Saturday, October 31, 2020

Texas Nursing Home Blistered with "Massive" Fine


by Families for Better Care
 
Texas’ Health and Human Services imposed a “massive” $120,000 fine against River City Care Center in San Antonio after inspectors discovered conditions that placed residents in “immediate jeopardy” of harm.

The fine dates to a July 4th investigation when the facility’s HVAC system failed.  Indoor temperatures rose above 80 degrees in some of the residents’ rooms.  The excessive temperatures caused multiple residents to suffer heat related trauma, including one resident who needed to be hospitalized for “heat convulsions.”  The resident later died.

Creative Solutions in Healthcare, the facility’s management company, published a statement about the incident, saying the company “will take no action to dispute the administrative violations reported by the agency nor seek a repeal of the fines.”

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Disbarred Lawyer From Northern Westchester Admits To Stealing $1M From 9/11 Victim Funds

A disbarred attorney from Northern Westchester admitted to stealing approximately $1 million that was rewarded to one of his clients from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Photo Credit: Pixabay
by Zak Failla

A disbarred attorney from Northern Westchester admitted to stealing approximately $1 million that was rewarded to one of his clients from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Yorktown Heights resident Gustavo Vila pleaded guilty in White Plains Federal Court for stealing from his client, who was a first responder who suffered life-threatening medical conditions while cleaning up the crash site at Ground Zero.

The Victim Compensation Fund was created in the wake of the terror attack to provide government funds to compensate anyone who was harmed or killed as a result of the attacks.

It ran from 2001 to 2004 before being reactivated by the federal government in 2016 and 2020.

Claimants seeking compensation from the Fund were authorized to work with an attorney and have the attorney, on the victim’s behalf, submit a claim to, and receive the claimant’s award from, the Fund. 

An attorney’s fees were limited to 10 percent of whatever was awarded to the first responders.

Between 2012 and 2019, Vila represented a retired NYPD officer who was diagnosed with and suffered from, serious, life-threatening medical conditions, including cancer, as a result of rescue and recovery work he performed at Ground Zero.

Throughout his representation of his victim, Vila held himself out as an attorney to the officer and the Fund, despite the fact that in 2015, he was disbarred after being charged in an unrelated grand larceny case.

In May 2013, Vila submitted a claim on behalf of his victim, though the funds received - a total of $1,030,622.04 - were directed straight into a bank account controlled by Vila in September 2016 after he had been disbarred.

Prosecutors said that in October 2016, Vila was required to distribute all of the money into his victim’s bank account, minus the 10 percent attorney’s fee.

Instead, Vila kept the money and failed to even tell his victim about the deposit.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said that Vila used the money for himself, including to pay his own taxes from October 2016 through February 2020. Vila allegedly never told his victim that the transfer had been made four years prior.

Vila was arrested earlier this year when his victim learned of his disbarment and contacted the Victim's Compensation Fund himself and learned that the transaction had already been completed.

"As he admitted today, Gustavo Vila stole money awarded by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to his client, an NYPD officer and 9/11 first responder, and falsely told the client for more than three years that the stolen money had yet to be released by the Fund. Now Gustavo Vila awaits sentencing for his crime," Strauss said.

Vila, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 5, 2021.

 
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More than $780,000 for public safety agencies in fight against COVID

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – More than $780,000 in federal funding has been awarded to Kentucky public safety agencies and offices to help protect Kentuckians, including seniors, against scams and fraud and to respond to price gouging during the fight against the coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced the U.S. Department of Justices Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program (CESF) awarded the grant funding to the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (DPA).

Attorney Generals Office of Consumer Protection Enforcement Unit
In his former role as Attorney General, Beshear worked to protect Kentuckians against fraud and scams. He has continued those efforts as Governor. Beginning with the first COVID-19 case in Kentucky in early March, Beshear signed an executive order prohibiting price gouging, which he has continued to renew during the pandemic.

To bolster anti-price gouging efforts, the Governor said the Attorney Generals Office of Consumer Protection Enforcement Unit has been awarded $540,323to hire one staff attorney, one paralegal and one investigator to address rampant COVID-related consumer fraud, scams and price-gouging complaints.

Funds also will be used to develop a mobile application for consumers to report price gouging, scams or other fraudulent activity related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the application, the Office of the Attorney General wrote that after the Governor issued an Executive Order on March 7, 2020, to protect Kentuckians from price gouging, the office began receiving many price-gouging complaints, which grew exponentially over the course of the coronavirus emergency and by August, the office had received more than 4,624. The Governor said these funds should help the office protect more Kentuckians from price gouging and seek justice for those already harmed.

Monday, the Governor published a Charitable Giving Guide that advises Kentuckians how to verify legitimate charities and avoid charity scams, which can increase during the Christmas season and as the tax year draws to an end.

The Governor said that Kentuckians already are facing the greatest challenge of our generation with COVID-19, and that the guidehelps Kentuckians ensure their hard-earned dollars are used to help their neighbors and are not stolen by scammers. To read more click here.

Beshear said with the grant, his administration is supporting the Office of the Attorney General in doing more to stop scams through the grant program.

The Attorney Generals Office of Senior Protection has been awarded $144,136 to hire a dedicated investigator to address a dramatic expansion in financial fraud and exploitation targeting Kentuckys senior population in the wake of COVID-19. In addition, the office will launch a targeted education and awareness campaign, the Senior Justice Initiative, to combat COVID-19 fraud targeting seniors.

As part of the application, the Office of the Attorney General indicated that they have seen an alarming increase in the number of senior victims and amount of financial fraud in Kentucky during COVID-19.

The office said in July, they saw a 2,354% increase in financial fraud reported to the Office of Senior Protection and those who fell victim to financial exploitation and fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic have overwhelmingly been Kentuckians who are ages 60 or older.

Increases in online shopping and online banking scams during COVID-19, combined with the effects of social isolation and loneliness created by the pandemic have added to the ability of scammers to successfully lure victims into these scams.

Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy
The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) has been awarded $102,270 to launch a pilot project in Hardin County to address adverse effects of COVID-19 on indigent clients.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble said COVID-19 has affected indigent clients access to the court system and to legal counsel with some in-person services temporarily halted to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This grant funding is instrumental as we work to adjust to a new normal within the court system and how legal services are being provided electronically. DPAs pilot program could reinvent the criminal legal system for the long-term and propel our state forward as we work to win against this pandemic, said Noble.

