Saturday, December 26, 2020

Owner of Texas Chain of Hospice Companies Sentenced for $150 Million Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, December 16, 2020


A corporate executive has been ordered to serve 20 years in prison after his conviction related to falsely telling thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases, such as Alzheimers and dementia, they had less than six months to live and subsequently enrolling them in hospice programs.   

A federal jury in McAllen, Texas, convicted Rodney Mesquias, 48, of San Antonio, Texas. The one-month trial in November 2019 was one of the first criminal hospice fraud prosecutions the Department of Justice has presented to a federal jury.    

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Rolanda Olvera ordered Mesquias to serve a total of 240 months in federal prison and to pay $120 million in restitution.

“Mesquias funded his lavish lifestyle by exploiting patients with long-term, incurable diseases by enrolling them in expensive but unnecessary hospice services,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “This significant sentence represents the department’s continued commitment to pursue those who orchestrate and commit healthcare fraud schemes.”

“Financial healthcare fraud is abhorrent enough, but to fraudulently diagnose patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s is the pinnacle of medical cruelness to both the patient and their family,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. “They falsely gave patients life ending diagnosis and they will pay the price with years behinds bars.”

“Families seek to give comfort and support to their ailing loved ones when all other medical options are gone,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Division. “It is unconscionable and evil to prey upon the most vulnerable in our community to commit fraud against government-funded programs. The FBI is committed to protecting our communities from those who may not have the strength to protect themselves.”

“Mesquias’ scheme included paying kickbacks to physicians and fraudulently enrolling vulnerable beneficiaries in hospice care that prevented them from accessing curative care – all done to steal millions of dollars from Medicare to fund lavish personal spending,” said Special Agent in Charge Miranda L. Bennett of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region. “This victimization is intolerable, and our investigators and law enforcement partners will continue to work hard to bring such criminals to justice and to protect those relying on federal health care programs.”

Mesquias and his co-conspirator Henry McInnis, 48, were both convicted of one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice as well as six counts of health care fraud. Mesquias was separately convicted on one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. 

From 2009 to 2018, Mesquias orchestrated a scheme that involved $150 million in false and fraudulent claims for hospice and other health care services. Mesquias owned and controlled the Merida Group, a large health care company that operated dozens of locations throughout Texas.

According to evidence presented at trial, Mesquias and the Merida Group adopted a strategy to market their hospice programs as providing medical benefits “you don’t have to die to use.” They also aggressively enrolled patients with long-term incurable diseases, such as Alzheimers and dementia, and limited mental capacity who lived at group homes, nursing homes and in housing projects.

In some instances, Merida Group marketers falsely told patients they had less than six months to live and sent chaplains to lie to the patients. They also discussed last rites and preparation for their imminent death.

Hospice services require patients to be suffering from a terminal illness expected to result in death within six months. Not only were patients not in such circumstances, they were walking, driving, working and even coaching athletic sporting events in some instances. However, Mesquias and others kept patients on services for multiple years in order to increase revenue.

Placing patients on such palliative hospice care meant they were unable to obtain medical coverage for curative medical services. 

Mesquias also fired employees who refused to go along with the fraud. He often  directed them not to “[expletive] with his patients or [expletive] with his money” by discharging patients from services. One co-conspirator said with respect to hospice patients “the way you make money is by keeping them alive as long as possible.” This included engaging in surgical and other medical interventions that were designed to extend life through the use of medical technologies, according to trial testimony.

The evidence further established Mesquias obstructed justice by causing the creation of false and fictitious medical records. Further, Mesquias produced them to a federal grand jury in order to attempt to avoid indictment. The records added false diagnostic information, making it appear that patients were dying when, in fact, they were not.

Mesquias also was convicted in connection with laundering the proceeds of the fraud. The jury found they used monies to purchase expensive vehicles such as a Porsche, expensive jewelry, luxury clothing from high-end retailers such as Louis Vuitton, exclusive real estate, season tickets for premium sporting events and a security detail and bottle service at high-end Las Vegas nightclubs. Mesquias also treated physicians to lavish parties at these elite nightclubs, providing them with tens of thousands of dollars in alcohol and other perks in exchange for medically unnecessary patient referrals.

McInnis will be sentenced at a later date. Two other co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

The Department of Health and Human Service – Office of Inspector General (DHHS-OIG); FBI and Texas Health and Human Services Commission conducted the investigation. Assistant Chief Jacob Foster and Trial Attorney Kevin Lowell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Swartz of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. 

The Fraud Section leads the Health Care Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, DHHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the DHHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at

Full Article & Source:

Attorney arrested for fraudulently billing insurers $300,000

by Lyle Adriano
A Newport Beach, CA attorney has been arrested on 20 felony counts of insurance fraud after allegedly billing multiple insurance companies for translation services.

