Saturday, September 5, 2020

Britney Spears Calls Conservatorship 'Voluntary' as She Files for Case to Be Open to the Public

Britney Spears "strongly prefers to have a qualified corporate fiduciary appointed to serve in this role" instead of her father Jamie Spears, court papers state 

By Karen Mizoguchi

Click to Watch Video
Britney Spears is seeking a conservatorship, on her own terms.

The pop star, 38, and her court-appointed attorney Samuel D. Ingham III filed court papers on Monday in Los Angeles, asking for several changes to her conservatorship, which was extended to February 2021 after a filing in which she said she's "strongly opposed" to having her father Jamie as her sole conservator. (Jamie, 68, stepped down from the role last year after more than a decade.)

The court documents, which were obtained by PEOPLE, state that the singer wants a "voluntary" conservatorship, which means she "wishes to exercise her right to nominate a conservator of the estate" and is "substantially unable to manage her financial resources."

In the filing, Spears suggested Bessemer Trust Company of California, N.A., to be her conservator. If granted as in her best interest, the wealth management and investment advisory firm would be in charge of Spears' finances and control the power of attorney for her medical health decisions and career.

Britney Spears; Jamie Spears
Kevin Mazur/WireImage; VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty
"Britney is strongly opposed to her father continuing as sole conservator of her estate. Rather, without in any way waiving her right to seek termination of this conservatorship in the future, she strongly prefers to have a qualified corporate fiduciary appointed to serve in this role," the papers state.

Spears also said she wants the trust to have the "power and authorization to pursue opportunities related to professional commitments and activities including but not limited to performing, recording, videos, tours, TV shows, and other similar activities as long as they are approved by the conservator of the person and [her] medical team."

In separate documents, also obtained by PEOPLE, the star's mother, Lynne Spears, supported the nomination of Bessemer Trust Company to serve as the conservator over her daughter's estate.

Britney Spears
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Elsewhere in the documents, Spears and her legal team make it clear that she does not have a developmental disability and is currently not a "patient in or on leave of absence from a state institution under the jurisdiction of the California Department of State Hospitals or the California Department of Developmental Services."

Spears' conservatorship was first placed in 2008 with her father being named the permanent conservator of her affairs and attorney Andrew Wallet the permanent co-conservator of her estate. After Jamie stepped down due to health reasons in September 2019, Jodi Montgomery was named temporary conservator.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, attorney Ingham filed new court documents, asking the judge to deny Jamie's motions to seal parts of the ongoing conservatorship case. Instead of making proceedings private, Britney and her legal team want to make the case "transparent" with her fans.

"Britney strongly believes it is consistent not only with her personal best interests but also with good public policy generally that the decision to appoint a new conservator of her estate be made in as open and transparent a manner as possible," Ingham's opposition filing says. Jamie's motion "is supposedly being brought by her father to 'protect' Britney's interests, but she is adamantly opposed to it."

Furthermore, Ingham says Britney is requesting the conservatorship case be made public as confidential financial information is "already protected" and "there are no medical issues at all in a conservatorship of the estate, nor are her children [sons Jayden, 13, and Preston, 14] involved in any way."

Britney Spears and father Jamie
Chris Farina/Corbis/Getty
The filing on Wednesday also cites Jamie's recent New York Post interview, in which he said: "It's up to the Court of California to decide what's best for my daughter. It's no one else's business." In response, Ingham objected to Jamie's public comment regarding the conservatorship case despite his motions to keep it private.

"At this point in her life when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans," the filing states. "Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret."

In conclusion, Ingham said, "The moment that James obtained from this Court the power to handle Britney's affairs on her behalf, he surrendered a large measure of privacy as to the manner in which he exercises that power. Transparency is an essential component in order for this Court to earn and retain the public's confidence with respect to protective proceedings like this one. In this case, it is not an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching."

A hearing for Spears' voluntary conservatorship request is scheduled for Nov. 10.

Full Article & Source:
Britney Spears Calls Conservatorship 'Voluntary' as She Files for Case to Be Open to the Public

See Also:
Britney Spears

Nursing home deaths: NJ lawmakers approve reforms but not investigation

by Michael Symons

TRENTON — Nine bills that would affect long-term care facilities in New Jersey, which are connected to half of the confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the state, were approved Thursday by the Senate or Assembly, including four now on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

They include a state emergency operations center, raises for certified nursing assistants and staffing requirements and a task force to consider future changes. The bills derived from an investigation the Murphy administration commissioned that was done by Manatt Health.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, said the legislation is needed to ensure long-term care facilities are better prepared for outbreaks – an upgrade that officials thought they had directed through laws put in place after a 2018 viral outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

“Clearly somewhere along the line, there is failure. And I believe that needlessly, more people died than needed to during this pandemic,” Vitale said.

Vitale said clearly some nursing home residents would have died due to COVID-19 regardless – but that the toll in nursing homes now exceeding 7,070 clearly deserves a response.

“The amount that passed in our long-term care facilities and nursing homes and in our veterans’ homes in my view is unacceptable. And there ought to be accountability,” he said.

State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris, said the Legislature should further investigate why so many died from coronavirus in New Jersey nursing homes and that the U.S. Department of Justice is now asking similar questions.

“Moments of silence is great, but we can honor those that died by having a special select committee with subpoena powers,” Pennacchio said.

Democrats blocked a vote on his attempt to force the Senate to take up such a bill.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, said New Jersey was the coronavirus epicenter in the United States in the spring and that long-term care facilities bore the brunt.

“COVID-19 truly has exposed the gaping holes in our state’s long-term care infrastructure, and this legislation is a critical component in filling in those cracks.”

Most of the bills advanced with widespread support. The biggest exception was one paying certified nursing assistants $3 more an hour, which Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, said will lead to a shortage of home health aides.

It also requires facilities to spend 90% of their funds on direct patient care.

“The experts have said it’s mathematically impossible to do it,” Bergen said. “So not only is it not possible, ladies and gentlemen, but it’s not right. This is a government overreach into private business.”

Only about one-third of the package of bills made it to Murphy Thursday. Another third passed the Senate but not the Assembly, and the other third is still stuck in committees.

