Saturday, October 10, 2020

Guardian for vulnerable adults gets a year for stealing $250k from clients

by Andrew Binion

A guardian for disabled and elderly people, appointed by Kitsap and Suquamish tribal courts, was sentenced Thursday to a year-and-a-day in prison for scamming more than $250,000 from his clients, including almost $50,000 from a tribal elder.

An attorney for Wayne Jerome Houston, 61, of Port Ludlow, wrote in court documents that Houston started the thefts by skimming from accounts while telling himself he was working hard for his clients.

“Mr. Houston offers no excuses,” his public defender wrote in documents filed with U.S. District Court, adding that he had already paid back $54,000. “He knows what he did was wrong.” 

Houston had lived on Bainbridge Island, coached youth sports there and had worked as a pilot for DHL before operating Cross Point Services LLC and moving to Jefferson County.

Houston managed the finances of about 15 to 20 people per month, all of whom were disabled or elderly adults, incapacitated and unable to handle their finances without help, according to federal prosecutors. 

Beginning in 2010, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Houston started stealing from wealthier clients so that the theft was less likely to be noticed, with sums ranging from $200 to $66,500.

In addition to the year in prison for pleading guilty to a count of “Social Security fraud - representative payee fraud,” U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan ordered Houston to pay back $256,336.23 taken from 22 people listed by initials in court documents.

“But for his detection by Adult Protective Services and termination from his guardianships, there is no telling how long this pattern may have continued, or how many more may have been victimized,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

Prosecutors added: “There is simply no explanation for Houston’s repeated decision to steal from his clients hundreds of times over the course of almost a decade, other than a desire to, as he put it, ‘live above his means.’”

Full Article & Source:

Greeley nursing home residents protest pandemic lockdown: “I’d rather die of COVID than loneliness”

By Sherrie Peif

GREELEY — Waving signs that read such things as “I’d rather die of COVID than loneliness,” and “We are prisoners in our home,” residents of one nursing facility staged their own anti-lockdown protest along one of the busiest streets in Greeley, directly across the street from the city’s largest and longest operating hospital.

“Freedom, freedom, freedom,” one lady chanted while waving a sign that read “we want our families back.”

The protest against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Gov. Jared Polis’ mandates that do not allow nursing home residents to see their loved ones, was thought up, organized and carried out by the residents, with oversight from their nurses and other staff members, said the Assistant Administrator of Fairacres Manor Ben Gonzales.

Gonzales said the facility has a resident council that meets monthly to discuss things that are on residents’ minds. They usually discuss caregivers, things they’d like to do, or offer suggestions, among other things.

However, recently, they brought up the idea of protesting the lockdown as they enter their eighth month of no hugs, no smiles, no kisses from their loved ones.

“We are here to support our residents,” Gonzales said. “If they want to get their voices heard, they have rights just like we should have rights as well. We wanted to make sure that they were able to express those.”

Gonzales said the staff made sure the residents were all placed six feet apart on the grass across from the entrance to North Colorado Medical Center, along a busy 16th Street in the center of town. They were wearing masks and each one had their own member of the staff nearby. The nurses and other personnel were also in all the appropriate personal protection equipment required for their jobs.

Hospital administration who happened to hear of the protest, applauded their efforts and took time to go across the street as well.

One woman, who was not from Greeley, but happened to be at the hospital during the protest yelled across the street “tell them to let you out of jail.”

She identified herself only as a nursing home administrator in another community. She said has seen more deaths due to depression among her residents since the pandemic than she has COVID itself, blaming mandates and restrictions more than the virus.

“The isolation is what kills these people,” she said. “It’s just incredibly sad that they can’t live out the last part of their lives with their family surrounding them.”

Gonzales agreed. He said although the homes are now preparing for indoor visits as the weather gets colder, residents will still not be able to touch or hug their loved ones.

“But that’s what they need,” Gonzales said. “They need that physical contact, to hug their grandchildren.”

Gonzales agreed some of the signs they created were tough to read.

“We as staff members get to go see our family and our loved ones,” Gonzales said. “So, it’s tough when they don’t get to do that. We are held to standards by the government and the state health department. But it’s very understandable. I feel for them. I can’t imagine what they are going through. So, it’s nice to be able to support them in this way. We are here to come together and to support each other.”

Weld County Commissioner Scott James stopped by the facility to lend his support for the protest as well. He said his heart breaks for all the residents of Fairacres and every other facility like it in Colorado.

“They are members of the greatest generation,” James said. “The very generation who fought to overturn tyranny and protect our freedoms. Now these members of that generation have had their freedom taken away via a tyrannous act by unelected bureaucrats. The governor and the CDPHE should immediately work with these facilities to give them a way by which they may hug their loved ones.”

Full Article & Source:

Justice Department awards $144 Million to improve services for crime victims

The Department of Justice Tuesday awarded grants totaling over $144 million to enhance services for victims of crime across the United States.

“The Department of Justice is steadfast in its commitment to protecting public safety and bringing justice to those who have been victimized,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “The investments we are making today will support service providers as they work to secure the legal rights of victims and put survivors of criminal acts on the road to recovery.”

All grant money being awarded today comes from offices within the department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP). Approximately $64.3 million was awarded under Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant programs; over $54.1 million was awarded under Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) programs; over $19.9 million was awarded under Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) grant programs; and nearly $5.7 million was awarded under two National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant programs.

“As lockdowns and lawlessness fuel crime in America’s homes and communities, more people are vulnerable to victimization and those who have been victimized face new hurdles,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “The Office of Justice Programs is committed to giving our victim service partners the tools they need to better serve their clients and protect victims’ rights.”

Grants awarded under FY 2020 OVC programs further the department’s mission to enhance the field’s response to victims of crime. Specific programs are:

