Saturday, November 28, 2020

Ohio starts ‘friendly line’ for lonely nursing home, assisted living residents

By Kaitlin Schroeder

In an attempt to lessen the loneliness of Ohioans in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Ohio is starting a “friendly caller” initiative where residents can sign up for regular conversations.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid announced it is joining forces with the Area Agencies on Aging and the five Medicaid insurance companies that manage Medicaid benefits to operate the joint “friendly caller” initiative.

In Ohio, nearly 19,000 facility residents have been infected from the virus and and 54% of reported coronavirus deaths in the state are among residents in long-term living facilities. Visitor restrictions to keep the virus out have also limited or canceled time with family and friends.

Residents interested in the initiative are linked through the area agencies with trained callers to share their thoughts, feelings, and memories, or converse on any topics of interest during twice-weekly, 30-minute phone chats.

Callers trained on the UCLA Loneliness Scale – the leading scientific measure in evaluating loneliness – include three questions from the assessment tool to identify residents who may need additional interventions.

“Research shows us that the holidays are an emotionally challenging time for those residing in shared living facilities – a reality exacerbated by months of social distancing and limited interaction with loved ones,” said Maureen Corcoran, director of Ohio Medicaid.

“We also know that depression can accelerate physical deterioration – this initiative gets to the heart of the matter by offering consistent, caring, and highly interpersonal connections that are needed now and throughout the holidays ahead.”

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found a notable increase in the rate of depression among facility residents due to the pandemic. One in four adults ages 65 and older (24%) reported anxiety or depression in August (a rate that has 2 been relatively constant since March). By comparison, the same study conducted in 2018 found that roughly 10% of this group reported anxiety or depression.

Any nursing or assisted living facility with a minimum of 50 residents receiving services through an Ohio Medicaid managed care programs can participate in the program.

The department said more COVID-19 prevention and intervention strategies will be introduced shortly and follows initiatives already underway, such as vaccine clinics to catch kids up who fell behind on immunizations during the pandemic.

Full Article & Source:

‘Florida is a hot mess’: Nurses union raises alarm as coronavirus spreads

Hospitals are without adequate staffing and protective equipment, and patients are suffering because of it, members of National Nurses United said during a news conference.


Nurses and their supporters rally in front of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx borough of New York oon Thursday. The nurses were demonstrating to bring attention to the the lack of preparedness for a coronavirus second wave, especially with regards to PPE and staffing levels. [ SETH WENIG | AP ]

By Megan Reeves

Nurses from six of the country’s coronavirus hotspots, including Florida, held a news conference Monday, pleading with hospital administrators, government leaders and the general public to take COVID-19 more seriously.

National Nurses United, the country’s largest union for registered nurses, has been vocal since the pandemic’s start. It has raised alarms on inadequate staffing and protective equipment, as well as layoffs and the mounting burnout and anxiety nurses are facing.

Now, as infections surge across the country, nurses are worried about what is to come. They feel government leaders haven’t done enough to equip healthcare workers or inform the public, said union president Jean Ross, a nurse in Minnesota.

“Nurses can see the catastrophic levels of death and suffering on the horizon,” she added. “If we don’t correct course immediately, that will happen.”

Problems are prevalent in Florida hospitals, including those the Tampa Bay region, said Marisa Lee, a longtime labor and delivery nurse at Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee. Her hospital and others continue to force nurses to reuse disposable face masks and work on floors they don’t have the training for, she said.

Hospitals aren’t testing every patient for the virus, Lee added, and they aren’t testing nurses unless they have symptoms. Patients who are awaiting test results are housed near other patients who do not have the virus, and nurses who have been exposed aren’t being told by management. Those who test positive but do not have symptoms are made to come to work, Lee said.

Meanwhile, coronavirus patients are pouring in. About a quarter of Florida’s regular and intensive care unit beds were available Monday afternoon, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

“Florida is a hot mess,” Lee said. “Florida is wide open with no restrictions of any kind. We have already had many COVID patients and yes, those numbers are exponentially increasing.”

The unsafe working conditions have caused many nurses to quit, the union said. At Osceola Regional, 15 emergency room nurses have left and 20 quit from the medical-surgical floor, which has become the COVID-19 unit, Lee said. There are now four full-time nurses on that floor; the rest are contract or travel nurses.

Four other nurses shared dispatches from hot spots in Chicago; El Paso, Texas; Marquette, Mich.; and Robbinsdale, Minn. They told stories similar to Lee’s and said they’re afraid of what the holidays will mean for the rate of infection — and what that will force them to face at work.

“We know the right way to battle this virus and take care of our patients, but we are not prepared with the resources that we need,” said Minnesota nurse Mary Turner, who was visibly emotional. “There is something seriously wrong when nurses have to take to the streets to beg for protection in the middle of a pandemic.”

Consuelo Vargas’ hospital in Chicago can’t keep up with the demand of patients, and it’s leading to increases in bed sores and falls, as well as delayed care, she said. More people are showing up to the emergency room because they have lost their job and health insurance in the pandemic, and they can’t get care anywhere else.

“I see it on my coworkers’ faces,” Vargas said. “They’re so tired of fighting. They don’t have that much more to give. ... We need everyone to listen to the nurses. ... That means the hospital administration ... the government ... the general public.”

All the nurses, as well as union executive director Bonnie Castillo, urged the public to do its part, too, by staying home for the holidays. Gatherings will only increase spread of the virus and compound the problems nurses are already facing, she said.

“Are you willing to give up one holiday season for 10 more?” Vargas pleaded, teary-eyed. “Think of everything you want to accomplish in your life, the places you want to go, the things you want to do, the people you want to spend your time with. Are you willing to give all that up?”

Full Article & Source:

GPS Shoe Insoles Can Help People Keep Track Of A Loved One With Dementia

By Timothy Roberts

Life can be challenging when a loved one has dementia, not only for them but for everyone who cares for them. There are numerous challenges associated with it, especially when it comes to the memory impairment associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s. As they begin to lose focus, they may end up wandering off getting lost which can be distressing for everyone involved.

