Saturday, October 16, 2021

Forbidden: Basic Human Rights Denied Under Guardianship

By Terri LaPoint

When a person commits heinous crimes, it should come as no surprise when a criminal court sentences them and they lose many of their rights. However, when a person is injured in an accident, develops an impairment, or simply grows older, they too can lose many, even most, of their basic human rights under a probate court.

There are federal and state laws in place which theoretically protect those under guardianship, but when these laws are violated, who will know about it? Those within the system have lost their voice.

Who speaks out for them?

In a criminal case, the proceedings are held in open court where they can be scrutinized by the public and the media, which lends a level of transparency and protection for even the most wicked of offenders. In probate court, as in family and juvenile court, proceedings are often hidden behind policies of “confidentiality.” Transparency vanishes.

If laws are broken, or if there are violations of due process or basic human rights, no one outside the case may ever find out about it.

If a person is declared “incompetent” in such a court, whether or not they truly are, there is often no recourse. The individual, or “ward” as they are now known, is left at the mercy of a guardian or conservator. Though the wishes and best interests of the ward are supposed to be protected, sometimes they are not. No matter how egregious the depravation of their rights, because they have been declared incompetent, the ward is now essentially a persona non grata. Their cries for help fall on deaf ears.

“Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity or disability,” according to Justia Law. It was never intended to be a mechanism for imprisonment. Yet in too many cases, that is what it has become.

A petition to incarcerate someone via probate court may be made by disgruntled employees, by family members disagreeing over decisions, or by a doctor dissatisfied with a person making medical choices with which they disagree. They can be made over false or exaggerated allegations.

Nonetheless, the result is that someone loses their rights to make basic decisions in life.

Examples of failures of the guardianship system are abundant. The stories are increasingly being covered in the media, thanks to high-profile cases such as Britney Spears, Joann Bashinsky — the Golden Flake heiress, and Casey Kasem. There are thousands of lesser-known victims all over the United States. The PPJ Gazette & TS Radio Network covers a new story almost weekly, and has done so for almost 15 years. Former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik has written several pieces for Newsmax exposing the silent epidemic of guardianship abuse, calling on local and national governments to fight it.

Injury Results in Guardianship

Bob (a real person, but not his real name) was, at one time, the highly respected founder of a ministry known around the world. His work has impacted the lives of many, both directly and indirectly. He was injured in an accident which left him with chronic pain and cognitive impairments. He had to retire from his position with the ministry.

As the years went by, Bob voiced concerns with family and friends that another family member was making decisions resulting in him steadily losing his independence and his voice. He learned this family member was making plans to place him into an institution. In an effort to protect his freedom, he appointed a long-time friend as his Power of Attorney just before the family member filed for guardianship.

A probate court sent him to be evaluated by a medical provider who worked with the court. The doctor reported cognitive limitations and some dementia. Bob’s POA was set aside, and the judge declared Bob “incapacitated.” He was placed under guardianship and moved to a nursing home against his wishes.

Family and friends were told on social media that Bob had a brain disorder which caused rapid decline and that he would not likely be alive in five years.

That time has come and gone, and Bob is still around. Some of the people who care about him expected to see a severely incapacitated individual when they visited him, but were surprised to see he still had a quick wit and could carry on intelligent conversations on a wide variety of topics.

As is the case in many guardianship stories, family members do not agree about Bob’s care. Some insist that he is in the proper place and that he cannot take care of himself at all. Others insist that he is capable of a great deal more than they were led to believe. They would like for him to live with family members who can help care for him, or at least in a less restrictive setting than a nursing home.

There is no dispute that Bob has difficulties and needs care, but there is disagreement between those with power over his life and other family members who love him over where he should live and what kind of care is appropriate.

Loss of Freedom

One of the biggest concern of those loved ones is the loss of Bob’s voice in what happens to him. Though he lost his freedom several years ago, Bob has not once been able to appear in court himself.

At least twice, he has been dressed in a suit, waiting to be picked up, ready to appear before the judge, but he was not allowed to go. He wanted to be there and have his voice heard.

Many of his family and friends have been banned off and on by his guardian from visiting him after they questioned his care and expressed concerns over decisions made by the guardian. Though he requests to see them, and though he called some of them almost daily when he found a way to have access to a phone, the guardian has told the facilities that certain people are not allowed to visit. These restrictions were happening before Covid.

There have been times he has been moved to a different facility, and it has taken months for loved ones to figure out where he was.

One family member reports regularly enjoying eight to ten hour visits with Bob until being banned. At the same time, the guardian visited infrequently and typically stayed a half hour or hour, leaving Bob feeling isolated and abandoned in a facility with much older people with far less cognitive ability than he has.

How is it that a guardian, whether a court-appointed guardian, a sibling, a child, or a spouse, can decide and decree that certain relationships are forbidden? Yet it happens every day in every state.

Bob would like to attend church. It would seem reasonable that the founder of a world-wide ministry might be afforded this opportunity. Indeed, he has begged many times to be able to go to church. His guardian says no. Thus a man whose life used to revolve around the church has not been permitted to go for several years.

Bob has repeatedly requested mental health counseling to be able to process the losses and trauma he has experienced. Doctors have recommended this as well, but that request has been denied on the basis that someone with dementia would have nothing to talk about in counseling.

Since the diagnosis which essentially ended his freedom, there has been little follow-up treatment, other than an abundance of medications. In the words of one family member, they are keeping Bob “medicated and warehoused.” They would like to see medical efforts to improve his condition, as well as pain management and physical therapy.

Bob would like to have a voice in his own treatment options. He has repeatedly requested a review of his medical condition and has expressed the belief that his diagnosis may have been in error.