  • The Emergency and Transitional Shelter and Housing Assistance for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Victims and their Companion Animals Grant program gives over $2.2 million to six organizations for shelter and transitional housing to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking and their companion animals.
  • The Improving Community Preparedness to Assist Victims of Mass Violence or Domestic Terrorism: Training and Technical Assistance Project awards nearly $3 million to provide individualized training and technical assistance to state, local and tribal law enforcement; units of government; emergency managers; victim service providers; and other stakeholders to help augment their community emergency management response plans to ensure that the needs of victims, families and first responders are addressed after incidents of criminal mass violence or domestic terrorism.
  • The Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime program gives over $6.2 million to five organizations to support projects that demonstrate innovative strategies to create, expand or enhance the use of technology to interact directly with crime victims and to provide information, referrals, crisis assistance and long-term help.
  • The Addressing Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting program gives nearly $1.8 million to six recipients to address communities’ responses to victims of female genital mutilation and over $1 million to one organization to provide targeted technical assistance to inform front-line providers on how to identify and serve victims and persons at-risk of being victimized.
  • The Targeted Training and Technical Assistance for VOCA Victim Assistance and Compensation Administrators program awards nearly $5 million specifically to provide peer-to-peer training on federal grants management and administration for Victims of Crime Act victim assistance grantees and subgrantees.
  • The Crime Victims’ Rights Legal Clinics program gives nearly $4 million to four recipients to enforce crime victims’ rights at the federal level under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and at the state, local or tribal level under substantially similar state, local, or tribal laws. Another $1 million is awarded to a training and technical assistance provider to support the clinics as they launch or expand their crime victims’ rights clinics and train allied professionals.
  • The Law Enforcement-Based Victim Specialist program gives over $8.6 million to 22 recipients to develop or enhance crime victim specialist programs within law enforcement agencies to better support victims through the criminal justice process, and another $2 million to one organization to support training and technical assistance for the grantees.
  • The Crime Victim Compensation Program Assessment program gives nearly $2.4 million to seven recipients to help selected states assess victims’ access to compensation programs with the goal of increasing the number of victims aware of this resource.
  • The State Victim Liaison Project gives over $4.7 million to 10 organizations to place one or more experienced crime victim liaisons within selected VOCA State Administrating Agencies to act as a bridge between the state and other state-based nongovernmental organizations in order to identify gaps in victim services and improve access to resources for crime victims in rural/tribal areas, older victims of crime and victims of violent crime.
  • The Training for Law Enforcement to Improve Identification of and Response to Elder Fraud Victims program awards nearly $2 million to provide training and technical assistance to enhance law enforcement’s ability to identify elder fraud victims, connect those victims with available services, and bring the fraudsters to justice.
  • The Enhancing Services for Older Victims of Abuse and Financial Exploitation program awards nearly $6 million to 12 organizations to support communities in providing services to older victims of abuse and exploitation using trauma-informed approaches that protect the safety and confidentiality of victims.
  • The Enhancing Community Responses to America’s Drug Crisis: Serving Our Youngest Crime Victims program gives over $12 million to 17 organizations to support direct services to children and youth who are crime victims as a result of the nation’s addiction crisis; and nearly $1.5 million to one organization to support training and technical assistance for the direct services grantees. In addition, OVC will award $250,000 in continuation funding to the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma to provide services to Tribal children and youth who are victimized as the result of the opioid crisis.
  • The National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) Community Awareness Program gives $300,000 to an eligible organization to continue supporting public awareness, community outreach, and education activities for crime victims’ rights and services during NCVRW in April 2021.

Grants awarded under FY 2020 OJJDP programs further the department’s mission of supporting the effective investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases.

  • Under the Victims of Child Abuse Act Support for Children’s Advocacy Centers program, OJJDP awarded more than $18.3 million in continuation funding to the National Children’s Alliance in Washington D.C. This program will provide support to Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) through three funding categories: subgrants to local CACs, state chapters and multidisciplinary teams ($15.3 million); subgrants to provide services for victims of child pornography ($2 million); and efforts to help military installations address cases of child abuse, including subgrants to local CACs ($1 million).
  • OJJDP also awarded $5 million in continuation funding to four organizations via the VOCA Regional Children’s Advocacy Center. This program supports regional centers, one situated within each of the four U.S. Census regions, that help to build and establish multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), local programs, and state chapter organizations that respond to child abuse and neglect; and deliver training and technical assistance that strengthen existing MDTs, local CACs and state chapter organizations.
  • Through the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCA) Training and Technical Assistance for Child Abuse Professionals program, OJJDP awarded $2.5 million to the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Alabama. This program promotes improved child interview techniques, thorough investigative methods, interagency coordination and effective presentation of evidence in court. The program will provide training and technical assistance to establish coordinated multidisciplinary programs that address child maltreatment.
  • OJJDP awarded more than $10.8 million in continuation funding to the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association in Washington under the Court Appointed Special Advocates Membership, Accreditation, and Subgrants Program and Training and Technical Assistance. This program aims to serve and improve outcomes for children in the dependency system; provide effective advocacy for abused and neglected children, including foster care youth; and build on the training and technical assistance program that OJJDP has developed in collaboration with the National CASA Association.
  • OJJDP awarded more than $3.1 million to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in Nevada under the Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel program to improve juvenile justice and dependency systems’ response to child abuse and neglect, as well as child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. This program provides judicial, legal and social service professionals with training and technical assistance to improve their understanding of child abuse; their ability to prevent placement in foster care when possible; and their ability to reunify families after foster care placement.
  • OJJDP awarded more than $7.2 million to the National Children’s Alliance to support the American Indian and Alaska Native Subgrant Program. This program will support the expansion of new satellite CACs through the provision of subgrants to existing CACs in Alaska, and to tribes (or existing CACs serving tribes) interested in establishing a satellite CAC in the lower 48 states.
  • Another $4.8 million was awarded to eight organizations through the Alaska Children’s Advocacy Center Expansion Initiative for Child Abuse Victims to support programmatic enhancements for existing Alaska-based CACs to increase the range and quality of services as well as specific infrastructure needs.
  • Under the Training and Technical Assistance To Expand Children’s Advocacy Centers Serving American Indian/Alaska Native Communities program, OJJDP awarded $1 million to the University of Montana to improve the capacity of child abuse professionals and promote the effective delivery of the evidence-informed CACs model and the multidisciplinary response to child abuse across American Indian/Alaska Native communities.
  • OJJDP awarded $750,000 to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma via the Tribal Children’s Advocacy Center Expansion Initiative for Child Abuse Victims program to improve the capacity of child abuse professionals and promote the effective delivery of the evidence-informed CAC model and the multidisciplinary response to child abuse in tribal communities.
  • OJJDP awarded $500,000 to the Alaska Children’s Alliance (State Chapter) to enhance and expand the coordinated multidisciplinary investigation and prosecution of child abuse in Alaska through targeted training and technical assistance.

Grants awarded under FY 2020 SMART programs further the department’s mission of keeping communities safe by promoting innovation and best practices in preventing and protecting the public from sexual violence. Specific programs:

  • The National Sex Offender Public Website program awards over $900,000 for continued Maintenance and Operation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website program.
  • The Keep Young Athletes Safe program awards over $2.2 million to support the ongoing implementation of prevention measures to safeguard amateur athletes from sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the athletic programs of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, each national governing body and each Paralympic sports organization.
  • The Adam Walsh Act program awards over $16.7 million to 61 recipients to help jurisdictions develop and enhance programs designed to implement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which provides a comprehensive set of minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States. Almost $800,000 is being awarded to provide training and technical assistance to jurisdictions implementing SORNA standards.

