Saturday, December 18, 2021

Helena woman gets 5 years in prison after taking money from senior

Cory Ann Rucker
by Tyler Manning 

A Helena woman was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution after taking thousands of dollars from an elderly woman's bank account. 

Cory Ann Rucker was sentenced by Judge Mike Menahan on Dec. 7, about six months after a jury found her guilty of felony elder abuse and felony theft of identity. An alternative charge of felony theft exceeding $17,000 was dismissed by the court. 

Menhan sentenced Rucker to 10 years with five suspended for both charges. The sentences are set to run concurrently. Menahan also ordered Rucker to pay nearly $20,000 in restitution to both the victim and the court for her crimes. 

Rucker was found guilty of withdrawing money from the account of her elderly victim between October 2019 and January 2020. Evidence presented during trial included bank statements, ATM withdrawals and video surveillance of Rucker taking money from the account of the victim. Capital One banking submitted a letter to the court speaking to the unusual withdrawal pattern during this timeframe.

Law enforcement determined that the majority of the withdrawals took place in or adjacent to casinos. None of the withdrawals took place in the bank holding the victim's money. 

The victim was reportedly in shock when she was informed that nearly $17,000 was missing from her account. She was unaware that Rucker had spent so much of her money. 

Rucker allegedly admitted to spending the victim's money at casinos and agreed it was not reasonable for her to do so. She also claimed she was unaware of just how much she spent. Rucker still entered a plea of not guilty and took the charges to trial, despite this alleged admission. 

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Former Limestone County deputy pleads guilty to financially exploiting the elderly

by: Zach Hester

(WHNT) — A former Limestone County deputy pleaded guilty to financially exploiting the elderly, the Limestone County District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday.

Officials say William Rodney Jackson of Athens pled guilty to the Class B felony and was sentence to five years in the penetentiary. He will begin his sentence with three years of probation.

In a press release, the district attorney’s office said Jackson intentionally deceived four people over the age of 60 and took their money, which violates Alabama’s Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Act.

“Alabamians are fortunate that we have laws that allow the prosecution of those who look to exploit the elderly financially,” said Joseph P. Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission. “We want the message to be clear, that if you financially exploit anyone, especially an individual over the age of 60, there will be serious consequences.”

As part of Jackson’s plea agreement, he will pay $13,500 in restitution. Officials say Jackson paid $6,500 at the time of his sentencing and is required to pay the remaining balance by December 2023.

Additionally, the district attorney’s office said Jackson is barred from the securities industry, and will serve time in jail if he violates the terms of his sentence.

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‘Never-employed’ squatter learns fate for ‘horrific and degrading’ rape of 92-year-old woman in Sydney’s inner west

by Luke Costin

A 92-year-old’s rapist has been jailed for his “horrific and degrading attack” upon the sleeping elderly woman later forced to wash off his DNA.

Adelaide-born squatter Craig Anthony Wheatman, 29, was jailed for at least nine years and three months on Thursday for the aggravated sexual assault in the Sydney woman’s inner west home in January.

He admitted climbing through a bathroom window, flinging open the woman’s bedroom door and making a threat while armed with garden shears.

The woman 64 years his senior couldn’t understand his English beyond the words “cut” and “money”.

“The victim must have been shocked and terrified by the presence of the offender who was unknown to her and in her bedroom at night,” NSW District Court Judge Donna Woodburne said.

Craig Anthony Wheatman was jailed for at least nine years for the attack.
Craig Anthony Wheatman was jailed for at least nine years for the attack. Credit: Supplied

After “degrading sexual touching”, the offender reached for an old plastic bag to place over his penis and raped the woman, repeatedly using his strength to overcome her attempts to move away, the judge said.

Wheatman ceased the rape but continued the crying woman’s “rough and humiliating” treatment by ordering her into the bathroom and pouring cooking oil, Dettol and vinegar over her and her bedding.

He forced her to shower, temporarily keeping her in her shower seat under a stream of uncomfortably hot water.

Wheatman then collected her wallet, cordless phone, car keys and personal medical alarm, and abandoned the bruised, cut, swollen woman.

The medical alarm was activated about 2.10am, alerting the woman’s family who arrived 90 minutes later.

Craig Anthony Wheatman had been squatting in a derelict home on Lotus Crescent at the time he invaded a 92-year-old's home and raped her in January 2021.
Craig Anthony Wheatman had been squatting in a derelict home on Lotus Crescent at the time he invaded a 92-year-old's home and raped her in January 2021. Credit: DEAN LEWINS/AAP

Its GPS led police to a Burwood stormwater drain, where the other stolen items, covered in Wheatman’s DNA, were found.

“But for the alarm being set off, it is not known how long she may have remained alone in an injured and shocked state,” Judge Woodburne said.

The judge rejected any suggestion Wheatman’s showering of the woman was an act of kindness. Rather, she said it was “selfish and demeaning conduct” borne of an appreciation the water would wash away evidence linking Wheatman to the crime.

“The victim and her family must have suffered terribly in trying to comprehend the harm done to the victim,” the judge said.

Wheatman was arrested on January 24, telling police he’d been “paralytic drunk” and could only remember leaving the house knowing “I done something f***ing stupid”.

“I just had the vibe, that feeling,” he said.

Judge Woodburne accepted the offender’s traumatic and dysfunctional childhood, including foster care and serious crimes by a primary caregiver, had caused antisocial and severe substance abuse disorders.