A company based in Los Angeles, California, GTX Corp has designed some GPS shoe insoles for those with dementia so it is easier to track their movements.

Photo: GTX Corp SmartSole

The company’s website states that the GPS SmartSole is a patented, ergonomic insert that easily fits into most adult shoes. It is a complete tracking device, so you don’t have to worry about another device that may not be remembered by the individual. It also reduces the stigma associated with attaching a visible device to the person with dementia.

“This is wearable technology that not only provides peace of mind, but can also save lives, while preserving the privacy and dignity of the wearer,” says the website.

One of the potential issues is that the GPS SmartSole is thicker than a typical shoe insole but most people still consider it to be comfortable enough to use. They may not even notice a difference in their shoes. In order to reduce the possibility of discomfort, the company is advising users to loosen the shoe’s straps or laces.

You will pay $299 retail for the GPS SmartSole but you don’t have to pay it all at one time. There are service plans available to pay $29.99 per month or $74.99 quarterly so they remain functional. The economy plan doesn’t ping you as often, requires an activation fee, doesn’t provide Geozone alerts and has a higher shipping cost. Even so, the price is $14.95 per month so it may be worth it to some families. To take advantage, you need access to GTX Corp’s mobile data network. 

There are also other smart tracker options available to help with Alzheimer’s and dementia patient tracking.

AngelSense: is a device that attaches to clothing and can’t be removed by anyone but the caregiver. It is also available from GTX Corp. A daily report of the location, steps, and routes are available and the caregiver is alerted if their loved one ends up in an unfamiliar place or did not leave for an appointment on time.

The AngelSense Guardian Kit includes what is necessary to get started, including the GPS device, a magnetic key, three fasteners, and a charging cable. It used to cost $225 but it is currently being sold for $75. Monthly reporting plans start at $33.33 per month.

iTraq: This device works along with a smartphone app to track someone with dementia. It includes both a fastener and motion sensor and alerts the caregiver if it detects a fall. They are marketing the iTraq Nano as the world’s smallest all-in-one tracking device that includes global tracking and can last as long as four months on a single charge. The device is resistant to dust and water and wireless charging options are available. An SOS button is also included that instantly notifies of the precise location of the wearer. This is not a tracker that keeps tabs on real-time location but it does monitor temperature and alerts you if the loved one exits the designated area.

You can purchase the iTraq Nano for $129 and it includes one month of reporting. The monthly fee is $5.90 or you can pay $59 a year for the service plan. Provide your email address and you will receive a $10 off coupon.

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Shreveport woman charged with defrauding elderly Texas woman out of nearly $5 million

by: Patrick Cunningham

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A Shreveport woman has been indicted in federal court for allegedly defrauding a Bullard woman out of $4.85 million.

The indictment states that 44-year-old Monica Ruiz enlisted a variety of “false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises in a scheme to defraud an elderly victim.” The alleged schemes included:

  • Ruiz had been in a coma
  • Ruiz had brain surgery
  • Ruiz was falsely arrested and imprisoned
  • Ruiz had bribed a judge and prosecutor
  • Ruiz’s son had died in a car accident in Pennsylvania
  • Ruiz was in a car accident
  • Ruiz had a kidney transplant
  • Ruiz daughter was committed to a mental institution
  • Ruiz was in jail
  • Ruiz’s grandmother had died

Ruiz allegedly created multiple false personas with the victim in order to scheme her out of the money.

In October 2017, President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law.  The EAPPA’s purpose is to increase the federal government’s focus on preventing elder abuse and exploitation. 

Subsequently, the Department of Justice launched the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI).  Through the EJI, the Department has participated in hundreds of criminal and civil enforcement actions involving misconduct that targeted vulnerable seniors. 

This past March, the Department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide sweep.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). 

The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.

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A 70-year-old came out of retirement to teach nursing. She died with COVID-19 after a student exposed her.

by Andrea Salcedo

Iris Meda

At 70 years old, Iris Meda knew that returning to work in the middle of the pandemic was risky. She had retired as a nurse in January, but when the coronavirus arrived two months later, she decided she had no choice but to return to a teaching role, to help train young students who might someday help battle the virus.

“She felt like if she could gain momentum by teaching some of those basics, we could contain any virus,” her daughter, Selene Meda-Schlamel, told The Washington Post on Monday. “She wanted to do something that would make a difference.”

For months, she taught nursing basics to dozens of students in person at Collin College in suburban Dallas. But in October, a student exposed her to the virus, the school said, and last month, Meda died of complications from covid-19.

As the coronavirus has killed at least 256,000 Americans, the virus has also taken a vicious toll on health-care workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 232,497 health-care workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 836 have died.

While Meda wasn’t a front-line nurse anymore, her daughter says she knowingly took a serious risk at her age to help educate future nurses during the global health crisis.

Meda, a native of Charleston, S.C. who moved to Harlem when she was 7, never finished high school, her daughter said. But she completed her GED and got a degree in nursing from the City College of New York in 1984. She worked as a nurse at Rikers Island Correctional Facility and, after moving to north Texas, the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas.

In January, Meda retired as a nursing clinic administrator with the North Texas Job Corps. She had plans to travel with her husband, John, to reconnect with siblings, to get professional portraits taken and to ride in a convertible for the first time, her daughter said.

“So when the pandemic hit and she had to go into isolation because of her age, it was difficult for her because she had all these plans,” said Meda-Schlamel, 47.

She kept herself occupied by closely following the spread of the coronavirus, particularly in her adopted hometown of New York, which became the center of the pandemic.

“All she did was sit there and watch it and talk to everyone about what she was seeing,” Meda-Schlamel said. “She was very well-informed.”

She spent some time as an informal consultant for her previous job, providing advice on how to quarantine and monitor students who fell ill. But she wanted to do more.

So in April, Meda applied to Collin College to teach high school juniors and seniors who were interested in nursing careers. The school promised the students would maintain a safe distance and wear masks, her daughter said. She began teaching in August.