Grants awarded under FY 2020 NIJ programs aim to evaluate and fund research projects related to perpetrators and victims of elder abuse. Specific programs:

  • The Research and Evaluation of Victims of Crime program gives over $4.2 million to six recipients to evaluate programs that provide services for victims of crime and research the financial costs of victimization.
  • The Research on the Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Elderly Individuals program awarded just under $1.5 million to two recipients to fund research projects to, respectively, better differentiate physical abuse of elderly individuals from accidental injury and to improve the reporting of elder abuse.

For a complete list of individual grant programs, amounts to be awarded and the jurisdictions that will receive funding, visit:

In addition to the grants listed above, OJP awarded nearly $101 million in funding to combat human trafficking and provide vital services to trafficking victims throughout the United States. For a complete list of individual grant programs, award amounts and jurisdictions that will receive this funding, visit:

Full Article & Source:

Friday, October 9, 2020

Settlement approved in Faulkner County nursing home scandal case; details kept confidential

By Max Brantley

Here’s one of the final chapters of a nursing home negligence lawsuit that led to a political scandal and a couple of federal indictments.

Circuit Judge Dick Moore signed a Perry County probate court order today approving the distribution of funds received from the settlement of a lawsuit against nursing home magnate Michael Morton and former Republican Party chair and Sen. Gilbert Baker for allegedly interfering in a nursing home negligence case over the death of Martha Bull, a Perryville resident.

The judge reviewed the confidential settlement in private and its terms were not on the record in either the motion for approval of the settlement or his order to disburse the proceeds.

Bull, 76, died one month after entering the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Faulkner County in 2008. She had severe abdominal pain and a doctor ordered her admission to a hospital, but the order was overlooked despite her agonized cries for help and she died that night,

A lawsuit was filed in Faulkner County by her daughters, Rose Perkins and Rhonda Coppak, and it led to a $5.2 million jury verdict in the court of Circuit Judge Mike Maggio in 2013. Maggio subsequently reduced the verdict to $1 million. And then stuff started hitting the fan. Maggio, then running for Arkansas Court of Appeals, said the verdict shocked the conscience. Our report on the decision, the first on it, indicated our shock at his decision.

It soon developed that Morton had contributed heavily to Maggio’s campaign at that time, through multiple PACs orchestrated by Baker. He also gave $100,000 to UCA, which then employed Baker as a lobbyist.

Thomas Buchanan, attorney for the Bull estate, sued Maggio, Morton and Baker in 2014 alleging that the campaign contributions influenced Maggio’s reduction of the verdict. Separately, a federal criminal investigation began. Maggio pleaded guilty to reducing the verdict in return for the campaign contributions and is serving a 10-year term. Baker has been indicted and is awaiting trial. Morton was not charged and has insisted he made legal campaign contributions to Maggio (and many other judicial candidates).

The 2014 lawsuit was settled earlier this week. Maggio is no longer a defendant. Morton, as owner of many nursing homes, is the likely source of any money paid to settle the case. Baker, when he appeared in court last year, was said to be making $53,000 as a music faculty member at UCA. He’s being represented by a court-paid attorney.

The petition in probate court said the Bull estate had been represented by three law firms — the Buchannan law firm, the Brannon Sloan law firm and the firm of Dodds, Kidd, Ryan and Rowan — working on a contingency fee basis. They were to be paid all recovered money and costs because of what they said was the complexity and upfront costs of the litigation.

Their filing said the confidential settlement terms included a “certain sum of money.” The petitioners asked the probate judge to distribute that money — since no claims are pending against the estate — in equal shares after payment of attorney fees and costs to seven heirs, including Coppak and Perkins. The judge reviewed the settlement amount, attorney fees and expenses in camera. This request was filed in Perry County Sept. 17.

Today, Judge Moore signed an order approving the request. It said the contingency fee was “reasonable” and ordered the remainder distributed to seven heirs, except for one portion held in trust for the estate of an heir that is still in probate.

When Buchanan confirmed a settlement had been reached earlier this week, he said he could say no more.

What’s left?

Baker’s trial is set Feb. 22. It’s never been clear if the federal investigation into the matter is otherwise closed but Maggio is believed to have been cooperating. The investigation verged into Baker’s activities as a fund-raiser for several judicial candidates helped by Morton, including Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood. My effort to pin down some federal information gathering ran into a Supreme Court stonewall last year.

Full Article & Source:

Arkansas nursing home case said settled

by Linda Satter

FILE — Rosie Perkins, left, comforts sister Rhonda Coppak while discussing the death of their mother Martha Crow Bull at her grave site in Perryville November 19, 2015. The family has been involved in a lawsuit after their mother's death in a Greenbrier Nursing Home was deemed negligent.

A lawsuit accusing nursing home owner Michael Morton and former lobbyist Gilbert Baker of corruptly interfering in a negligence lawsuit to cause former Circuit Judge Michael Maggio to reduce a $5.2 million jury award to $1 million in 2013 has been resolved, the plaintiffs' attorney confirmed Monday.

"All I can say is the case has been resolved," Little Rock attorney Thomas Buchanan said Monday about the Faulkner County Circuit Court suit that challenged the outcome of a negligence lawsuit filed by two daughters of Martha Bull, a Perryville woman who died in Morton's Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in April 2008.

In July 2013, Maggio, then a Faulkner County circuit judge, lowered the jury's award in the negligence case. Attorneys for Bull's family contended in the newer lawsuit, which was resolved within the past month, that Morton and Baker conspired to bribe Maggio to lower the award substantially.

Maggio pleaded guilty in January 2015 to a bribery charge, for which he is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison. Baker, who is also a former state senator and former chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, is facing a jury trial starting Feb. 22 on federal charges of conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud. Morton hasn't been charged, and he and Baker deny wrongdoing.

Electronic Faulkner County Circuit Court records on Monday didn't reflect that the corruption lawsuit, filed on Nov. 14, 2018, had been officially dismissed. Buchanan refused to comment on that Monday but noted that in general, any settlement of a lawsuit involving an estate must be approved by a probate judge.

Neither John Everett of Farmington, an attorney for Morton, nor Richard Watts of Little Rock, an attorney for Baker, immediately returned a reporter's call Monday about the case.

The case was being presided over by Special Circuit Judge David Laser, who last year declined to dismiss the lawsuit, rejecting arguments from Everett and attorney Kirkman Dougherty that the plaintiffs couldn't cite "a single piece of admissible evidence that could establish that Morton ever spoke to or communicated with Maggio in any way."

Baker's attorneys said last year that he has "consistently maintained" that he never asked Maggio or Morton to do anything improper or illegal.