He’d aspired to be a DJ and guitarist but never held down a job.

In the two months before the rape, he was living an “isolated and chaotic existence”, squatting in a derelict home in Loftus Crescent, Homebush, and mainly drinking or using illicit drugs.

Judge Woodburne imposed a total sentence of 14 years, backdating it to his arrest and noting a 25-per-cent discount for early guilty pleas to aggravated sexual assault and breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny.

She also took into account Wheatman’s admissions to lesser offences committed during the rape.

Without the guilty pleas, the sentence for the rape alone would have been 16 years.

The court was not told of the victim’s current condition.

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Friday, December 17, 2021

How Workers Saved Nursing Home Residents From Tornado

Joe Rondone/USA Today Network/Reuters

Workers in an Arkansas nursing home that took a direct hit by a tornado saved the helpless residents by gathering them together in a hallway, barricading glass doors with mattresses, covering their bodies with their own, and leading hymns to stay calm. That’s according to nurse Barbara Richards, who told The Washington Post she was working at the Monette, Arkansas, facility Friday when she saw the twister headed straight for them.

“It hit and blew the glass out of the windows in the facility,” Richards said. “You could see the rotation inside the building.” The roof was blown off, and the building was flooded by its sprinkler system, and some residents were buried under debris or pinned against walls—but only one of the 67 residents was killed. “It felt like being in the Titanic while it was sinking,” storm chaser Jordan Hall, who showed up to help, told the Post.

Read it at The Washington Post
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Ousted Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman gets public reprimand

by Nolan Clay

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has disciplined an ousted Oklahoma County district judge for a "criminal act" that justices found demonstrates her unfitness to practice law.

The discipline — a public reprimand — is the latest blow to Kendra Coleman's efforts to get her judicial office back.

The discipline involved her failure to file her 2017 state tax return on time.

In February, she was sentenced on the misdemeanor offense to probation until her personal debt to the Oklahoma Tax Commission was paid off. The case was dismissed and expunged from the public record in April after she made a final payment of $8,150.

Other Oklahoma attorneys also have been given public reprimands for offenses involving taxes, while some were suspended from the practice of law for months.

At least six justices agreed to the discipline for Coleman.

"While each situation involves unique transgressions and mitigation, we find that public reprimand is the appropriate discipline here in order to alert the public and profession that the Court regards this as serious misconduct and to be in accordance with precedent," Chief Justice Richard Darby wrote in the opinion filed Tuesday.

Justice Doug Combs wrote the reprimand should have been private.

Justice Yvonne Kauger agreed in part and dissented in part with the discipline but did not write separately to explain. Justice James Edmondson disqualified himself from the decision.

Coleman was ordered to pay $2,157 to cover the cost of the disciplinary proceedings.

In the opinion, the chief justice also wrote that the Supreme Court was troubled by evidence Coleman has yet to pay off a substantial tax debt owed by her and an ex-husband.

Attorneys representing the Tax Commission said in February the joint tax liabilities exceeded $10,000.

Coleman was elected in 2018. The Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary removed her from office last year on misconduct grounds.

In October, Coleman kicked off efforts to be elected judge again in 2022. On her Facebook page, voters are told: "COME GET YOUR JUDGE BACK!"

Coleman entered a so-called Alford plea to the misdemeanor charge. Under an Alford plea, a defendant accepts a sentence for a crime without admitting to it. She specifically noted in the paperwork that she maintains her innocence.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission accused her in a civil case of multiple campaign finance violations dating to 2017.

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Guardianship Abuse Victim May Once Again Be Victimized

News Provided By
Lawlor Media Group, Inc.
December 16, 2021, 21:12 GMT 

Karilyn Montanti (photo
courtesy of Christine Montanti)
Karilyn Montanti’s assertions of isolation and elder abuse, is one example of the reports of numerous other individuals placed into involuntary guardianship

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, December 16, 2021 / -- Guardianship abuse victim Karilyn Montanti addressed the media recently; last month she spoke out publicly about her ordeal and shared intimate details of her guardianship experience, which she asserted to consist of abuse, captivity and isolation. Ms. Montanti, a 77-year-old woman and current resident of Royal Palm Beach, Florida, was recently released from her assisted living facility in Broward County and relocated to Royal Palm Beach after the Court completely dismissed the guardianship proceeding.
Karilyn Montanti, Christine Montanti
(photo courtesy Christine Montanti)

Karilyn Montanti’s assertions of isolation and elder abuse, is one example of the reports of numerous other individuals placed into involuntary guardianship who make similar complaints of what is taking place in the Broward County’s Elder Care System. These complaints by others, who claim they are victims of guardianship abuse, have been covered by news media in both New York and Florida, and many other states around the country. The media reported on the pattern of corruption and negligence of Karilyn Montanti’s asserted by her against her health care surrogate, court appointed attorney, and court appointed geriatric care manager in a television report on NBC New York which aired on August 7th, 2021.

During her ordeal, Karilyn’s was never permitted to address the court to voice her repeated pleas. Neither the court or Karilyn’s court appointed attorney acquiesced to her request to address the court directly, and in fact, as set forth in court documents, went to great lengths to build a record as to why she should not be permitted to be heard in court. Because of these repeated prior refusals to be heard, Ms. Montanti was eager to finally have the opportunity to address the judge in court on Thursday, December 16th 2021 for a hearing seeking to disqualify her newly retained attorney, Ron Denman. Karilyn was hopeful that her testimony about how she personally selected her new counsel and about how happy she is with her new representation, will finally free her from the court process, and allow her to tell her story about her experience with what she considers to be guardianship abuse and unwarranted isolation.