The following bills were approved and sent to Murphy:

  • S2758/A4482: Establish minimum wage requirements for certain long-term care facility staff, establish a direct care ratio requirement for nursing homes and require DHS to conduct a nursing home care rate study.
  • S2787/A4481: Establish New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety, which would develop recommendations to drive improvements in person-centered care, resident and staff safety, quality of care and services, workforce engagement and sustainability and any other appropriate aspects of the long-term system of care in New Jersey.
  • S2790/A4476: Establish certain requirements concerning the state’s preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics affecting long-term care facilities. The bill would establish the Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center in the Department of Health, which would serve as the centralized command for long-term care facility response efforts and communications during declared public health emergencies.
  • S2813/A4547: Establish a temporary rate adjustment for nursing facilities to support wage increases and to cover costs related to COVID-19 preparedness. The bill would make a one-time appropriation of $62.3 million from the General Fund to the Department of Human Services for the purpose of implementing the bill.
The Senate also passed the following bills:
  • S537:Establish certain minimum and maximum temperatures in emergency shelters, rooming and boarding houses, and certain nursing homes and residential health care facilities.
  • S2785: Require long-term care facilities to adopt and implement written policies, provide for the practical availability of technology to facility residents and ensure that appropriate staff and other capabilities are in place, to prevent the social isolation of facility residents.
  • S2786: Allow per diem health care workers working within long-term care facilities to accrue paid sick leave.
  • S2788: Provide supplemental payments to long-term care facility staff providing direct care services during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • S2798: Establish uniform requirements on the submission of outbreak response plans to DOH by long-term care facilities.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home deaths: NJ lawmakers approve reforms but not investigation

Hidden camera allegedly captured caregiver striking 91-year-old bedridden woman 150 times

By Mary Stringini

Rima Abikaram, 50
COSTA MESA, Calif. - A hidden camera allegedly captured a caregiver striking a 91-year-old bedridden woman more than 150 times over a 4-day period, Costa Mesa Police said Thursday.

Rima Abikaram, 50, Fullerton, was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of elder abuse after she was caught on camera striking 91-year-old "Jane Doe" while in her care.

In 2015, Abikaram, a friend of the victim’s family, was hired as one of two caregivers to provide 24-hour care for the 91-year-old woman, who lives in her Costa Mesa home and is confined to a medical bed.

Prior to the arrest, the second caregiver became concerned for the victim after noticing "Jane Doe" had sustained visible injuries and reported her concerns to the victim’s family.

After that, police said that the family installed a hidden camera in the home to monitor the victim’s care. Ultimately, the hidden camera revealed Abikaram abusing and striking the victim.

After the victim's family fired Abikaram as a caregiver on August 18, they called CMPD to report the elder abuse.

During the investigation, video footage was reviewed and it was found that over a 4-day period, Abikaram struck the victim over 150 times. Medical reports showed the victim's injuries included swelling to her face, a black eye, and a laceration to her arm.

On Sept. 1, Abikaram was located at her home and arrested without incident. The case was then turned over to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Full Article & Source:
Hidden camera allegedly captured caregiver striking 91-year-old bedridden woman 150 times

Friday, September 4, 2020

State caseworker arrested on 10 counts of elder exploitation

The man had been employed as an Adult Protective Services caseworker with the Georgia Department of Human Services

by Jason Braverman (11Alive)

TOCCOA, Ga. — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested an Athens man Wednesday on 10 counts of elder exploitation, they said.

Ronald Thomas, 49, of Athens, Georgia, was booked into the Stephens County Detention Center.
Thomas was employed as an Adult Protective Services (APS) caseworker with the Georgia Department of Human Services at the time of the crimes, the GBI said.

On Aug. 21, the Toccoa Police Department requested that the GBI investigate the exploitation of an elderly citizen.

During that investigation, they said agents learned that Thomas was the caseworker assigned to the victim in the case. And, through that role, he was able to steal money from the victim.

The GBI said crimes were committed by Thomas in Union, Stephens, and Clarke counties. 

Full Article & Source:
State caseworker arrested on 10 counts of elder exploitation

Father, son sentenced in death of disabled Missouri man

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A Missouri father and son have been sentenced in federal court for their roles in the death of a developmentally disabled man and covering up his death.

Anthony Flores was sentenced Wednesday to about 15.5 years in federal prison for failing to provide Carl DeBrodie with medical care.

DeBrodie's body was found encased in concrete in April 2017 in Fulton.

Authorities believe he died months earlier.

Flores' son, Anthony R.K. Flores, was sentenced later Wednesday to three years of probation for helping to cover up DeBrodie's death by lying to authorities.

Sherry Paulo, the men's wife and mother, led the scheme and was sentenced Tuesday to 17.5 years in jail.

Full Article & Source:
Father, son sentenced in death of disabled Missouri man

See Also:
Former guardian not eligible to bring DeBrodie lawsuit, judge rules

Carl DeBrodie was killed by injuries from forced fighting, court documents reveal graphic details

Carl DeBrodie case: Family attorney says the charges didn't surprise him

Florida long-term care residents can have visitors -- and hugs -- again

Wife of Alzheimer’s Disease patient worked on task force to re-establish visitations

Click to Watch Video
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida woman who took a job as a dishwasher at her husband’s memory-care center to be able to see him during the COVID-19 shutdown said she is putting in her two weeks notice after the state task force that she is part of came up with safeguards to protect long-term care facilities while also allowing visitors to see their family members.

During an emotional news conference Tuesday, Mary Daniel, 57, of Jacksonville, and other members of the Florida long-term care facility task force described how family members will be able to see their loved ones in person at long-term care families, including nursing homes and assisted-living centers, for the first time in nearly six months due to the pandemic.

“I’m turning in my two weeks notice,” Daniel said with a laugh. “I’m going back to being just a wife.”

Daniel took a job at RoseCastle at Deerwood in Jacksonville to see her husband, Steve, 66 who has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Her story made national news and caught the attention of Gov. Ron DeSantis who asked her to join a group to spearhead a way forward to allowing families to be reunited again.

According to the rules laid out by the task force on Tuesday, residents at long-term care centers can receive up to five scheduled visitors as well as see people who provide essential and compassionate care. Essential caregivers are those who provide health care services or help with daily life, including dressing and eating, while compassionate care visitors provide emotional support.

“As we look at that role and how important it is, we think about mental health and everything we do in supporting individuals, and because we have such a high percentage of individuals in our long-term care facilities who are suffering from depression (and) dementia that emotional support is critical to their quality of life to their health,” Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said.