Two days before Maggio lowered the jury's award, Morton, a Fort Smith businessman, either wrote or had someone write 10 $3,000 checks on his behalf to 10 political action committees after Baker faxed him the PACs' names with specified amounts, according to Baker's federal indictment.

Maggio's campaign for the state Court of Appeals ultimately got several thousand dollars but not all of the PAC donations.

Morton has said he made campaign contributions to numerous candidates for the 2014 election, but never asked for anything in return from a candidate and never discussed reducing a jury award with anybody.

Full Article & Source:

Sen. Lombardi to introduce bill to give family caregivers access to residents in nursing homes during pandemic

STATE HOUSE — As COVID-19 continues to tragically separate nursing home residents from their families, one state senator, Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), plans to introduce legislation that would give family members access to their loved ones in nursing homes during emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill would mandate that long-term care facilities establish an Essential Family Caregiver program that would allow a resident to have an essential caregiver designated. The caregiver would be a person such as a family member, outside caregiver, friend, or volunteer who provided regular care and support to the resident prior to the pandemic; and that person would be given more access to the resident on a regular basis to ensure their emotional and physical needs are met.

“It’s a tragedy that nursing home residents — particularly those suffering from dementia — continue to be separated from their families,” said Senator Lombardi. “It’s frustrating and infuriating that the social and psychological well-being of these residents is in jeopardy because they are unable to communicate with those they love. They may be safe from coronavirus, but they’re inflicted with a debilitating loneliness.”

In the legislation Senator Lombardi plans to propose, a person may request to designate more than one essential caregiver based on their past involvement and needs. The bill would require the Department of Health to develop rules and regulations on designating an essential caregiver and the criteria to qualify. 

Seven states, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, South Dakota and Michigan, currently have a variation of such a designation that would allow visitation during COVID-19 restrictions.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Pa. Supreme Court develops guidance for guardianship cases

HARRISBURG — In an effort to help judges navigate the complex issues involved in guardianship cases, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts has published the first edition of the Pennsylvania Guardianship Bench Book.

“Guardianship is a critical legal tool to assist persons with diminished capacity or persons with a disability in managing their affairs. Determinations of whether a guardianship is appropriate, or how to arrive at the least restrictive form of guardianship, involves the striking of a balance between protection and autonomy, and has always been a challenging inquiry,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd.

Serving as a valuable resource for Pennsylvania’s Orphans’ Court judges, the bench book reflects the accumulated wisdom of judges and practitioners who focus on guardianships. It is a comprehensive reference guide that outlines the laws pertaining to guardianships, offers alternatives to guardianships and provides guidance on how to identify and appoint guardians.

Resources such as this bench book supplement the numerous continuing education programs that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court requires all Pennsylvania jurists to complete each year.

Full Article & Source:

Nessel urges house to adopt legislation to strengthen elder abuse protections

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)  – Attorney General Dana Nessel issued the following statement after the Michigan Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 77, which addresses nursing home residents and their use of electronic monitoring. 

“Protecting the rights of Michigan’s senior population is one of my most important responsibilities as Attorney General. With Thursday’s passage of Senate Bill 77, our state is taking a giant leap forward in promoting the health and welfare of those who reside in nursing homes. Permitting the voluntary use of monitoring devices in these facilities will serve as a powerful deterrent against elder abuse and may provide law enforcement with the concrete evidence we need to secure a conviction if or when any abuse takes place. I am encouraged to see the Senate pass this important bill in such an overwhelming, bipartisan manner and am hopeful the House of Representatives will act quickly to pass this bill before the end of session.”

To view a copy of the bill and track its progress, visit the Michigan Legislature’s website and search for it by bill number.

 Full Article & Source:

Auburn police arrest woman on charge of financial exploitation of elderly person

Auburn police arrest woman on charge of financial exploitation of elderly person (Source: City of Auburn)

By Olivia Gunn

AUBURN, Ala. (WTVM) - Auburn police arrested a Dadeville woman on a warrant charging her with first-degree financial exploitation of an elderly person.

Michelle Harrelson Cosper, 56, was arrested Friday, October 2. Her arrest stems from a criminal complaint that began in July 2020.

According to Auburn police, officers received a report that involved the misuse of funds belonging to a victim over 60 years old. Police say Cosper was identified as a suspect and was arrested and charged after further investigation.

Cosper was transported to the Lee County Jail where she was held on a $7,500 bond. Auburn police say additional charges are possible and the case remains under investigation.

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Grandson Of The Late Walt Disney, Bradford Lund, Alleges Conduct Of Former Opposing Lawyer Was Like "Noxious Chemicals," In Arizona Litigation Filed Against Bryan Murphy


Bradford Lund

PHOENIX, Oct. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Bradford Lund, grandson of the late Walt Disney, recently, through his counsel, participated in oral argument to the Arizona Appellate Court following briefing where he is seeking to overturn the dismissal of a lawsuit against Arizona attorney Bryan Murphy, and his firm. Lund's lawyer argued that Murphy should not be allowed to escape liability on a "statute of limitations" argument that didn't apply to this case.  

Rather, Lund likened the harm caused by Murphy to pollution cases, trespass cases, and domestic violence cases which are often defined as "continuing torts" and cannot be subject to a statute of limitations argument to save the wrongdoer, until the harm itself is finally abated.   Thus, Lund argued, the statute of limitations did not begin to run until Murphy and his firm were finally removed from the case. 

Lund alleged in his December 2016 lawsuit that attorney Murphy and his law firm of Burch & Cracchiolo, which represented Lund's estranged relatives in an ultimately failed guardianship/conservatorship case, committed "abuse of [judicial] process" due to Murphy's  improper possession, disclosure, and utilization of Lund's confidential and "privileged" legal file which was delivered to him in error by Lund's former estate planning firm.  

Upon discovery of the privileged material, instead of merely returning the file back unexamined, or destroying the copy, an action that Lund alleged was his duty, Lund's filing, in a brief to the Arizona Court of Appeals, describes what happened next:

"[I]n an atmosphere of scorched-earth killer litigation, even after being advised by Mr. Lund's then counsel that the file should not have been disclosed to him, [Murphy] refused to destroy or return the file as requested. Instead, [Murphy] almost immediately examined every page, disclosed it to key participants of the litigation including the guardian ad litem, court appointed investigator, and multiple others. [Murphy] also went on to make notes about intimate confidential portions of the file. Armed with this improper information which he never should have even set eyes upon, [Murphy] remained as adversarial counsel in Mr. Lund's highly acrimonious case. – Lund Opening Brief, pages 1-2 (Emph. added).