The attorney, 73-year-old Moses Luna, allegedly defrauded insurers to collect $311,220 in workers’ compensation fees. A joint investigation by the California Department of Insurance and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office found that Luna created a company called Adelante Interpreting, through which he fraudulently billed 20 separate insurance carriers for translation and interpreting services.

According to investigators, Luna exclusively referred his own workers’ compensation clients to Adelante Interpreting to fraudulently collect fees from insurers. The fees the attorney received were for translation and interpreting services rendered to workers’ compensation claimants during depositions and medical appointments.

An official release from the California Department of Insurance said that Luna failed to disclose his financial interest in Adelante Interpreting, as required by law. He allegedly used his daughter’s name for the paperwork, but Luna ultimately controlled all aspects of the interpreting and translation company – including administrative protocols, employee protocols, independent contractor protocols, as well as billing and collection protocols.

The state Department of Insurance also disclosed that the insurance companies affected by Luna’s scheme include ACM, AIG, Amtrust, BHHC, CompWest, Employers, ESIS, Farmers, Hartford, ICW, Liberty Mutual, Markel, Matrix, Midwest, Sedgwick, SCIF, Sentry, Travelers, York and Zurich.

Luna is set to return to court next year, on January 19, 2021. The case is being prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Full Article & Source:

Grant Provides New Assistance for Elderly, Disabled Adult Abuse Victims

by Nayeli Pineda

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $1.9 million to aid disabled adults and elderly persons who are victims of abuse.

The Department of Human Resources will use the grant to provide in-home or temporary placement support for victims who are put through acts of abuse, neglect and exploitation. This financial assistance will help create a safe environment for the elderly and disabled adult victims by providing in-home care, enabling them to remain in their homes once the perpetrators have been removed. Further, the funds will also be used in relocating victims to assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

Each measure is temporary until more stable options are discovered.

“No one should ever be subject to abuse of any kind, and it is reprehensible that it should happen to someone who may not have the physical or mental capabilities to resist or be aware of those acts,” Gov. Ivey said. “This grant will assure elderly and disabled adults who are victims of physical and mental abuse are taken out of harm’s way and receive needed care.”

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administered the grant through funds made available by the United States Department of Justice. ADECA operates an array of programs meant to support law enforcement, water resource management, victims, recreation, economic development and energy conservation.

“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and the Alabama Department of Human Resources to provide solutions for these victims,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell on the grant.

To report any abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly or disabled victims, please contact the Department of Human Recourses’ Adult Protective Services Division at 334-242-1350.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, December 25, 2020

2 Hours of Classic Christmas Music Top Christmas Songs Of All Time


The Soldier's Christmas Poem


Edith + Eddie: America's Oldest Interracial Couple

On this Christmas day, we thought it fitting to remind everyone of the wonderful documentary, "Edith + Eddie."  This heartfelt film by filmmaker Laura Checkoway was a front runner for an Oscar in 2018 and when you watch it, you'll see why.

The story begins with Edith and Eddie's deep love for each other.  And although their love never died, their lives changed forever when guardianship interfered with their devotion and their final days together.

YouTube: Edith + Eddie

In the Bleak Midwinter - (Camille and Her Mother) Merry Christmas!

NASGA member, Camille and her wonderful Mom arranged this beautiful single with Camille on vocals and Mom on piano!

Enjoy the joyful sounds of hope, love, family, peace and Christmas - a gift directly from the hearts of Camille and her Mom to NASGA members and supporters and their families.  

Merry Christmas!

In the Bleak Midwinter - Single

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Married 65 Years; Their Love Endures Despite Dementia

Harold, 90, and Ruby, 89, have been together for 65 years, and are such a team that they’ve only been apart for two nights. Their first date was a trip to the movies in 1952. “We were at that drive in and I thought she had the prettiest teeth I’d ever seen!” Harold recalls. “And I couldn’t believe they was real!!” Six months later they were married, and their lifetime of love is still going strong.

Unfortunately, Ruby began showing signs of dementia ten years ago, and her memory has declined. She often forgets the identity of those close to her, but she has never forgotten her husband.

“Wonderful, I just can’t find anything wrong with him yet, and you see how long we’ve been married?” Ruby says of Harold. “You suppose I’ll find anything? I don’t know at this point!”

Full Article and Source:
Married 65 Years; Their Love Endures Despite Dementia

Elderly Man Comforts and Sings to Dying Wife

YouTube: Elderly Man Sings to Dying Wife

Ohio Assisted Living Builds "Hugging Wall" for Residents

At Dayspring Assisted Living and Care Facility in Richland County, strict policies are in place to keep everyone safe. 

"They used to go out to places and so forth. They can't do that. And who knows when that will happen," said Dayspring maintenance worker, Michael Barretta.

The policies are working, as the facility is currently COVID-free. Still, workers here know the toll social isolation has taken on residents.