Unfortunately, Karilyn Montanti, who was unable to attend the scheduled hearing on Thursday, December 16th 2021 due to her recent hospitalization, a devastating occurrence, was denied a continuance of the hearing or her desperate desire to testify and have her voice heard in court for the first time in her three-year ordeal. Despite her attorney, Ronald Denman having sought an emergency postponement of the hearing so that she could appear, the judge denied the postponement and ordered that Denman could no longer represent her further in her fight to regain her rights, so that can continue choose her own residence and stay in Royal Palm Beach, and so that she can continue to have unfettered access to her friends and family.

Due to the court’s ruling that disqualifies Mr. Denman from protecting Karilyn’s interests, despite representing Karilyn’s desire to the court, she now fears this ruling will assure her continued incapacity, which came about after her prior court appointed attorney presented an agreed order of incapacity to the court without her knowledge, authorization, or consent. Karilyn is also fearful that the disqualification of her attorney of choice will lead to a continued denial of her access to the courts, and will once again be subject her to the isolation, abuse and deprivation of her individual rights that she maintains she suffered over the last several years in the Broward County, Florida guardianship system.

Guardianship abuse victim Karilyn Montanti speaks out:

Broward County Case Number: PRC180004278
www.browardclerk.orgNorah Lawlor
Lawlor Media Group, Inc.
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Thursday, December 16, 2021

California probate judge grants Motion to Lift Stay on Bradford Lund's 1992 Trust to finally have a hearing to distribute personal trust assets back to Lund, over the objection of First Republic Trust Company (FRTC) and its California-based attorneys Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp (MSK), According to Lanny J. Davis, Attorney for Mr. Lund

In court papers, the 1992 Co-Trustees request justice and accuse both FRTC and MSK of "false and highly insulting" rhetoric and "abusive use of the courts"

News provided by 
Lanny Davis
Dec 15, 2021, 15:05 ET

, Dec. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Los Angeles County Superior Court (Probate) Judge Hon. Daniel Juarez, on December 3, 2021, granted the 1992 Co-Trustees' Motion to Lift Stay which will finally provide a hearing on the distribution of personal 1992 Trust assets back to Bradford Lund.

In 1992, Bradford Lund, the grandson of Walt Disney, established a trust consisting of his own Disney stock.  The 1992 Trust was to hold the Disney stock until Lund reached 45 years of age in June, 2015.  However, because of procedural stays, distribution of the assets in the 1992 Trust has not occurred.  The 1992 Trust settled with Lund's twin sister, Michelle, and she agreed to dismiss her petition regarding that trust and to not object to any distribution of assets.  Still, the 1992 Trust assets were kept from Lund.  The main roadblock:  FRTC.  As stated in the court papers. "It would be a grave injustice to allow the Distribution Petition to continue to be stayed due to FRTC's hostilities against Mr. Lund …."  Judge Juarez lifted the stay on the Distribution Petition and set a court date for February, 2022.

FRTC was removed as the Trustee of the 1992 Trust in 2014. However, FRTC, and their attorneys at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, who have no standing whatsoever to interfere, have thwarted the distribution of Lund's own personal assets back to him. In rejecting all of FRTC's specious arguments, Judge Juarez granted the Motion from the bench.

As stated in Lund's court papers, "The Motion was brought for one reason only – Justice.  Justice in the form of the Co-Trustees getting Mr. Lund his own Disney stock back to him. Disney stock that has been held hostage by a series of stays of this case going back approximately six years."  "FRTC has no qualms in hiding its true intent – to hold captive all of Mr. Lund's" personal assets in Disney stock "to use as its own personal piggybank to pay for its outrageously large attorney's fees incurred in the 92 Trust case."

At the oral argument, the lead attorney for FRTC, Hayward Kaiser, continued the false allegations and attacks on Mr. Lund, Sherry Lund, and his lead attorney, Sandra Slaton, to no avail.  Judge Juarez ruled from the bench and granted the motion, finally providing Mr. Lund with his due process rights and scheduling a hearing – that first step that will, hopefully, permit Lund to finally get back his own personal assets that have been unjustly frozen by the probate court for more than six years now.

SOURCE Lanny Davis

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California Attorney General Announces Guilty Plea of Vista Caretaker for Committing Multiple Acts of Financial and Sexual Elder Abuse in San Diego County

December 13, 2021 - OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the guilty plea of Brandon Benavente, a caretaker for elderly and dependent persons in San Diego County. While working ca doj logoas a caretaker, Benavente sexually assaulted three elderly dependents, and stole personal property including money, jewelry, and a handgun. Today in the San Diego County Superior Court, Benavente pled guilty to 11 felonies relating to sexual assault, financial and elder abuse, as well as theft. Additionally, Benavente’s girlfriend and co-defendant Odaliz Mendez also pled guilty to multiple felonies relating to her involvement in the theft scheme. Benavente and Mendez’s sentencing is scheduled for January 12, 2022.  The parties have agreed to request that the court enter a sentence in excess of 14 years, which would be one of the longest elder abuse sentences imposed in a case brought by the California Department of Justice. In addition, the defendants will also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims.