DPA said the funds will be used to implement a pilot project to address systemic pandemic-created constitutional barriers that have arisen due to the global coronavirus outbreak. Chief Regional Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton and Hardin County Jailer Josh Lindblom both were consulted prior to the submission of the grant funds request. Both agree with the need for enhanced technology in all courtrooms in the county to protect the health and constitutional rights of justice-involved persons and are in support of the pilot project.

This project will:

  • Identify constitutional issues related to access to courts and counsel during the pandemic;
  • Enhance access to courts through electronic means, both for in-custody and out-of-custody clients; and
  • Create guidelines and recommendations for short-term and long-term solutions that must be implemented to better prepare the criminal legal system moving forward.

For additional information and to apply for CESF grant funding visit theJustice and Public Safety Cabinets website.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

Alzheimer’s Vaccine to Cut Cases in Half

By Elizabeth Nelson

Alzheimer’s is an epidemic in our world today, and the number of cases is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. 5.7 million Americans suffer from the disease currently, and there may be double that number by 2050, according to the University of Texas. In an effort to keep that from happening, experts have been working on treatments and preventative methods for the disease for decades. And this time, they think they may actually have found the answer.

A team of researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has concocted a vaccine they believe will prevent Alzheimer’s cases, effectively cutting the number of cases of dementia in half. So far, the vaccine has shown promise in animal testing, safely producing antibodies to guard against the buildup of unwanted amyloid and tau proteins in the brains of mice, rabbits, and monkeys. The researchers’ findings have been published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Adam Gregor

The team hopes their vaccine will soon be able to move on to human trials. And if it’s successful there, it will quickly move on to production and be placed on the market, where it will be useful to millions of people wishing to stave off dementia.  

This study marks a significant progress toward a safe and successful method of Alzheimer’s prevention, and it’s the first of its kind to be this effective without any noticeable side effects, such as brain inflammation. Even if the vaccine isn’t fully effective in preventing Alzheimer’s, it might at least be useful for staving off the disease for a short time.

“If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for the patients and their families,” said Doris Lambracht-Washington, a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Photo: Adobe Stock/sudok1

Of course, this vaccine won’t get rid of dementia entirely, even if it’s fully successful. Dementia is simply the broad description for the symptoms of cognitive decline, but there are many causes. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of those causes, which accounts for about half of dementia cases.

However, even small steps in the right direction are more than we’ve had in the past and offer immense hope for the future. We hope this team has great success with their vaccine and is able to make it available to the public soon!

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Nurse and CNAs suspects in the death of an elderly woman at a Colorado Springs nursing home


By Tony Keith

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A group of people who have dedicated their careers to helping people are now suspects in the death of a 90-year-old woman.

On Feb. 3, police were called to the Union Printers Home at 101 S. Union Boulevard after the body of Margarita Sam was found on a bench outside on the long-term care facility’s property. Following an autopsy, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office determined that the victim had died of hypothermia.

“Ms. Sam wandered outside the facility and became exposed to temperatures in the range of 23-30 degrees Fahrenheit,” police wrote in a news release on Thursday. “Following an investigation by CSPD and the Colorado Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, the decision was made to file criminal charges against three employees of the Union Printers Home long-term care facility related to Ms. Sam’s death.”

SUSPECTS IN THE CASE:

-Nurse Rosalie Warren, 52 years of age, was charged with Negligent Death of an At-risk Person, Colorado Statute 18-6.5-103(2)(a), a Class 4 Felony, and Neglect of an At-Risk person, Colorado Statute 18-6.5-103(6)(a), a class 1 misdemeanor.

-Certified Nursing Assistant Asia Murray, 35 years of age, was charged with Neglect of an At-Risk person, Colorado Statute 18-6.5-103(6)(a), a class 1 misdemeanor.

-Certified Nursing Assistant Taquenis Eldridge, 31 years of age, was charged with Neglect of an At-Risk person, Colorado Statute 18-6.5-103(6)(a), a class 1 misdemeanor.

All suspects, in this case, have been served summonses and await upcoming court dates.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent the following statement to 11 News on Feb. 12:

“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a summary suspension to the Union Printers assisted living and nursing facility on February 11, 2020. This action suspends the facility’s license and begins the process of safely transferring residents to other facilities, effective immediately. There have been numerous complaints and subsequent investigations at this facility in the past few years, most notably after a recent resident death. Findings from those investigations demonstrate that Union Printers does not have the ability to provide consistently safe care to its residents. For more information about those findings, please visit the department’s website - www.healthfacilities.info. Beginning today, the department will work with sister agencies to inform the residents, and begin safe transfers to other facilities. The department expects that process to take approximately 45 days. To ensure that all residents receive satisfactory care and services during this time, a management company has been hired. This management company will run the daily operations of Union Printers, with increased supervision from the department. In closing, the department has acted swiftly and decisively to close Union Printer’s home to protect the welfare of its residents and will remain involved until all residents have safe placement at another health care facility.”

 
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60 Charged in $300M Phone Scam Targeting Elderly Victims

Photo: photo courtesy of pixabay.com

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Sixty people have been charged in a widespread magazine telemarketing scam that authorities say netted $300 million from more than 150,000 elderly and vulnerable people nationwide, the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota announced Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald called the scam the largest elder fraud scheme in the country.

MacDonald said the 60 defendants face a host of charges, including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and violating the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994. The defendants are from 14 states and two Canadian provinces.

“Unfortunately, we live in a world where fraudsters are willing to take advantage of seniors, who are often trusting and polite. It’s my hope that this prosecution is a call for vigilance and caution,” MacDonald said in a statement.

The indictments and other court documents say that over the last 20 years, the defendants used a network of dozens of fraudulent magazine sales companies and telemarketing call centers to carry out the scam. Employees allegedly used deceptive sales scripts to trick people into making large or repeat payments to the companies.

The indictments allege that many of the defendants used a fraudulent “renewal” script in which the telemarketers falsely claimed to be calling from the victim’s existing magazine subscription company with a phony offer to reduce monthly subscription costs.