“We still get to see our loved ones. Unfortunately, because of COVID in the congregate setting, our residents can't," said Dayspring officer manager, Heather Knipp.

So, they got creative. Dayspring executive director Michelle Swank asked Barretta to build something so residents could safely hug their loved ones again.

"I built a wall to divide it, which I insulated and I put a 36 door in it. So then I got a wooden screen door, removed the screen and got a crystal clear, heavy mil plastic, and put it in place in the screen," Barretta said of his process. "I went to Hobby Lobby and took the rings for crocheting or whatever they do with them. And that's what I used to capture it through the clear plastic, as well as the arms."

The result? A hugging door. Finally, residents would get that embrace they had been waiting on for so long. 

Full Article, Video and Source:
Richland County Assisted Living Builds Hugging Door for Residents

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Couple accused of exploiting elderly man, abandoning him after selling his home

Javier Dross and Lydia Dross (Volusia County Sheriff's Office)
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A husband and wife exploited the man’s elderly father, stole more than $186,000 from him, and abandoned him in Deltona after they sold his home and moved back to Arizona, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said Javier Dross, 62, and Lydia Dross, 57, moved to Florida in May 2019 to live with Javier Dross’s 87-year-old father after his mother died. The victim has limited vision and mobility, records show.

In May, the couple got the victim to sign over power of attorney documents they drafted themselves, created a do not resuscitate order for him, and then sold his Deltona home, according to the report.

The victim said he didn’t know what he was signing but did it because he trusted his son.

After the home was sold, deputies said Javier Dross transferred all the money into his wife’s bank account, deactivated his father’s debit card, and dropped him off at a family friend’s home so he and his wife could move back to Arizona.

Records show Javier Dross initially paid the family friend $1,200 per month to take care of his father but those payments stopped after he and his father got into an argument about finances.

Javier Dross claimed that he would eventually move his father to Arizona to live with him but that never happened.

The investigation into the exploitation began in September and detectives said they were able to determine that the couple took $186,400.80 from the victim and used it for airfare, hotels, rent, retail shopping, car insurance, and meals out at restaurants.

The couple was arrested Friday in Arizona on charges of exploiting the elderly.

Full Article & Source:

Man With Alzheimer’s Releases Debut Album to Raise Money For Charity

An elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, whose 2016 video of a duet with his son singing Engelbert Humperdinck’s hit Quando Quando Quando went viral, released an album to mark World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21, and raise money for charity.

Source:  YouTube

Teen Sings to Her Grandpa with Alzheimer's to Keep His Memories Alive

Grace Heery is a 17-year-old girl who plays the guitar and sings. She also has a grandfather with Alzheimer’s. Grace realized that the two went together nicely and she uses her voice to help keep his memories alive.

John Baker, her 86-year-old grandfather, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 6 years ago.

Grace told WalesOnline:  “It is proven that music really helps people with Alzheimer’s, it triggers their memory and brings things back.

My grandfather always used to sing this song, so I learned it so we could sing it together.”

Grace moved with her parents into her grandfather and his late wife’s home in Port Talbot, Wales seven years ago. Within a few months, John’s wife passed away and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He is now in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, so his memory is quickly fading.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Guardianship ends in isolation from family, alleged neglect and death from COVID-19

Guardians and lawyers paid $287K 

 By: Adam Walser

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — Under guardianship in Florida, a stranger can take you to court and have all your rights taken away, even if you have family members willing to care for you.

The ABC Action News I-Team uncovered the financial, emotional and deadly consequences of guardianship for one Florida woman and her family.

Genyte Dirse lived and built her American dream at a small hotel beside one of Florida’s best beaches.

“She had a rental business in St. Pete beach in the Don Cesar area and she was doing very well,” her great-nephew Gedi Pakalnis said. “I lived with my great aunt or nearby for almost 15 years and she's like my mother.”

“She was out there every single day, when she was in her 80s, out there sweeping,” Dirse’s neighbor Beth Morean said.

Morean lived across the street from Dirse for 38 years.

“She kept it clean around here. Always had a smile on her face,” her tenant, Tim Everett, said of Dirse. “He (Pakalnis) took care of her. She took care of him. That’s what family does.”

Pakalnis moved from Lithuania as a teen and lived rent-free at the Dirse hotel through college and graduate school.

“He was helping with the property and meals and cleaning. Doing everything,” Morean said.

Trouble in paradise

Tim Everett says the hotel was Dirse’s version of paradise.

“She enjoyed it so much, I think she'd rather be here than anywhere else,” he said.

But as Hurricane Irma approached in September 2017, there was trouble in paradise.

“It started with a real estate agent who was pushing her to sell her property,” Pakalnis said.

After Pakalnis flew to Lithuania for a family emergency, neighbors say realtor Diana Sames began showing up at the hotel.

“She never knew her. She was never a friend to her,” Morean said, adding that she had never seen Sames around the hotel before.