His hearing is fine, but he needs glasses to read. When a relative asked for him to have an updated eye exam for new glasses, the guardian said they could not afford to keep replacing glasses. The guardian stated in court that people with dementia don’t read. However, Bob was able to read, at least at that time. There is video footage of him reading out loud quite well, as long as the print was large enough. The problem was with his vision, not his intellectual ability to read. 

Many wards under guardianship are denied such basics as glasses, hearing aids, phone access, or the ability to send or receive mail. Image by Rick Bella from Pixabay

Bob would like to have a cell phone and be able to write and correspond with friends and family as he once did. At times he was not permitted access to send or receive mail. According to FindLaw, even hardened criminals have the right to receive mail, but “prison officials are entitled to open mail directed to inmates to ensure that it does not contain any illegal items or weapons, but may not censor” the mail for content they don’t like.

He wants to be able to leave the facility once in awhile to go out to eat, to the park, or to the beach. He has family members who would love nothing better than to take him on such outings.

Staff at the facilities have often asked family members why Bob’s guardian placed him in restrictive facilities when the other residents were much more impaired than him. One nurse described him as being more like a volunteer than a resident because of how he encouraged and uplifted other residents.

In short, Bob has expressed to numerous family members and friends that he feel like a prisoner, and he despairs of every being free again. One of his relatives wrote, “It has been said we think nothing is wrong with [Bob]. On the contrary, we know he has impairments, but we don’t think that means he should be locked up and the key be thrown away.”

At one visit, the relative found a heartbreaking note Bob had written:

“No one told me I would stay in this facility until I die.”


He has long since passed the point at which the original prognosis said he would die from his brain illness. Bob is far from being a vegetable; he is mobile and he retains more cognitive function than some people we may see walking around freely.

One family member stated recently, “There’s no diagnosis on planet earth that could justify how he is being treated.”

There Are (Widely Ignored) Guardianship Standards of Practice

The National Guardianship Association (NGA) adopted “Standards of Practice” in 2000. The Fourth Edition was published in 2013, and those standards are still in place today. There are thousands of victims of guardianship abuse who would be overjoyed if these standards were consistently followed. They are not.

A guardian is not to act in accordance with what the guardian wants, but the decisions for the person under guardianship should be in accordance with what that individual wants and needs. Interestingly, the standards state, “First, the guardian shall ask the person what he or she wants.” If they cannot express what they want, decisions should be made based upon “the decision the person would have made when the person had capacity….”

It is only in cases where the guardian cannot ascertain what the person wants or would have wanted that the guardian is to make decisions in the ward’s “best interest.” Even then, “Best Interest” is defined:

  1. Best Interest is the principle of decision‐making that should be used only when the person has never had capacity, when the person’s goals and preferences cannot be ascertained even with support, or when following the person’s wishes would cause substantial harm to the person.
  2. The Best Interest principle requires the guardian to consider the least intrusive, most normalizing, and least restrictive course of action possible to provide for the needs of the person.
  3. The Best Interest principle requires the guardian to consider past practice and evaluate reliable evidence of likely choices.

The document defines “least restrictive alternative” as a “mechanism, course of action, or environment that allows the person to live, learn, and work in a setting that places as few limits as possible on the person’s rights and personal freedoms as appropriate to meet the needs of the person.”

Due process is guaranteed in the United States Constitution, but that concept too is elusive in many probate and family courts.

It is apparent that these and other principles in the Standards of Practice for guardians are not being followed in Bob’s case or in any of the other guardianship cases I have investigated over the years.

Unfortunately, stories like Bob’s are not rare. At what point is it justifiable to remove a person’s basic human rights? At what level of mental decline is it acceptable to eliminate all semblance of choice from a person’s life? While we surely must protect the most vulnerable among us, that protection cannot come at the cost of their dignity and humanity.

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Former Doylestown Attorney, Money Launderer, To Be Disbarred

Robert P. Hoopes, the former Lower Southampton public safety director convicted of extortion and money laundering, will be disbarred.

by John Fey

Hoopes was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania​ on Sept. 17, and will be officially disbarred from practicing law in the state of Pennsylvania this Sunday, one month after the ruling. (Shutterstock)

DOYLESTOWN, PA — Former Doylestown attorney and public safety director for Lower Southampton, Robert Patrick Hoopes, will officially be disbarred this month, officials announced.

This comes after a 2019 decision by The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which suspended Hoopes from practicing law after he admitted to money laundering and extortion in his role as public safety director.

His disbarment is effective Sunday, Oct. 17.

According to The Intelligencer, Hoopes conspired to commit money laundering and four acts of extortion listed under the Hobbs Act.

Hoopes is currently serving a 4 1/2 year sentence for his crimes following his disbarment. He was sentenced in 2019, along with Bernard Rafferty, a former Bucks County deputy constable, who served 18 months for money laundering and mail fraud, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Hoopes was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Sept. 17, and will be officially disbarred from practicing law in the state of Pennsylvania this Sunday, one month after the ruling. According to the order, this comes after Hoopes and his attorneys "(...) failed to respond to a Notice and Order directing him to provide reasons against the imposition of reciprocal discipline (...)".

More information can be found on The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania's website.

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Iowa nursing home is named one of the nation’s worst

Shenandoah home has been fined more than $300K

By: Clark Kauffman

An Iowa nursing home recently hit with more than $300,000 in fines has been added to Medicare’s list of the nation’s worst care facilities. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department on Aging and Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office)

An Iowa nursing home recently hit with more than $300,000 in fines has been added to Medicare’s list of the nation’s worst care facilities.

The Garden View Care Center in Shenandoah has been cited for 23 regulatory violations so far this year. After an April inspection, federal officials fined the home $306,335.

The Page County home is one of 10 Iowa care facilities eligible for inclusion on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Special-Focus Facility List, which is a national list of homes with some of the worst records of regulatory compliance.