Murphy was subsequently disciplined in the form of an "admonishment" for this same conduct.  Lund alleges it took years of legal wrangling and challenges by Murphy and his firm before the trial judge finally granted Lund's demand for disqualification of them, and, in so doing, found in pertinent part:

"…if disqualification is denied, [Lund] will be in litigation against an adversary who is armed with the knowledge of the advice that his own prior counsel gave to him. Litigating against a party who possesses such an advantage is antithetical to the values of an adversary system. While the burdens placed on Petitioners would be, in the final analysis, only financial, quantifiable, and their choice to bear, the burdens faced by Mr. Lund would be those of a system failure, incalculable, and beyond his ability to fully know." – Disqualification Ruling by Judge Bassett, page 5. (Emph. added).

Lund's filings compare Murphy's actions to "noxious pollution spewing through the air," meaning that the pollution continues and thus no "statute of limitations" is applicable until the "pollution" itself is abated. The brief on appeal stated: "The poisonous 'tactical advantage' of [Murphy] continued…until the fatal wound to justice was finally abated by the removal of [Murphy and his firm] as lawyers in the case." Indeed, in arguing for his day in court, Mr. Lund alleges that damages to him continue to this day and will be proven to be "irreparable" at a jury trial.

Contact: Alex Lange 
(202) 480-4309 

SOURCE Lanny Davis

Full Article & Source:
See Also: 

COVID-19: Advocating for Nursing Home Residents - October 2


Nursing homes and assisted living facilities: Federal scrutiny expected to continue

Attorneys Margaret E. Daum, Kristina Arianina and Callan Smith
While COVID-19 infections are widespread, the virus disproportionately affects the nation’s most vulnerable populations, including seniors. According to an updated estimate from two healthcare experts, 45% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Congress and the Trump administration have already provided funding and resources to nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the crisis, notably through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act [P.L. 116-136]. Given the disproportionate impact of the virus on the residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities should expect federal legislative and oversight activity to continue to be a priority throughout the remainder of this year and the next.

Ongoing federal legislative activity

Members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation focused on COVID-19 testing, transparency requirements, and reporting related to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

For example, H.R. 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act — that passed the House of Representatives on May 15, 2020 — would provide $150 million for CMS to establish and implement Nursing Strike Teams. The funding would be allocated to states, and Nursing Strike Teams would deploy to SNFs and nursing facilities (NFs) within 72 hours of three residents or employees being diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19. 

S. 3758, the Nursing Home COVID-19 Protection and Prevention Act of 2020, introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), has received bipartisan support. The bill would provide funds for states to support grouping individuals based on COVID-19 status. The bill would also require CMS to issue related guidance to outline which facilities would be permitted to group individuals and strategies for effective implementation, and provide detailed information regarding cases to residents, families, and specified government agencies. The House companion, H.R. 6972, was introduced by House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA). 

H.R. 6998, Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents and Workers During COVID-19 Act of 2020, introduced by Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), has also received strong support. The bill would modify several requirements related to quality of care, worker safety, and transparency for SNFs and NFs during the public health emergency. The bill would also require CMS to distribute funds to allow states to establish strike teams that may be deployed to SNFs and NFs within 72 hours of three or more COVID-19 diagnoses. The Senate companion, S. 3644, was introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) also introduced a bill to support nursing homes during the public health emergency titled S. 4182, the Emergency Support for Nursing Homes and Elder Justice Reform Act of 2020. The bill would provide nursing homes with resources to respond to the COVID-19 emergency to protect the health and safety of residents and workers, and it would reauthorize funding for programs under the Elder Justice Act of 2009. 

Ongoing oversight and investigations

In addition to funding and legislation, members of Congress are conducting oversight of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These activities are joined by new reviews initiated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG).  These efforts include:

  • The House Committee on Ways and Means, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Senate Committee on Finance, and Senate Special Committee on Aging have questioned how actions taken by the Administration and the facilities themselves have caused the deaths of nursing home residents and staff.   
  • Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and House Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) sent a letter in June to the HHS OIG requesting an investigation into whether five states—California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania—violated federal guidance and pressured nursing homes to accept patients who tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to the HHS OIG in June requesting that the OIG look into reports that nursing home residents across the country were instructed to hand over their Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) to the nursing home or assisted living facility in which they reside. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal have also raised concerns in June about nursing homes seizing residents’ EIPs. 
  • In June, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent letters to CMS and to the nation’s five largest for-profit nursing home companies, asking for detailed information regarding expenditures of coronavirus relief funds. After learning that one recipient, Ensign Group, had not spent the more than $100 million they received, Subcommittee Chairman Clyburn urged Ensign Group to spend the money for lawful purposes or return it. On August 5, Ensign Group reported that it had returned the funds.
  • In July, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and three other senators wrote a letter to CDC Director Redfield and CMS Administrator Verma, urging them to begin collecting and releasing demographic data on residents and workers of nursing homes who are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Democrats in Congress have also used the nursing home crisis to highlight the perceived mistakes of the Trump Administration. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a report detailing how the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the spread of the virus in nursing homes. Additionally, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) released a report on COVID-19 in Assisted Living Facilities, which found that assisted living facilities have many of the same problems as nursing homes in regards to COVID-19, but are receiving no help from the federal government. 

Additionally, in March, DOJ launched a National Nursing Home Initiative to pursue civil and criminal actions against nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents. By March, DOJ had initiated investigations into approximately 30 nursing facilities as part of this effort. In August, DOJ requested COVID-19 data from the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, citing orders that required nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients. 

The HHS OIG has announced multiple oversight activities related to nursing homes, including: (1) an audit of selected nursing homes to determine whether they have sufficient programs for infection prevention and control and emergency preparedness; (2) an audit of nursing homes’ reporting of information related to COVID-19; (3) a nation-wide, two part study to examine how nursing homes have met the challenges of COVID-19; and (4) a review of oversight by State Survey Agencies and the federal government during the pandemic.

Looking ahead

With the election nearly two months away and a potential second wave of the virus coming soon, it is likely the spotlight will remain on nursing homes and how they are faring during the pandemic. Both parties will continue to advocate for increased nursing home oversight, transparency, testing, and reporting, and oversight activities and legislation focused on these issues will likely continue to be a priority in the 117th Congress. 

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Carter Williams, Who Unshackled Nursing Home Residents, Dies at 97

Carter Williams, Who Unshackled Nursing House Residents, Dies at 97

In journal articles, conferences, congressional hearings and conferences with regulators, Carter Catlett Williams illuminated the miseries of nursing residence residents with the sympathetic and descriptive powers of a novelist.