Everett says he overheard Dirse refusing to list her property with Sames.

“Genny would say ‘I no sell. I no sell,’” Everett recalled.

But as Hurricane Irma approached, Sames took Dirse to ride out the storm at her former client's home across the street from her hotel, posting a YouTube video of the two there.

Months after the hurricane, Dirse sold one of her three buildings to her great-nephew for a below-market price of $50,000, closing at a title company in front of a notary and witnesses.

Sames went to a lawyer who helped her file a petition to ask a judge to declare Dirse incapacitated.

In that court document, she claimed Pakalnis had exploited Dirse.

Sames also misspelled Genyte’s first name and wrote “Her native language is unknown and she speaks English with a heavy accent.”

Sames also described herself to the judge as a close neighbor to Dirse, but she lives six-tenths of a mile from her.

As court proceedings progressed, Dirse reported unwanted visits from Sames.

“This is Dirse Apartment Hotel. Diana Sames comes all the time here. Very bad woman, talking, talking too much,” Dirse said, in a 9-1-1 call made in February 2018.

“It was against her will, but she loves him”

Sames initially declined our interview requests, but we caught up with her outside her office.

“I was so happy to involve myself with the corruption that I saw,” Sames said. “He was dishonest. He didn't contact any of the family members. And he did it by himself and it was against her will, but she loves him.”

Sames denied she had any interest in Dirse’s property.

“All I care about is Geny Dirse. I don't care about any other dramas. And it was very important to protect her interests,” Sames said.

Judge Pam Campbell declared Dirse incapacitated, took away her rights and placed her in guardianship to protect her from her great-nephew.

“He was taking property from Mrs.Dirse for less than the fair market value during the time of the guardianship being established. So that does raise concerns about Mrs. Dirse's right mind,” Judge Campbell said during a court hearing.

“She’s trying to get her hotel back”

The judge appointed Traci Samuel, now known as Traci Hudson, to be Dirse’s guardian. Samuel was paid from Dirse’s funds.

She used Dirse’s money to file an eviction lawsuit against Pakalnis and to try to reverse the sale of the hotel.

“She's trying to get her hotel back. She didn't sell it to him,” Samuel testified.

Samuel initially hired caregivers to take care of Dirse at the hotel, but one day, Pakalnis caught a caregiver on videotape yelling at Dirse and pulling her by her arm.

Pakalnis reported the incident to police, but no charges were filed.

Samuel told the court she stopped using that company after the incident and Dirse was moved into assisted living. Pakalnis, her nephew, was prevented from seeing or communicating with her.

“She doesn't want him to visit. I’m respecting the privacy of her,” Samuel said.

Guardian arrested on felony charges

In November 2019, Dirse’s guardian known then as Traci Hudson was arrested, accused of stealing more than half-a-million dollars from a 92-year old man under her care. Authorities say she used the money to buy a 4,000 square foot house in Riverview, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets and jewelry.

“That case she was charged with is a power of attorney case, so totally different from our guardianship cases,” Judge Pam Campbell said, at a hearing for family members and attorneys for about two dozen people under Hudson’s care.

That case is still ongoing and Hudson has not been charged in the Dirse case. But the judge assigned Dirse a new guardian who filed documents with the court showing that Dirse, while under Hudson’s care, had “not been to an eye doctor, nor a dentist.”

As for Dirse’s home, the guardian wrote “nothing has been done, not even food out of the refrigerator. Speechless! ”

Hudson also failed to turn over Dirse’s tax returns, family contact numbers, bank statements, canceled checks, keys and dozens of other items, despite a judge’s order.

Guardian list not provided.png

Court records show guardians and lawyers billed Dirse $287,648 in less than two years.

“It cannot be any worse”

In late April, Pakalnis received the news he most feared.

“I see on my phone pop up a message, email message saying that my aunt is hospitalized and infected with coronavirus,” Pakalnis said. “And my heart said this is not good news.

Pakalnis tried to find a way to visit or talk to his great-aunt.

“The problem is we had an order, a no visitation order,” he said. “I started communication with an attorney and then the guardian.”

Dirse died less than a week later. Pakalnis didn’t talk to her during the last year-and-a-half of her life.

He held a memorial service in her honor on the beach in front of her hotel, with attendees wearing masks and standing apart – unable to hug and comfort each other.

“She loved her beach home and worked around it until she was moved to an assisted living facility,” Pakalnis said. “We wish that the last two years away from her family and her home would not be lost to her. That things could have been different for her and for all of us. “

Dirse was entombed next to her late husband. She was one of more than 7,000 Floridians living or working in long-term care facilities to die from COVID-19.

Pakalnis fought to expose issues with the guardianship process during the time he wasn’t allowed to see his relative.

“Now we have the results. The results were getting worse and worse. And on May 5, we end up with my aunt’s … death. It cannot be any worse. It can’t be worse,” he said.