Garden View was only recently added to the list of homes considered eligible for inclusion on the list based on poor performance. The home has the lowest possible ratings from CMS on all three of the measures charted by the federal agency: quality of care, staffing levels and regulatory compliance.

Roughly 32% of Garden View’s staff have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CMS. The home is owned by Shenandoah Properties, a limited liability company based in Jackson, Mississippi.

In April, state inspectors visited Garden View in response to nine complaints, eight of which were substantiated. The inspectors cited the home for failing to protect residents from abuse; failing to have sufficient nursing staff; failing to maintain sanitary conditions; failing to provide residents with physician-prescribed supplemental oxygen; failing to develop a care plan for residents; failing to provide adequate grooming and bathing for residents; failing to change wound dressings; failing to provide scheduled physical therapy for  residents; and failure to protect two residents from accidents that led to bone fractures.

The inspectors reported that the facility’s call-light equipment indicated residents of the home were routinely waiting 30 to 50 minutes – and sometimes two or three hours — for workers to respond to the call lights they used to summon help to their room.

According to the inspectors, two nurses at the home refused to give a resident her meal unless she got up out of bed, keeping her food tray at the nurse’s station instead. For dinner, the woman ate animal crackers her brother had brought to the facility, and other workers later reported the woman was “crying hard” in her room.

One of the nurses who withheld the dinner later told a colleague the woman had no right to a meal because of how big she was, the inspectors reported.

In an unrelated incident at the home, a worker told inspectors she overheard an aide say about a resident, “I ain’t going to do this f—ing s— all night,” then watched as the aide pulled the woman out of a room and drag her backwards across the floor into another room. The worker reported the aide then told the resident, “Sit down and shut the f— up.” The worker told inspectors she confronted the aide, telling her, “You’re lucky I need my job, as I’ve never wanted to hit someone so bad.”

During their visit, the inspectors reported seeing residents with long, dirty fingernails and disheveled, greasy hair. Residents, workers and the facility’s own records indicated baths often weren’t being provided due to the home being short-staffed and the day-shift workers refusing to give baths. In at least some instances, the residents were given a bag of wet wipes called “Ready Bath” instead.

The director of nursing told inspectors the home wasn’t short-staffed and that baths were being given. She reportedly said she was a “master at staffing” and added that if the workers, residents and records indicated baths weren’t being given, they were wrong.

State fines held in suspension

One resident was seen by an inspector laying naked in a bed with urine-soaked sheets. Ten different employees of the home told an inspector that when they  began their shifts in the morning, they’d often find residents lying in sheets soaked with urine.

Two residents who didn’t receive their supplemental oxygen at the home were hospitalized on an emergency basis after their oxygen levels, which should have been above 88%, dropped to the mid-40s.

During their visit, inspectors also noted large, “softball-size” holes in the walls, exposed pipes, missing ceiling tiles and plastic baseboards peeling away from the walls.

While the inspection was still underway, state officials notified the facility that residents of the home were deemed to be in “immediate jeopardy,” which is a term that indicates a high-level regulatory violation. The next day, inspectors downgraded the violation based on the home’s stated plans to correct the problems.

Based on its findings, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals proposed, but did not impose, $20,000 in state fines. By holding those fines in suspension, the state agency gave CMS the opportunity to impose a $306,335 federal fine that has yet to be paid.

CMS’ Care Compare website indicates the most recent federal fine imposed at Garden View was in 2019 – although some of the data on that site has been shown to be inaccurate. The Department of Inspections and Appeals’ website says that in March 2020, CMS imposed a federal fine of $62,582 against Garden View.

Typically, homes that are eligible for special-focus designation have about twice the average number of violations cited by state inspectors; they have more serious problems than most other nursing homes, including harm or injury to residents; and they have established a pattern of serious problems that has persisted over a long period of time.

The other Iowa homes currently deemed eligible for special-focus status are: Altoona Nursing & Rehab; Aspire of Muscatine; Aspire of Primghar; Cedar Falls Health Care Center; The Ivy in Davenport; Oakland Manor; QHC Fort Dodge Villa; QHC Mitchellville; and Rock Rapids Health Center.

The Special-Focus Facility List is updated quarterly by CMS and includes homes deemed by CMS to have “a history of serious quality issues.” Those homes are enrolled in a special program intended to stimulate improvements in their quality of care through increased oversight.

While 10 Iowa homes are deemed eligible for that sort of assistance, they are not actually enrolled in the program or receiving the assistance.

That’s because the number of facilities on the list remains relatively constant. New facilities can’t be named a special-focus facility, regardless of how poor their care is, until other homes in that same state improve and “graduate” from the list – a process that can take four years or more..

Nationally, there are normally about 88 nursing facilities on the list, with one or two slots to be filled by each state. The state Department of Inspections and Appeals nominates the Iowa facilities for inclusion on the list, and CMS selects two from the state to be enrolled in the program.

The two Iowa homes now designated as Special-Focus Facilities are the Touchstone Healthcare Community in Sioux City and QHC-Winterset North in Madison County.

Editor’s note:  This story has been updated with a correction: Garden View Care Center is in Page County, not Fremont County.

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Maryland Man Not Seen in Months Found Dead; Son Charged With Neglect

Gary W. Howes' son allegedly told police his father was visiting a friend in West Virginia. Detectives learned that man died five years ago 

By Pat Collins and Andrea Swalec 

A Montgomery County man is charged with criminal neglect after his elderly father’s decomposed body was found last week in their home. 

Gary W. Howes was found dead in his house on Bready Road, in the Olney area, county prosecutors said Wednesday. He was 75 and was a retired driving instructor for a bus company.

His son, Gary D. Howes, 51, was charged with neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death or serious injury. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney. 