“Caretakers have the responsibility of ensuring that their clients are being treated with dignity, respect, and care. Brandon Benavente made a choice to use his role as a caretaker to take advantage of those who depended on him for care. The countless acts of elder abuse that have been committed in this case are nothing short of despicable,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Any and all forms of abuse against our elders will not be tolerated, and perpetrators will be held accountable. In today’s guilty plea, I want to thank our law enforcement partners for helping ensure the health and well-being of Californians residing in elder care facilities.” 

In May 2020, Benavente was caught on video surveillance entering the room of a resident and removing cash from the resident’s wallet, prompting an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office. In June 2020, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office asked the California Department of Justice’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) to join their investigation against Benavante. The joint investigation found that between December 2019 and December 2020 Benavente committed multiple acts of burglary, theft, fraud, identity theft, and sexual abuse against a resident residing at Vista Village Senior Living and other victims throughout San Diego County. The two defendants stole jewelry, a handgun, and thousands of dollars from their victims. 

The criminal investigation into Benavente and Mendez was conducted by the Attorney General’s DMFEA in collaboration with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and Escondido Police Department. DMFEA investigates and prosecutes those responsible for abuse, neglect, and fraud committed against elderly and dependent adults across the state. DMFEA also works to protect Californians by investigating and prosecuting those who perpetrate fraud on the Medi-Cal program. DMFEA regularly works with whistleblowers, the California Department of Health Care Services, and local law enforcement agencies in its investigations and prosecutions.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

DMFEA receives 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $41,264,032 for federal fiscal year 2020-2021. The remaining 25%, totaling $13,754,675 for fiscal year 2020-2021, is funded by the State of California. The federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.
Source: CA. DOJ

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Nurse, Valencia teacher in Central Florida accused of neglecting elderly mother

Rebecca Lassiter, 70, is facing a felony charge for mistreatment of her mother, who is in her 90s.

Lassiter was formally charged by the state attorney after her arrest in November. Records show that she was previously the "court appointed guardian" for her mother.

When she was arrested a few weeks ago, Lassiter was a nursing school teacher at Valencia College.

According to licensing records with the Florida Department of Health, Lassiter is a registered nurse with an active license.

She's charged with felony neglect of an elderly or disabled adult as recently as September 2018, according to court records obtained by WESH 2 Investigates.

She allegedly wasn't providing her medications and an officer described the victim as "weak and feeble."

Those records also show St. Cloud Police previously recommended charges in 2019 of theft from a victim 65 and older, and exploitation of the elderly.

Police found withdrawals by Lassiter from her mother's bank account totaling more than $24,000, but Lassiter was not charged until now.

According to a Valencia spokeswoman, Lassiter was a part-time teacher in the nursing school. She resigned Dec. 3 but mentioned nothing of her arrest.

In an email to a supervisor, she wrote: "I am resigning from Valencia immediately due to personal and health reasons."

The fact that she never mentioned the arrest is a violation of campus policy.

Lassiter is set to be tried next month and referred all questions to her attorney.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

How to Deal With Ageism From Doctors and Nurses

Advice for you or your parents to get the best medical care

By Judith Graham

The doctor is talking to the daughter who has accompanied you to a medical appointment, not you. A nurse speaks slowly in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, as if you were a child needing instruction.

A couple smiling, dressed up in black tie event clothing. Next Avenue, ageism doctors nurses
While caregiving for her parents Americo and Rosina (shown here), social gerontologist Jeanette Leardi heard ageist tropes from their doctors   |  Credit: Courtesy of Jeanette Leardi

What can you do about manifestations of ageism like these – the devaluing, diminishment or dismissal of older adults based on prejudice against old age?

Mostly, people don't know how to respond.

Some stiffen but say nothing. Others speak up but try not to be overly confrontational. And some, like Doris Morgan, 85, a retired scientist who lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va., simply walk away from doctors and nurses who don't treat them as they'd like.

When her long-time physician retired a while back, Morgan began looking for a replacement. It didn't go well. "One doctor never even got around to listening to my heart and lungs. She was in trouble with me from the beginning," Morgan said.

Confront or Cower?

Morgan was also dissatisfied with an eye doctor who told her she didn't have glaucoma — a judgment that contradicted an earlier diagnosis and that another physician reversed. And she didn't care for a dentist who sent a hygienist in to discuss findings from an examination rather than coming in himself.

"I don't confront these people; there's no use doing that. I just dump them and find someone else," she said.

Jeanette Leardi, 69, a social gerontologist and community educator in Portland, Ore., takes a different approach. Her work is deeply informed by her experience caring for her mother and father who died in 1995 and 2003 respectively.

"There's a way of politely calling people out on ageism," she told me. "Let's say I'm an older adult at a medical appointment with my daughter and the doctor is talking to her, not me. You can say 'Doctor, I'm the patient, and my daughter is here to support me. I want to talk to you; let's leave some time at the end when you can talk to my daughter."

Leardi added: "You are paying for medical professionals' services; you are entitled to ask all the questions you want and make sure they communicate with you in ways you understand."

Responding to 'Elderspeak' With Humor

Should a medical professional engage in what's known as "elderspeak" — using overly simple language and sometimes endearments, often spoken in a high-pitched lilting tone — humor can come in handy.