In reality, the callers had no existing relationship with victims and signed them up for expensive, new magazine subscriptions. As a result, consumers ended up having multiple subscriptions with fraudulent magazine companies.

“Using a tactic like telemarketing magazine sales, these deceitful scam artists bilk hard earned money from their aging victims - leaving so many financially devastated in their retirement years and without recourse for recovery,” Michael Paul, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Minneapolis, said.

Some of the defendants are also accused of using a “cancellation” script that targeted people who had been previous victims. According to the indictments, these defendants took advantage of victims’ desperation to make the subscriptions stop and offered to consolidate and cancel existing subscriptions and pay off an alleged “outstanding balance” in exchange for a large lump sum payment. In reality, victims owed no money.

The indictments charge defendants at all levels of the alleged conspiracies, including people who allegedly led the scheme, company owners, call center managers, telemarketers and others. Those who led the scheme provided the companies software programs that tracked orders, sales, and other customer information.

The U.S. attorney’s office says the fraudulent companies were operating in Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, California, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Arkansas.

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

People With Down Syndrome 10 Times More Likely To Die From COVID-19

An illustration of COVID-19. (CDC)

by Shaun Heasley

Individuals with Down syndrome are at especially high risk of hospitalization and death from the coronavirus, researchers say, adding to evidence that the virus is particularly hard on those with developmental disabilities.

People with the chromosomal disorder are four times more likely than others to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and they face a 10 times greater risk of dying from the virus.

The findings, published in a research letter this month in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, are based on a review of medical records for 8.26 million adults in England between late January — when the virus first emerged in that country — and June.

The group included 4,053 people with Down syndrome and 68 died during the study period, nearly 40% of them from COVID-19. By comparison, only 20% of the 41,000-plus deaths in people without Down syndrome were related to coronavirus.

Researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Nottingham, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London said that the higher risk did not seem to be influenced by age, sex, body mass index, smoking status or alcohol intake.

The increased risk was estimated after researchers said they adjusted for “cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and care home residence, which our results suggest explained some but not all of the increased risk.”

Those with intellectual disabilities other than Down syndrome appeared to have a much lower risk, according to the findings.

Down syndrome is “associated with immune dysfunction, congenital heart disease, and pulmonary pathology and, given its prevalence, may be a relevant albeit unconfirmed risk factor for severe COVID-19,” the researchers wrote.

Information about the heightened risk for people with Down syndrome from COVID-19 should be used by “public health organizations, policymakers, and health care workers to strategically protect vulnerable individuals,” they indicated.

Currently, information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about who is at increased risk from COVID-19 does not specifically mention Down syndrome.

“Most people with developmental or behavioral disorders are not naturally at higher risk for becoming infected with or having severe illness from novel coronavirus (COVID-19),” the CDC says. “However, people with developmental or behavioral disorders who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at risk of serious illness.”

Nonetheless, this is not the first research to suggest that COVID-19 could be more of a danger to this population. A study out earlier this year indicated that people with developmental disabilities are significantly more likely than others to die if they contract COVID-19.

Another report out just this week looking at data from California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia found that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were no more likely than others to contract the coronavirus. But, 12.3% of those with the disabilities who got COVID-19 died compared to 6.7% of virus patients in the general population.

 
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Woman with autism dies, 2 indicted for ‘inadequate guardianship’


TOWN OF CHENANGO (WBNG) -- On Oct. 26, the Broome County Sheriff's Office says two people were indicted following an investigation into the death of 23-year-old Kayla Kunkel, who lived with autism.

56-year-old Renee Kunkel and 61-year-old Edward Kunkel were indicted in the following charges:

  • Manslaughter in the second degree, a class C felony
  • Endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the 1st degree, a class A felony
  • Two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor

On June 29, 2019, the sheriff's office says deputies and EMS responded to 40 Theresa Blvd. in the town of Chenango for a person who was not breathing. They found Kayla Kunkel and CPR was performed on her.

Kayla was taken to Wilson Hospital where she died.

The sheriff's office says its investigation determined Kayla was not capable of caring for herself and her death was the result of "inadequate guardianship."

Authorities noted two children were also found in the residence. They say the two children were living in unsafe and "grossly" unsanitary living conditions.

More information about the children was not released.

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Some nursing home residents risk their lives to escape isolation

Lllian DeHart, 92, celebrates her arrival home and her great-granddaugher Grace BhatiaĆ¢€™s fifth birthday along with her other great-granddaughter Nora (left) at her son’s home in Loudon on Friday, October 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By TEDDY ROSENBLUTH

The family decision to take Lilian DeHart out of her nursing home was an easy one.

They convened a family meeting on Skype during one of Lilian’s designated call times and presented the risks of leaving the protected bubble of masks and rigorous COVID-19 testing. If she were somehow exposed to the virus, it could be fatal. They asked her if she still wanted to leave the nursing home.

“Absolutely,” she said.

As the coronavirus ravaged nursing homes in New Hampshire, facilities adopted new policies to protect their residents – they limited visitations, ended group activities, and, in some cases, confined residents to their rooms for weeks at a time. But as families watched their loved ones struggle in their isolated, albeit safe, new environments, some questioned at what point their quality of life inside the facilities was not worth protecting. A couple made the decision to take their loved ones out of the nursing home altogether.

“You are saving these patients from death by COVID but you’re killing them from a broken heart,” said Pat DeHart, Lilian’s daughter-in-law.

DeHart, 92, who lived in Merrimack County Nursing Home, was on hospice for a bad heart when the pandemic struck. The isolation had taken a toll on her. Since the start of the pandemic, she had lost 32 pounds, which Pat DeHart attributes at least partly to the social isolation.

Lilian DeHart’s family members did their best to keep her company. They attended their weekly Skype call religiously. In July, Pat DeHart, Lilian’s daughter-in-law, and her husband drove 700 miles for two 20-minute outdoor visits. However, after new guidance released by the state required those coming from outside New England to quarantine for two weeks, it became infeasible for Pat, who lives and works in New Jersey, to visit.

“Her world is getting smaller and smaller,” she said.

The DeHart family planned out Lilian’s vacation from the nursing home – they hired a private, wheelchair accessible van to pick her up, carefully planned out visiting times for family members and pastors to visit and soon, she was sitting snugly in a brown Lazy Boy in her son’s living room in Loudon.