As a former high school dropout, she connected particularly well with students who struggled with the class, her daughter said.

“She understood that sometimes you need a little bit of encouragement and support, and that alone can open doors for people,” Meda-Schlamel said. “She wanted to be that person opening doors for others.”

In an email to the college on Monday, President H. Neil Matkin said that on Oct. 2 Meda was in contact with a student who was showing symptoms including sneezing, coughing and watery eyes, Inside Higher Ed reported. Although everyone was wearing masks, the lesson taught that day prevented Meda from socially distancing from the students, he said.

Meda learned the student had tested positive on Oct. 9, the president said, and two days later, began exhibiting symptoms. She was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 17.

“She was hopeful that she would get out of it because her last words were ‘I’m going to fight. I’m New York strong,’” her daughter said.

She received two antibodies transfusions and a dose of remdesivir as she battled pneumonia, but doctors had to intubate her on Oct. 28, Meda-Schlamel said. She died of heart failure on Nov. 14.

Her work will live on through the dozens of students she worked with, Meda-Schlamel said.

“For her, this was also a service to her country, being able to usher nursing assistants into the work field during a pandemic when they are most needed,” Meda-Schlamel said. “I hope that students realize the compromise that their teachers are putting themselves in and recognize that they are themselves heroes.”

Full Article & Source:

Nearly 700 nursing home workers walk off job, begin strike in fight for better wages, hazard pay, PPE

By Jessica D'Onofrio and Karen Jordan
Click to Watch Video

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some of the local nursing home workers went on strike early Monday morning.

City View Multicare Center in Cicero has had more than 200 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Workers have said that they do not feel safe.

"I'm hoping we come to an agreement so we can go back to work and take care of our residents because they're used to who they're used to," said Sade Drake, City View Multicare Center worker.

"We feel like we're heroes and we want to be treated like heroes. We're living below the poverty level," said Shantonia Jackson, certified nursing assistant.

Nearly 700 essential nursing home workers walked off the job at 11 Infinity Health-owned facilities in the Greater Chicago area. They have been without a contract since June.

Nursing assistants, dietary aides and housekeepers in part, have demanded at least a $15 an hour wage, hazard pay for all employees and a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment.

"Hazard pay is not a lot to ask. These people are putting their lives on the line. So I don't think you can separate the demands. I think that they are all equally justifiable in the situation we're currently experiencing," said Erica Bland-Durosinmi, Executive Vice President Executive Healthcare Illinois.

Jackson helps patients there with daily care like bathing and eating, and fears she'll be the next to contract the virus.

"We get masks that as soon as you put the string on your face, it pops. We don't get N-95 masks, and that's what we really need," she said.

The union said many of their patients support them.

"Family members have been on press conferences with us. They fully support this fight because they wanna make sure their loved ones are receiving the care they deserve," said Bland-Durosinmi.

Infinity Health has not responded to request for comment.

Workers said they are prepared to strike as long as it takes for better pay and greater protections from COVID-19. They will be back at the picket line Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. 
Full Article & Source:

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Legally blind man kicked out of nursing home gets help from community

Click to Watch Video

By Diane Walker

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s a new beginning for a legally blind man who was thrown out of a Richmond nursing home and onto the street with no place to go, and without proper medication.

You may remember Steven Brown when our team investigated allegations against a local nursing home in September. Brown’s story touched many of you and now, he’s getting a second chance in Florida and is grateful this Thanksgiving for everyone who helped.

His journey from heartbreak to healing began when word of his emergency status of being evicted from Bonview Rehabilitation and Healthcare, homeless, without a job and needing care, spread across the internet, prompting a Florida friend with the resources and resolve to get him on a plane and into care.

“The person was more than willing and knows my character gave an opportunity for me to continue with my job. Finding a place for sure and making better strides. The story that you guys reported - it was right on time,” Brown said.

Brown stopped by NBC12 on his way to the airport, accompanied by a helper his friend arranged. It was a quick visit to collect encouraging cards two strangers mailed to On Your Side Investigator Diane Walker for Steven with money inside.

“I can’t say I deserve it. Do I need help? Yes,” he said. His helper read from the cards that are both uplifting and praying for his strength. “That’s beautiful. I just don’t have the words in my vocabulary to describe how I feel. I don’t know if that was their last, I don’t know how hard they worked for it. I don’t know, but I do know they took the time to do this - which is a lot.”

Brown says Walker’s reports got information out that people otherwise would have never known. For instance, a Medicare-Medicaid investigation found that Brown’s discharge from Bonview Rehabilitation and Healthcare in 2019 was a life-threatening violation. Bonview was also cited for contacting Social Security and becoming the payee without Brown’s permission, causing him to lose his apartment because he couldn’t access his own money. The report says Bonview refunded him, but by then it was too late.

Bonview maintains it’s not at liberty to discuss patients and says their staff is focused on keeping patients safe and protected during the pandemic. As much as he has suffered, Brown wants to be an advocate for nursing home residents. He wants consequences for inaction when facilities, and even government agencies, turn a blind eye to allegations of abuse and neglect.

“These facilities are needed. They are. But that doesn’t excuse you abusing someone that’s sick. Kicking them when they’re down. That’s disgusting,” Brown said.

From where Brown sits now, life is looking a lot better.

“Thank you. I definitely appreciate it, and it will be used the proper way like money is supposed to be used,” he said.

The friend helping him says Brown will stay in Florida until he gets stable. He is legally blind and diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety and rheumatoid arthritis. She says he is a special man who doesn’t belong in this situation.

Full Article & Source:

95-Year-Old Friends Celebrate 84 Years of Friendship With Laughs and Wine

The wonderful experience of cultivating true friends begins from the moment we become children up until we mature into adults. However, due to circumstances out of our control, we sometimes drift apart from the people who were once close to us. This is sad but true – no matter how good the relationship is, we don’t get to keep all the friends we make in our lives forever.

But a pair from Colorado seems to have defied all the odds, as they recently celebrated 84 years of their friendship together!