Imagine an aide at a rehabilitation facility asking: "Have we had our bath today?" Leardi said she might respond this way: "I've had mine, have you had yours?" Or "Not yet, do you want to get in the tub with me?" 

Sometimes, matter-of-fact directness to ageism by doctors and nurses may be the best response.

Regan Burke, 75, wishes
she had been more vocal
with her orthopedic surgeon
Credit: Courtesy of
Joan Wolfensberger
For instance, if a nurse comes into your hospital saying "How are we today young lady?" you might respond "I'm really not a young lady and I'm okay with that," Leardi advised. 

Tracey Gendron, chair of the department of gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of the forthcoming "Ageism Unmasked," offers another possible response: "You can tell the nurse 'I acknowledge you're trying to be kind to me but it makes me feel small and unimportant.  Please call me this [insert a name] instead."

Dr. Louise Aronson, author of the much-acclaimed book "Elderhood" and a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging, suggested appealing to physicians' or nurses' professional pride at an October 2021 panel on ageism I moderated, sponsored by Kaiser Health News and the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Said Aronson: "As with so many difficult conversations, probably the best approach is to make 'I' statements like 'I feel that I'm not getting the attention my symptoms warrant' or 'I know you're a good clinician and that's why I'm here. So, will you work with me on this issue? Because I'm really not getting what I need and I have faith that you could provide it.'"

That can be hard, though, if someone isn't feeling well.

Regan Burke, 75, of Chicago described seeing an orthopedic surgeon at the beginning of July because she could barely walk due to pain. After having X-rays taken, she told me, "he said it's tendinitis, you need to go to physical therapy. And he walked out of the room."

What She Wishes She Told Her Doctor

Burke didn't get better and has since consulted with a physiatrist (a doctor specializing in rehabilitation) who diagnosed arthritis and recommended she have her right hip replaced.

"I wish I had said to that first doctor, the surgeon, ''Hang on. Hold it. I can't go to PT. It hurts too much. Take another look, please," Burke said.

She explained why so many older patients don't speak up when they're treated poorly.

"We older people are afraid to say anything to our doctors because they have to take care of us and we are afraid if we speak up they won't do that," Burke said. 

Her advice? "I think you have to practice with a friend or a relative before you see a doctor. Tell them 'This is what I want to say' and rehearse it a couple of times," Burke suggested.

Older adults need to challenge "their assumptions about what they're allowed to ask" doctors and nurses — a form of internalized ageism — and make sure they "communicate what's important to them," said Dr. Christopher Callahan, a geriatrician and investigator at Indiana University's Center for Aging Research at the Regenstreif Institute.

Ashton Applewhite, author of "This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism," and Next Avenue's 2015 Influencer in Aging of the Year, encourages older adults to trust their instincts if they feel they're being dismissed or discounted by a health care provider.

"It's hard even for a person with privilege to speak up to a doctor, who is an authority figure, and the difficulties and risks are even greater for women and people of color," she said. "But it's necessary in order to get the care we need and deserve."

A Few Things You Might Say

Applewhite offered several suggestions.

If a physician or nurse tells you you're having a medical problem because of your age, "It's okay to say 'What do you mean by that?'" Applewhite said.

If someone in a medical setting calls you "dear" and raises your hackles, Applewhite advised, "you can say I hope you care about me as a professional, not an intimate. So let's keep it professional."

And, she noted, if you feel rushed by a physician, consider saying: "I realize there are enormous demands on your time, but I need more.  What can we do about that?"

The bottom line: There are multiple strategies you can employ when you encounter ageism by medical professionals. Taking your business elsewhere. Directness. Humor. Asking for what you want. Appealing to medical professionals' professionalism. And, above all, making it clear you will stand up for yourself and aren't ashamed of being older.

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Suspended Seneca County judge has yet to surrender his license

TIFFIN, Ohio — A Seneca County judge who was suspended one year by the Ohio Supreme Court last month has yet to surrender his license.

Judge Mark Repp was disciplined for holding a spectator in contempt in March 2020 and forcing her to take drug and pregnancy tests. According to court records, Repp was ordered to turn over his attorney registration card.

From the court records:

"It is ordered by the court ... that respondent show cause on or before 20 days from the date of this order why respondent should not be found in contempt for failure to fully comply with this court's order of November 9, 2021, to wit: failure to surrender his attorney registration card and failure to file an affidavit of compliance on or before December 9, 2021." 

According to court documents, Judge Repp called Alexzandria Orta out from the bench and referred to her as a drug addict during an unrelated hearing for her boyfriend. Judge Repp suspected she was high and ordered her to take a drug test. When she refused and said she was not on drugs, the judge sentenced her to 10 days in jail.

A prosecutor dropped the charges the next day.

Orta was not on trial or on probation and had never been charged with a drug-related offense. She was subjected to several invasive searches, including pregnancy tests and an MRI to check if drugs were inside her body.

Her attorney said Orta was detained for approximately 24 hours. Repp has admitted in court documents that he treated Orta inappropriately but contends that the incident was an aberration.

Repp was suspended one year on Nov. 9 after an investigation by the Board of Professional Conduct. 

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Opinion: Pass this bill that would let mutual funds delay withdrawals if they suspect financial exploitation

The Senate should follow the House and pass the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act 

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Financial exploitation is a significant, and potentially devastating, problem throughout the country, particularly for seniors and other vulnerable adults who are common targets of scammers and cheaters. 