Daniel said she fought hard for compassionate care visitors to be able to hug residents. While general visitors will have to maintain social distancing during their time with family, certain designated visitors will be able to physically interact with them.

“It’s going to be needed as essential caregivers. That’s exactly what we’re going to do. We will be able to, as caregivers, will be able to touch them, will be able to rub their back, will be able to hold their hand,” Daniel said.

She said residents at these facilities are desperate for physical and emotional contact. Daniel described one woman at her husband’s care center who sought that emotional connection, recently.

“As I was directing her back to a room, I was leaving my dishwashing job, and I said ’Come on in here, let’s get to your room,’ and she turned around and looked at me and said, ’Will you give me a hug?’ Daniel recalled. “I almost didn’t do it. I thought for a second. ’Oh, I might get in trouble.’ I had a mask on, and I did I gave her a hug. And I said earlier, it may be one of the best hugs I’ve ever given.”

DeSantis laid out the other rules for visitors established by the task force.

Everyone must where personal protective equipment, including masks, and will be screened before entering the facility. The health screening will include a temperature check but also people will be asked about symptoms and what their recent activity has been prior to the visit.

“Have you been to ... a crowded private event or something like that recently and so that is a really good way to be able to try to identify anybody who may be asymptomatic,” DeSantis said.

All visitations will be by appointment and long-term care residents can designate up to five visitors, with two at a time seeing someone. These visitors will not include children, according to the governor, but he said that may change in the near future.

“We’ll see how this goes but I, personally, would be very comfortable with minors,” DeSantis said. “I think if you look at the way the transmission has typically gone, when every time they do sequencing studies, it’s usually the adult infecting the minor rather than the minor infecting the adult. Now, obviously, a 17-year-old would be more likely to spread than a 7-year-old.”

There are also rules for facilities before they can allow visitors. No facility can allow visitors unless 14 days have passed without the onset of a new positive case in either a resident or staff member. Essential and compassionate care visitors are exempt from the 14-day rule, according to the governor.

Mayhew said the current positivity rate for COVID-19 infections among long-term care staff is about 1.2%. Medical experts agree the rate should be below 10% or even 5% to for two weeks to show a decline in new cases.

“We have seen over a 30% reduction in the number of residents who are currently positive for COVID,” Mayhew said. “Again, (a) dramatic reduction from the peak, slightly over 3,000 individuals out of 154,000 individuals who are residing in our nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”

Full Article & Source:
Florida long-term care residents can have visitors -- and hugs -- again

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Judge dismisses AdventHealth from lawsuit by family of man at center of guardianship scandal — for now

Steven Stryker, seen here during his time working for the Environmental Protection Agency, according to his daughter. Stryker died while under the care of Rebecca Fierle, who according to investigators filed a "do not resuscitate order against Stryker's wishes. (Courtesy of Kim Stryker)
By Monivette Cordeiro

A judge has dismissed AdventHealth Orlando from a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died under the care of a private guardian paid by the hospital company, finding that the plaintiffs failed to comply with Florida’s medical negligence claim requirements.

Robin Treto, one of the attorneys representing the family of 75-year-old Navy veteran Steven Stryker, called the dismissal filed Monday “temporary.”

“We’ll be able to resume claims against AdventHealth in a few months,” he said.

Stryker died May 2019 at St. Joseph’s Hospital after medical staff were unable to attempt to save his life because former guardian Rebecca Fierle signed a “do not resuscitate” order against his wishes and the protests of his daughter, health-care surrogate and psychiatrist.

His death sparked a statewide scandal that led to reforms of Florida’s troubled guardianship system and landed Fierle behind bars on charges of aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly person.

Stryker was a patient at AdventHealth in 2018 when the hospital asked a judge to declare him incapacitated and appoint Fierle to make all medical, financial, housing, legal and personal decisions instead of his chosen health-care surrogate and friend, Linda Lanier.

Lanier has told the Orlando Sentinel that AdventHealth seemed determined to put Stryker into guardianship and get him discharged from the hospital, despite her efforts to find him a new place to live.

Without the required court approval, Fierle billed AdventHealth for providing services to Stryker and nearly 700 other vulnerable patients over a decade — to the tune of nearly $4 million, according to an audit by the office of Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond.

Months later at St. Joseph’s, Fierle authorized a DNR order on behalf of Stryker and insisted his feeding tube be capped, despite Stryker stating “several times” he wanted to live and medical staff warning her he could choke and die, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Stryker aspirated and went into cardiac arrest, according to the lawsuit. He died May 13.

The lawsuit filed against Fierle and AdventHealth by Kimberly Stryker, the man’s daughter who is in charge of his estate, alleged negligence in her father’s care.

“Rebecca Fierle’s negligence, neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Steven Stryker caused his death,” the lawsuit said. “AdventHealth created, facilitated, and funded the guardianship relationship between Rebecca Fierle and Steven Stryker and is therefore responsible for the actions that led to Mr. Stryker’s death.”

The hospital company argued the complaint is actually a medical negligence claim. Florida law requires that, before filing such a lawsuit, claimants have to conduct an investigation to find “reasonable grounds” for the suit with a corroborating opinion by a medical expert, as well as give 90 days notice to the defendants.

AdventHealth said there are “no allegations” that it played a role in Fierle’s decision to authorize a DNR order on Stryker or that it exercised control over his care after he was discharged from the hospital, court records show.

Treto had argued the claim was not a medical negligence claim because Fierle is not a health care provider like a doctor or surgeon.

“What Rebecca Fierle did and the relationship she had [with AdventHealth], none of that is diagnosed as care or treatment,” he said. “We’re saying they’re ordinary negligence claims.”

When reached for comment, AdventHealth spokesman Bryan Malenius said the hospital company would “continue to respond as appropriate in court.”

Full Article & Source:
Judge dismisses AdventHealth from lawsuit by family of man at center of guardianship scandal — for now

See Also:
Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle may not stand trial in ward’s death until 2021, attorney says

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle asks judge to pause lawsuit by family of man who died under DNR

Marion deputies release video of arrest of former Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle

Attorney General Ashley Moody fires back at embattled former Florida guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watchdog: In Short Hearing, Fierle Given Guardianship Over Patient

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

Nursing home residents concerned about sex offender

by: Keagan Harsha

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — There are hundreds of residents living inside Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora, and none likely have a more checkered past than John Royce.