Charging documents say county police found the senior’s body after a family member requested a welfare check. His son allegedly told police his father was visiting a friend in West Virginia. Detectives learned that that friend died five years ago. 

Gary W. Howes’ doctors, neighbors and a pharmacist said they hadn’t seen him in months. Prosecutors say he had conditions that required regular medication.

Neighbor Eddie Gregg said he had feared something was wrong. 

“I’m just tore up about it. Gary and I used to sit and talk a lot. We were good buddies,” he said.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy advised families to check in regularly on vulnerable family members and avoid having one person be someone’s sole caregiver.

Police received a call on Sept. 6 requesting that officers check on Gary W. Howes’ welfare, charging documents say. The caller told police they had frequently spoken with him by phone but the home’s landline and a cellphone line were disconnected. When family members went to the house, the younger Howes either wouldn’t answer the door or wouldn’t let them in. The caller reported last seeing Gary W. Howes nearly a year ago, in October 2020. 

Police learned that Gary W. Howes had medical conditions but hadn’t seen his doctors in months. A pharmacist said their last contact was in December 2020. 

Officers went to the Howes’ home on Sept. 7 and found that the windows and doors were covered. They spoke with the son but he refused to let them inside. Officers were able to see cleaning supplies and “plastic wrapping material” in the house. 

The younger Howes allegedly told police his father, who used a walker, was in West Virginia with a friend and would return home in a few days. Police learned that the man the son named died in 2016. 

Detectives also learned that the younger Howes frequented an antique mall in Olney, where he sold items. An employee told police Howes had said his father died. 

An acquaintance of the elder Howes told police the senior had been concerned about several guns his son owned. 

Officers looking for the elder Howes contacted hospitals, nursing homes, shelters and medical examiners’ offices but found nothing. They obtained a search warrant to enter the home on Bready Road.

Officers went to the house on Sept. 9. The younger Howes again said his father was in West Virginia. He told officers they were “wasting valu[able] public resources searching for his father,” charging documents say. 

Officers entered the house and smelled “an odor of human decomposition.” They found Gary W. Howes’ remains in a bedroom. Used adult diapers also were found.

Information was not released on Gary W. Howes’ cause of death. An initial autopsy was conducted and there were no findings suggesting homicide, McCarthy, the state's attorney, said. The investigation is ongoing.

Gary D. Howes was jailed on $10,000 bond with release conditions including getting mental health treatment. He was released pending further court action. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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Justices suspend lawyers for failure to pay Disciplinary Commission

The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended two attorneys from the practice of law in Indiana after neither paid fees they owed to the court’s Disciplinary Commission for the costs of prosecuting them.

Justices called for the suspensions of Noblesville attorney Scott A. Adams and Evansville attorney Yvonne M. Carter in two separate Sept. 22 disciplinary orders.

Both attorneys were suspended from the practice of law for failing to pay costs assessed in their respective disciplinary actions “by the due date of the annual registration fee (October 1), in violation of the requirements of Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(10.1)(d) or Rule 23(21).”

Adams, admitted to practice in 2003, was suspended for 180 days in March 2020 with 60 days actively served and the remainder of his suspension stayed subject to the completion of at least two years of probation with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. He was disciplined after failing to inform and refund several clients, among other things.

According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, the disciplinary action against him was, at the time, Adams’ first. The costs of the proceeding were assessed against him, but Adams failed to pay those costs on time and never filed a response to the commission’s petition, leading to his suspension effective 10 days after the order was handed down.

Adams can file a petition for reinstatement pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 2(h), but his petition will be granted only if the court finds that he is eligible and if there are no other suspensions in effect.

Similarly, Evansville attorney Yvonne M. Carter was suspended for failing to reimburse the commission $527.50 in costs assessed in a disciplinary action against her stemming back to August of 2019.

At the time, the commission had petitioned for Carter to show cause as to why she shouldn’t be suspended immediately from the practice of law for failure to cooperate with its investigation of a grievance filed against her by failing to submit written responses to pending allegations of professional misconduct against her. The case was eventually dismissed as moot by the high court in January of 2020.

Unlike Adams, Carter filed a response to the commission’s petition in the form of an unverified motion asking it to set aside its prior order in January 2020 assessing costs against her. However, the high court found her motion to be “untimely” and that it did not “set forth good cause” to set aside its prior order.

It thus denied her motion and proceeded to suspend Carter after she also missed the Oct. 1 deadline to reimburse the commission. Her suspension similarly goes into effect 10 days after Wednesday order. She can petition for reinstatement pursuant to Admission and Discipline Rule 2(h).

Carter was admitted to the practice of law in 1999, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.

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St. Joseph's Home of Springfield, a Catholic nursing facility, is closing in December

by Steven Spearie

St. Joseph's Home of Springfield, a Catholic nursing care facility for men and women, announced that it would close Dec. 15.
(Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register)

Sarah Allen said family members were on the phone immediately after finding out Tuesday that St. Joseph's Home was closing after 118 years.

Allen's father, Jim Morris, has lived in the nursing care facility owned and operated by a Roman Catholic women's religious community since May 2017.

The home at 3306 S. Sixth Street Road is closing Dec. 15.

Allen admitted she was "surprised and shocked" by the announcement, but that didn't keep her and her five siblings from the task of trying to relocate their 85-year-old father.

"Shocked because he loves it there and we love it, too," Allen said. "He has done really, really well there and has found a community and a family and a place to be."

The announcement was made on the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception website. Family members, residents and staff were also informed Tuesday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has been notified and has approved the plan of closure. The home's leadership confirmed it will surrender its license.

The Franciscan Sisters, also known as "the Sisters of Heading Avenue," have owned and operated the home since its founding in 1903.