Lilian stayed there for a week, where she ate lobster rolls and played scrabble with her family. One of the hospice workers, who came by to help her shower and administer medications, commented on how happy she seemed.

Tonya Dubois, the director of nursing at Hillsborough County Nursing Home, said a couple of families at her facility have opted to take their family members out of the home.

“Some of the patients say ‘I don’t care if I die of COVID, I don’t want to be isolated,’ ” she said.

Especially as the holidays approach, Dubois understands why some families are making this decision. As cases rise in New Hampshire, she isn’t sure how the nursing home is going to be able to celebrate. She worries many will go through their last holiday seasons without seeing their families.

In a typical year, about 300 families would come into Merrimack County Nursing Home for a holiday meal. Though legally there is nothing preventing families from taking their loved ones out for the holidays, Matt Lagos, an administrator at Merrimack County Nursing Home, said he can’t recommend it.

Anyone who leaves the facility has to quarantine for two weeks when they return, which quickly burns through personal protective equipment which they could need in case of an outbreak.

Furthermore, even after rigorous testing and a 14-day quarantine, allowing someone from the outside world in risks bringing in the virus.

“We see how quickly the virus flies through facilities,” he said. “That’s something that keeps me up at night all the time.”

 
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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The hidden Covid-19 health crisis: Elderly people are dying from isolation

Joanne Miles Thomas looks through a screened window at her father, George Miles Sr., a resident at a facility in Rochester, N.Y., on Oct. 10.Mariana Henninger / NBC News

By Suzy Khimm

The moment that Tammy Roberg stepped off the elevator, she could hear her father’s booming voice.

Chester Peske, 98, loved to sit in the lunchroom at Copperfield Hill and talk to the other memory care residents about everything from the weather to the history of the highway that connected his hometown to downtown Minneapolis, 6 miles away. While he had Alzheimer’s disease, Peske still recognized his children when they came to the Robbinsdale, Minnesota, facility for weekly visits.

“He would talk and talk and talk,” Roberg said with a laugh.

Then, in March, there was almost no one that Peske could talk to.

When the pandemic hit, long-term care facilities across the country, including Copperfield Hill, shut their doors to visitors and largely kept residents to their rooms, suspending most group activities and communal meals to protect residents from Covid-19. Peske was hard of hearing, so phone calls were a struggle. Roberg’s only lifeline to her father was the staff of the facility, who reassured her that he was doing well.

Click to Watch Video

The first sign of a problem came in mid-May when her father tested positive for Covid-19. Roberg prayed for his health, but was relieved when his case appeared to be asymptomatic.

Then in late May, Roberg got another alarming call from the facility. It wasn’t the virus, they said — something else was wrong. “His head was down into his chest, and he was sitting slumped in his wheelchair,” her father’s aide said, according to Roberg. “He was not his perky, chatty self.”

Roberg later learned that her father, who’d always had a healthy appetite, had been losing weight. Even more isolated in quarantine after his Covid-19 diagnosis, he was becoming quiet and disengaged, even with the staff members who tended to him, a nurse later told her.

He still had no coronavirus symptoms — he was just withdrawn, according to Roberg and an administrator at Copperfield Hill. Roberg was hopeful that he would bounce back with more hands-on attention from the facility. But four days later, on June 2, she got another call: She should come right away. Her father was dying.

That morning, Roberg flew in from Wisconsin and met her brother in the parking lot of Copperfield Hill. Together they walked into the entryway of the facility, where they were temperature-checked, and then put on gowns, gloves and face shields. A nurse finally brought them up to her father’s floor and opened the door.

“Oh wait a minute—” she said, stopping short. “I think he’s gone.”

Roberg gasped when she saw her father’s gaunt body lying on the bed. After three months of separation, she missed her only chance to see her father by minutes.

His death certificate listed the cause of death as the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and “social isolation / failure to thrive related to COVID-19 restrictions.”

Social isolation was listed as a contributing cause of death for at least nine other Minnesotans — almost all long-term care residents — from June to September, according to state death records; no deaths in the previous two years cited social isolation as a cause.

One of the nurses who treated Peske later described his deterioration as a burning candle with no oxygen left to draw from the air. It was as if a light had gone out, Roberg said: “He couldn’t survive from being isolated.”

Tammy Roberg with her father, Chester Peske.
Tammy Roberg with her father, Chester Peske.Courtesy of Tammy Roberg

The unseen cost of lockdowns

The effort to shield elderly, frail and disabled residents from the coronavirus has created another wrenching health crisis: The confinement meant to protect the most vulnerable is also threatening their lives.

“The isolation is robbing them of whatever good days they have left — it accelerates the aging process,” Joshua Uy, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said.

“You see increased falls, decrease in strength and ability to ambulate. You see an acceleration of dementia, because there is no rhythm to your day. There isn’t a single part of a person’s life that isn’t affected.”

Syndication: Rochester
With help from staff members, a nursing home resident stands to wave to family members below at St. John's Home in Rochester, N.Y., on April 24.Tina MacIntyre-Yee / Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

While there is no comprehensive tally of elderly people dying from causes linked to social isolation and confinement, evidence is mounting that restrictions related to Covid-19 are taking a toll on their health, according to a review of recent research and interviews with medical experts and dozens of families across the country. The phenomenon is far harder to track than the number of Covid-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities — 84,000 as of early October, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — as it is unusual to list isolation as an official cause of death. But the harms are still real, experts say.

One recent study of a Chicago-area nursing home found that from December 2019 to the end of April 2020, two-thirds of the residents had lost weight, in some cases dramatically — a change that researchers attributed to reduced social interaction, the cessation of family visits and schedule changes due to the pandemic.

Confinement, social isolation and the lack of external stimulation are also fueling cognitive decline and depression, which in turn increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, according to Dr. Louise Aronson, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Sometimes the doors to their rooms are open, and you just see someone sitting in a chair with tears running down their face,” Aronson, who is assisting San Francisco’s response to the pandemic in long-term care facilities, said. “People ask me, ‘Is this the rest of my life? If so, I don’t want to go on.’”