Royce is a registered sex offender with a lengthy arrest record that includes more than two dozen charges.

Among them are charges for child sex assault, multiple DUI’s, and multiple charges for failing to register as a sex offender.

Several residents and staff members at the Cherry Creek Nursing Center spoke with the FOX31 Problem Solvers about Royce, upset that they were never notified he was living in the building.

“It ticks me off. I’m a single female in a room by myself. I couldn’t run from somebody,” a female resident told the Problem Solvers.

Residents and some staff members are livid they weren’t notified about Royce’s sex offender status, but it turns out the nursing home doesn’t have to notify them.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigations tells the Problem Solvers there is no law that states a nursing home has to notify residents there is a sex offender living there.

However, sex offenders do have to register with local law enforcement within a few days of moving to a neighborhood.

Royce did not do that. The FOX31 Problem Solvers contacted him. He says he hasn’t registered because of health problems, claiming he was recently hospitalized prior to moving to Cherry Creek Nursing Center.

“It was the hospital’s fault. I didn’t even know where I was going. When I got here I told them I need to register and they said register for what?” Royce said.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers reached out to Nexion Health, which manages Cherry Creek Nursing Center. Neixon did not answer our questions about the nursing home’s policies regarding sex offenders, instead sending this statement:
“Cherry Creek Nursing Center works hard to provide individualized care plans for all of its residents and to supervise the care of all residents. Due to the federal HIPAA privacy law and Colorado privacy law, we cannot respond to media requests for discussion of the care of individual residents.
Aurora Police say they are looking into the situation.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home residents concerned about sex offender

Is Nursing Home Abuse Increasing During the Covid Pandemic?

Covid-19 Leads to Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

The onslaught of Covid-19 upon the world has lead to a number of issues where institutions have buckled under the weight of quarantine restriction and the fallout of Covid-19 infection.

It is no secret that the Covid-19 virus has disproportionately affected the elderly and not just in terms of infection susceptibility. The elderly have suffered difficulties with healthcare, access to facilities, and living in general.

Possibly one of the most dangerously affected types of institutions during this pandemic has been elder care facilities like nursing homes. The elderly are especially vulnerable as a demographic and it is these facilities’ duty to ensure that those under their care are kept safe.

What is complicating this is the effect that the pandemic has had on the amount of elder abuse that is occurring across the country.

Covid-19 Pandemic and Elder Abuse

Recently there have been reports that elders have been suffering more abuse than usual during the current Covid-19 pandemic. There have been increases in reports of elder abuse occurring during this troubling time.

This would not be all that surprising considering how the vulnerability of the elderly is commonly exploited by predatory individuals. With the conditions of isolation created by the current pandemics quarantine, those that abuse and neglect the elderly such as those in nursing homes are in a unique position.

Quarantine and Elder Abuse Risk

As a result of the quarantine policies most areas of the United States have put in place, nursing homes are even more isolated than usual. A source of controversy regarding this isolation comes from the ability for nursing homes to receive guests and visitors.

The elderly, sick, and disabled are especially vulnerable to infection of the Covid-19 virus and in order to reduce the risk of this infection, many nursing homes have enacted much more strict policies regarding their visitors.

Most Florida nursing homes stopped allowing visitors to come in altogether for a few months out of fear of contagion affecting residents. Lately, many nursing homes have started allowing a trickle of visitors to come in under strict conditions that require wearing a mask, gloves, temperature check, etc. to help reduce the risk of infection as much as possible.

While these steps are important to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 amongst the elderly residents of nursing homes, they also create an environment of opportunity for abusers.

Nursing home abuse generally occurs in situations of reduced oversight and isolation. The lockdown that comes with the current quarantine gives many abusers the opportunity to not only abuse their victims but also to keep victims from seeking help.

Relatives are an integral part of catching and reporting nursing home abuse and keeping them from loved ones in trouble can make matters even worse.

Those with loved ones in the care of nursing homes should remember to keep an eye out for dangerous situations their loved ones may be in. Keep informed as to what the official visitation policies are of the nursing home your loved one is in. Some will allow visitation to some degree, granted you follow stringent safety precautions.

If a loved one is barred from seeing you despite a nursing home’s policy of allowing visitors with precautions this should send up a red flag.

End-of-Life-Care and Covid-19 Quarantine

There are many that go into the care of facilities such as nursing homes knowing that they are nearing the end of their life. During this pandemic, many residents of nursing homes reached the end of their life as they either succumb to health conditions or simply reach the end of their lifespan.

Many family members and loved ones will want to be with a nursing home resident in this situation to reach closure, provide comfort, etc. yet coronavirus has made this difficult for many.

Those who have loved ones that are at the end of their life have the right to see them in their final days. People who have terminal illnesses or are nearing the end of their lives are still vulnerable to abuse and neglect and deserve peace.

Most nursing homes have policies that should allow those with loved ones at the end of their life visitation privileges despite the pandemic situation.

Types of Abuse Suffered in Nursing Homes

Many abusers have taken this opportunity provided by quarantine to harm the residents that are supposed to be under their care. In many situations, abuse can come from staff because of frustrations over the current quarantine and the pressure it places on nursing homes. Regardless of why, nursing home abuse is extremely damaging and those whose negligence contributed towards it occurring should be held responsible. Nursing home abuse typically comes in the following forms:

Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Emotional Abuse
Financial Abuse

Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim

When a loved one that is in the care of a nursing home is abuse, there is a chance that you can seek compensation from the party’s that contributed negligence by filing a nursing home abuse claim. These claims can seek a settlement with those responsible for the nursing home abuse your loved one suffered that can cover damages such as medical bills, disability, mental anguish, as well as pain and suffering.

Full Article & Source:
Is Nursing Home Abuse Increasing During the Covid Pandemic?

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Beach Introduces Bills to Improve Legal Guardianship

Beach Introduces Bills to Improve Legal Guardianship

Trenton – In an effort to protect children and adults with disabilities, Senator James Beach has introduced a series of bills to increase protections for those in the care of a legal guardian or conservator.

“Legal guardians and conservators protect the health and wellbeing of vulnerable individuals who are unable to care for themselves,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “We have a responsibility to our state’s children and the disabled community to ensure those in these positions are caring for them properly and that we do not tolerate abuse or neglect of any kind.”