Yes, you read that right. Phyllis Hines and Barbara Noone are celebrating more than eight decades of their friendship. On top of that, they both turned 95 this year. Phyllis’ birthday was on January 5 and Barbara’s was on February 1. The longtime friends make the effort to see each other on at least a monthly basis and meet every time one of them celebrates a birthday.
They’ve been through it all – they’ve raised families, buried husbands, and have celebrated countless achievements. But what makes their friendship special is that they never let anything get in the way of their bond.

Full Article and Source:
95-Year-Old Friends Celebrate 84 Years of Friendship With Laughs and Wine

Mary's Hilarious Prayer

 This is an ad for "Home Instead" and it includes a clever and funny prayer about getting old!

YouTube: Funny Prayer About Getting Old

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

House hunters: How an anti-blight law has become a tool for ambitious landlords in Allegheny County

The 12-year-old conservatorship act has helped some landlords to build their Pittsburgh-area portfolios, but some property owners and neighborhood advocates are crying foul.

by Rich Lord
Kathleen Wilson stands in front of a four-unit house, owned by her family since 1983, on Wilkinsburg's Peebles Street. She is fighting a petition filed by a company run by attorney Marc Taiani, which hopes to take control of the house under the state's conservatorship law. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

On a sunny November day, attorney Marc Taiani and five other men walked into the stout brown house owned by 77-year-old Kathleen Wilson, intent on assembling the damning information they needed to seize control of it.

“An open sewer pipe. That’s something,” Taiani said as he toured the dusty basement of the four-unit house on Wilkinsburg’s Peebles Street. “Do you believe that’s asbestos right there?” he asked building inspector Bill Martin, pointing at the ceiling. (Martin said he couldn’t tell.) “They have locks on the windows,” Taiani mused later, noting a potential safety hazard. “They actually have key locks!”

Wilson, who is battling breast cancer and was accompanied by lawyer Weldianne Scales, could only watch as the team critiqued the house her family bought, in 1983, for $82,000. If Taiani could prove that it had not been recently occupied, marketed or substantially rehabilitated — and that it's a public nuisance, unfit for human habitation or a fire hazard — then his firm could be named the building’s “conservator,” and might eventually become its owner.

Those are the rules laid out in the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act, a 12-year-old state law meant to allow responsible owners, under court supervision, to take over empty buildings that can otherwise drag neighborhoods down. Some community groups have used conservatorship petitions to seize and improve blighted properties, but more cases are filed by landlords and other private developers. And while conservatorship in the hands of a nonprofit may have helped East Liberty’s development, some observers are concerned about its potential effects in nearby Garfield and Wilkinsburg.

Judges oversee all conservatorships, and in many cases the property owner of record makes no effort to oppose a takeover. Once in a while, though, a determined owner like Wilson emerges.

Standing in the Peebles Street backyard littered only with one broken window, Wilson said that health problems compelled her to pause — but not end — efforts to rehab the building. Then, in April, Taiani filed a petition to make his company the building’s conservator.

Kathleen Wilson faces Bill Martin, in the basement of a four-unit house she owns in Wilkinsburg. Martin was hired by attorney Marc Taiani to inspect the home. One of his companies has petitioned to become the building's conservator. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)

Kathleen Wilson faces Bill Martin in the basement of a four-unit house she owns in Wilkinsburg. Martin was hired by attorney Marc Taiani to inspect the home. One of Taiani's companies has petitioned to become the building's conservator. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)

“It’s unadulterated greed,” Wilson said. The petition spurred her to scramble to hire a lawyer, restart work on the property and secure financing, in between chemotherapy appointments. Of the seven-month court fight with Taiani, she said: “This has taken a lot of energy.”

Taiani, in an interview conducted on the Peebles Street sidewalk, said he’s just trying to convert an abandoned house, six blocks from his own Wilkinsburg home, into occupied apartments. “Had Ms. Wilson taken care of the property, as a true owner should, and maintained it, and had it occupied,” he said, “then we wouldn’t be here today.”

'Amazing discretion'

The law that Taiani is using to try to take control of the Peebles Street property aims to balance the rights of owners with the realities of abandonment.

Property rights are a pillar of American law — starting with the Fifth Amendment’s restriction on government seizure of private property — but they are not absolute. The Great Recession of 2008, which saw surging foreclosures, spurred concern about properties left to decay by disinterested owners. So state legislators, led by then-Rep. Don Walko, a North Side Democrat, passed an act allowing entities “with experience in the rehabilitation of residential, commercial or industrial buildings and the ability to provide or obtain the necessary financing” to petition courts to take control of abandoned properties.

Under the act, properties are eligible for takeover if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Haven’t been legally occupied for 12 months;
  • Have neither changed hands in six months, nor been marketed for sale for 60 days
  • Aren’t subjects of foreclosure filings;
  • Could potentially attract children who might then be harmed by conditions on the property;
  • Risk attracting prostitution, drug use or vagrancy;
  • Negatively affect the wellbeing of neighbors;
  • Are found to fit three of the following five characterizations: public nuisance, unfit for human habitation, risk of fire, subject to unauthorized entry, or in need of substantial rehabilitation and not subject to any such work in the prior 12 months.
A “competent entity” that is either a nonprofit developer, or a resident or business located 2,000 feet of the building, can petition the Court of Common Pleas to name a conservator for any such building. If a judge approves, the conservator can then start rehabilitating the building.
Full Article & Source:

90-Year-Old Woman Kills Herself Rather Than Go Through Another Lockdown

Canada’s parliament is currently debating Bill C-7, a bill to expand (MAiD) euthanasia in Canada to people who are not dying.

Even though Bill C-7 is not yet passed,  CTV News Medical Correspondent, Avis Favaro, reported that Nancy Russell, a 90-year-old long-term care resident, who was not chronically ill or dying, died last month by euthanasia (MAiD) to avoid living through another COVID-19 lock-down.

Favaro reports:

Across Canada, long-term care homes and retirement homes are seeing rising cases of COVID-19 and deaths yet again, a worrisome trend that is leading to more restrictions for the residents.