The president of the West Peoria, Illinois-based congregation, Sister Kathleen Ann Mourisse, said in a news release one of the main reasons for the decision was the declining number of sisters to staff the home. 

“This is not something we want to do," Mourisse said. "We do not have enough sisters to continue this beloved ministry. Many, if not most, religious communities in our country are also facing the same dilemma. In addition, the climate created by COVID-19 has contributed to both a reduction in the resident census and a severe staffing shortage, not only at St. Joseph’s but throughout the healthcare industry.”

Mourisse declined further comment to The State Journal-Register.

The home's administrator didn't immediately return a phone call to the newspaper.

There are just under 50 residents living at the home, which includes Holy Family, a memory care unit.

The home's plan of closure stated that it will make "every reasonable effort to accommodate each resident's goals, preferences and needs regarding receipt of services, location and setting." Home administrators are working with IDPH and a local ombudsman to ensure it complies with all regulations and required procedures governing the transition.  

Allen, the only one of six siblings who lives in Springfield, said the home gave residents' families resources, including phone numbers and contacts for all of the nursing homes in the Springfield area.

Allen said she had an appointment to look at another nursing home for her father, a former state of Illinois worker, on Wednesday.

"We're hopeful," Allen admitted. "Our options are fairly limited, though, but we're trying to find a place to accommodate him."

Mike Armstrong, who has visited a number of friends at the home, including Morris, also professed surprise at the announcement, but stood by the sisters.

"Those sisters really had the well-being of all those patients in their hearts," Armstrong said. "They really worked hard to keep the patients not just alive, but really enjoying life. They are very special people."

Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, in a prepared statement, said he was grateful to the sisters who have worked "across many generations in this community."

"I know this decision has been a difficult but necessary one for the sisters, and I also know they and their staff are committed to working with families to find new homes for the residents of St. Joseph’s Home," Paprocki added.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said the news was "heartbreaking."

"It's a sad day in Springfield (with the closure)," Langfelder admitted. "It's a turning of the page, so to speak. It's a wake-up call for all of us to understand that those services are still needed and how do we move forward, making sure that people are taken care of.

"It's something you never thought would happen, but it has."

Allen said one of the things she appreciated was that her father could attend daily Mass at the home. 

"That's one of the main things that makes me sad for him is the community he has developed and leaving that behind," Allen said. "It'll be interesting to see how things move from here."

Despite the timing of the announcement, Allen, a teacher at Blessed Sacrament School, said she bore no ill will toward the sisters.

"I think they would keep it going as long as they could, if they could," Allen said. "I really believe they're trying to do everything they can."

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Calls to end Peter Max guardianship

Loved ones of pop artist icon Peter Max are pleading for the end of his court-appointed guardianship. His daughter, Libra Max, says the guardian is financially exploiting her father.

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100 people attend Catholic Charities' Ohio Guardianship Association conference in Mansfield

MANSFIELD — Catholic Charities hosted the Ohio Guardianship annual conference Sept. 22 and 23 at the Holiday Inn, Mansfield with approximately 100 people attending.

Carol Wheeler, former Adult Advocacy Services program coordinator at Catholic Charities, received the Distinguished Service Award.

The conference opened with a session on Overcoming Grief and Compassion Fatigue presented by Katherine Hall, LSW - Grief Counselor with Stein Hospice in Sandusky.

The plenary session Thursday featured Dr. Lauren Southerland, Director of Clinical Research and Associate Professor at The Ohio State University Department of Emergency Medicine who presented on how guardians can communicate better with hospital teams.

Breakout sessions included crime victims with disabilities, guardianship of estate, creating welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTQ, and ethics for guardians. The conference concluded with a panel of mental health professionals.

Catholic Charities Adult Advocacy Services provides guardianship services to enhance the quality of life for adults who have been deemed incompetent by the probate courts, are at least 55 years or older, have a diagnosed incapacity, and lack the support of appropriate family or significant others by advocating on their behalf to protect against abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Of the clients served last year through the program, 95% were indigent, 100% had dementia or some other significant cognitive impairment, and 37% were victimized by a family member. Catholic Charities responds to the needs of the most vulnerable members in our communities by providing services to address the critical gap in services available to the growing population of older adults.

For information on guardianship please contact Sue Warren at Catholic Charities or 419-524-0733 for more details.

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Police: Caretaker charged more than $43,000 on victim’s debit card

Katherine Dreher
by: Linda Cook

A 35-year-old Eldridge caretaker was released from Scott County Jail on Tuesday morning after police say she used a neighbor’s debit card to charge more than $43,000.

Katherine Dreher, who was arrested on a warrant, faces felony charges of first-degree theft, dependent-adult abuse – exploitation over $100, and forgery.

In an arrest affidavit, Eldridge police say Dreher has been writing checks in the victim’s name dated back to 2019.

The Department of Human Services defines Dreher as the victim’s caretaker. Dreher has been living in a duplex owned by the victim, with the victim as her neighbor, in Eldridge, police say.

Witnesses say they have seen Dreher with the victim’s debit card, the affidavit says.

“The victim never kept her residence secure, giving full access to the residence by the defendant,” the affidavit says. Text messages show Dreher has been inside the victim’s residence without permission.

“The victim’s state-appointed conservator is still recovering charges not made by the victim,” the affidavit says.

Some online purchases were made with the victim’s debit card and packages were sent to Dreher’s address. The victim has no internet access, the affidavit says.

Dreher, who was released on her own recognizance, is set for a preliminary hearing Oct. 1 in Scott County Court, court records say.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Kevin Federline's lawyer says Britney Spears' conservatorship won't affect their kids' custody agreement

by Tyler McCarthy

The recent major change in Britney Spears’ conservatorship likely won’t have an impact on her custody agreement with Kevin Federline regarding their two children.