The bills are:

  • 2876 – Revises and updates the law pertaining to conservatorship to encourage ethical conduct by conservators and to provide stronger protections for conservatees and proposed conservatees.

  • 2877 – Revises and updates the law pertaining to guardianship to encourage ethical conduct by guardians and to provide stronger protections for wards and proposed wards.

  • 2878 – Revises certain requirements concerning reported cases of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

  • 2879 – Revises requirements concerning disqualification from registration as, and duties of, a professional guardian.

  • 2880 – Requires residential psychiatric and long-term care facilities to provide certain financial information to facility residents and other individuals.

Full Article & Source:
Beach Introduces Bills to Improve Legal Guardianship

Two St Johns County attorneys suspended by Florida Bar

The Department of Lawyer Regulation of The Florida Bar informed local Historic City News reporters that the Florida Supreme Court has recently disciplined 11 attorneys, disbarring one, revoking the license of one, suspending eight and reprimanding one. One attorney was also placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution. Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 108,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.

Summaries of orders issued from July 28 to August 20, 2020

Peter Arnold Robertson, 5575 A1A South, Suite 116, Saint Augustine, suspended for 90 days and required to complete ethics school and a professionalism workshop effective 30 days following an Aug. 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) Robertson, an attorney and general contractor who owns a construction company, referred clients of his law firm to his construction company without advising them to seek independent counsel and without putting the terms of the business transaction in writing with the clients’ informed consent. Robertson represented a married couple against the seller of a home for failing to disclose mold and water damage. The husband fired Robertson after discovering an impermissible personal relationship had developed between Robertson and his wife. Despite the conflict of interest, and having been fired by the husband, Robertson filed documents with the court on behalf of both clients. (Case No: SC20-1050)

Alan Douglas Henderson, 230 Canal Blvd., Suite 3, Ponte Vedra Beach, suspended for 30 days and directed to attend ethics school and a professionalism workshop effective 30 days following a July 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Henderson represented a close family friend who had filed a petition for injunction for protection against domestic violence against her husband. Henderson instructed his client to break into a safe containing the husband’s records and after reviewing the confidential medical records, Henderson made copies to use at an upcoming proceeding. (Case No: SC19-517)

Michael Jonathan Braunschweig, 5455 S.W. 8th St., Suite 255, Coral Gables, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following a July 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Braunschweig neglected and/or abandoned client matters and failed to communicate and keep clients reasonably informed.  Braunschweig had previously been suspended for failing to respond to Bar inquiries. (Case No: SC20-952)

LeesaAnn Nicole Dodds, 412 E. Madison St., Suite 909, Tampa, suspended effective 30 days following an Aug. 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2014) Dodds failed to respond to an official Bar inquiry and the Bar filed a Petition for Contempt and Request for Order to Show Cause with The Florida Supreme Court. The Court issued an Order to Show Cause and Dodds failed to respond. (Court Case No: SC20-834)

Michael Joseph Gabor, 1636 Arrowhead Trail, Neptune Beach, suspended for three years effective nunc pro tunc to Jan. 18, 2020 following an Aug. 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Gabor pleaded no contest to one count of felony aggravated battery (causing great bodily harm) after a domestic altercation in his home. Gabor also failed to notify the Bar of his felony arrest and charges. (Case No: SC19-2112)

Anton Aggrey Gammons, P.O. Box 682048, Orlando, suspended for 30 days effective 30 days following a July 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Gammons pleaded no contest to possessing cocaine, 20 grams or less of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. After Gammons successfully completed Veteran’s Court, the criminal charges were dismissed. (Case No: SC20-1028)

Albert Hessberg III, 80 State St., Albany, N.Y., disbarred effective 30 days following an Aug. 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) A client authorized Coggin to charge $1,500 to her credit card to represent her in a divorce proceeding. Coggin subsequently made eight additional charges to the card without the client’s permission, totaling $12,000 In another matter, Coggin knowingly overcharged a client by $1,000. This is a reciprocal discipline action, based on an order from the Supreme Court of New York. (Case No: SC19-2134)

Kevin E. Paul, PO Box 938, St. Petersburg, suspended for one year effective 30 days from an Aug. 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) While representing Roberta Kaplan in multiple foreclosure litigation cases, Paul filed numerous motions to quash service of process, challenging the validity of the plaintiffs’ attempts to serve Kaplan. Paul did not independently investigate to determine the validity of service or if his client was evading service. Kaplan never executed any document in Paul’s presence and Paul took no step to verify the authenticity of her signature. His actions caused significant and unjust delays in litigation. (Case No: SC20-1045)

William S. Saliba, 1065 W. Morse Blvd., Suite 101, Winter Park, public reprimand and required to complete ethics school effective 15 days following a July 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Saliba engaged in a pattern of misconduct during his association with a business that assists clients in exiting their timeshare contracts. Saliba did not personally meet with the clients, and he had no direct supervision of the employees who communicated with the clients and the timeshare companies. One client filed a Bar complaint alleging that Saliba failed to diligently represent him and failed to provide adequate communication concerning his legal matter. (Case No:  SC20-315)

Adrian Shiand Webster-Cooley, 8451 Gate Parkway West, Suite 23, Jacksonville, suspended for three years followed by one-year of probation and must pay restitution, effective nunc pro tunc to May 18, 2020, following a July 30 court order.  (Admitted to practice: 2017) Webster-Cooley joined with nonlawyers through “The Criminal Defense League,” which solicited clients nationwide via the internet for mostly criminal matters. Nonlawyers handled all aspects of cases, harming clients, and clients had trouble communicating with employees. The Criminal Defense League listed Webster-Cooley as managing attorney though he had no actual involvement in any of the cases. He also created Criminal Defense League Processing, Inc., solely for the purpose of receiving client funds and transmitting that money to the nonlawyers. (Case No:  SC20-561)

Randall Albert Werre, P.O. Box 387, Milton, suspended for three years effective immediately following a July 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Werre was held in contempt of the Court’s orders dated Sept. 12, 2019, and Dec. 4, 2019, for failing to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension. (Case No: SC20-829)

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Two St Johns County attorneys suspended by Florida Bar

Nursing home residents suffer as facilities struggle to meet state requirements for visitation

By Denise Civiletti

A banner welcomes back visitors to Acadia Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverhead. The facility recommenced visitation on Aug. 26 and ended it Aug. 30 when a support staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Photo: Denise Civiletti
A banner hanging near the main entrance of Acadia Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverhead proclaims, “Dear Visitors…WELCOME BACK! We missed you!” Though the banner remains up, visitation has been shut down — just five days after it was reinstated for the first time since mid-March.