But these lockdowns are taking another toll among those who don’t get COVID-19.

Residents eat meals in their rooms, have activities and social gatherings cancelled, family visits curtailed or eliminated. Sometimes they are in isolation in their small rooms for days. These measures, aimed at saving lives, can sometimes be detrimental enough to the overall health of residents that they find themselves looking into other options.

Russell, described by her family as exceptionally social and spry, was one such person. Her family says she chose a medically-assisted death (MAID) after she declined so sharply during lockdown that she didn’t want to go through more isolation this winter.

Russell, who was a supporter of euthanasia, when first requesting “MAiD” was turned down. The doctor told her that she had “too much to live for.” But she was then approved after her second request. The report stated:

By the time she applied a second time, “more concrete medical health” issues had developed, her daughter said.

This time, doctors approved her. Russell would not have to go through another lockdown in her care home.

“She just truly did not believe that she wanted to try another one of those two-week confinements into her room,” her daughter said.

Doctor shopping is a clear concern with Canada’s euthanasia law. Russell was probably sent, the second time, to a doctor who provides euthanasia. Canada’s euthanasia law is based on subjective rules.
In August 2020, Rob Munro reported a similar story for the Kelowna Infonews. Shirley Turton (78), asked her family to arrange a “MAiD” death because she felt “locked into a long term care prison” due to COVID-19.

Munro reported that the daughter of Shirley Turton said that her mother is not terminally ill but she had become:

depressed, not interested in eating and can’t even put a glass of water to her lips but, most of all she is lonely.

Turton didn’t die by euthanasia, but it is impossible to know how many Canadians have died by euthanasia based on the COVID-19 lock-down.For instance, the Ontario data does not indicate how many MAiD deaths are based on similar reasons to Nancy Russell’s death but recent Ontario MAiD statistics indicate that the number of euthanasia deaths is increasing.

From June 17, 2016 to October 31, 2020, there were 6266 reported assisted deaths in Ontario. There have been 1948 reported assisted deaths in 2020 representing 1127 in the first six months of 2020 and 821 in the last four months (now averaging more than 200 assisted deaths per month) in Ontario.

Canada’s MAiD law permits euthanasia for people who are physically or psychologically suffering that is considered intolerable to the person and that cannot be relieved in a way that the person considers acceptable.

Full Article & Source:

AHCA Says Permission for Holiday Visits Still Stands, Despite Recommendation From CMS

Click to Watch Video
By Cait McVey

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put out new guidance for nursing home residents, recommending they don’t leave their facilities for outside visits.

This recommendation is in direct conflict with the latest guidance from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which oversees long-term care facilities (LTCs) in Florida.

Just a few weeks ago, AHCA released clarification for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ most recent LTC visitation order, saying residents must be permitted to leave facilities, including for holiday visits.

Spectrum News reached out to AHCA and was told the agency’s guidance regarding visits still stands, despite the CMS recommendations.

AHCA also provided the following statement:

“While the CMS recommendations encourage nursing home residents to not leave their facility, it acknowledges this will occur and provides guidance for those leaving including social distancing, remaining in small groups, mask use, and other precautions. These recommendations are consistent with information in the AHCA FAQ. The AHCA FAQ also directed facilities to monitor for additional updates. The Agency shared the CMS ​memo with all long-term care facilities as newly released guidance.”  

For more insight, we reached out to family advocate Mary Daniel, who is not only on the Governor’s long-term care task force, but also helped AHCA with its latest guidance.

Cait McVey: “We’re hearing from CMS the exact opposite of what the sate has put out.”

Mary Daniel: “See, I don’t necessarily see it that way.  All of these are recommendations. It’s what they’re saying they would like for us to do. I don’t think that has any bearing on changing anything in the state order.”

Cait McVey: “How important is the word recommend in this case?”

Mary Daniel: “It’s hugely important. This is telling me this is what they’re recommending but it doesn’t tell me this is what I have to do. If we really dig into this and see what it’s saying, it’s telling us the risk, it’s telling us you can do it, but you need to be extremely careful.”

Cait McVey: “What do you have to say to people who are watching the numbers climb here in Florida and feel because this is a vulnerable population, it’s not wise to take them home for the Holidays?”

Mary Daniel: “Why do we believe that staying in a facility with people coming and going, and I’m speaking particularly of the staff, why is that safer than being in my own home with just me? That’s an assumption that I don’t by into that. This can be done safely.  It really can.”

Daniel advises families to already be looking ahead to December and reaching out to facilities now, rather than waiting until the last minute.  She also recommends contacting AHCA directly, should a facility indicate it won’t be following the state order.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Patient Dumped Outside Locked Care Facility

By C. Dixon

Savina Genoese Zerbi, an 84-year-old woman with dementia, was dumped outside of a locked care facility after a brief hospital stay. Wearing her bathrobe and sandals, she was forced to wander outside the facility, alone and confused, for at least 25 minutes.

What makes the situation even more outrageous is that Savina had been taken to the hospital in the first place because she had threatened to commit suicide hours earlier.

Who’s at fault for Savina’s situation is still being determined, but her daughter, Costanza, has filed a complaint on her mother’s behalf against the hospital.

Here’s what we know.

Photo: YouTube/Orange County Register

On January 12, at about 6:00 in the evening, Savina threatened to kill herself using a nail file. It was only the first week of her stay at Regency Palms, a senior living community in Long Beach, California, that specializes in assisted living and memory care.

Costanza, 51, wanted her mother to be admitted to Long Beach Memorial Hospital, but a paramedic on the scene recommended College Medical Center instead because the wait would be shorter.

Costanza heeded the paramedic’s advice, but still spent roughly four hours in the CMC’s emergency room waiting on an evaluation for her mother.

Photo: Facebook/College Medical Center

At about 11:00 PM, Costanza left her mother to go home to be with her children. Once she got home, she was contacted by a clinician at the hospital named Gabriel. He said that Savina was going to be discharged, and that he would make sure she was able to get from CMC back to Regency Palms.