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While most states have begun allowing some form of routine in-person visits for long-term care facilities, the guidelines vary widely, and many restrictions remain — not only to protect residents, but also vulnerable front-line staff members, many of whom are low-wage Black and Hispanic workers. Some states and facilities are only allowing limited indoor visits, and colder weather is already curtailing outdoor visits. Many nursing homes have resumed communal dining and group activities, but still require residents to remain distanced from one another. And a single case of the virus can put a facility back on lockdown for weeks.

The threat from the pandemic has not receded: On Friday, the U.S. hit a new record number of Covid-19 cases, and nursing homes from Massachusetts to Wisconsin are reporting new outbreaks. At the same time, policymakers need to weigh the competing risks, said David Grabowski, a health policy professor at Harvard Medical School, who recently served on an independent federal commission that recommended expanding in-person visitation at long-term care facilities.

“We’ve locked these older adults in their rooms in the name of safety without thinking about the unintended consequences here,” Grabowski said. “In many respects, the side effects are worse than the potential harm of a slightly higher risk of infection.”

Gloria DeSoto, 92, visits with her family in their car through a window of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in Bronx, N.Y., on June 11.
Gloria DeSoto, 92, visits with her family in their car through a window of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in Bronx, N.Y., on June 11.Seth Wenig / AP file

Strict, prolonged lockdowns can dramatically alter residents’ health. Uy said that he saw some patients rapidly lose the ability to perform basic tasks — such as standing, feeding themselves and swallowing safely — while confined to their rooms. Physical therapy and other rehabilitation services have also been cut back because of the pandemic.

“Until the pandemic, ‘sudden frailty’ would have been an oxymoron,” Aronson said. “Normally, it would take months to years, and we are now seeing it in weeks.”

But while deadly coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes tend to grab headlines, the slower-moving health crisis inside these facilities caused by social isolation and confinement remains largely invisible.

Unlike cases of Covid-19, it is not always clear when a resident’s health is deteriorating because of pandemic-related restrictions, given the complex medical issues that brought them to the facilities in the first place. “Failure to thrive,” for instance, is often characterized by weight loss, reduced appetite and lower activity levels — symptoms that could also be linked to other underlying health conditions. But the biggest marker is psychological, and closely linked to isolation.

“It means, they give up,” said Dr. Joseph Ouslander, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles Schmidt College of Medicine. “You do everything to get them to participate, to get them to eat, and despite that they continue to go downhill.”

‘I would do anything to get away’

Beverly Noody used to drop by her mother’s assisted living facility in upstate New York at least twice a week. The first thing she would do: Walk over to her mother’s chair to see that her feet were propped up.

Barbara White, 94, had congestive heart failure, so her limbs tended to swell from fluid buildup. She was supposed to keep her legs elevated when she was sitting down, and to get up and about a few times a day. But her daughter knew that wouldn’t always happen unless she made sure it did. “She never had her feet up when I came to visit,” Noody said. “If her ankles and knees were swollen, I would have noticed it.”

Two months into the pandemic, Noody got a call that her mother was en route to the hospital because of dangerous swelling in her legs. She recovered, but the same thing happened again in June, Noody said. She could no longer use her walker to get around safely, as she kept falling. Her condition ultimately deteriorated so much that she was moved out of assisted living and into the adjoining nursing home, Premier Genesee, where she could be supervised around the clock.

Noody had always thought of her mother as the no-nonsense type, true to her German roots. But in July, when she was helping to move her mother’s possessions into the nursing home, she found a letter that White had written during the pandemic, but hadn’t given her.

"Beverly, I want to come home for good. I don’t know how to get out of here,” her mother wrote. “I would do anything to get away. I was told today this was forever. Do you know how I can get away?”

Barbara White
Barbara White with her daughter Beverly, her grandson Brad, and her great-granddaughter Hunter.Courtesy of Beverly Noody

New York was the first state to ban visitors from nursing homes in mid-March, and other states quickly followed suit. The virus has still taken a devastating toll on residents, many of whom were highly vulnerable because of their advanced age and underlying health conditions. At least 6,600 long-term care residents in New York have died from Covid-19, an undercount that doesn’t include those who died after they were taken to the hospital.

While nursing home cases and deaths have ebbed since the spring, New York has remained cautious about reopening long-term care facilities to visitors. In July, the state announced that limited outdoor visits and residential activities could resume, but only after facilities were free of Covid-19 cases for 28 days.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Premier Genesee was preparing to begin outdoor visits under the state’s new guidelines when a staff member tested positive in late July, pushing back the reopening, as required by the state. Noody and other angry family members held a local rally in early September protesting the state’s visitation restrictions; other grassroots groups have held similar protests elsewhere in New York and other states.

“If she got Covid and she passed away, I would be heartbroken,” Noody said of her mother. “But do I want her to live walled up in a room? Absolutely not. It’s not fair. Nobody wants to live like that, but they're not even given a choice.”

Under mounting pressure, New York officials relented in mid-September and lowered the threshold for in-person visits to 14 days without a coronavirus case. They also added a requirement for visitors to have a verified negative Covid-19 test. There are still strict caps on the number of visitors allowed in the facility, as well as social distancing and mask requirements.

New York officials say the restrictions are critical to protecting residents and front-line workers at these facilities. “This pandemic is not over,” Jill Montag, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said in a statement. “Our decisions will continue to be driven by data and science, and now is not the time for anybody to let their guard down.”

A tent is set up near the windows where visitors can see residents at the Premier Genesee Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Batavia, N.Y., on Oct. 9.
A tent is set up near the windows where visitors can see residents at the Premier Genesee Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Batavia, N.Y., on Oct. 9.Mariana Henninger / NBC News

Diminishing quality of life

The Covid-19 restrictions are especially painful when residents themselves can’t understand why their family members have stopped coming to visit. More than half of nursing home residents have moderate or severe cognitive impairment from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other conditions, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Before the pandemic, Adele Billig constantly circulated throughout her nursing home in Delray Beach, Florida, always showing up for bingo, poker night and karaoke, where she loved belting Frank Sinatra. “I’m never in my room, so don’t call my room, because you’re not going to get me,” the 95-year-old often told her daughter, Melinda.

Under lockdown, Adele’s social life disappeared. Mostly confined to her room, she had little to keep her engaged: She had trouble following television programs, and phone calls could be difficult, as her hearing aids regularly went missing. “She’d say, ‘I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you.’ Then she’d just give up,” Melinda said. Sometimes when Melinda called, her mother assumed that her daughter was in the building, waiting to come up for a visit, and was crestfallen when she learned she wasn’t there.