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

Full Article & Source:

Bar Buzz: Attorney Sand reinstated

By: Kevin Featherly
Richard A. Sand

Richard A. Sand

A lawyer disbarred for criminal conduct in 2012 has been reinstated by order of the state Supreme Court.

Richard A. Sand, 69, a former White Bear Township board chair, won a favorable ruling from the court Wednesday after satisfying reinstatement requirements and demonstrating to the majority that he has undergone the necessary moral change. There was one dissent.

Sand went to prison in 2011 for his part in a fraudulent loan scheme involving a $2 million deal on an Orono residential property. According to the ruling, Sand submitted false loan applications in the name of his 86-year-old mother. He then diverted the fraudulently obtained funds to his own use, which included redeeming a foreclosed property he owned in St. Paul.

He was sentenced to 30 months on one count of aiding and abetting wire fraud and another count of aiding and abetting money laundering and spent 14 months in prison before his release. He was disbarred in 2012.

He applied for reinstatement in November 2018. That prompted an investigation by the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board director into a 2013 complaint from a client, which also involved real estate transactions that caused his client to lose money.

That allegation was not initially investigated because Sand was already disbarred when the complaint was received.

The court found Wednesday that Sand voluntarily agreed to repay and has made monthly payments to the client. He is also working with a lawyer to enter into a contractual repayment schedule, the court found.

Associate Justice Gordon Moore dissented, despite “recognizing laudable progress.”

“I do not agree that Sand has met his heavy burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence a ‘present ability to adhere to the strict code of professional morality,’” Moore wrote, quoting the court’s 1979 In re Peterson ruling. “I also disagree that sufficient time has elapsed to justify reinstatement.”

The majority agreed with Moore that the three-member LPBR panel relied only on Sand’s testimony to determine whether his conduct has changed, but decided that was no reason to deny reinstatement. “We have never held that a petitioner must present corroborating testimony to secure reinstatement,” Wednesday’s order says.

In any event, the court noted, the LPBR director’s investigation did involve corroborating testimony. Sand has met his burden, the majority ruled.

Like the Supreme Court, the Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility Board panel that looked into the matter had one dissenting member.

Sand, first admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1979, has been working as a paralegal at Sand Law LLC, a personal injury practice owned by his two sons.

Full Article & Source:

Alzheimer's-related deaths increase; experts believe pandemic may be indirectly affecting dementia patients

By Steve Nielsen

Compared to the typical five-year average for Alzheimer's and dementia-related deaths in the U.S., 31,000 more people died so far this year than would typically be expected. That's more than 1,000 in Arizona alone.

Kathy and Jean are working together to feed the birds on a beautiful Arizona morning. They'll be marking their 7th wedding anniversary this month and five years since Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"She knew something was wrong. We could see probably two to three years before her diagnosis. Memory gaps,  repeated questions, word searching, and we just started from scratch. Ran straight into the storm," said Kathy Norris Wilhelm.

That storm intensified this year as isolation from COVID-19 took its toll.

"100% of people have seen a negative decline in progression of disease in their loved one. Drastically. I mean exponentially," said Kathy.

Alzheimer's and dementia-related deaths are staggeringly high this year. According to a review of CDC data by the Alzheimer's Association, in Arizona, deaths are up 32.2% compared to the five-year average. That's the highest increase in the country.

"We are, in a lot of ways, the epicenter of this disease," said Kinsey McManus of the Alzheimer's Association. 

McManus says the increase in deaths may be because of misdiagnosed deaths early on in the pandemic. Access to health care is changing, and isolation is taking a toll.

"It seems to be complex and multifaceted, but certainly something we wished we weren't seeing because we're losing enough people to COVID directly."

Kathy says they've worked hard to stay engaged in groups and activities as much as they can, but it's still not enough to make up for what a world with COVID-19 has taken.

"I think it's the perfect storm. I think it's the totality of it."

And that was McManus' advice to all of the caregivers struggling out there. Try to find ways to be socially interactive. It's tough right now, but it can be very helpful.

If you know someone with Alzheimer's, send them a letter, FaceTime them, stay connected.

Full Article & Source:

Monday, December 21, 2020

FEMA sending staff to assist at some New Hampshire long-term care facilities

National Guard also assisting

by Jessica Moran

Much-needed help from the federal government, in the form of additional staffing, is set to be delivered to some New Hampshire long-term care facilities this month. 

FEMA is sending 10 United States Public Health nurses and two Health and Human Services support staff to facilities in Hanover, Manchester and Bedford.

Staff from Hanover Terrace said four registered nurses started work on Tuesday and can stay for up to 30 days. Five residents have died from COVID-19 in that facility and more than 60 residents have the virus.

“I have some staff members that have been here without a day off since the outbreak began, and so, this will be a nice break from them to be able to take some well-deserved time off,” said Martha Ilsley, the administrator at Hanover Terrace.