These criminals prey on lonely and isolated seniors to gain their trust and affection, then often make an urgent request for money for reasons ranging from a personal emergency or last-minute plane ticket to medical expenses or gambling debts. An estimated 7.86 million cases of elder fraud take place annually in the United States, resulting in losses of $148 billion to this vulnerable population each year

While financial companies may identify certain withdrawal requests as unusual, there are currently no laws that enable them to stop such transactions. But there is legislation moving through Congress right now to allow the firms behind mutual funds and exchange-traded funds—which is where many seniors save and invest their money—to better protect vulnerable Americans.

A bill called the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act would allow fund companies to delay transactions reasonably believed to be the result of financial exploitation for as long as 15 business days. This would allow time to confirm the validity of the transaction, verify the customer’s contact information, or identify any legal guardians, executors or trustees.

The ability to pause a transaction is especially important because a key component of these scams is the pressure criminals put on victims to withdraw money urgently. Under the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act, fund companies can pause the transaction to verify its validity before the money is stolen. Once the money is gone, it’s likely taken from the senior forever and could potentially leave them unable to pay their bills or afford basic living expenses.

The legislation also would cover anyone 18 or older who is unable to protect his or her own interests.

In addition to allowing companies to delay suspicious transactions, the bill requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to report to Congress with recommendations for legislative and regulatory reforms to combat financial exploitation of seniors and other vulnerable adults. Elder abuse is a vastly underreported crime. Enhanced reporting from the SEC would likely lead to more information and data about these crimes, which could help identify additional safeguards to protect those at risk. These efforts could also identify ways to help educate potential victims as well as their family or caretakers to help prevent future theft.

The House of Representatives approved the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act—which was introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), a senior member on the powerful House Financial Services Committee—unanimously in October. While the Senate has yet to take it up, the bill passing the House with strong bipartisan support is a positive sign and should serve as a catalyst for action in the Senate.

The Investment Company Institute and its members prioritize the fight against financial abuse and exploitation. We are constantly working to ensure the fund industry uses the most sophisticated security measures and safeguards available and continually searching for new ways to protect individual investors. That’s why ICI strongly supports the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act and calls on the Senate to pass it immediately.

Eric J. Pan is president and CEO of the Investment Company Institute, the leading global trade association for mutual funds and other regulated funds.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Bowling Green State Lawmaker introduces bill to reform conservatorships

By WBKO News Staff

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - State Rep. Patti Minter is introducing the CARE act to reform guardianship and conservatorship in Kentucky, and prevent the abuse or exploitation of people who are unable to make decisions for themselves.

The CARE act would give voice to people subject to guardianship or conservatorship to express needs to courts and would give courts greater authority to make changes when appropriate.

The CARE Act also addresses issues brought to light by the case of Britney Spears.

“While our current laws on conservatorships and guardianships are meant to help people who cannot help themselves, they can be misused, leading to abusive situations similar to what Britney Spears experienced. This happens here in Kentucky to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, which is why it is vital that we update our laws and keep guardianships and conservatorships free from abuse,” Minter said.

The CARE would also make it easier for people to modifications and terminate their guardianship or conservatorship if their circumstances have changed, as well as to remain in contact with their families through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The CARE Act is currently pre-filed as Bill Request 850 and will be considered in the 2022 session of the General Assembly. 

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State board recommends two-year suspension for Cleveland Judge Pinkey Carr

by: Peggy Gallek, Ed Gallek

(Previous coverage of this story in the video player above).

CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team learned Cleveland Municipal Judge Pinkey Carr has moved a step closer to being disciplined.

The Ohio Office of Disciplinary Counsel and Ohio Board of Professional Conduct recommended Friday that Carr be immediately removed as a judge and suspended from the practice of law for two years. The state supreme court will now review the board’s findings and issue a final decision.

Carr’s attorney is asking for a, “Two-year suspension from the practice of law, fully stayed” meaning she can continue to practice law as long as she has, ‘Full and complete compliance with her mental health regimen” and gets additional hours of continuing legal education in the area of professionalism.

It is not known when the supreme court will rule on the matter.

The Board of Professional Conduct’s director, Richard Dove, wrote a 58-page recommendation, stating Carr, after nine years on the bench, “Has come to regard her courtroom as her private domain.” The recommendation further stated Carr’s courtroom was more, “Akin to a circus than court of law.”

The judge is accused of several violations, including ignoring a directive in March 2020 to stop holding hearings because of the pandemic.

Officials with the Disciplinary Counsel also accuse Carr of violating multiple rules of professional conduct, including not wearing proper attire on the bench, holding hearings without a prosecutor or defense attorney present, making jokes and berating defendants, and filing fictitious paperwork with the court.

On March 18, 2020, the FOX 8 I-Team asked the judge if she issued warrants for defendants who did not appear and she said she did not. The I-Team then checked court records and found that she did issue more than 30 warrants. She then told the I-Team she did not intend to issue the warrants.

The state disciplinary attorneys referred to the FOX 8 I-Team interview in their brief, saying Carr,  “Abused her authority by issuing arrest warrants for unsuspecting defendants who had been instructed not to appear in court. Rather than admit her misdeeds, respondent consented to a FOX 8 News interview and proceeded to calmly and blatantly lie about issuing warrants for people who did not appear in court. In fact, immediately after the interview, respondent issued 20 additional warrants for people who had not appeared.“

The I-Team reached out to Carr Friday and she referred us to her attorney.  We left a message with her attorney, but have not yet heard back.