Adele began sleeping more and more, even falling asleep during their phone calls, which had never happened before, Melinda said. By June, she was developing wounds that were not healing — a serious sign that her body was breaking down. But the most upsetting part for Melinda was the feeling that her mother didn’t fully grasp why she had stopped visiting, as her memory was spotty.

“I wish I could be there with you,” Melinda told her mother in July.

“If you say so,” her mother responded flatly.

It was the last conversation they had. The next week, the nursing home called to tell Melinda that her mother had died. The official cause of death was heart failure, but Melinda doesn’t think that conveys the full story.

“Part of why she died,” she said, “is that her quality of life had diminished to such a point that there wasn’t any.”

‘Why can’t I hold her hand?’

Even when family visits resume, there are usually significant restrictions in place. When Gelsey Randazzo Markese went to see her grandmother Rose Violet Randazzo for the first time in seven months, the rules made her almost regret showing up at all.

It was the last week of September when she arrived at the Edna Tina Wilson Living Center in Rochester, New York, with her grandfather Vincent Randazzo, who had been married to her grandmother for 69 years. Markese had been raised by her grandparents, who adopted her as a baby, so it was especially hard to be separated from Rose Violet for so long.

Vincent Randazzo and his wife, Rose Violet Randazzo.
Vincent Randazzo and his wife, Rose Violet Randazzo.Mariana Henninger / NBC News

When a staff member brought her out in a wheelchair, Rose Violet, 91, instinctively stretched out both arms to touch Markese, then broke down sobbing when the aide told her that they had to remain at least 6 feet apart.

“My baby, my baby...” she wept, her arms still reaching for her granddaughter, who was also in tears. “She’s my baby.”

It was a wrenching experience for Markese, who was seven months pregnant and had been waiting to tell her grandmother in person. “To me it was almost more tortuous being there, so close but not being able to touch,” she said. “It was like being punched in the stomach.”

Markese and other family members are now pushing New York officials to create a program that would enable them to be recognized as “essential caregivers” — a designation that would allow them to provide hands-on assistance and companionship for loved ones in long-term care facilities.

In June, Indiana became the first state to permit essential caregiver visits for family members who had tended to residents at least two times a week prior to the pandemic, subjecting them to the same Covid-19 testing requirements as staff members. Minnesota, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and other states have made similar accommodations for family members, stressing their role in monitoring their loved ones and advocating on their behalf. Florida recently announced that facilities can allow outdoor visits even if they have recently reported coronavirus cases.

Markese knows how deadly Covid-19 can be; 11 residents and one staff member have died of the virus at her grandmother’s nursing home, according to federal data. But she believes that visits without social distancing can be done safely.

“If we follow the same protocols in place as the staff members do — the staff members who bathe my grandmother and help toilet her and help comfort her by holding her hand — then why can't I hold her hand? Why can't I give her a hug?” Markese said. “Why can't my grandfather embrace her when she's crying out to touch him?”

Vincent Randazzo holds a frame containing photos of him and his wife, Rose Violet Randazzo.
Vincent Randazzo holds a frame containing photos of him and his wife, Rose Violet Randazzo.Mariana Henninger / NBC News

To address the impact of prolonged isolation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued new guidance in September to help expand “compassion care” visits in nursing homes. In addition to allowing end-of-life visits, facilities could also permit families to visit residents who are losing weight or dehydrated and need encouragement to eat or drink, as well as residents who are “experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently,” the new guidance said.

State and local governments, however, can still impose stricter rules for nursing home visits and usually give facilities considerable leeway in deciding when to reopen. The push for more visitation is also coming amid signs that the pandemic could reach a dangerous new crisis point in the fall and winter, increasing the risk of community spread.

Nearly eight months into the pandemic, some long-term care facilities are still struggling to protect themselves from Covid-19. Nursing homes across the country continue to report a lack of reliable testing and personal protective equipment, as well as staffing shortages. Without adequate protections in place, in-person visits could put both residents and staff members at greater risk.

Industry lobbyists are now pushing Congress for more money for facilities to prepare for the next wave of the virus, while admitting there is a tough trade-off when it comes to protecting residents.

“We too are concerned about prolonged social isolation for our residents,” the American Health Care Association, which represents for-profit long-term care facilities, said in a statement. “With cases rising in many parts of the country, we must be vigilant about protecting our nation’s most vulnerable, but balance that with the need to stay connected with loved ones.”

‘It didn’t have to happen’

Tammy Roberg is still haunted by the circumstances of her father’s death. Shocked by the weight he had lost at the end, she asked the staff to show the logs of what he ate at every meal, only to be told there weren’t any. A nurse later told Roberg that isolation often prompts deep depression among Alzheimer’s patients, which helped explain why her father had deteriorated so quickly.

Ashley Fjelstad, a spokeswoman for Copperfield Hill, said that Peske’s health had not declined dramatically until his final days. She said the facility typically only notes if residents refuse to eat at all, not the portions they eat at each meal. And she noted that changes in routine are especially disruptive for those with Alzheimer’s disease: The common areas of the facility, where residents can socialize and do activities together, “are the heart and soul of memory care,” she said.

On the morning of her father’s death, Roberg sat down beside his body and took his hand in her own. She prayed and told her father that she loved him. But she couldn’t shake how he looked lying there. “Why was he so skinny?” she wondered. “When did he last eat?”

Several weeks after his death, Minnesota enacted a policy allowing essential family caregiver visits in long-term care facilities, including Copperfield Hill.

Roberg never got that time. Months later, she keeps holding onto the same thought: “It didn’t have to happen.”

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96-year-old veteran aims to be oldest Marine to run Marine Corps Marathon

A 96-year-old World War II veteran is hoping to become the oldest Marine to ever complete the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.

Thiele "Fred" Harvey, who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima, is participating in the race with a team of marathoners -- Dr. Glenn Paige, Chris Haley and Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Lawrence -- who plan to push Harvey across the finish line.

Paige, who has run several Marine marathons, first met Harvey four years ago. The two have talked every week since. 