In just over a month, the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton has lost 35 residents to COVID-19. FEMA is extending their help for an additional two weeks through Dec. 28. The National Guard is also assisting at that facility with two nurses and 10 soldiers.

“It has been absolutely phenomenal, really has gotten us over the hump and helped us cover some really critical holes that we have,” Commandant Margaret LaBrecque said.

The New Hampshire Health Care Association said staffing was an issue before the pandemic. In two years, they said there was a net loss of 1,200 licensed nursing assistants.

As for vaccinations, Hanover Terrace said they have received a tentative date of Jan. 17 and the Veterans Home, as of Tuesday afternoon was still waiting to be given their date.

Both facilities are currently working on providing consent forms and educational materials.

Full Article & Source:

Nursing Home Neglect Deaths Surge During Pandemic

by Michael Damaso

 While multiple reports have been made regarding COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, the number of deaths caused by nursing home neglect have surpassed those figures.  In fact, the number of deaths caused by neglect due to the pandemic has nursing home watchdogs raising the red flag. With COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise, there is a concern that nursing home deaths due to neglect will also continue to rise.

It has been reported that over 90,000 nursing home residents have died during the COVID-19 pandemic from the virus. Reports continue to come in regarding residents who are being left in soiled diapers, are suffering from painful bed sores, and are struggling with hunger and dehydration. ‘Failure to thrive’ has been listed on death certificates as well, as the pandemic has resulted in prolonged isolation for many nursing home residents.

A recent Associated Press study analyzed data from 15,000 long-term care facilities, finding that for every two COVID-19 victims, at least one resident has died prematurely due to other causes. The total of these related fatalities has reached more than 40,000 since March.

One of the issues attributing to nursing home neglect, involves a shortage of staff members.   Residents who are sick with COVID-19 require extra care, leaving non-virus residents with fewer healthcare workers to attend to their needs. Chronic understaffing at nursing home facilities has consistently been reported as a major problem during the pandemic.  Federal data has shown that one in every four nursing homes have reported staff shortages during the pandemic.

Family members who have been allowed to visit their loved ones have reported being concerned with what they saw when they entered the facilities, including reports of residents being severely dehydrated and unclean, among a number of other allegations.

When families place their loved ones in the care of a nursing home, they have the expectation that the staff and all those responsible with providing care for their loved one will do so at the highest standard. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes adhere to the high quality of care one would expect.

Nursing home abuse and neglect are a common occurrence in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Examples of abuse in nursing homes can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, confinement, passive neglect, willful deprivation, and financial exploitation. Nursing home abuse is a felony in Florida and there are certain laws in place to protect the elderly.  If you suspect your loved one is suffering from abuse, neglect or injury in a Florida nursing home or assisted living facility, or if you see bedsores or pressure sores, on your loved one, we’re here to help you.

Full Article & Source:

California psychiatric hospital's Covid-19 outbreak has sickened almost 700

Lawyers have asked a judge to order the release or transfer of half of the patients at Patton state hospital

Lawyers representing patients at a southern California psychiatric hospital describe the state-run facility as a “tinderbox” for Covid-19 infections.

In documents filed earlier this week in federal court, attorneys from the advocacy organization Disability Rights California and the private law firm Covington & Burling asked the judge Jesus G Bernal to order the release or transfer of half of the patients at Patton state hospital.

Patton is located in San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles. With 1,527 beds, it is one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the US. The majority of people confined to the facility have been accused of a crime but found by a judge to be incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.

Since May, at least 335 Patton patients and 327 staff have tested positive for Covid-19; 10 patients have died, according to court documents and the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) patient tracker.

The attorneys’ emergency request is part of a class-action lawsuit filed in August on behalf of four men committed to Patton. Prior to the lawsuit, several organizations, including the California Public Defenders Association and the ACLU of Northern California, urged the department of state hospitals to evaluate patients for release or transfer to facilitate social distancing.

Some patients “no longer need treatment in a secure and locked facility”, the organizations said in a letter to Stephanie Clendenin, the head of DSH. “Many have family or friends to support them in the community if released.”

The letter echoes pleas from medical experts, who have said since the start of the pandemic that the only way to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks in crowded correctional facilities is to significantly reduce the population.

Anne Hadreas, an attorney with Disability Rights California, said she and her colleagues met several times with DSH officials, but were unable to reach an agreement over how to reduce the hospital’s population. They filed the emergency request after learning of a new outbreak at Patton.

“Based on the staggeringly high numbers we couldn’t wait any longer,” she said.

Since mid-November, more than 150 Patton detainees have tested positive for Covid-19, including all four of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. Eleven people have been hospitalized with severe cases of the virus.