From there, Costanza contacted the geriatric consultant she had hired, William Young. He then tried to reach Gabriel himself, shortly after 12:00 AM, to get details about Savina’s transportation and arrival. However, he couldn’t reach Gabriel. When he talked to Regency Palms, they hadn’t gotten any sort of communication from the hospital about when Savina was going to show up, either.

Young went to bed around 2:00 AM.

Photo: YouTube/Orange County Register

At 2:17 AM, security footage shows Savina arriving at Regency Palms via cab. She tries to open the front door to the facility, then smacks the glass to try to get someone’s attention. For nearly a half hour, she wanders around near the facility, including in a dark alley. She repeatedly tries to open the front doors and also pounds on the glass, obviously confused.

It is unclear how long Savina was actually left outside the facility, and how she got back in. It’s also unclear who paid for the cab, though Young believes it was the hospital.

Photo: YouTube/Orange County Register

When Young woke at 8:00, he discovered what had happened to Savina, and Costanza was notified.

“I was horrified,” Costanza told KTLA. “My mom has a hard time piecing together anything. She thinks something that happened yesterday happened 10 years ago; she thinks something that happened 10 years ago happened today.”

Costanza filed a complaint on her mother’s behalf with the California Department of Public Health — against College Medical Center.

Photo: YouTube/Orange County Register

In California, state regulations mandate that hospitals are not allowed to transfer or discharge patients to another health-care facility unless arrangements have been made in advance.

State health department officials, College Medical Center officials, and the executive director of Regency Palm all declined to comment, as the investigation is ongoing.

“My mom has the cognitive abilities of a toddler,” Costanza told CBS Los Angeles. “It’s like taking a child and dumping him on the street in the middle of the night in an unsafe neighborhood – it’s insane. It’s criminal.”

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The Marbut Report: Jacksonville attorney disbarred

The court found that Ors abandoned his practice and his clients.
by: Max Marbut

The state Supreme Court, in orders issued Sept. 24 to Oct. 28, disciplined 11 attorneys, including one who practiced in Jacksonville.

Three are disbarred, Bar licenses of two are revoked, five are suspended and one is reprimanded.

Omer Ors, 8130 Baymeadows Circle W., Suite 303, in Jacksonville, is disbarred effective following an Oct. 8 order.

The court found that Ors abandoned his practice and his clients. He vacated his law office, moved out of the country and failed to respond to official inquiries from The Florida Bar.

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COVID-19’s Deadly Lesson: Time To Revamp Long-Term Care

by Deborah Gastfreund Schuss

At age 42, James Reilly has lived in a nursing facility for seven years because of a worsening seizure disorder that struck when he was born. Betsy and Tom Reilly have been by their son’s side each day, gently exercising his limbs, monitoring his oxygen, and being James’ “extra set of eyes” since he cannot speak for himself. But a visitation ban abruptly begun in mid-March due to COVID-19 has left the Valley Center, California, couple shut out for seven months and sleepless with worry.

The Reillys are not alone in enduring this long separation. A patchwork of lockdown policies, even within states, also has blocked many other families across the country from reuniting with loved ones in nursing homes and other care facilities. With depleted patience, more than 13,000 of them have banded together in a Facebook group, wanting access as essential family caregivers who routinely deliver hands-on care.

The continued isolation of these fragile residents is triggering alarm among advocates that yet another crisis looms. It is among many key concerns to have emerged as the deadly virus ravaged nursing homes throughout the United States, alongside such issues as lack of sufficient personal protective equipment and testing, and state policies mandating or incentivizing nursing facilities to accept COVID-19-positive patients.

But these latest troubles are merely symptomatic of a broader constellation of nursing home issues that predate the pandemic. COVID-19 pulled back the curtain on longstanding cracks in the entire long-term care system, exposing deep flaws in the way we care for our country’s most vulnerable people.

Ailing Delivery System, Nursing Home Default

Those of us who have experienced the anguish of navigating the US health care maze with our loved ones during their prolonged illnesses learned that the delivery system itself is ailing. The insurmountable obstacles we typically face include a lack of care continuity and coordination in a siloed medical world and systemic coverage bias favoring institutions rather than home.

In our quick-fix, outcome-driven culture, we also have discovered that prejudice against disabled people in word and deed is not uncommon—even among some members of the medical community who insert their own views about our loved ones’ “quality of life,” a subjective gauge used as the calculus of their worth.

As patients leave the hospital sooner and sicker than ever, such myopic narratives weigh heavily against those who are slow or enigmatic in their healing. Hospital discharge planners’ overriding goal is finding an empty bed, and screeners from quality acute-care rehabilitation programs have standards so tough, it’s nearly impossible to make the cut.

“You’ve got to have a really clear diagnosis and a very good prognosis,” says Jerry Parrotta, a home-care physical therapist with York Hospital Homecare in York, Maine, who has worked in various health care settings.

The default for most people with prolonged illness is a nursing home. Our fruitless struggles for alternatives have convinced us family caregivers that “patient-centered care” is meaningless health-speak meant to have us believe there is choice. The outlook often is bleak, with our loved ones falling victim to nursing facilities’ persistent challenges such as understaffing and infection control that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the visitation bans, many are without critical family supports that had helped them to eat, drink, and get out of bed, says Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. Relatives able to visit virtually with residents, as well as long-term care ombudsmen, have reported signs of physical decline, such as significant weight loss, and one woman was hospitalized several times for dehydration, she says.

Younger Population, Outdated Assumptions

The problem is that nursing homes still operate on antiquated assumptions made decades ago about the complexity of care their residents require. Previously, older adults populated nursing homes primarily for custodial care and needed little in the way of medical intervention. Scientific advances have introduced treatments for illnesses that previously were synonymous with death but now can be managed with medicine and therapies. As a result, those who wind up in nursing homes—many after typically brief hospital stays—are extraordinarily frail, with multiple underlying conditions that demand elaborate medication regimens, says Christopher E. Laxton, executive director of AMDA—The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

And there is a notable rise in young patients bringing unique challenges. They are disabled by neurological disorders, trauma, or drug abuse. And like James Reilly, many have myriad afflictions from birth. According to Laxton, younger adults are estimated to be the fastest-growing subpopulation in post-acute and long-term care, increasing to 16.5 percent in 2016.