"We're gonna run 26.2 miles and, hopefully, make him the oldest Marine to cross the finish line in his custom, commemorative wheelchair that will be used in the future by disabled veterans for Marine Corps Marathons," Paige said. 

Dr. Glenn Paige and T. "Fred" Harvey

The team raised $5,000 to build the special chair, decorated with pictures of Harvey, his war medals and patches, and inscribed with his name. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's marathon went virtual, so Harvey will race with his friends in Fredericksburg, Texas, finishing at the National Museum of the Pacific War.

"I would have loved to have finished with him at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but the next best thing is his favorite museum here in Fredericksburg," Paige said. 

Harvey said at the museum this summer that he wants people to remember those who sacrificed their lives during World War II. 

"I can talk about the war, and I am going to talk about it as much as I can, because I want the people to remember those buddies of mine that paid with their lives for the life that we have here in the U.S. today," he said

Harvey was a private during the fierce five-week battle in early 1945 against dug-in Japanese forces at Iwo Jima. He was awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat. 

"When his three-man patrol which was sent out to establish contact with the adjoining company was ambushed by heavy fire from an enemy machine gun and one of the men was seriously wounded, Private First Class Harvey dragged the fallen Marine under heavy fire to the shelter of a nearby hole," his citation says

"Remaining with the wounded man while his companion went for aid, he held off the hostile forces with his rifle and hand grenades until the arrival of the rescue party. Then, exposing himself to enemy fire and directing accurate heavy fire on the Japanese position, he successfully covered the evacuation of the casualty."

The marathon this year will be on the 75th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, so the commemorative finishing medal will contain actual black sand collected at the island, as well as filmstrip images of the iconic raising of the flag by victorious Marines.

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Elder fraud scheme swindles victims out of $9.5 million in fees for false prizes, psychic services

by  Kimberly Bonvissuto


A Connecticut list brokerage firm pleaded guilty to facilitating elder fraud schemes resulting in at least $9.5 million in losses to victims through mass-mailing schemes.

A corporate representative for Macromark Inc. pleaded guilty Sept. 25 in the U.S. District Court in Hartford, CT, to charges that the firm was part of a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The schemes tricked thousands of consumers into paying fees for “falsely promised cash prized and purportedly personalized ‘psychic’ services,” according to the Department of Justice. 

The government alleges Macromark provided list-brokerage services from 2005 to 2016 to clients running mass-mailing fraud schemes. Specifically, Macromark reportedly helped fraudulent mass mailers acquire and sell lists of potential victims to other mass mailers. Those lists were “essential” to the fraudulent mass mailer clients, allowing them to more effectively reach consumers susceptible to their schemes, including the elderly and vulnerable, the Justice Department said.

In 2016, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service executed search warrants on the company’s offices, and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch obtained a federal court order preventing the company from facilitating mass mailing fraud. That court order resulted in a permanent injunction prohibiting Macromark from dealing in certain promotions or solicitations, including sweepstakes reports, wealth-building programs or psychics. The company also was required to hire a compliance officer and to audit a sample of all list orders for five years. 

“List brokers and service providers, such as Macromark, who facilitate these schemes are especially dangerous,” said Inspector in Charge Delany DeLeon-Colon of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group. “Data firms such as this have extraordinary access to consumers’ personal information, not just their mailing address. The sale and distribution of this data exponentially magnifies the scale and impact of these schemes.”

Macromark’s guilty plea follows a separate guilty plea by former Macromark Executive Vice President Steven Keats in July 2018 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. In March, former Marcromark Senior Vice President Norman Newman was indicted by a Connecticut grand jury for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, along with 15 counties of wire fraud. Newman is scheduled for trial on March 1. 

Under the terms of the company’s recent guilty plea, Macromark could be sentenced to three years of probation, forfeiture and fines totaling $1 million, and be required to cooperate with any related government investigation or prosecution. The final sentence awaits a ruling from the federal court overseeing the case.

 
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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Bertha Bernal’s Children Get to See Their Mom – in the Hospital! the Drama Continues

by  Frank Parlato

At midnight on October 2nd, 93-year-old Bertha Bernal was admitted to St Jude Hospital, in Fullerton, with a condition that was later described to the family as “low sodium”.

The text from Maila Soliven, Bertha’s caregiver, came a good 11 hours later – not even a phone call she deemed necessary.

What follows is an emotionally charged chapter in the Bernal children’s fight for their mother. One that mixes the joy of the encounter, with the apprehension for her well being.

[Artvoice is following the Bertha Bernal’s case, and reporting on her children’s relentless efforts to resume visitation with her, and perhaps even take back the conservatorship that was awarded to unattached ‘professionals’.]

‘We Want to See Our Mom Before She Dies’ – California Probate Court and Abusive Conservatorship System Denies Children of 93 Year-Old Visitation

Bertha Bernal, a Prisoner to California Probate Courts Deserves to Be Reunited With Her Family

Terrible Story: Three Children Fight to Save Their Mom From California Probate Court-Ordered Isolation and Terror

 

Friday, October 2nd.

 

“Although I was anxious about Mom’s condition.” Sandi explains, “I was so excited to drop everything and rush to the hospital to be by her side.”

Sandi’s arrival in the hospital on Friday made Bertha clearly happy, although she was still a bit disorientated.

Photo evidence shows what no second-hand medical opinions in the world can deny:

 

 

Bertha thrives in the care of those in the world who love her the most. This is patent for all to see. All but California Probate Court, that is.

The usual family photos, playing cards, games – all those familiar stimuli benefit her. She enjoys playing with her children. The nurses and staff were all very friendly, which was also a good departure from Bertha’s everyday life.

“When I prepared to leave, at night, she became anxious and kept asking me not to go – but I promised her I would be there, by her side, in the morning.”

As she drove home that night, so many things went through Sandi’s head, besides the joy of seeing her Mom again.

 

Saturday, October 3rd

 

The reader can see for himself Bertha’s reaction to being around her children.

 

Sandi was there, bright and early, first thing in the morning, on Saturday. Not a minute could be wasted in this window of opportunity to be with their mom. Cathleen was flying in from Northern California, to also be by Bertha’s side.

It had been several months since any of them had seen their Mom. A cruel and unwarranted separation that had been temporarily lifted.

Besides the joy, being with Bertha afforded the opportunity to learn more about her current health situation.