Federline’s lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan, told Fox News that the duo has successfully worked out a custody agreement over the years that allows her to see their boys, Sean Preston, 16, and Jayden James, 15, as much as she wants. As a result, even if her recent legal victory in court leads to the end of her highly controversial conservatorship, Kaplan doesn’t believe the former couple's agreement will be revisited in any legal sense.

"Assuming that, at a hearing, the court makes an order terminating the conversatorship, I don’t view that in and of itself to be a material change of circumstances that would create a modification or a need for a modification for a custody agreement between the two parties," Kaplan explained.

Britney Spears poses with sons Jayden James Federline (L) and Sean Preston Federline (R) in 2013. Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers via Getty Images

He added: "Britney and Kevin, regardless of what the orders says, have pretty much successfully worked out a schedule that meets the children's needs and desires and the availability of the parents with or without a conservatorship imposed on Britney. I don’t think that’s going to change."

Spears and Federline got engaged in 2004 before she filed for divorce just two years later in 2006.

Currently, Federline is the primary custody holder, meaning the kids spend a majority of their time with him. However, Spears seemingly has no restrictions allowing her to see the kids whenever she wants other than the kids getting older and having busy schedules of their own. Although her conservatorship has allegedly been very restrictive on her life, it seems that it was not something that affected her ability to be a parent to her and Federline’s kids.

Kevin Federline and Britney Spears have a custody agreement regarding their kids that won't be affected by her conservatorship. <span class="copyright">Jason Merritt/FilmMagic</span>
Kevin Federline and Britney Spears have a custody agreement regarding their kids that won't be affected by her conservatorship. Jason Merritt/FilmMagic
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Senator Bob Casey: Nation Is ‘Long Overdue for an Investment in Caregiving’

By Robert Holly

Over the past couple weeks, moderate Democrats have threatened to walk away from the White House’s $3.5 trillion economic package, which President Joe Biden hopes to use to strengthen America’s at-home care infrastructure for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

As a candidate, Biden proposed spending $400 billion on home- and community-based services (HCBS) to help make up for years of underinvestment. That figure has reportedly been more than halved during the back-and-forth talks to fill out that package while keeping full Democratic support.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are among the key Democrats that have railed against the economic package’s overall price tag, putting HCBS funding on the chopping block despite widespread support from the general public.

Nearly eight of 10 likely voters are for investing in long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, with strong support among Democrats and Republicans alike, a Data for Progress poll conducted Sept. 10 to 13 highlighted.

As chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey has been one of the most visible proponents of HCBS investment, most recently discussing the need to boost home-based care jobs during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

The nation is “long overdue for an investment in caregiving,” particularly in home- and community-based services, Sen. Casey told Home Health Care News in an email.

“We need to address the caregiving needs of our fellow Americans, older adults, people with disabilities, their families and the workers who provide these critical services and supports,” he said.

Casey and 39 colleagues introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act (S. 2210) in June. Among its many provisions, the bill would ​​provide $100 million for states to develop plans to expand access to Medicaid HCBS and strengthen a depleted home-based care workforce.

“This bill will create better care for seniors and people with disabilities, better support for family caregivers and better jobs for home care workers,” Casey continued in his email to HHCN. “Additionally, this bill is an investment in a great American idea. The idea that we are going [to] support people in a manner consistent with the values we claim to hold as Americans.”

The COVID-19 emergency has only bolstered the desire seniors have to age in place. Over 90% of seniors prefer to remain in their homes as opposed to moving into an assisted living facility, for example, a recent survey from American Advisors Group (AAG) found.

“We should advance policies that make it possible for people to choose to age in place, as so many people wish to do,” Casey said.

HCBS workers, a majority of whom are women of color, make about $12 per hour, on average. Additionally, jobs often come without benefits.

In addition to directing more funding to state Medicaid programs for expanding HCBS services, the Better Care Better Jobs Act would also help increase wages, Casey noted.

To help inform the ongoing debate around HCBS and Democrats’ economic package, which they are attempting to pass via a process known as reconciliation, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) conducted four focus groups in July and August 2021 with direct care workers and unpaid caregivers. KFF released findings from those conversations on Friday.

During the focus groups, caregivers reported that their jobs had profound mental demands that only intensified during the pandemic. A number of paid caregivers specifically described regularly not knowing about whether they would be able to leave work at the end of their shift due to staffing shortages and scheduling challenges.

“Some Tuesday mornings when I think I’m going home at [6 a.m.], the owner would call and say, ‘Two [caregivers] had to go to the doctor,’ so I would never come home until Wednesday night,” one 51-year-old paid caregiver in Florida told KFF.

Focus group participants from the paid home care worker groups universally agreed that their wages were low and did not reflect the demands of their jobs, according to KFF. Many describe their situation as “getting by” or “living paycheck to paycheck.”

“You’re not going to get rich, you know, and it’s not about that,” another 41-year-old paid caregiver in California said. “It’s more of … I know that I’m going to be helping people at the end of the day.”

Whether Democrats can get on the same page to pass a major economic package through reconciliation remains to be seen. And even if they do, it’s unclear whether HCBS investment will survive the political process.

If it doesn’t, a significant opportunity will be wasted, according to Casey.

“We need to pay these heroic workers a higher wage, ensure they have benefits and have an opportunity to advance in their careers,” the senator explained. “We can’t claim to be the greatest country in the world when the people who care for and support our children, seniors and people with disabilities are left behind.”

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Hospitals facing staffing shortages relying on traveling nurses

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Indiana hospitals are hiring a large number of traveling nurses to keep up with staffing shortages, FOX59 reported Tuesday.

Hospitals are spending millions of dollars to fill empty positions. And a company who provides travel nurses said there's been a significant increase in demand over the last few months.