“Defendants have failed to conduct an adequate systematic review of high-risk patients in order to identify who can be safely discharged to a less dangerous setting; facilitate the release or transfer of such high-risk patients to safer, non- or less-congregate settings; or otherwise reduce the patient population to allow for anything close to adequate social distancing,” the new court filing says.

Sworn statements submitted by patients as part of the lawsuit describe an environment where social distancing is impossible. Patients sleep as many as five to a room, share bathrooms, eat in the same area, use the same telephones and gather in the same common area. Patients also described Patton as unsanitary and lacking ventilation.

The USC medical center. California’s hospitals have nearly run out of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients amid a surge in cases. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Charles Gluck, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, told the Guardian that staff never explained the threat the virus posed. Gluck has diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure; he learned from watching television that his health conditions put him at risk for complications if he contracted Covid-19.

“Nobody warned us,” he said.

Gluck recently tested positive for Covid-19. Over the phone, he sounded run down. He said he had a fever and pain in his kidneys and hadn’t been able to sleep.

Gluck’s roommate, Ricardo Tapia, also contracted the virus. Tapia said more than 20 people in their unit fell ill after a man who was showing symptoms was moved to the unit at the beginning of December. The man was supposed to remain in his room, but he used the unit’s communal restroom and would often open his door.

Tapia and Gluck were both moved to an isolation unit with large dorm-style rooms with up to a dozen other patients. Both men said there is little to do besides watching television.

“There’s no treatment here,” Tapia said, referring to therapeutic programs that have been put on hold since March.

A spokesman for DSH said he couldn’t discuss specific allegations in the lawsuit, but said that “DSH continues to take all actions necessary to protect its patients and staff from Covid-19, following guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other state and local partners.”

In their response to the plaintiffs’ emergency request, state attorneys asked judge Bernal to halt all further proceedings because Covid-19 vaccines could render the lawsuit moot.

“DSH anticipates that a sufficient number of doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine will be made available for inoculation of more than half of DSH healthcare staff in the highest level priority category in early January 2021,” the attorneys argued.

Hadreas, the lead attorney on the emergency filing, said that waiting until January, when only a portion of staff might be inoculated, isn’t an option.

“It will not help the people who are getting sick right now, and those who will get sick over the next weeks,” she said. “The fact that at some point in the future conditions may improve does not change the fact that conditions are extremely dangerous now.”

On 7 December, DSH did move 43 women from Patton to a “surge capacity” facility in Norwalk, a Los Angeles suburb. In a signed declaration, Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco and expert witness, called the move “necessary” yet inadequate. Chin-Hong chastised state officials for waiting until “an untenable number of patients have tested positive at DSH-Patton”, instead of proactively finding alternative facilities.

Chin-Hong was critical of the dorm-style isolation units, noting that a person with Covid-19 can acquire a more serious infection by being exposed to others with the virus. There is also a risk for reinfection.

“It is important to note that immunity may be short-lived, setting the stage for potential reinfection even after recovery,” he wrote.

Hadreas acknowledged that moving people from Patton will require careful assessment.

“It’s really not a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s not what we’re asking for,” she said, adding, “The only way to make it a safer environment is for there to be fewer people for social distancing to be possible.”

A hearing on the emergency order is scheduled for 22 December.

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Michigan Court of Appeals upholds lower courts' ruling on St. Clair County estate case

by Laura Fitzgerald

The Michigan Court of Appeals Thursday upheld an earlier ruling that declared a now-dead St. Clair County woman did not have the capacity to sign her estate to her guardian, a senior retirement community leasing agent. 

But the guardian, Lisa Tramski, has said herself and the dead woman, Pauline Runyon, had a close friendship and Runyon appointed Tramski the beneficiary of her estate of her own free will.

The Michigan Attorney General filed objections in the St. Clair County probate case after Tramski became a guardian for 85-year-old Runyon and drafted a will making herself the beneficiary of Runyon’s estate. 

Probate Court Judge John Tomlinson ruled in September 2019 that Runyon lacked the capacity to sign the will and that Tramski exerted excessive influence on Runyon, according to the attorney general's office. 

Tramski appealed the case, and on Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.  

“A fiduciary – for instance a guardian, a power of attorney or a conservator – has a legal duty to act for someone else’s benefit while subordinating their own personal interest,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “Writing a will where the guardian gets everything, and the charities mentioned in previous wills are left with nothing clearly breaches this duty. My team is on high alert for any similar action and we invite the public to file complaints with my office. Let this case serve as a warning to anybody intent on exploiting a vulnerable adult in Michigan: We are watching, and with our local law enforcement partners, we will aggressively pursue those who breach these duties and line their own pockets.” 

Runyon, who had no living heirs, became a resident of the retirement community where Tramski worked as the leasing agent, according to the attorney general's office. 

The office said Tramski obtained large monetary gifts from Runyon for herself and her son within months of meeting her. Tramski became Runyon's guardian following an accident that resulted in a traumatic head injury for Runyon. 