She advised tales like that of Miss Cohen, whose restrictive weight-reduction plan prohibited the “heat, aromatic chunk of challah” she had eaten on Friday nights her complete life, inflicting Miss Cohen to refuse meals completely; and of Mr. Denby, a “courtly, dignified former govt” who underwent “id loss” after he grew to become “unable to rise to greet or bid farewell to his visitor as a result of he’s tied to his chair.”

She amassed a whole lot of accounts alongside these traces. They helped Ms. Williams affect the 1987 Nursing House Reform Act, which required expert nursing services to keep up the “bodily, psychological and psychosocial well-being of every resident.”

The regulation remodeled frequent practices in nursing properties and strengthened a reform motion, a few of whose arguments have been vindicated by the devastation of Covid-19.

“These phrases ‘psychosocial well-being’ are in there due to Carter,” stated Barbara Frank, a former affiliate director of the Nationwide Residents’ Coalition for Nursing House Reform. “That’s a contribution that we will hint again to Carter that differentiates how some folks have fared higher in the course of the pandemic.”

Ms. Williams died on Sept. 8 at residence in Gloucester, Va. She was 97. Her daughter, Mary Montague, stated the trigger was a coronary heart assault.

Ms. Williams wished extra dignity and autonomy for nursing residence residents. She targeted on what she referred to as “the homely particulars of every day life in a nursing residence,” like the flexibility for residents to decide on once they eat meals. In the usage of restraints, just like the one confining Mr. Denby, Ms. Williams discovered a central goal for her advocacy.

Between 1980 and 1987, at the least 35 nursing residence residents died due to the usage of restraints. One lady was strangled when hers was placed on backward. The units included vests strapped to chairs and bands tying fingers and ft to mattress rails. As Ms. Williams continuously emphasised, restrained folks couldn’t go to the lavatory and even scratch an itch.

In the course of the Nineteen Eighties, 41 p.c of nursing residence residents have been put in restraints daily. In New York State, the determine was 60 p.c.

Ms. Williams had a revelation on a visit to Sweden. She visited a nursing residence with 210 residents, none of them restrained. Ulla Turemark, the house’s director of nursing, defined her philosophy of “individualized care”: In distinction to People establishments, which rotated workers, the Swedish nursing residence requested its staff to get to know the residents.

That enabled them to determine, for example, which sorts of chairs and beds could be safe for various residents with different types of dangers.

“The concentrate on restraints form of introduced residence what it means to concentrate on individualized care,” Ms. Frank stated.

The 1987 regulation severely restricted the usage of restraints. “Individualized care” grew to become a extensively held objective: In 2006, a memo issued by the Division of Well being and Human Providers about “nursing residence tradition change” used the time period 28 occasions in simply 16 pages.

Right now, solely about 1 p.c of nursing residence residents get restrained, Ms. Frank stated.

“Carter, I’d say, was the star of the restraint-free motion,” she added.

Even after the 1987 regulation and laws that adopted it, Ms. Williams’s imaginative and prescient of on a regular basis life in nursing properties had not been totally realized. Within the late Nineteen Nineties, she led the founding of Pioneer Community, a nonprofit devoted to creating nursing properties extra humane. It helps coalitions working to reform institutional tradition in 22 states.

Pioneer Community’s suggestions embody giving residents non-public rooms, facilitating time outside and protecting workers and residents paired collectively, to allow them to kind bonds.

These measures have made a distinction in the course of the pandemic, when the coronavirus has unfold in nursing properties amongroommates and a altering array of workers members engaged on rotating foundation, all socializing indoors.

“What we now have been working to do is change the design philosophy and practices of care communities and senior dwelling communities away from a medical establishment mannequin into one that’s targeted on the individual themselves,” stated Penny Prepare dinner, the president of Pioneer Community. “One wouldn’t assume that that may assist in an infection prevention, however it does.”

Catharine Mott Catlett was born on Sept. 2, 1923, in San Antonio. Her father, Landon Carter Catlett Jr., an aviator, was stationed at a army base there. He died in a aircraft crash in 1925, and his spouse, Catharine Sanders Mott Catlett, a homemaker, renamed her daughter Carter, the title her father had passed by.

Ms. Williams grew up in Gloucester, within the Tidewater area of Virginia, the place her household had lived because the Seventeenth century. Her residence was Toddsbury, a Seventeenth-century manor, however she might afford her tuition at Wellesley solely by way of a beneficiant scholarship and gross sales from her mom’s modest daffodil farming operation.

In 1949, she acquired a grasp’s diploma from the Simmons Faculty of Social Work in Boston, the place she met T. Franklin Williams, who was attending Harvard Medical Faculty. They married in 1951.

In 1968, the household moved to Rochester, N.Y., the place Ms. Williams labored at an area nursing residence and noticed the indignities that may inspire her activism. In 1983, her husband grew to become the director of the Nationwide Institute on Getting older, a division of the Nationwide Institutes of Well being. Ms. Williams grew to become concerned in nationwide politics, and he or she and her husband grew to become “an influence couple on the planet of getting old,” Ms. Prepare dinner stated.

Mr. Williams died in 2011. Along with her daughter, Ms. Williams is survived by a son, Thomas Nelson Williams; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

In Ms. Williams’s remaining years, her protection of outdated age grew to become private. When an airline safety employee referred to Ms. Williams as “younger woman,” Ms. Montague recalled, her mom replied, “Don’t rob me of my years.”

As her profession slowed down, she discovered time to look by way of a small, battered field of letters from her father. In opening remarks at a Pioneer Community convention, she used the expertise to indicate the training and development attainable even on the finish of a life.

“Suppose you didn’t know your father’s love and his very lively half in your first 22 months till you have been in your eighth decade,” she stated. “It’s the fantastic journey of my third age.”

Full Article & Source:

‘It Is Abuse:’ Indiana Caregivers Say Nursing Home Visitation Policies Don’t Put Residents First

By Brock E.W. Turner

Trilogy Health Services did not comment on what happened at its Delphi facility. The company cited privacy concerns. (Brock E.W. Turner, WFIU/WTIU News)

Trilogy Health Services did not comment on what happened at its Delphi facility. The company cited privacy concerns. (Brock E.W. Turner, WFIU/WTIU News)

For months, thousands of residents in Indiana nursing homes have been isolated. What began as an early-pandemic protection is now eroding their quality of life. 

Despite forming an essential and compassionate caregiver program, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has deferred much of the oversight and management to facilities themselves. Caregivers are caught in the middle and often left powerless.

Vickie Ayres fights back tears as she remembers her mother, Carolyn, who died just last month after a stay in at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Campus in Delphi.

“She loved to travel and eat out and we would take her out several times a week for outings, and when they locked down that was over,” Ayres said. “They wouldn’t even take them out in the facility bus for a drive around or anything. They took everybody and made their worlds that were small, even smaller.” 