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Professor Discusses 5 Recent Brain Injury Breakthroughs

(OCNJDaily) – One in every 60 adults and children in the United States is living with a permanent disability caused by a brain injury. That’s 5.3 million people.

Michael Fraas is a professor who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati and is a Member of the Brain Injury – Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group (BI-ISIG) of the ACRM. Dr. Fraas has worked extensively and published in the field of brain injury rehabilitation.

There are many exciting developments in this field, including a second edition in the works for The Cognitive Rehabilitation Manual, courtesy of Dr. Fraas and colleagues. Below, Professor Fraas discusses some recent developments in the study of brain injuries that have made their way into the news. CONTINUE

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Monday, December 13, 2021

‘The situation is dangerous.’ Parents sound alarm over troubled in-home care provider

Andrew Simmons, right, blows bubbles with his father Bo last spring. Andrew, who's profoundly autistic and mostly non-verbal, lives in a supported living home in Snohomish County operated by Aacres WA, a troubled state contractor. Bo Simmons says conditions in the home over the past year have deteriorated to the point of being dangerous for Andrew and his housemates.

By Austin Jenkins 

In February of this year, Leigh Anne Francisco’s severely autistic 21-year-old son Angus moved into a home for people with developmental disabilities operated by Aacres WA, LLC in Snohomish County.

Almost immediately, Francisco grew concerned about conditions in the home.

First, she noticed mysterious bruises on her son, including a large dark purple one on his inner thigh.

Then Angus and his housemate were left unsupervised one night because the overnight staff member never showed up.

There were other issues too.

Francisco said Angus was overfed and rarely taken out for a walk or to kick a soccer ball into the net she had set up for him in the backyard. He quickly gained 30 pounds.

When she visited, Francisco said she often found Angus’ hygiene had been neglected. The condition of the house also dismayed her — food and garbage on the floor, shampoo and toothpaste spilled in the bathroom. To make matters worse, Francisco said the staff was often “lounging around and on their phones.”

There were also medication errors. By September of this year, Francisco was frantic and trying to get Angus moved out of Aacres’ care.

“This is not what I had imagined for my son!” Francisco wrote in an email summarizing her concerns.

Francisco is one of two parents who, independently of each other, contacted the public radio Northwest News Network in September regarding concerns about Aacres in Snohomish County. The second was Bo Simmons whose 23-year-old son Andrew is also profoundly autistic and lives with three other Aacres clients in a home in Lynnwood.

In his message to the Northwest News Network, Simmons said Aacres was “very much not living up to expectations as a residential care provider for the state.”

“We’re talking about a serious burn which was never communicated to us, repeated times where there is a single staff member for four residents, never taking our son out into the community,” Simmons wrote.

In recent weeks, the parents’ pleas for oversight and accountability have reached state regulators who say they’re now investigating the company’s Snohomish County operations.

The complaints are just the latest against Aacres, a long-troubled care provider that currently has contracts with Washington’s Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) to provide in-home support to developmentally disabled clients in Clark, Pierce, Thurston, as well as Snohomish Counties.

Canceled contracts

In 2019, DSHS cancelled three contracts it had with Aacres WA to provide care for vulnerable clients in Spokane County. DDA said it took the action “based on serious non-compliance with the law and regulations.”

One of the contracts was terminated following the death of a client who was given household cleaning vinegar in lieu of colonoscopy prep medication. A former Aacres caregiver was subsequently charged with third-degree assault, and reckless endangerment in connection with the death. Her trial is scheduled for January.

In a statement at the time, the then-assistant secretary of DDA, Evelyn Perez, said: “We have lost confidence in Aacres Spokane. Not being in compliance with regulations and ensuring the health and safety of our clients is unacceptable.”

Previously, Aacres had also operated in King County. But in November 2018, Aacres announced it was pulling out of King County because of a lack of affordable housing and challenges related to recruiting and retaining staff. The move came after the state had put the company’s King County operation on 90-day provisional status for failing to correct serious deficiencies that "jeopardized clients' health, safety and welfare."

Nevertheless, DDA allowed Aacres to continue serving vulnerable clients elsewhere in Washington under separate contracts with the state.

Records show that during the 2019 to 2021 biennial budget, Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) paid Aacres more than $92 million making it the agency’s seventh largest contractor. So far this budget cycle, which started July 1, state payments to Aacres total $16.3 million.

As of the end of 2020, Aacres served approximately 220 clients across the four counties, according to DDA.

Founded in 1974, Aacres is one of several human services companies operated by Spokane-based Embassy Management, LLC. According to the website for Bregal Partners, a New York private equity fund, Embassy is one of its portfolio companies.

Aacres and Embassy Management did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In previous statements, the company has said that shortcomings in care “in no way reflects our passion, commitment and resolve to our mission to safely serve individuals in their homes and communities.”

A beleaguered industry

Historically, people with developmental disabilities in Washington were served in state institutions known as Residential Habilitation Centers. But over the decades those facilities have downsized as part of a state and national shift to serving individuals in the community.

DDA’s largest community residential program for people with developmental disabilities and significant support needs is called Supported Living Services.

Today, roughly 140 supported living agencies, including Aacres, serve about 4,600 clients who qualify for DDA services.