Days before Runyon's death, Tramski's friend – who also worked at the retirement community – provide a will to Runyon that Tramski drafted, making herself the sole beneficiary of Runyon's estate, according to the office. 

The office said Tramski signed a do-not-resuscitate order for Runyon and requested “comfort care or hospice” the following day, nursing and progress notes indicated. 

While the case was on appeal, a 2010 will leaving Runyon's entire estate to various charities was admitted to St. Clair County Probate Court. 

Tramski describes mother-daughter relationship with Runyon

Tramski commented on the case following Tomlinson's decision in 2019. 

At the time, Tramski said in an email to the Times Herald she befriended Runyon after she inquired about leasing. There were no units available at the time Runyon entered Tramski's office, but Runyon continued to contact her, sparking a close friendship akin to a mother-daughter relationship.

In March 2018, Runyon sustained a head injury. Soon after, Tramski said she was advised by a social worker and a McLaren hospital staff member to become Runyon's legal guardian, to which she agreed. 

In May 2018, after Runyon was diagnosed with a Kennedy Ulcer, Tramski said she drafted a will and had a third party deliver it to Runyon. All actions were at the director of Tramski's attorney, she said. 

Runyon made the decision to make Tramski the beneficiary of her will of her own free will prior to her injury, Tramski said. Runyon made a video stating her wishes, and Tramaski made a statement to court to continue to honor Runyon's wishes to donate to charities of her choice, Tramski said. 

Tramski's attorney, Jeffrey Gerish, declined to comment on the case. 

Tramski did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Friday afternoon. 

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Britney Spears' Conservatorship Extended Until September 2021

Britney Spears' Conservatorship Extended Until September 2021

by Desiree Murphy‍

Britney Spears' conservatorship has been extended again, this time until Sept. 3, 2021.

ET has learned that the decision was made during Wednesday's remote hearing. Britney's father, Jamie Spears, mother, Lynne Spears, and attorney, Samuel Ingham, all appeared via LACourtConnect.

During the hearing, Jamie's handling of Britney's assets for 2019 were expected to be reviewed. The court agreed, however, to continue the matters to a later hearing next year. Britney's conservatorship was previously set to remain as is until February 2021. 

Earlier this week, Jamie claimed in an interview with CNN that he has not spoken to his daughter since August amid their legal battle. He also alleged that he was on "good terms" with her up until her attorney filed to officially remove him as her conservator.

"I love my daughter and I miss her very much. When a family member needs special care and protection, families need to step up, as I have done for the last 12-plus years, to safeguard, protect and continue to love Britney unconditionally," Jamie said. "I have and will continue to provide unwavering love and fierce protection against those with self-serving interests and those who seek to harm her or my family."

Jamie and his lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen, also claimed that Britney's legal team is preventing him from speaking to her.

"Jamie's relationship with Britney is not that different than your average father-daughter relationship insofar as there has always been a mutual love and respect for each other," the attorney told CNN. "Until Britney's court-appointed attorney Sam Ingham abruptly instructed Jamie not to contact Britney a few months ago, Jamie and Britney had spoken often and regularly throughout the entire conservatorship. In fact, they had spoken just the day before and had had a pleasant and collaborative conversation."

The interview comes a month after ET reported that Jamie would remain as co-conservator of her estate after she requested to have him "suspended immediately." During a court hearing on Nov. 10, Britney's attorney claimed she feared her father and would not perform on stage as long as he remained a part of the conservatorship. The lawyer did note that Britney and her father hadn't talked in a long time.

While the judge did not suspend Jamie as co-conservator at the time, the judge did agree to part of Britney's request, making Bessemer Trust a co-conservator. Ultimately, the singer wants Bessemer to be the sole conservator of her estate and her father to be removed. 

"Britney has had a rough year when it comes to her conservatorship," a source told ET earlier this month, ahead of her 39th birthday. "While she appreciates what her father has done for her in the past, she feels she's ready to take more control of her finances and healthcare, and it's been an endless struggle. She is excited about turning 39, and she thinks this year will be a healing year for her." 

"She is handling all the legal drama by staying positive and focusing on keeping a schedule each day, which has always been helpful for her state of mind," the source added.

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Florida rolls out COVID-19 vaccinations in nursing homes

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Nursing homes around Florida began inoculating patients and staff Wednesday against COVID-19 with doses of the first U.S.-approved vaccine against the disease that has killed more than 20,000 people in the state.

At the John Knox Village near Fort Lauderdale, 90 of the 100 residents of its skilled-nursing facility were set for vaccination later Wednesday. Such homes have borne the brunt of the state’s outbreak, with 7,765 of its 20,365 confirmed deaths reported there.

Florida is receiving about 180,000 doses of the initial Pfizer vaccine approved for emergency use, and hospitals around the state began vaccinating frontline health workers Monday.

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