Acadia was finally able to open its doors to visitors last Wednesday after 28 days had passed without a positive COVID test among staff and residents. Then late yesterday, a support staff member’s test came back positive. Now, New York State rules have cut off visiting for another 28 days — at least. It could be longer if other staff members test positive going forward.

Nursing homes are struggling to meet state-imposed requirements for reinstating visitation that nursing home operators, their statewide advocacy organization and residents’ family members say are nearly impossible to meet.

Nursing home visitation can resume as long as a facility is COVID-free for 28 days. Most facilities have not been able to meet that standard, according to a statewide organization representing several hundred nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New York.

And facilities that have been able to meet the standard often have to shut down visitation again for 28 days after a staffer tests positive — just as what happened at Acadia.

The children of Acadia resident Bertha Kulesa were relieved and excited to finally be able to visit with their 96-year-old mother once visiting was reinstated last week.

“One of my brothers and I got to see her last Wednesday,” her daughter Pat Kurpetski of Calverton said.

Kulesa has lived at Acadia since Dec. 7. Her family visited every day until the governor ended nursing home visitation in mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic hit New York. Since then, until last week, they were able to have three “window visits.” FaceTime on an iPad and even phone calls weren’t realistic option, Kurpetski said, because her mother has both impaired eyesight and hearing.

Kurpetski believes isolation has hurt her mother’s mental and emotional state. “She can’t read or watch TV. Even when you’re talking to he in person, you have to be face to face and speak slowly,” she said. Visiting with masks from six feet away made communication difficult even in person.

“I don’t think she fully grasps why we can’t visit her,” Kurpetski said.

Kulesa was “sharp as a tack” when she entered the nursing home, said close family friend Kathy Berezny of Riverhead. “She’s lonely. She’s isolated,” Berezny said. “Isolation is killing these residents.” Berezny is hopping mad and spends a lot of time calling elected officials demanding they do something — from town hall to Hauppauge to Albany and Washington. So far, nothing has changed, she said.

Isolation — despite efforts to connect residents and family via FaceTime, Skype and telephone — has been hard on nursing home residents everywhere.

“If my mom is any indication, mental health issues from isolation are huge. It’s heartbreaking,” said Riverhead resident Patricia Snyder, whose mother is a resident at San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport.

San Simeon also reinstated visitation last week. While its residents remained COVID-free throughout the pandemic, staff members testing positive prevented the Greenport facility from opening sooner.

Snyder was able to visit her mother on Friday for the first time since March. “COVID has been pretty rough on the residents,” she said.

Visiting areas set up for social distancing at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton, where seating and a six foot distance is marked off by the facility. Courtesy photo
“It’s been a source of ongoing frustration for the residents, their families, and the facility’s staff — all of whom would like to see our residents and their families reconnected,” said Vince Liaguno, administrator at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton.

“With 200 residents and 250 staff members, the likelihood of there being no positives for a sustained period of 28 days is slim to none, especially with the wider community opening back up and people getting out and about more,” Liaguno said. It’s like “trying to hit a moving target,” he said.

Visitation at Westhampton Care Center has been temporarily suspended until Sept. 25, according to a message on its website. The administrator there could not be reached for details.

The New York State Health Facilities Association/New York State Center for Assisted Living is calling on the state to change the policy from 28 to 14 days.

“It has been since early March of this year that a majority of our residents have been unable to receive visitors in person as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” NYSHFA|NYSCAL president Stephen Hanse wrote in a letter to the governor Friday.

“Moving from a 28-day restriction to a 14-day policy is essential for the health and well being of our residents and their families and loved ones,” Hanse wrote to Cuomo.

Kurpetski said the 28-day rule “doesn’t make sense.”

“I can’t understand what the point is to stop visitation for a month if one of their staff tests positive,” she said.

NYSHFA|NYSCA is also urging the state to adopt new COVID-19 testing requirements issued on Aug. 26 by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for staff testing. The state requires all staff to be tested once a week.

CMS’s new testing requirements are based on the positive rate of the virus in the county where a facility is located. The new CMS rule requires testing once a month for facilities in counties with less than a 5% infection rate, once a week for facilities in counties with a positivity rate between 5% and 10%, and twice a week for facilities in counties with a positivity rate of over 10%.

“The CMS approach of county-based positivity rate testing will pinpoint testing in communities where it is needed most while continuing to safeguard the health and safety of skilled nursing and assisted living residents and staff,” Hanse wrote in his letter to the governor.

The cost of the testing is “unsustainable,” Hanse said.

Health insurers are refusing to pay for the state’s staff testing requirement which costs providers approximately $100 per test, he said.

The “unreimbursed testing costs are in addition to ever-increasing staff and PPE costs providers are struggling to keep up with in the face of record low occupancy rates throughout the state,” Hanse wrote.

According to data released yesterday by the N.Y. State Department of Health, more than one-quarter (6,639) of the state’s 25,328 COVID-19 fatalities were among nursing home and assisted living facility residents.

The state health department has come under sharp criticism for its March 25 directive requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients discharged from hospitals.

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Nursing home residents suffer as facilities struggle to meet state requirements for visitation

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Professional guardian says vulnerable seniors are suffering in long-term care facilities

She urges state to mandate all facilities open up

There is an urgent and growing call to combat social isolation for seniors living in solitude at long-term care facilities because of the pandemic. 

By: Adam Walser

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There is an urgent and growing call to combat social isolation for seniors living in solitude at long-term care facilities because of the pandemic.

Governor DeSantis is expected to soon sign a new order allowing certain visitors into Florida’s long term care facilities for the first time in months.

A local court-appointed professional guardian tells I-Team investigator Adam Walser that access for caregivers can’t come quickly enough, since she believes some facilities haven’t always been acting in their residents’ best interests.

“They’re all being affected by it, very negatively. Everybody’s declined,” professional guardian and private care manager Susan Brehm says.