"Measured by online applications, last year at this time we were at five times higher than the year before," said Lauren Pasquale Bartlett, senior vice president of marketing at Fastaff Travel Nursing. "Right now, we're looking at double the numbers, triple the numbers."

Bartlett said it's a direct correlation to the amount of hospital admissions that health care systems are seeing.

Riley Hospital in Indianapolis said staffing shortages aren't because of vaccine mandates for staff.

“Four to six percent is what we expect in terms of vacancy rate,” said Gill Peri, president of Riley Children’s Health. “It’s a little bit higher than that.”

Franciscan Health in Indianapolis agreed, saying it's because nurses are leaving for other jobs or retiring.

Hospitals said the shortage does not put patient care at risk.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Ohio bill would allow cameras in nursing home rooms so families can capture neglect and abuse

Photos of Esther Piskor in her older and younger years. Senate Bill 58, Esther’s Law, would allow in-room cameras at nursing facilities. Piskor son caught abuse of his mother on a hidden camera. (Courtesy Steve Piskor)

By Laura Hancock

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill making its way through the Ohio General Assembly would allow nursing home residents or their guardians to install a camera in their rooms.

The bipartisan-sponsored Senate Bill 58, also called Esther’s Law, is the farthest the measure has ever advanced in the legislative process, having passed in the Ohio Senate unanimously on May 19 and now up for its third hearing in a House committee meeting on Thursday.

The bill takes its name from Esther Piskor, a resident of a Cleveland nursing home. Cameras placed in her room by her family revealed that nurses’ aides abused her, later leading to their arrest and criminal convictions related to the abuse.

For nearly a decade, the Ohio General Assembly considered measures that would allow in-room cameras to catch neglect or abuse, observers said. The coronavirus pandemic underscored a need for heightened remote access to loved ones in nursing homes, especially when the spread of the virus kept families and their loved ones apart.

“Esther’s Law is a problem-solver to the COVID issue,” her son Steve Piskor said. “Family members can see their loved ones instead of peering through a window.”

A handful of other states, such as Illinois, Kansas and Minnesota, allow families to install cameras in nursing homes, said sponsor Sen. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat.

In Ohio, “the law was silent. It didn’t say anything one way or the other. Some facilities said you’re not allowed to do it, but there was nothing saying that in the law,” she said.

Esther’s story

Ten years ago, Esther Piskor of Cleveland was in a nursing home with dementia. She used a wheelchair and needed direct care since she couldn’t do many tasks for herself. She wasn’t talkative but could answer short questions, her son said.

“When I’d go there, I’d say, ‘Are you OK?’” he said. “Some days she’d say, ‘Yes.’ Some days she’d say, ‘No.’”

He’d ask her if she was eating, and sometimes she indicated she was not.

Steve Piskor grew suspicious that someone in the home was abusing his mother. He installed an old camera in his mom’s room, but nursing home aides complained it violated their privacy, he said. He said he tried arguing that employees didn’t have privacy rights in his mother’s room, but the nursing home administrator allowed employees to cover it.

“So that prompted me to put a hidden camera in,” he said.

Footage showed an aide roughly lifting his mother out of her wheelchair by her arms and throwing her into the bed. Then, in a separate incident, they dropped her into her wheelchair. Steve Piskor said the way they flung his mother’s body around was hard to watch and is against the protocols of how you lift and carry a resident’s body.

One day, when visiting his mom, Steve Piskor said the room was cold. The heat was on, but the window was wide open. He said it was 20 degrees outside.

He said he had other footage showing aides spritzing room or body spray into his mother’s face, which helped explain her eye irritation. He said the aides yelled at his mother, and another threw a gown over her face.

“You can’t do that to a dementia person. They don’t have any clue what’s going on,” he said.

In 2011, Esther Piskor was about 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds.

“They easily could have killed her,” he said.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigated the case and referred it to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

In November 2011, Virgen Caraballo pleaded guilty to seven counts of patient abuse, fourth-degree felonies. A judge sentenced her to 10 1/2 years in prison, but she was released after 7 1/2 years with the condition that she enter a rehab program and not have contact with the elderly.

As part of her plea, Caraballo relinquished her State Tested Nursing Aid Certification and can’t work in a facility that receives Medicaid.

Another nurse’s aide, Maria Karban, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to 6 months in jail.

Other aspects of the bill

Under SB 58, the resident, their guardian or attorney would be responsible for the costs of installing, maintaining and removing the camera. They would also have to pay for wifi unless the nursing home had free wifi.

Antonio, the bill’s sponsor, said that she reached out to stakeholders, including nursing home groups, to make the bill acceptable. Another measure called Esther’s Law, House Bill 78, is in the House but has only received one committee hearing and doesn’t have the amendments in the Senate version of the bill.

The Ohio Health Care Association, the largest long-term care association in the state with over 1,000 members, is neither an opponent nor proponent of the bill.

Leading Age Ohio, which represents 400 facilities, is also not taking a position on the bill. Its Chief Policy Officer Susan Wallace said she managed to get some changes to the Senate bill, such as addressing a resident who has a roommate who does not consent to being filmed. Under the bill, the nursing home must make a reasonable attempt to accommodate the resident by moving the resident or roommate to another available room.

“Cameras are ubiquitous these days. Many providers are using remote monitoring, for health reasons, which is not too different (than cameras,)” she said. “This year with COVID, we are not surprised this bill has the extra energy than it has had in the past.”

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#FreeBritney Termination Rally


Termination Rally

 Britney Spears's conservatorship is expected to be terminated in its entirety during her next hearing on Nov. 12. Let's all join together as we continue the fight for justice for Britney and all conservatees! 

Friday, Nov. 12
1:00 PM PT
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles

(Get Directions)

Wondering what to expect at a rally? Read this

Can't attend? Don't worry, we will livestream the rally from @FreeBritneyLA on Instagram.