Allegations Of Mistreatment At An Indiana Nursing Home

St. Elizabeth Healthcare Campus is owned by one of the Midwest’s largest nursing home operators—Trilogy Health Services. When the pandemic began, Ayres says she considered moving her mother out of the facility and to her home, but she was concerned because there wasn’t an accessible bathroom in her farmhouse. 

“I didn’t feel like I was set-up properly in my home to be able to have her here,” Ayres admits. “Six months later, knowing what I know, do I wish I had done that? Yes.”

Ayres's mother, Carolyn, emjoyed travel, eating out and attending worship services at her church. (Photo Provided)

The place where her mom’s bathroom would have been is still unfinished down the hall from her home office. Contractors have been hard to find, she said.

But Ayres believes caregivers shouldn’t have to make that decision—seeing a loved one or leaving them in a place where extra care can be provided.

The situation quickly spiraled. Ayres says staff at St. Elizabeth Healthcare kept her mom isolated in the facility’s COVID-19 wing for weeks—even after she tested negative. 

The company—which is one of the largest nursing home operators in the Midwest declined an interview, and refused comment on the facility’s polices in a provided statement.

“Out of respect for the privacy of our residents and their families, we cannot comment on specific details regarding those in our care,” the company wrote.

According to Ayres, it gets worse, she says her mother and other residents went months without receiving proper showers.  She alleges staff restricted visits—even window visits—from her and other caregivers because “they were too dangerous.”

Ayres says she made the decision to move her mom due to the lack of visitation and her declining health.  She would eventually test positive for COVID-19 leading Ayres believe her initial test was a false positive. 

The facility’s owner, Trilogy, wrote it will, “continue to work closely with the ISDH, pursue transparency, provide quality care, and put our residents and their families first, just as we always have.”

Carolyn died on August 26 at the age of 81 due to complications of COVID-19.

Guidence Shifts Power To Facilities Instead Of Caregivers

Andrea Smothers is the ombudsman who serves the area, she says nursing homes across Indiana have been forced to interpret vague guidance and that’s leading to significant visitation variation. 

“The guidance that they were given pretty much from our perspective as advocates gave a lot of control to those facilities on how or when, or under what circumstances they would allow visitors,” she said.

That visitation guidance from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) was updated to reflect the latest federal recommendations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  It outlines clearer procedures, but sets a high bar for indoor visitation.

For example, a facility is not recommended to resume visitation unless it has had no new cases for 14 days, its county positivity rate remains low, and residents are notified.

Yet, multiple ombudsmen—who serve as advocates for caregivers and their loved ones—say facilities are doing a poor job communicating these visitation policies and updating caregivers on changes. 

Those changes and that lack of communication, I think build the distrust by the caregivers,” she said.

However, a state program designed to increase access to facilities is plagued with problems of its own.

senior center bus
The bus at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Campus was parked earlier this week. Caregivers and advocates say the facility has denied window vistation. (Brock E.W. Turner, WFIU/WTIU News)

 Instead of creating uniform visitation protocols, Indiana’s essential and compassionate caregiver program has produced a patchwork of guidance that experts and caregivers say is poorly communicated, while also giving facilities too much discretion.

The department declined an interview, but provided a statement saying, in part, “Recognizing the importance of this [essential caregiver] role, we have encouraged this in facilities.”

 Experts say the difference between “encouraging” and requiring is important. Under the current language, ISDH effectively lacks enforcement or oversight.

“Applications are not required to be submitted to the state Department of Health, so we do not have any data on the number of applications accepted or denied,” the department wrote.

During the state’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Chief Medical Officer for ISDH, said caregivers can still file a complaint with ISDH if they feel a facility has wrongly denied their application or isn’t meeting visitation requirements.

“Our infection preventionists work very closely with the long-term care associations we have biweekly phone calls work with them to really work through what does visitation look like and how we can do it safety,” she said the department works with facilities and trade groups to determine what is feasible.

“Of course, we always take family complaints or concerns and we’ll follow up on those,” Weaver said.

However, that process also favors facilities according Smothers.

“When I filed complaints on behalf of residents and their families who couldn’t get in, as an essential family caregiver, I got a very length, nice email from the surveyor saying, well, it’s up the facility, and there’s nothing more I can do.”

Misaligned Priorities

Families with loved ones in long-term care facilities know their time is limited. They’re tired how it is, and many don’t have the resources or time to file complaints with facilities or the state.

Nearly everyone interviewed, agrees tightening visitation at the beginning of the pandemic was the right decision, but few see the rationality six months later.

“What we’re doing is wrong,” Ayres said. “And it’s wrong to an extent that I don’t think many people are aware of.”

Smothers agrees.

“How do we justify that?  There may have been no on-on-one interaction that wasn’t supervised,” she said.

Mary Swinford, the Deputy Director of the state’s long-term care ombudsman program understands the initial hesitancy, but believes now is the time to find a solution.

“We do owe it to our seniors, our residents to continue to advocate for them to have these visits. These visits are vital to residents.”

Ayres has a hard time understanding why more people aren’t outraged a policy made out of necessity months ago remains in effect when rapid testing capacity is available for athletes, college students, and other populations.

“It is abuse,” she said. “At this point it is abuse because it is long-term. It isn’t the short-term health crisis solution to the pandemic.”

And that’s why she and others say they’re going to keep advocating for visitation.

“[Facilities and the state] could make it work, and it’s not that they can’t,” she said. “It’s that they won’t.  And that’s wrong,” Ayres said with tears in her eyes. “Even though my journey is over with my mom, I have to speak for those people that are left.”

Full Article & Source:

National Guard assists nursing home in Danville

The National Guard has been called in to assist after a spike in cases of COVID-19 at a nursing home in Montour County.
Author: Cody Grohotolski

DANVILLE, Pa. — The National Guard has been called in to assist after a spike in cases of COVID-19 at a nursing home in Montour County.

According to Grandview Nursing and Rehabilitation's website, there are now 33 active employee cases and 67 active resident cases.

That's a growth of 55 cases between employees and residents since last Wednesday.

There's no word on how long the National Guard plans to stay at the nursing home in Danville.

Full Article & Source:

Monday, October 5, 2020

'We sprang Grandma from the care home'

By Andrew Bomford

The decision to place an elderly relative in a care home is a difficult one at the best of times, but the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions on visiting make it even harder. For one family it seemed like the best solution before the virus arrived - but early last month they reversed their decision and brought 95-year-old Rita home.

It's late on a Saturday night, and a private ambulance pulls up outside a care home in Norwich. Rita Perrott, a frail 95-year-old, is helped out of the home in a wheelchair.

"Grandma!" shouts her granddaughter, Anna, delightedly. They give each other a long hug and a kiss. It's the first time in months such normal physical contact has been possible.