But the nursing home model has not adapted to this significantly more fragile group.

 “You’ve essentially turned the nursing home into a step-down unit of a hospital without staffing it adequately,” Laxton says. “Really in the end, the major factor in good infection control is adequate staff, and staff who are dedicated to a wing or floor.”

No Federally Mandated Staffing Ratios; Studies On RN Levels, COVID-19

But despite this crying need, there are no federally mandated staffing ratios for nursing homes. Most certified nursing assistants care for about 15 patients per shift, and staff nurses supervise two to three of those assistants, Laxton says, but staff nurses also administer medication and assume other critical duties for those 30 to 45 patients. He characterized that staff-to-patient ratio as “ridiculous” when compared to hospitals, where intensive care unit nurses work with fragile patients in ratios of one to one or one to two.

A recent study of Connecticut nursing homes found higher registered nurse staffing was associated with lower incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Another study of California nursing homes found that facilities with total registered nurse staffing levels under a recommended minimum standard of 0.75 hours per resident day had a two times greater probability of having COVID-19 resident infections. But 80 percent of the state’s nursing homes didn’t meet that standard.

Infection control challenges were prevalent even before the current pandemic, but with weak consequences for shortcomings. According to a Government Accountability Office report issued in May, 82 percent of more than 13,000 nursing homes surveyed had an infection prevention and control deficiency cited in one or more years from 2013 to 2017. But the Office’s review of federal data shows that “implemented enforcement actions for these deficiencies were typically rare.”

Cracks In Home And Community Care

Amid all this, the path to accessing quality care that could forestall the move to a nursing facility is packed with impediments. Home care, for the most part, is structured for short-term use. “They want to cut it off as soon as we get in there,” says Parrotta, the Maine physical therapist.

Adult day health programs—a vital community lifeline that provides social and medical support while offering families respite—don’t fare much better. Interest is high, but running them is challenging, says Lance Roberts, associate director of the National Adult Day Services Association in Fairfax, Virginia. That is due to inconsistent Medicaid reimbursement, which varies from state to state, and the difficulty attracting private-pay clients.

These systemic cracks are becoming even more pronounced as an unprecedented 78 million baby boomers age into an array of complex conditions, an imminent crisis with no policy framework for meeting their anticipated needs. Boomers have fewer or no children and are more likely to be divorced than in previous generations, so their pool of family caregivers is smaller.

Toward A Disruptive Model Of Long-Term Care

Among the many painful lessons COVID-19 has inflicted is this: Our approach to caring for the vulnerable among us has failed, with nursing home residents disproportionately stricken. It’s time to abandon our deeply entrenched and outdated views of long-term care in favor of a disruptive model that invests more heavily in quality home and community services such as leading-edge adult day health programs, each with rigorous standards.

This will require a shift in funding that traditionally has skewed toward large institutional settings with shared rooms, which COVID-19 demonstrated just don’t work, says Tony Chicotel, staff attorney for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. For those with medical challenges too complex for viable home solutions, nursing care restructuring is in order.

Advocates, including Chicotel, say innovative arrangements such as The Green House Project, can serve as models. The organization, which cares for fewer residents in home-like settings, claims 95 percent of its homes licensed for skilled nursing were COVID-19-free as of June. In these types of surroundings, Chicotel notes, “it’s easier to know every resident’s story, to know what works for them,” enabling more individualized care. And a smaller-scale environment—absent the long corridors and massive dining halls—coupled with consistent staff assignments also reduces exposure points, translating into fewer vectors for any virus, he adds.

Such a giant pivot hinges on a broad commitment to enhancing the care of our growing disabled community while also supporting their caregivers, paid and unpaid. It calls for entrepreneurial ingenuity, and it will take strong political will regarding care-coverage options and the creation of and adherence to authentic quality standards.

Families currently embedded in long-term care, such as the Reillys, don’t have the luxury of time that such transformation demands. But galvanizing now will ease the way for countless others who likewise will struggle with sickness, as well as their families who will shepherd them through life’s most difficult passage.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

Northeast Ohio family warns of elder financial exploitation during the pandemic

In a 3News exclusive, investigator Rachel Polansky talks with a Northeast Ohio man who says his family was swindled out of almost one million dollars.

by Rachel Polansky

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — The pandemic is isolating many elderly Americans -- as family members distance themselves, in an effort to keep everyone safe.

But that means these seniors are becoming easier targets for scammers.

In a 3News exclusive, investigator Rachel Polansky talks with a Northeast Ohio man who says his family was swindled out of almost one million dollars.

Ronnie's Story:

When Michael Pekar talks about his brother Ronnie, he focuses on the simpler, happier times.

Credit: Michael Pekar
Young Ronnie Pekar

“Mainly we went fishing, we bought a boat so we went boating,” said Michael Pekar. 

Sadly, the last three years have been anything but that.

“I've been running in circles trying to straighten out what this woman did,” said Pekar.

A few months before Ronnie died from cancer, Michael says a neighbor got involved with his brother's finances. Michael says she gained power of attorney and began draining Ronnie’s life savings.

Credit: Michael Pekar
Ronnie Pekar

“This was money my mother made. She made and she saved it for us, not for this woman. And this woman up and stole it,” said Pekar.

That's when Pekar visited attorney Frank Manning, who discovered the full extent of the damage.

“We stumbled upon and discovered a large sum of about $1.6 million had been transferred from him and his family names into other people's names,” said attorney Frank Manning.

Manning filed a civil complaint against the neighbor, and eventually recovered $700,000 dollars for the family, but he says almost $1 million of Ronnie's savings is gone for good.

Warning Signs:

How can you make sure something like this doesn't happen to one of your loved ones?