She says vulnerable seniors the court-appointed her to care for have suffered since the governor’s ban on visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities went into effect in March.

“I speak for people who can’t speak for themselves. And right now, I’m really struggling to speak for them,” Brehm said.

For the past five months, professional guardians have not been allowed inside long term care facilities, since they aren’t considered essential personnel.

“I feel like I have both arms tied behind my back. I feel like I work three times as hard and half as efficient. My people are not getting the care that they should because I can’t properly advocate,” she said.

Brehm says other healthcare providers who serve her clients -- like traveling doctors, physical therapists and hospice worker -- have been turned away by facilities who considered them too big of a risk for spreading COVID-19.

“I’m not saying how many or who, but there are facilities and hospitals across the board who are taking this as an opportunity to make decisions in a vacuum and to call the shots,” she said.

In the meantime, judges continue to appoint Brehm to look after seniors she's never met who are in long term care facilities.

Things could change soon for her and hundreds of other professional guardians as the state moves forward to allow visits from those considered essential caregivers.

“This quarantine and this closed-off ness that we’ve got going on in honor of protection and safety is social isolation. Social isolation is a killer for a senior. Particularly one with dementia,” she said.

Brehm says she supports task force recommendations allowing caregivers who meet certain requirements to get back inside facilities.

But she says all facilities should open back up, not just those that want to, which is the current recommendation.

“We’ve got to remove some of these restrictions. There’s got to be more oversight,” Brehm said.

Professional guardians in Florida are normally required to visit the people under their care in person at least four times a year, but those requirements were suspended when the state closed long term care facilities to visitors.

If you have a story you think the I-Team should investigate, email us at

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Professional guardian says vulnerable seniors are suffering in long-term care facilities

Accused ex-judge withdraws bid to have charges thrown out

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — A former Alabama judge indicted for stealing from clients has withdrawn a bid to have the charges thrown out.

Special Circuit Judge Steven Haddock on Sunday signed an order dismissing the attempt to overturn the 2019 indictment against former Limestone County District Judge Doug Patterson.

The order followed Patterson and his lawyer admitting in a court hearing last week that they were unlikely to prevail on their motion, The News Courier reports.

Patterson had asked Haddock to throw out the indictment, claiming part of the state ethics law was unconstitutional and that there was “undue influence” during the grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment.

Patterson was indicted on charges of using his position for personal gain, financial exploitation of the elderly and third-degree theft. He is accused of using his position as a district judge to steal $47,000 from a juvenile court fund. Before he became a judge, while working as a lawyer, Patterson is accused of stealing thousands from an incapacitated veteran and a client who died.

If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison. Patterson resigned after he was charged.

A civil case against Patterson has been dismissed, as least for now, leaving the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission the option to refile after the criminal case is resolved.

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Accused ex-judge withdraws bid to have charges thrown out

Nurses on NY's front lines call for minimum staffing ratios

Photo: AP. FILE - In this April 28, 2020, file photo Medical personnel attend a daily 7 p.m. applause in their honor, during the coronavirus pandemic outside NYU Langone Medical Center in the Manhattan borough of New York. Nurses on the front lines of New York's COVID-19 pandemic are calling for the state to enact minimum staffing standards ahead of another wave of infections. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Nurses on the front lines of New York's COVID-19 pandemic are calling for the state to enact minimum staffing standards ahead of another wave of infections.

Health care industry leaders, though, warn that passing such a law would saddle facilities with billions of dollars in extra costs they can't afford.

Under legislation now before a legislative committee, the state would for the first time set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, including a standard of one nurse for every two patients in intensive care units.

California now has such a law. Other states don't. Supporters say the legislation would boost the quality of care, reduce staff burnout and let the state hold health care facilities accountable for inadequate staffing.

Minimum staffing ratios also might have helped last spring, they say, when hospitals and nursing homes in the New York City metropolitan area were overwhelmed with a flood of COVID-19 patients.

"If we had better staffing in place before COVID-19, if we weren't stretched so thin, we would have been able to handle the flex and surge that was required," said Pat Kane, who leads a union representing nurses statewide.

Health industry groups have long called minimum staffing levels too costly and unnecessary. They say implementing staffing mandates now would be especially damaging, as hospitals face sharp revenue losses.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised in 2018 to set safe staffing levels, which he said was "linked to quality care," but this month his health department released a report estimating the proposed staffing rules would force nursing homes and hospitals to hire a combined 35,000 nurses, at a cost of around $4 billion.

"During the crisis, the increased costs would have been unbearable, coming on top of the extremely expensive surge costs frontline hospitals incurred," Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske told hospital leaders this month. "Now, in the COVID-19 transition era, when hospitals are fighting for their very survival due to a severe loss of revenue, such a mandate is unthinkable."

It also is not clear whether staffing mandates would have made any difference in an extraordinary crisis like the one that enveloped the health care system last spring, when hospitals were seeing so many dying patients that they had to bring in refrigerator trucks to handle the bodies.

Simultaneously, many health care workers themselves were falling ill, disrupting regular staffing plans. With help from the state and staffing agencies, hospitals brought in thousands of temporary staff, often people from other states, but it took weeks for the help to arrive.

The state health department report said hospitals need to retain flexibility over staffing, especially during a crisis.

Bea Grause, president of a statewide group representing public and nonprofit hospitals, said the report confirmed long-held concerns about "rigid, statewide government-mandated staffing ratios."

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Democrat from New York City, called the report "disappointing."

"It acknowledges that higher levels of staffing saves lives," he said. "But it doesn't seem to offer any alternative to losing those lives."

Kane said the report repeats old arguments, ignores potential savings and inflates costs by over $1 billion. She said the state should have interviewed nurses on front lines and examined staffing levels in hard-hit minority communities.

"Everything is such a fight for these nurses," she said. "It's one thing to say they're heroes and they made the sacrifice. But listen to them, and that will show them you really mean that... Because they dread the idea, they can't imagine going through something like that again."

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Nurses on NY's front lines call for minimum staffing ratios

Monday, August 31, 2020

Mama bear at the gate: Denton resident fears for daughter in lockdown at state living center

By Lucinda Breeding
Angela Biggs

Angela Biggs has a hair-thin line to walk during the pandemic.

She doesn’t want to alienate the staff members who give her 29-year-old daughter, Amber Reynolds, the care she needs at the Denton State Supported Living Center. Amber and Briggs have a lot of love and respect for the staff.