Anna appears almost giddy with the audacity of what they're doing.

"We've stolen grandma!" she proclaims.

"A kidnap?" Rita asks, playing along with the joke.

"It's a heist!" says Anna. "We've come late at night to steal grandma back!"

"I think they noticed," observes Ethan, one of the ambulance crew. The care home, of course, has agreed for her to be discharged.

Rita in the ambulance

Anna gently tells Rita they're on their way to the home of her daughter-in-law, Sue - Anna's mother. She adds that the reason for the move is that it had become almost impossible to visit her in the care home.

Rita is surprised by the late-night raid - they had no time to warn her in advance - but delighted that she will be able to spend more time with her family.

"Your poor mother!" she jokes.

Rita has dementia, and has grown increasingly weak and frail. She can no longer walk and even finds standing up painful.

Sue and the rest of the family are going to care for Rita now. The doctors say Rita is reaching the end of her life and the family could not bear the thought of her dying alone in the care home.

Even the ambulance crew is struck by the incongruity of what they're doing. "We only ever take people into care homes," they tell Anna and her mum. It's the first time they've taken anyone out of one.

Short presentational grey line

Rita had been in the home, Homestead House in Norwich, since the start of the year. It began as temporary respite care, but morphed into a permanent arrangement. Then coronavirus came along, and scuppered all the family's hopes for the part they would play in Rita's care in her final years.

With the home in lockdown, at first visitors could get no further than the car park, with Anna and Rita separated by a glass door, speaking to each other by telephone.

Later, visits were limited to one person visiting every two weeks, at a distance of 2m and wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).

It was a far cry from Rita's early weeks in the home, when Anna had even been able to help bathe her grandmother.

Although it had been an agonising decision for the family to place her there, Rita agreed it was the best care option for her, because everyone in the family was leading such busy and complicated lives. And she says she enjoyed living in the home, and making friends with the other residents.

For years she'd been cared for by her son, John, Anna's father, but he developed serious health problems and eventually had to have a leg amputated. For a while he struggled even to look after himself. A spell in hospital for Rita also exacerbated her problems; it was noticeable that her dementia was growing worse. 

Anna, Rita and John in March, discussing the future with a representative of the county council

At one point mother and son were both in hospital at the same time. When Rita was discharged, she was sent to Homestead House while a more permanent care solution was arranged, with Norfolk County Council agreeing to fund her social care.

Short presentational grey line

"Well, you just keep a troshin'," Rita says a few days after the heist, lying in her newly delivered hospital bed in Sue's spare room, and being waited on by the family. Rita has a wealth of old rural Norfolk sayings. "Keep a troshin'" means to carry on threshing.

Rita is carrying on gamely. Basking in the warmth of her family's love and care, she has rallied to some extent and has been sipping sherry from a straw, along with lots of tea and cake. She has a wicked sense of humour and says, with a glint in her eye, that she's looking forward to watching the Tour de France later.

"She likes their legs, you see," explains Anna. "She's only human."

Anna, Rita and Sue

For 95 years Rita has been at the heart of a close family.

Anna's mum, Sue, who is divorced from Anna's father, says Rita practically brought up her three grandchildren - Anna, Elly and Rachel.

"We had some good times all together," Sue recalls. "Lots of laughs."

"Very happy memories… It's been lovely," agrees Rita.

"This is so nice, thank you all," she says, taking quick, short shallow breaths.

"And I do appreciate all you have done. It's such a lovely feeling being loved, and loving back.

"Isn't that nice when you can look back on a happy time, with a dear little family, who've made me so welcome, and so much appreciated. And I thank you all," she says. Then she punctures the moment before it gets too maudlin: "Speech over…"

The family says they understand that care homes have to be strict about visiting, in order to keep coronavirus out. They have no criticism of the care Rita received.

But as her health deteriorated they found the restrictions on visits increasingly intolerable.

Rita lost a lot of weight in the home, and as she grew weaker she was taken to hospital for a few days. And there, it turned out, visiting arrangements were much more flexible.

"We were delighted when she went into hospital, because we could go and see her," says Anna. "It was really lovely."

But within a few days the doctors said they couldn't help her. She was at the end of life, they said, and would need to return to the care home.

Anna, Rita sipping sherry, and Elly

Anna asked about the home's visiting arrangements when someone is dying and was told that one family member could visit twice a week for just 20 minutes a time. Again, they would have to wear full PPE and remain at a distance of 2m.

"You're not even able to hold your loved one's hand when they're dying," says Anna. "And the chances are you'd miss it anyway. The idea of her being on her own to die just sounded barbaric and very cruel, not how we'd planned for that to happen."

"The most important time of grandma's life, being with her family was taken away from us," says Sue. "That's why we made our decision for her to come here."

Sue recently retired as a nurse, so feels confident that she can care for Rita. But she says she's aware that many families in a similar situation would not have the space, time, or experience to do the same thing.

Rita's son John, her ex-husband, agrees. Despite the divorce, the family has remained close.

Rita, Anna and John earlier this year

"My greatest fear was that Mum would have passed away and we would not have been able to see her," he says. "I think there needs to be more flex in these arrangements. We support care homes in what they're doing, but at the same time it's a huge tension."

The so-called heist was planned in a hurry, out of a fear that the care home might lock down completely, and not let any of the residents out.

Now the family is concerned that restrictions on household mixing will become tighter.

Since Rita came home, other relatives have also been able to visit Rita, and will continue to do so as long as the rule of six remains in place. They are determined to make the most of the time they have together.

The family thinks Rita would have probably died by now had she remained in the home and they believe her days are numbered even now she is with them. It's something they have been coming to terms with over the last few weeks, and they speak openly and honestly with Rita about it.

"It's not just about dying, but dying well," says Anna.

"We're waiting for a chair upstairs," says Sue. "It's standing room only in heaven but Grandma needs a chair."

"We'll know when it's time," adds Rita.

I asked her how she feels about dying.

"It's fine with me. Everything has worked out ever so well. You only live once don't you?"

"Will you be sad when she dies?" Anna asks her sister, Elly.

"Yes, but I am the person I am because of her and what she did for me as a child," says Elly. "It would just be the end of a lovely life. It will be tainted with sadness because I can't imagine life without Grandma. But it's ending how she would have wanted it to end."

On cue, Grandma suddenly breaks into an old song.

"Now is the hour for me to say goodbye…"

"Oh blimey," exclaims Anna.

"Soon I'll be sailing far across the sea," Rita continues.

"While I'm away, oh please remember me…

"And I can't remember the rest!"

The family breaks into laughter. It will no doubt be a good way to go.

Full Article & Source: