of a patient’s rights, not for the entire suit.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by John Jarman, who was 91 in 2008 when he slipped and fractured his hip. After surgery, he was transferred to ManorCare of Hemet, CA, a skilled nursing facility of HCR ManorCare Inc. While there, he developed bed sores that took a year to heal after his release, the suit said.

ManorCare staff allegedly often left him in soiled diapers and ignored nurse call lights. He died before the trial, and his daughter carried on his suit.

At issue before the California Supreme Court was the meaning of a provision in the 38-year-old Long-Term Care, Health, Safety, and Security Act.

“We do not find that limiting an award to $500 per lawsuit would render the statute ‘toothless,’” Justice Ming W. Chin, author of the majority decision, wrote.

He noted that lawyers for nursing home residents were still entitled to collect their legal fees from the defendants and injunctions could be issued to prevent future abuse. Residents also may sue under different laws, including the Elder Abuse Act, which provides substantially more compensation, Chin said.

But Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, joined by Justice Goodwin Liu, said the $500 cap was “plainly insufficient to fulfill the statute’s purpose to deter and remedy violations of nursing home patients’ rights.”

“It makes little difference that the majority leaves a few teeth awkwardly hanging in the mouth after pulling most of them out, " Cuéllar wrote.

He cited the pandemic in the first paragraph of his 26-page dissent, which was longer that the majority ruling.

“Nowhere has the pain of the COVID-19 virus been more acutely felt than in our state’s nursing homes,” he wrote.

In a Walnut Creek facility owned by ManorCare, he said, 130 people were infected, and 12 have died. The majority’s decision “deprives nursing home residents of an important tool to deter and vindicate violations of their rights,” he said.

Cuéllar noted that the Elder Abuse Act allows victims compensation only if they can prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that a nursing home was liable for physical abuse, neglect or abandonment and also guilty of “recklessness, oppression, fraud or malice in the commission of this abuse.”
“This is not an insubstantial burden,” he said.

In Jarman’s case, a jury in 2011 awarded the daughter $100,000 in punitive damages under a different law that was not at issue in Monday’s decision. Under the 1982 law, the jury found the nursing home liable for $95,000 for various violations, an amount that will now likely be reduced to $500.

The trial court eventually struck down the punitive damages, but a court of appeal reinstated them.

Anthony M. Chicotel, staff attorney for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, called the decision extremely disappointing and said his group would urge the Legislature to rewrite the law.

 The pandemic has prevented ombudsmen for nursing home patients from entering the facilities, he said, and residents now are in need of more protection than ever.

“For residents rights, this is a significant blow,” said Chicotel, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Jarman. He likened their predicament to being on a floating, melting iceberg that gets smaller and smaller.

Barry S. Landsberg, who represented ManorCare in the case, said the company was “pleased that the Supreme Court correctly interpreted the resident rights statute” to limit damages to no more than $500 in a civil action.

“That is what the statute says and what the Legislature intended, both when it enacted the law in 1982 and when it amended the law years later,” Landsberg said.

Full Article & Source:
California’s top court caps penalties on nursing homes to $500 for certain lawsuits

Janice Dean finally testifies on NY nursing home deaths, demands full investigation 'with subpoena power'

By Talia Kaplan

Janice Dean opens up about loss of in-laws to COVID-19

Janice Dean speaks out speaks out on New York's nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean, who recently lost her elderly in-laws to COVID-19, finally got to testify before New York State lawmakers on nursing home deaths on Monday after she was denied the opportunity the week before. 

Dean told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not providing the exact numbers of those who died from COVID-19 in adult care facilities because “New York state does not count the numbers that we lost in hospitals from nursing homes.”

“We need those numbers to move forward and help change the laws,” Dean said. “We need an independent bipartisan investigation that involves subpoena power so we can get the health commissioner on the hot seat and ask questions and get truthful answers.”

Last week, Dean found out that she was taken off the list to testify at a hearing geared toward understanding why and how the pandemic took root in New York nursing homes.

She said New York State Sen. Thomas O'Mara, a Republican, had admitted to her "that they [the Senate Majority] were uncomfortable having [her] as a witness," so they took her off the list. Speaking on the “Brian Kilmeade Show” last week, Dean said she believed Cuomo or his administration were behind the decision.

In a statement sent to Fox News last week, Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to Gov. Cuomo, said that the legislature is “a separate branch of government and they run their hearings how they see fit."

On Monday, New York Senate Republicans held a forum where Dean’s voice was heard.

“My family's story is not based on politics as some might have you believe,” Dean said during her testimony on Monday. “And apparently my appearance here today makes some people uncomfortable, but I don't think it's me they’re uncomfortable with, it's the cover-up and the truth that happened in New York nursing homes.”

Dean said her father-in-law, who was in a nursing home and rehabilitation center, died the same day she and her husband found out he was sick and that they didn’t know he had contracted the novel coronavirus until they saw his death certificate.

Dean also said that her husband’s mother contracted COVID-19 in her assisted living facility. She was transported to the hospital and died in the hospital. Dean’s mother-in-law died on April 14, about two weeks after her father-in-law passed away from the novel coronavirus.

Dean joins many New Yorkers whose loved ones have died at nursing homes amid the pandemic. They have been calling for an independent investigation into whether nursing homes kept coronavirus patients separated, had enough employees, tracked workers who worked at multiple health care facilities and provided staffers with adequate protective gear.

New York state lawmakers grilled State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker earlier this month about the steep, though ultimately unknown, death toll at nursing homes in the state amid the pandemic.

Members of the Democratic-led legislature have been holding hearings geared at understanding why and how the pandemic took root in New York nursing homes after the state Department of Health reported nearly 6,600 residents, who had or likely had COVID-19, died at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The state hasn’t disclosed how many nursing home residents died at hospitals or how many have been infected with COVID-19.

During the hearing, Zucker defended the administration’s response and declined to provide key data points sought by Democrats and Republicans, including a rough estimate of how many nursing home residents have died in hospitals because of the novel coronavirus. Zucker cited worry that those numbers could include double-counts of deaths.

“We don't know the full numbers,” Dean said on Tuesday. “Cuomo and his health commissioner have been asked time and time again to give us the actual total deaths that happened, not only in nursing homes, but from seniors that were transported to hospitals and died in hospitals even though they got COVID-19 in their respective elder care facilities.”

Cuomo has received scathing criticism for his early order requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients who had been released from hospitals, effectively placing them in the same facilities housing the demographic most vulnerable to the virus.

Cuomo has insisted that New York’s original nursing home policy was in line with a March 13 directive from the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that went out to all states on how to control nursing homes.

New York, among other states, said at the time that nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus. After mounting criticism that the policy put the most vulnerable people at risk and contributed to a high number of fatalities, New York reversed course on May 10. Now hospitals can only send patients who have tested negative for COVID-19 to nursing homes.

Cuomo and his administration have been tight-lipped about the extent of deaths and infections at the state’s more than 600 nursing homes since March and Cuomo declined to admit any missteps.

Dean said Cuomo “hasn't answered the question about his mandate [on] March 25th that went for 46 days straight to bring COVID-positive patients into nursing homes.”

“He’s dodged the question, he’s blamed everybody else except the person that signed the mandate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” she continued.

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Dean said she will be traveling to Albany, N.Y. on Wednesday to meet with New York Sen. James Tedisco, a Republican, and Majority Democratic Assembly Member Ron Kim, who lost an uncle in a New York nursing home to COVID-19, to request a bipartisan investigation.

The group, which includes other legislators from both sides of the political aisle, will call for the passage of legislation for an independent, bipartisan state commission to “fully investigate the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers who died from COVID-19 in state-regulated nursing homes,” according to a news release.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Janice Dean finally testifies on NY nursing home deaths, demands full investigation 'with subpoena power'

More than 200 of the US's worst-performing nursing homes received millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program

Nursing homes serve the most vulnerable segments of society.
Lucas Jackson/Reuters
  • The coronavirus has walloped nursing homes. They represent about 8% of the national caseload and 41% of total US COVID-19 deaths, according to The New York Times.
  • Still, more than 200 of the US's worst-performing nursing homes and companies that own and operate such facilities received hundreds of millions of dollars by way of Paycheck Protection Program loans.
  • Healthcare and fire-safety violations earn troubled long-term-care facilities a place on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Special Focus Facility Program.
  • A review of inspection reports from such facilities showed a lack of hygiene and infection control, unmet medical and nutritional needs, and elder abuse and neglect, which resulted in injuries and even death.
  • Some experts who talked to Business Insider said there was a need for a "standard of care" requirement when federal money is on the line, while others said this would complicate matters during a rush to keep businesses afloat.

A resident at South Carolina's Commander Nursing Home "went 20 hours without the prescribed tube feeding," a Medicare inspection report said.

A man at Kingston Healthcare Center in California fell off his bed, naked, and hit his head on the ground, according to a Medicare document. He "experienced vomiting, sleepiness, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and decreased level of consciousness" and was unable to recognize his wife, but employees "delayed his transfer to a higher level of care for almost 10 hours," the report added.

And seniors who lived at the Mescalero Care Center were subject to "abuse, fear, and intimidation" because a nursing assistant, who they'd said was "rough" and "verbally abusive," stayed on staff at the New Mexico facility, another Medicare report said.

These are a handful of the more than 200 worst-rated nursing homes in the US that were awarded millions in coronavirus relief funds despite yearslong histories of violations.

According to a Business Insider review of data compiled by ProPublica, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Paycheck Protection Program, and, about 220 nursing homes that have been flagged for a litany of violations benefited to the tune of millions of dollars by way of Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

This lending program is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a $2.2 trillion bill that was passed by Congress in March in response to the pandemic's blow to the economy. In all, nursing homes cited by CMS's Special Focus Facility (SFF) Program, as well as hospitals and business entities that own and/or manage those facilities received $149 million to $427 million.*

"If Chrysler provided nonfunctioning cars to the federal government, people would demand that the government not pay for them. But for some reason, we hand out billions to poorly performing nursing homes with no accountability whatsoever," Alex Lawson, the executive director of advocacy group Social Security Works, told Business Insider.

Nursing homes serve the most vulnerable segments of society, which makes a yearslong history of violations particularly egregious, Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care, said. Lee said in some cases, poor quality of care has transformed nursing homes into coronavirus "killing fields."

"The downplaying of infection-control infractions and the 'look-the-other-way' staffing enforcement exacerbated the invasion of COVID-19 into nursing homes," Lee said.

nursing home residents coronavirus cases families separated

A woman shows a picture of her hugging her mom at a nursing home on April 4.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images 
As of Monday, the US has recorded over 5.4 million coronavirus cases and more than 170,000 deaths from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Though the coronavirus has affected people of all ages, it is particularly dangerous for those over 65 with preexisting health conditions.

About 402,000 residents and employees have tested positive for coronavirus at long-term-care facilities — about 8% of the national caseload — and at least 68,000 people have died from the virus, about 41% of US fatalities, The New York Times reported.

A resident was left in 'a wet brief with a puddle under her chair'

CMS, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, conducts regular inspections of Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes to "determine if they are providing the quality of care" that these programs find necessary for the "health and safety" of residents, its website says.
Deficiencies result in citations and can land these nursing homes in the Special Focus Facility Program.

SFF-designated facilities have "more problems" — in both quantity and severity — than other nursing homes, as well as "a pattern of serious problems that has persisted over a long period of time," according to the SFF website.

Reports of the nursing homes on the SFF list depict nightmarish scenes.

Fifteen health citations have been levied against Commander Nursing Center, which has been fined over $288,000 in the past three years, according to It still managed to rake in between $1 million and $2 million in PPP loans.

Reports said residents lost weight because of unmet nutritional needs and weren't protected from sexual abuse. An inspector spoke with a woman who "sat in a wet brief with a puddle under her chair," while "staff failed to provide incontinent care" to another resident for nine hours, a report said.

Meanwhile, Kingston Healthcare Center has been cited 39 times and fined more than $11,600.

nursing homes ppe seema verma mike pence cms ron de santis coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence with Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Chris O'Meara/AP Photo 
Reports described a lack of care plans to protect residents from infections, along with mold and leaks in the building. In one case, staff didn't document or report a resident's repeated attempts to get up without assistance despite being a "high fall risk." Ultimately, "this failure resulted in a fall with a major injury and death," according to an inspector.

Even so, Kingston was awarded between $1 million and $2 million in PPP loans.

A similar situation played out at Mescalero Care Center, which has been cited 30 times and fined about $169,000. It received a PPP loan between $350,000 and $1 million.

Inspectors reported inadequate dental services, physical therapy, and ulcer-prevention measures, while nurse notes indicated that surveyed residents who were receiving hospice care were bathed only about once a week. It's unclear if the notes reflect a substandard care plan or if they're incomplete.

Kingston and Commander did not immediately respond to Business Insider's requests for comment, and Mescalero had declined to comment.

'Modern banking technology surely could have done far better than it did'

Experts who talked to Business Insider about this issue were split on whether there should be a "standard of care" requirement when federal money is on the line.

"The CARES Act rewarded lots of companies, not all of which had a great track record of good behavior. If you want to get $2 trillion out the door, having a litmus test of being 'worthy' would have increased bureaucratic barriers and ended up eliminating a lot of companies from being recipients," Vincent Mor, a professor at the Brown University School of Public Health, said.

Donald H. Taylor Jr., the director of Duke University's Social Science Research Institute, agreed, pointing to the SBA's goal of bolstering small businesses and staunching unemployment.

"Any rapid emergency effort like that needs to be as simple as possible to meet its stated goal of keeping small businesses afloat. If you started overlaying industry-specific rules of this type, it would be hopelessly complicated," he said.

mother nursing home coronavirus social distancing

A man talks to his mother through a window at a nursing home on May 9.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images 
David Grabowski, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, expressed concern that such demands could result in the closure of already struggling nursing homes.

"Without relief funds, these facilities will close or provide substandard care," he said. "That is not fair or humane to the individuals living at these facilities or the staff working there."

Grabowski, though a proponent of supporting such homes, added that it was necessary to "hold them accountable for using relief funds on direct care."

However, Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, criticized the ease with which "institutions with histories of violations" received loans.

"I realize there was a premium on getting the money out quickly, but modern banking technology surely could have done far better than it did," she said.

The government needs to crack down harder on nursing homes, some experts say

CMS released a statement on Friday touting the fact that it has collected about $15 million in fines from nursing homes found to be in "noncompliance with infection control requirements and the failure to report coronavirus."

But Lee said that's not enough.

"Good or bad, rain or shine, abuse or neglect, nursing homes still get paid. So the threat of nominal enforcement is something operators have grown to comfortably live with because at the end of the day, they will still get paid regardless of the quality," he said.

For nursing homes to become safer for residents, Lee said leaders needed "ratchet up fines and prosecute for neglect more often," adding, "If that happened, care would begin to incrementally improve."

nursing homes coronavirus pandemic social distancing elderly residents

A woman talks to her mother outdoors at a rehabilitation center on June 10.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo 

To Lawson, deficient long-term care is not only a human-rights violation but also a signal that the US isn't "serious about stemming the tide of the pandemic."

"That needs to change," he said.

When Lee was asked which lessons nursing homes should learn, he said it was more important for us as a nation to smarten up to whether such facilities should exist at all.

"Nursing homes are a dinosaur that COVID-19 will make extinct — and it should," he said.

To that, Taylor added: "COVID-19 has not created problems in the long-term-care industry; it has exposed ones that preexisted."
Julie Gerstein, Dave Winkler, Kimberly Leonard, and Zach Tracer contributed to this report.

*Editor's note: At the time of publishing, the program released only ranges of awards, not specific award amounts for PPP loans over $150,000. This story takes only those loans into account.       

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More than 200 of the US's worst-performing nursing homes received millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Guardianship protections are inadequate

By Lorraine Mendiola

It is appalling that Susan Harris and her husband, Bill, formerly of Ayudando Guardians, failed to appear at their sentencing hearing in March.

Judge Martha Vázquez issued a bench warrant for their arrest, and they were captured in Oklahoma in April. They await sentencing for their crimes, accused of bilking clients of some $11 million. And the people whose money they took, and their families, still are waiting to see justice carried out — with little mention of restitution.

In New Mexico, vulnerable individuals under court-appointed guardians, in this case a corporation, lack adequate protection despite recent legislation being passed. Senate Bills 19 and 395, passed in 2018 and 2019, do not go far enough in protecting the rights of people.

Lengthening the annual report offers no accountability for the “protected person.” Providing a form for a family to file a grievance against a corporate guardian does little good — the judge who appointed the guardian decides the complaint.

There have been two recent cases in Las Cruces, another in Hatch and one in Santa Fe where a judge ordered what I believe were unwarranted guardianships. All four cases involved sizeable trusts. From my observations, these judges too often ignore the comments and supporting evidence of family members in regards to negligence, financial theft and other wrongs by corporate guardians. Yet it is the responsibility of these judges to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals who are placed under a court-ordered guardianship.

I believe judges who place individuals in situations where they are harmed by corporate guardians need to be held accountable. The judges should not be able to void wills, durable powers of attorney and other documents that should be binding. Judges should not be allowed to place “gag” orders on family members who report critical information during status hearings, either.

The courts do not monitor themselves, so there must be greater oversight by the attorney general, the governor, state legislators and state Supreme Court justices. Otherwise, the system — which I see as corrupt and failing to protect the vulnerable — will continue.

Lorraine Mendiola is a member of the New Mexico Family Guardianship/Conservatorship.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship protections are inadequate

Oakland County woman accused of stealing more than $70,000 from elderly veteran

An Oakland County woman is accused of stealing more than $70,000 from an elderly veteran. (WWMT/File)
LANSING, Mich. — A Bloomfield Hills woman was accused of stealing more than $70,000 from an elderly veteran.

Margaret Risdon, 60, was arraigned Thursday, July 16, 2020, and faces charges of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult between $50,000 and $100,000, and two counts of failing to file taxes, according to a written statement from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office.

“My office is not only committed to enforcing the laws of this state, but to ensuring Michigan’s vulnerable populations are not taken advantage of,” Nessel said.

The statement said Risdon allegedly wrote checks from the victim's bank account to herself and her business between Nov. 6, 2016 and July 20, 2017. The checks totaled nearly $56,800. She also allegedly made ATM withdrawals totaling more than $16,000.

Nessel's office began investigating when the victim raised concerns someone was stealing from him. While he was unable to care for himself at the time of the theft, the statement said Risdon didn't act as his guardian or conservator, nor did she have power of attorney for him.

“Even before my time as Attorney General began, I understood the important role my office should play in protecting our senior populations," Nessel said. "That’s why I helped to create the Elder Abuse Task Force – to advance protections for our senior citizens and advocate for real change and meaningful legislation to improve their lives well into the twilight years.”

Risdon was expected to appear in court for a probably cause conference at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 30, followed by a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 6.

To file a report of elder abuse, call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911.

Full Article & Source:
Oakland County woman accused of stealing more than $70,000 from elderly veteran

Ritchie County woman accused of stealing over $16,000 in funds from an elderly woman

RITCHIE COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - A Ritchie County woman accused of stealing over $16,000 in funds from an elderly woman is now facing charges.

Sally Frederick, 29, of Harrisville has been charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person.

The sheriff’s office said in a post on Facebook that deputies obtained an arrest warrant for Frederick on July 21 after a complaint was made.

Over $16,000 in funds were stolen from the 78-year-old victim, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies arrested Frederick on July 24.

“The Ritchie County Sherriff’s Office would like to thank and acknowledge Chief R.T. Davis of the Pennsboro Police Department,” the sheriff’s office said in the post. “Chief Davis’s assistance in the serious exploitation case was essential in its success.”

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Ritchie County woman accused of stealing over $16,000 in funds from an elderly woman

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

New COVID-19 cases in nursing homes soar past peak levels

By Jackie Salo

Nursing homes have seen a disturbing spike in coronavirus infections — with the number of new cases surpassing the peak level that occurred in the spring, new data shows.

There were 9,715 new COVID-19 cases recorded among nursing home residents the week of July 26, up from 9,421 for the same period on May 31, according to a report Monday from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

The spike was driven by new infections from the Sun Belt states, some of which have become hot spots for the virus.

At least 78% of the infected nursing home residents in late July were in the Southern region that spans from California to Florida, the data shows.

“With the recent major spikes of COVID cases in many states across the country, we were very concerned this trend would lead to an increase in cases in nursing homes and unfortunately it has,” Mark Parkinson, president of the AHCA/NCAL, said in a statement.

“This is especially troubling since many nursing homes and other long term care facilities are still unable to acquire the personal protective equipment and testing they need to fully combat this virus.”

Parkinson is calling on Congress to provide additional funding to nursing homes and assisted living communities for resources to protect vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including testing and PPE.

“Without adequate funding and resources, the US will end up repeating the same mistakes from several months ago,” Parkinson said.

Full Article & Source:
New COVID-19 cases in nursing homes soar past peak levels

Goodman: Concerns About Guardianship In New Mexico

By Peter Goodman

Credit Peter Goodman
The plight of Dorris and Rio Hamilton has adult guardianship on my mind again.

I hope Rio and his lawyer provide all the information the court has requested, to stop the huge drain on family emotions and finances. I hope the lawyers and professional “guardians” let that happen.

Mrs. Hamilton needs supervision. That’s a sad fact after her impressive career as an educator. Her son Rio returned home from New York to take over providing that supervision. He seems capable of it, he wants to do it, and she wants him to. The court-appointed “guardian ad litem,” David Lutz, told the court he thought Rio should be helping his mother. She’d remain in a congregate-living facility and have a financial advisor, but Rio could make decisions for her or with her, take her to medical appointments, etc.

There’s also a “lawyer for Mrs. Hamilton,” Caralyn Banks. Mrs. Hamilton doesn’t want her. Nor does Rio. Casual observers wonder what Banks adds that Lutz can’t. The fact that Banks has passionately advocated that Advocate Services be the well-compensated guardian for adults in many cases (but denies that she’s ever represented AS as its lawyer) might suggest finding someone more neutral – if there must be two attorneys for Mrs. Hamilton and one for Mr. Hamilton collecting fees for each hearing.

Providing guardians for cognitively-challenged (usually elderly) folks without family or friends, or with family that’s distant, dishonest, or incapable of care-taking, is an important service. Agencies such as AS do that. (I hope they do so when the “person in need of protection” is poor, too.) Courts naturally appreciate that. But courts should recall that when family-members want to take care of Aunt Sally, the folks collecting hourly fees for helping her are not impartial observers but highly interested parties. There’s an inherent conflict of interest: as paid guardian, I want the best for my ward, but I like getting paid.

Some agencies, having stepped in during a crisis to help, are reasonably graceful in releasing control to a capable family. Others all too often get into pitched battles. From what I’ve seen (and heard from others) the folks at Advocate Services can be particularly abrasive. In the case I’m most familiar with, the professionals testified that the stepson seeking custody had come to a meeting with food on his tie and that his wife (who denied this) had said he was losing cognitive abilities himself.

A family-member who rushes home to take care of someone may be upset, even angry -- then may face blame for not having intervened earlier. Disagreements are inevitable. Professional guardians often paint those as attacks on the court’s decisions.

So why do judges sometimes seem to take the word of guardians as gospel? Why isn’t keeping families together a higher priority? Why isn’t it a high priority to stop the financial bleeding? Why don’t lawyers, collecting fees from a helpless person who doesn’t want them intervening in the first place, try to economize, so that the protected person doesn’t incur unnecessary legal fees? Too often I hear remarks that our judges are paid off by lawyers or guardianship agencies. I strongly disagree with that conclusion, though I understand the frustration.

Adult guardianship (and abuses thereof) is a national problem. New Mexico recently started trying to make the process fairer and more open. Sadly, that job is far from finished. And none of us is getting noticeably younger.

Full Article & Source:
Goodman: Concerns About Guardianship In New Mexico

Star Bradbury: New law protects seniors from financial exploitation

I wish I could tell you that in my 24 years of working with seniors, I never saw financial exploitation. Unfortunately, I have witnessed theft of property, investments, money, jewelry and more.

Most of these crimes are perpetrated by someone the older person knows and trusts like family, neighbors and caregivers. One in five people over the age of 65 have been the victim of financial fraud and it is estimated that senior financial abuse is now over $36.5 billion last year alone!

So what is Florida doing about it? On July 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a new bill (statute 517.34) that is designed to protect vulnerable senior investors from financial exploitation. The new “Vulnerable Investor” statute permits an entirely new group of professionals to not only take action and report suspected financial abuse of a senior, but provides the ability for them to “freeze” a transaction.

This group includes investment advisers and security dealers who, up to now, had no recourse if they suspected abuse of an elderly client. Privacy issues, laws and liability issues prevented them from acting in the past, even if they suspected exploitation was happening. Now they are mandated to report suspected abuse but will be immune from civil liability if acting in good faith.

If an investment adviser “reasonably believes that financial exploitation has occurred, is occurring, has been attempted, or will be attempted in connection with a disbursement or transaction,” this adviser can now, with this new law, delay or “freeze,” any transaction for up to 15 business days after the date they received a request. The new law also allows them to notify a “trusted contact” of the problematic transaction— i.e., sending money to a scammer overseas.

The person initiating the delay is then required within three days to notify in writing “all persons authorized to transact business on the account and any trusted contacts on the account,” unless the person to be contacted is the person engaged in the suspected exploitation. They must then notify the Florida Office of Financial Regulation of the delay and all related records must be made available.
Before you cry foul, understand that this statute clearly defines who this applies to. Called “Protection of Specified Adults,” the definition of a vulnerable adult was expanded and defined as 65 or older, with an impaired ability to perform activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection due to a “mental, emotional, sensory long-term physical or developmental disability or dysfunction, or brain damage or the infirmities of aging.”

I do wish they had come up with a phrase more politically correct than “infirmities of aging,” but let’s not get picky. According to Alex J. Sabo, a South Florida attorney specializing in vulnerable seniors who was very involved in the writing and passage of this bill, “the new legislation contains a strong statement of legislative intent, recognizing the freedom of individuals covered by the statute to manage assets, make investment decisions, and spend their funds as they see fit, but at the same time providing for their protection.”

To put this bill in context, Florida passed a groundbreaking bill in 2014 that establishing a much broader definition of exploitation against seniors that included persons “in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person.” It allowed (finally) for both criminal and civil charges to be brought against people who steal from joint accounts or who use their status as an agent under power of attorney to pay their own bills or make gifts to themselves.

In July 2018, Florida passed another statute that allowed for immediate injunctions and if warranted, investigations of those exploiting vulnerable adults, another effective tool to foil perpetrators.

With this new bill, financial advisers can now take actions to prevent someone with cognitive impairment, for example, from being taken advantage of. No longer do they need to watch their clients lose everything to a scammer or exploiter and be powerless to stop it.

Kudos to the Florida Securities Dealers Association, Financial Services Institute, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIMFA), and Gainesville’s own North Central Florida Senior Advocacy Network, of which I am a member. All of these groups worked with the Florida Office of Financial Regulations and the Elder Section of The Florida Bar.

Finally, good news in these troubled times. This proves that diverse political groups and organizations can come together and pass legislation for the real benefit of our elders. Our Florida seniors will be safer for it!

Star Bradbury is the owner of Senior Living Strategies in Gainesville.

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Star Bradbury: New law protects seniors from financial exploitation