But Biggs isn’t going to stop trying to connect with her daughter in spite of the state lockdown policies that have kept her from seeing her daughter since March 9, when she helped shepherd Amber through medical tests — a process that can frighten and agitate Amber, who has developmental disabilities and a brain injury from birth.

“Amber can’t speak for herself,” Biggs said. “Her yes doesn’t always mean yes, and her no doesn’t mean no. But my yes means yes, and my no means no. And Amber understands that. She takes it very seriously when I say, ‘I will see you soon.’ I can see where I am losing my integrity with Amber. It just breaks my heart. I have always followed through with her.”

The Denton State Supported Living Center is considered an intermediate care facility, and according to data state officials updated on Aug. 26, the local center reports nine active cases of COVID-19 among residents and 16 among staff. Active cases refers to positive tests, and doesn't reflect how many cases include symptoms. Until the facilities staff and residents test negative for 14 consecutive days, visitors are not allowed in the center.

The center is governed by Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration of emergency in response to COVID-19, which was recently extended for Texans in nursing and long-term care living facilities through Sept. 29, according to an email from the health commission. Now, long-term care centers can have limited indoor and outdoor visits, but only if there are no active cases of COVID among residents, if staff members have tested negative for 14 days, and there are enough staff to facilitate visits in compliance with infection control requirements. For indoor visits, residents and visitors must be separated with a Plexiglass safety barrier.

Biggs is among caregivers demanding a better response for the elderly in nursing and memory care facilities and Texans living in long-term care facilities. Biggs has joined Texas Caregivers for Compromise, a group of advocates that is petitioning the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the state Legislature to let them visit their loved ones in person. Nichols collated the stories of Texans desperate to visit their loved ones in nursing or long-term care centers.

“Because isolation kills too, that’s part of the name,” Biggs said. “People are dying. They’re dying alone and untouched. It doesn’t make any sense. People can come into the center from the outside — plumbers, electricians. I get it that they have to be able to get onto the campus. But they’re going into the residential units; caregivers can’t. Judges can come in if they determine that it’s essential. But guardians can’t. Amber is my child. I’m her guardian, not the state.”

Through a Facebook page, caregivers and advocates share stories of their loved ones’ progress or decline during the pandemic, and the group founder, Mary Nichols, posts resources, webinars and videos from officials from the commission.

The Denton center was hit hard by the novel coronavirus last March, and Biggs said she went to the center hoping to see her daughter, who suffers from acute psychosis occasionally but thrives on her routine. Before the pandemic, Biggs would see her daughter twice a week, taking her off the campus to shop and get some stimulation.

“She loves going to Twice as Nice and picking out things for her friends,” Biggs said, adding that the local thrift store is a bright spot for her daughter. “She loves picking out things for her sister.”

She took a bright, colorful care package for Amber but didn’t get to see her daughter. It’s been almost six months since she has been able to talk to Amber face to face. On the phone, Amber sometimes sounds confused, and Biggs said she saw a note about her daughter leaving her residence unit and wandering on the campus at night when she was reviewing Amber’s more recent records. Biggs said she sees this as a sign that her daughter is suffering in isolation, and vulnerable to psychosis. All Briggs can offer her daughter are the Scriptures the two love, singing silly songs and “pivoting” to lighthearted tones when Amber sounds distressed.

The family moved Amber to the center in 2014, and Biggs said the staff gives her the care she needs. Biggs said she “shadows and models” for the staff how to best interact with Amber, who gets nervous during medical appointments. Amber has a medical test coming up, Biggs said.

“That means they have to put a mask on her, which she’s not going to do,” Biggs said. “I’m worried that she’s not going to sleep. If she doesn’t sleep, she can go into psychosis. She’s already sleeping on the couch instead of her bed. And if she goes into psychosis, I can’t be there to help her. I can’t be there to model for the staff what she needs.”

Biggs said it’s frustrating for caregivers, who understand both their role and the risks of COVID-19.

“What happened to our rights and the rights of the residents?” Biggs said. “We can’t even come up and go into the office. Judges can. Police can. Medical students can. Why is that everyone under the sun can come in and wear PPE — but we can’t?”

Biggs said Gov. Abbott is “playing God” with the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“Abbott and Health and Human Services, they are the ones who have laid this out. Their hands are on the rudder,” Biggs said. “I’m asking the governor what good parent doesn’t take all precautions to prevent injury and illness for their children? Abbott said earlier during the pandemic, ‘We are Texans. We can do this. We can wash our hands and do the social distancing.’ But we [caregivers] can’t be trusted? We have given our trust over to the state. Amber is my child; she is not the state’s.”

Biggs said caregivers feel abandoned by Abbott and the state, and that the staff and administration at the center are powerless to stoke connections that reinforce the rights of residents.

“Abbott has robbed us of the right and the joy of caring for our parents and our children,” she said. “It’s moral injury. For us, the guardians, it’s a moral injury ... It’s almost six months since I’ve seen my daughter. She’s been wandering the campus at night. What if she gets off of the campus and starts wandering there on the highway? I can’t help her. I’m not allowed. What if she gets off of the campus and gets raped or killed? Never finding her is one of my biggest fears aside from psychosis.

“We deserve so much better. Our loved ones deserve better.”

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Mama bear at the gate: Denton resident fears for daughter in lockdown at state living center

Virus outbreak at nursing homes killed 228 people in Illinois counties in News 4's viewing area

MADISON COUNTY, Ill. ( -- Cases of the novel coronavirus remain on the rise at nursing homes around the country and the virus has infected 1,747 residents and staff and claimed 228 lives at nursing homes in Illinois counties in News 4's viewing area, for a case-fatality rate of 13%.

The 228 people who have died account for 67.9% of the total deaths in the 15 counties News 4 reaches while the cases account for 13% of total infections.

As of Saturday, long-term care facilities in St. Clair County carry the most number of cases at 801 and the most deaths at 117.

The novel coronavirus is especially dangerous for the elderly with weakened immune systems.

Illinois' total cases reached 231,947 on Saturday and 8,014 people have died from the virus statewide. In News 4's viewing area, 13,364 people have been infected and 336 people have died.   (Click to continue)

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Virus outbreak at nursing homes killed 228 people in Illinois counties in News 4's viewing area