“I noticed some wrapped padding in her room, and shortly after the orderly came in and proceeded to put padding on all the bed rails.” Sandi recalls. “When I asked what they were for he informed me that she has seizures and this was to protect her.”

“Imagine my horror when I heard this, as I was not nearly aware that the condition was so advanced.”

The information flow from the conservator to the family is so flawed it’s almost unbelievable. There is, actually, a continuous  effort to deny the family even the most basic medical information.

So, it was no surprise when the nurse, that morning, informed Sandi that Ms. Suzette Smith, Bertha’s court-appointed conservator, had called in and informed the hospital staff that they were NOT to give any information to the family.

The usual modus operandi.

“Why is that? We are not asking to make decisions for her (even though her family should be doing that) but we are concerned about our Mother and her condition.”

“It was a joy to order her meals, play games with her, make her laugh and to just be by her side to love on her and help give her some familiarity to help make her feel happy and secure.”

Cathleen came in straight from the airport, and  was able to be with Bertha, too. It felt like a small miracle.

 

Sunday, October 4th

 

Bertha wanted her hair combed forward.

 

Cathleen went back for Sunday, and spent the day with Bertha. It felt so natural, it should be the obvious way to go – allow her grown children to be with her.

“From morning until she fell asleep, we laughed, looked at photos of her children and grandchildren and her 2 siblings,” tells us Cathleen. “We played cards, tic-tac-toe, watched TV. I combed her hair, because she said she didn’t like her bangs combed back. ‘Comb down, down’, she asked.”

That we even have to be defending what should be an obvious, inalienable right, is shocking to the core.

 

 

With all the love around her, as well as the competent and caring medical attention she got, her medical situation soon improved, and she was scheduled to be discharged on Monday.

One of the doctors said, “Wow, she looks so, so much better!”

That should be a happy development for the family – if it was not for the fact that she was to be handed over back to her “caregiver”, and go back into the unreasonable, unacceptable isolation she has been subjected.

 

Monday Oct 5th

 

The daughters arrived very early, lest they miss the chance of being with their Mom a little bit more.

“We got there at 7am before visiting hours,” Sandi explained, “because we feared that the caregiver [Maila Soliven] would come early to pick Mom up so as to avoid us completely.”

[That’s exactly what the caregiver did at the last hospitalization of Bertha. She coordinated with the rehab center staff to call her when Sandi left the hospital premises, subsequently only checking the elderly lady out of the rehab facility after 10 pm.] 

“This time, the conservator arranged to have her medically transported back to the board and care,”  Sandi says. “The whole experience was a roller coaster of both joy – of being able to be with and comfort Mom – and sadness, for the condition she was in.”

Daughter Cathleen was told several times by a hospital doctor that “they needed to make sure she eats enough and stays well hydrated, so this won’t happen again.”

“We always suspected she was not getting enough food at her residence,” shares Sandi, “based on how fast and intensely she would eat her lunch at the activity center. After what the doctor said to my sister, it seems like our darkest fears may be realized.”

Despite the Conservator’s orders for the medical team not to relay any medical information to the family, the daughters were able to read that, on the patient chart in her room, Bertha’s weight was recorded as 125 lbs.

“I was shocked when I first saw her, and noticed the bones protruding from her neckline!”

“Each day, I would go down to the cafeteria to buy her a big to-go container of fresh fruit,” says Cathleen. “You see, the conservator and mom’s “keeper” (caregiver is too generous of a term) wouldn’t know mom’s favorite fruit is watermelon, and cantaloupe.”

“So I cut up the fruit, and every couple bites mom would say, ‘Boy that’s good fruit!’ I’d always say, ‘Sweet, huh?’ She would nod yes.”

The happiness of a mother and her daughters together. The natural way of life that we are fighting to restore.

 

 

And so it happens that Bertha Bernal is back to the house of caregiver Maila Soliven, where she lives in complete isolation from her loved ones, as one of the elders taken care in what is essentially a family home. Where it seems to be the case that, the least she leaves the bed, the better. Where she is not eating enough, where she has apparently not being hydrated to the doctors satisfaction.

A place where she can’t see her family – but she can vote? How is that even possible that a dementia patient under conservatorship can be deemed able to vote?

How long will the family be tortured in this fashion?

We call on California Probate Court authorities to reunite Bertha Bernal with her children Sandi, Cathleen and Anthony. NOW!

 
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Concerns raised over ability of people under guardianship to vote

by David Winter 

Concerns raised over ability of people under guardianship to vote (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - One-and-a-half million people across the country are under guardianship, and considered unable to make decisions for themselves, but many are still legally able to vote. That includes thousands of people in the Tri-State area.

‘My initial response was, 'She shouldn’t vote!',” said Leslie Knepper from Owensville. “Because she was declared unable to live alone, she’s unable to make her medical decisions.”

Knepper has guardianship over one of her family members, who called her over the weekend excited that she just voted.

“I had a lot of concerns,” said Knepper. “The first is, 'If I can’t get in there, who did?' Who took it, how it was marked, and whether it was legal that she voted.”

Knepper's family member is a nursing home resident. A staff member told Local 12 that they had two other staff members certified to administer ballots -- one Republican, one Democrat. In Ohio, nursing homes can request their own certified staff, or have people from the Board of Elections come administer ballots.

“The right to vote is precious,” said Director of Election for Hamilton County, Sherry Poland. “And this is not one that the Board of Elections can make a determination on. If you have a family member that you believe is not mentally competent for voting purposes, then you should seek guidance from the probate court.”

“A person could be adjudicated incompetent, found incompetent to manager their property and their personal affairs, and yet still be able to vote,” said probate attorney Julia Meister, of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. She says judges need to be petitioned and then determine whether to render someone incompetent to vote, with no set criteria.

The fact is, of Hamilton County's 600,000 voters, none have been rendered incompetent to vote.

Knepper says she is now convinced her family member was able to vote competently, and the act of voting may have done her some good.

“I haven’t heard her that excited on the phone in a couple of years," she said. "She kept saying, ‘It’s official, I voted!'”

People in Kentucky, like Ohio, need a probate judge to rule them incompetent to vote. Indiana has no law on the books regarding voting competency. There are states, like New Jersey, that do not allow people to vote if they are under someone else's guardianship.

 
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