20 W 34th St

New York City, NY 10001

Lyon County caregiver arrested for neglect following death of patient

by Evan Beebe

LYON COUNTY, KY– A Lyon County caregiver was arrested Saturday after his client, an elderly woman, was found with life-threatening injuries. She was also malnourished, dehydrated and septic.

On Saturday afternoon, the Lyon County Sheriff's Office and Lyon County EMS responded to a call at a residence on KY 295 north of Kuttawa. Once the victim was discovered she was immediately transferred to Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital. The victim died from her injuries just after 10 a.m. Sunday.

50-year-old William Hammonds of Kuttawa was arrested at the victims home Saturday. According to the Lyon County Sheriff's Office, Hammond was the victims only caregiver.

Lyon County sheriff's deputies executed a search warrant for the home during which they gathered evidence related to the investigation.

Hammond was initially charged with wanton abusing or neglecting an adult. Due to the victims death, those charges are expected to be upgraded in the coming days or weeks.

According to the Lyon County Sheriff's Office, a forensic autopsy of the victim is expected from the Western KY Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Madisonville later this week.

Hammond is being held at the Crittenden County Detention Center. 

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Guardianship requests decline as knowledge of alternative legal option grows

Supportive decision-making alternative helps maintain people’s rights to make decisions
Click to Watch Video
By Emily Davies

AUBURNDALE, Wis. (WSAW) - In July 2020 Jordan Anderson and his twin, marked a milestone; the two turned 18 and became legal adults. It is a big day for anyone, but especially for children with disabilities and their families. Born 12 weeks early, the two have cerebral palsy.

The Auburndale family scheduled a hearing with the court that fall so Anderson’s parents could have legal guardianship over them to protect them and support them as they go through adulthood. In addition to planning for the two to graduate high school and prepare for their future, securing guardianship is an expected next step for many families who have children with disabilities.

Just before the hearing, Anderson attended a virtual conference that empowers people with disabilities called the Wisconsin Self-Determination Conference. He sat in on a session George Zaske, an attorney and member of the Wisconsin Board for People With Developmental Disabilities, led.

“That was the first time I’ve ever heard about supportive decision-making,” Anderson said. “Once I heard George say you might lose your right to vote, that really got my mind going.”

The sports, journalism, politics, and hunting enthusiast also learned guardianship could take away his right to hunt and make decisions.

“These are pretty significant decisions,” Zaske told NewsChannel 7. “A guardianship order can transfer all of the rights to a guardian and that guardianship order can stay in place for decades.”

After listening to the concerns and frustrations of individuals and families navigating the guardianship system, the Wisconsin Board for People With Developmental Disabilities worked with legislators to offer a less restrictive alternative. Wisconsin became one of the first five states in the country to enact the supportive decision-making law in 2018.

It is a legal document that gives the person with a disability or aging individual the ability to get support from people they trust in areas they need support, like making financial or medical decisions but leaves the ultimate decision about what to do in those circumstances up to that individual. It is a document that does not require the time or cost of going to court and is recognized by the State of Wisconsin.

“Without a law that is equally recognized the way guardianship is recognized, you know, families ran the risk of saying ‘yes, my family member wants supportive decision-making,’ but then going into a formal system like a school or a hospital and not having that recognized,” WBPDD’s executive director, Beth Swedeen stated.

Anderson learned all about the option a day before his guardianship hearing. The next morning as he was getting ready for school, he talked with his parents, shared his concerns, and told him about supported decision-making.

Anderson’s parents, like many other people looking to find ways to protect and support loved ones with disabilities, were told by attorneys they could either have guardianship over their son or no guardianship. When told about supportive decision-making, their attorneys said they had to do more research.

Since the law was introduced, guardianship requests have declined each year from 5,147 in 2017 to 4,146 by 2020. Zaske said there is still a lot of education need about supportive decision-making, noting that institutions like schools, medical facilities, financial institutions, and even judges are not aware of the different options.

“Until supportive decision-making came around, it (guardianship) was really the only option. It was kind of black and white and people over-protected their loved ones and checked a lot of options that are on the guardianship petition,” Zaske, a parent of a child with disabilities said.

As a parent, he recognized that you want to do everything to protect your child because they are not as supported in the adult world as they were as a child going through school. He noted just like all adults making their own decision, adults with disabilities may make mistakes. As long as they do not have life-threatening consequences to those decisions, there are other alternatives to help guide and protect them.

“A guardianship can be appropriate if somebody can’t recognize danger. (If) They don’t have a good sense of when they’re being exploited. But research has shown that if you give a young person, even with a cognitive disability to practice that decision-making, then, in fact, they get better at making those decisions and get a better sense of who they are and their sense of autonomy,” Zaske explained.

Swedeen said families often ask if they should go through the guardianship process first and then go to less restrictive options later, but she urged that is not recommended. She said guardianship is the most restrictive way to protect a loved one with disabilities, it costs a lot of time and money, and it can be difficult to reverse or reduce a guardianship’s restrictions after being implemented. Even if the family and individual want guardianship removed, she explained that person has already been considered legally incompetent and it is up to a judge to decide to change that label.

“So if you can start with the flexible tools and if they don’t work or if they’re not complete enough, then consider something more restrictive, that’s always going to be the easier path and the path that keeps people’s rights intact,” she said.

“I have the best parents in the world for listening to me,” Anderson smiled. He and his family decided to implement powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions, retaining Anderson’s rights, but providing him less restrictive support when he needs it.

To learn more about supportive decision-making click here. You can also register for the free Wisconsin Self-Determination Conference happening virtually Oct. 18-21, which will include in-depth explanations of options for people with disabilities who need support. Anderson will also be speaking at that conference.

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