Manning says watch for warning signs. Those include:

-Isolation: If an elderly person is isolated or limited in their mobility, it makes them think differently. This can lower their guard and allow them to establish trust levels with people they would not normally interact with.

-New People in their Lives: Are new people suddenly interjecting themselves into the picture and giving advice on financial or legal matters? Are new folks paying their bills, or driving them to the bank, lawyer or financial adviser’s office? It could be a neighbor, niece, nephew or other family member. It may start as a genuine offer of help, but a sudden interest where there wasn’t before could be a red flag.

-Changes to Legal or Financial Documents: Sudden changes to legal or financial documents, or suddenly missing documents, are definite red flags. Documents could include estate documents, insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. Making multiple unexplained trips to attorneys or financial advisers without notice is a warning sign. Or, switching advisers without consent because “Mary or Bob said we should switch” is a red flags.

-Encountering a Gatekeeper: If a new “friend”, “helpful” neighbor or long-lost relative comes into the picture and restricts access to an elderly relative or won’t allow you to speak to the family member without them being present, should raise a red flag.

-New Phone Numbers or Email Addresses: Red flags include suddenly changing or turning off cell phone numbers or email addresses, another person answering their phone or oddly-worded texts or email responses. This may indicate that someone else has access to them and is “managing” communications.

And don't forget to check in on your loved ones regularly, especially right now, because increased isolation often forces people to rely on others.

“Elderly people are more susceptible in general, but COVID-19 is a terrifying experience,” said Manning.

And, what the family says happened to Ronnie Pekar is not unique.

According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected or financially exploited.

“I don't think I'm the end of this and I don't think Ronnie is the end of this. I think she did it before and I think she's gonna do it again,” said Pekar.

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Man, 81, uses antique shillelagh to chase ruse burglars from Niles home: ‘I was trying to find some type of persuasive weapon’

By Jennifer Johnson
Dan Donovan, joined by his wife, Barbara, holds the antique shillelagh he used to chase burglars from the couple's Niles home on Nov. 4.
Dan Donovan, joined by his wife, Barbara, holds the antique shillelagh he used to chase burglars from the couple's Niles home on Nov. 4. (Jennifer Johnson / Pioneer Press)

When intruders targeted Dan and Barbara Donovan’s Niles home earlier this month, they picked the wrong couple to burglarize.

Instead of fleeing the modest brick house with valuables, the three men ran in fear as Dan, 81, chased them out the door with an antique shillelagh, a wooden Irish walking stick that once belonged to his grandfather.

“I hit the one guy on the back of his head,” Donovan, a former Marine, recalled. “I’m certain he had a headache.”

It was late afternoon on Nov. 4 when the couple, 50-year residents of Niles, heard a knock at their door and found a man wearing a reflective vest and a face mask standing outside. The visitor, who was carrying what appeared to be tools, said he was there to check their “fuse box” due a recent fire in the area.

Barbara Donovan said the visit did not immediately seem unusual.
“We had received a letter from the electric company the day before,” Donovan said, explaining that the letter indicated work would be taking place in their area and would include power outages. “So when he said he was with the electric company, we let him in.”

What the couple didn’t immediately realize was that the man wasn’t a utility worker — and he wasn’t alone. As he led the couple into the basement of their home, two additional people sneaked inside through the now unlocked door.

Downstairs, Barbara Donovan began to feel suspicious about the man who was looking over her electric circuit panel.

“I kept backing up and he kept saying, ‘Come over by me,’” Barbara said. “He said, ‘If you’re home alone, you won’t know what to do,’ and kept telling me to come closer to him. I thought that was kind of weird.”

Suddenly, Barbara heard the squeak of floorboards above her head.

“I yelled, 'Danny! Somebody’s in our bedroom!” she said.

Barbara bounded up the steps, followed by her husband and the so-called utility worker. When they reached the main floor, the Donovans discovered there were more than just the three of them inside.

“I started chasing them to get them out of my house,” Dan Donovan said.

That’s when he grabbed his grandfather’s shillelagh, which was propped up in the corner of the couple’s dining room.

“I was trying to find some type of persuasive weapon,” Donovan said. “So I picked up the Irish shillelagh and that turned out to be the equalizer because I managed to chase them out of the house.”

One of the men was carrying what Donovan recognized to be a pillowcase from bedroom. Shouting and swinging the shillelagh, Dan Donovan said he struck the man in the back of the head with the end of the walking stick, but he didn’t drop the pillowcase. He followed his partners in crime outside, but Donovan continued his pursuit. Barefoot, he approached the SUV they had parked in his driveway and began hitting it with the walking stick.

“I managed to get a good swing at the windshield and the rear window,” he said. “I think I cracked them both.”

In the meantime, Barbara Donovan said she was on the phone to police, who arrived shortly after the intruders fled the scene.

In all the excitement, and due to the darkening skies, Donovan acknowledged he was unable to get the license plate number or the make and model of the SUV.

Niles police, in their report of the incident, categorized what happened to the Donovans as a “ruse entry,” a common scam in which thieves, posing as utility workers, landscapers, other types of workers or neighbors, approach a home and lure the residents outside or into another part of the house while their partners sneak in and search for jewelry, cash and other small valuables.

The Donovans say they still aren’t quite sure what, if anything, the burglars stole, but they do know their pillowcase was taken and their bedroom drawers had been removed and rummaged through.

“They just scared the heck out of us,” Barbara said.

The couple acknowledged they feel somewhat chagrined that they didn’t catch on right away that they were victims of a scammer. Even their children, they say, ask them why they let the first man inside. Barbara points to the letter they received the day earlier from ComEd, though she now wonders if that, too, was part of the scam.

For his part, Dan Donovan praises his wife for quickly catching on to what the scammers were up to. The incident has taught him to be more alert, he said, and he urges others to do the same.

And while he doesn’t consider himself a hero, Barbara does.

“I felt a lot better when I saw him with the shillelagh because he was chasing them out of the house,” she said.

“Hopefully they got nothing more than a headache and hopefully they pursue another occupation,” Dan Donovan said.

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