Under the program, clients live in their own home with up to three other housemates while being supported, often around-the-clock, by agency staff.

The clients pay for rent, food and other expenses while the state’s Medicaid program covers the cost of the support staff. In 2020, Washington’s supported living expenditures were $768 million, according to DDA. That included a temporary COVID-19 rate increase for contracted agencies paid for with federal relief dollars.

But Scott Livengood, the legislative chair for the state’s Community Residential Services Association, said the industry has not caught back up since rates were cut during the Great Recession.

“Due to funding increases not keeping pace with the cost of living and the steady increase in our statewide minimum wage, the average starting wage for a [direct support professional] is now around $15 per hour, which is only 5% above the statewide minimum wage [that takes effect] next month and 25% below a self-sufficient wage,” Livengood said in a statement.

As a result, he said, most frontline support staff work two to three jobs and average turnover in the industry is about 50 percent. Livengood estimated the current vacancy rate is approaching 20 percent as agencies lose workers faster than they can hire them.

“The pandemic has made the situation even worse, as we are competing with fast food and retail jobs offering $18 to $20, along with attractive benefit packages and hiring bonuses,” said Livengood who is also CEO of Alpha Supported Living Services, a nonprofit serving clients in King, Snohomish and Spokane counties.

To try to slow the attrition, supported living agencies have offered signing bonuses and “hazard pay” during the pandemic. But the federal stimulus dollars that funded those enhancements are scheduled to expire at the end of the year making it even harder to recruit new employees, Livengood said.

It’s not just the pay, but the nature of the work that makes finding and keeping employees difficult. Staff are often required to work nights and weekends. And the clients can exhibit challenging and even violent behaviors.

In the past, Aacres has pointed to the challenge of recruiting and retaining front-line staff as a factor in its quality of care lapses.

State records show that since 2018 Aacres in Snohomish County has been subject to four inspections, two investigations and one enforcement action.

In January 2019, Aacres was fined $1,000 after the subflooring in one of its Snohomish County homes failed and a client fell into the space below and was injured.

Then in August of this year, an unannounced inspection of Aacres homes in Snohomish County found a number of deficiencies — especially around COVID-19 protocols. Among the findings was that visitors, staff and clients weren’t properly screened for COVID symptoms.

The concerns of family members have also reached state regulators. The state’s Residential Care Services (RCS), a division of DSHS, confirmed to the Northwest News Network that it has active investigations underway into multiple complaints about substandard care at Aacres homes in Snohomish County.

However, Aacres in Snohomish County has not been put on “stop placement” status, where an agency is barred from accepting new clients, or put on provisional certification status which is the last step before decertification.

“If the complaints are found to be substantiated, Aacres, like any other provider, will be held accountable for its deficiencies,” said RCS director Mike Anbesse in a statement.

Aacres isn’t the only supported living agency to draw scrutiny this year. Over the past 11 months, the state has issued 171 citations and 48 statements of deficiency against supported living providers for violations, according to data provided by DDA.

An unreported burn

For months, Bo Simmons and his former wife Louise had been uneasy about the care their son Andrew was receiving from Aacres. They noticed staff turnover was high and sometimes there was only one caregiver on duty in the home, despite there being four clients to care for.

Often Andrew would spend much of the day in bed. Occasionally, the staff failed to get him to dental and doctor appointments. He even missed virtual meetings with a job coach.

But concern turned to alarm earlier this year when Louise went to visit Andrew and discovered the palm of his hand had been burned, possibly from touching the stove.

Adding to their distress was the fact no one told them about the injury. Andrew had also not been taken to the doctor for treatment of the burn.

Then, about a month ago, there was another upsetting incident. Andrew, who has migraines and often bangs his head on surfaces because of the pain, slammed his head into a plaster wall in the bathroom. Shortly after that he knocked a staff member to the floor and in the tussle hit his head a second time.

Medics were called to the house. They evaluated Andrew, but did not take him to the hospital. Simmons said the staff was supposed to monitor Andrew for signs of a concussion. Instead, he said, they gave Andrew a sedative and let him go to sleep. When Louise came to visit Andrew that afternoon, she found him in bed soaked in urine.

For Andrew’s parents, that was the last straw.

“He’s a very amazing young man, and he deserves better,” Simmons said tearfully during an interview.

In his desperation, Simmons launched what he described as a “full court press” to bring attention to the plight of his son and other Aacres clients in Snohomish County.

Working closely with Louise, he's urged the state to conduct a “complete review” of Aacres and its parent company, Embassy Management. He's also lobbied DDA to move Andrew to a different supported living provider. And, recently, he retained an attorney who specializes in representing the interests of people with special needs.

In September, Simmons summarized his concerns about Aacres in an email to a top DDA official.

“Andrew has languished in their care,” Simmons wrote. “We suspect that there are many other clients who are not well represented who are in a similar state and we want to advocate for them as well.”

Last month, Simmons followed up with an even more desperate message to DDA’s regional administrator in Snohomish County.

“The situation is dangerous. Seriously dangerous,” Simmons wrote. “The residents and the caregivers are being placed in an extremely unsafe and dangerous environment. It is Aacres management who are to blame for this situation, not the caregivers.”

In response, DDA officials said they’re aware of the concerns.

“I do understand that we are experiencing some challenges right now up in Snohomish County with Aacres,” said Shaw Seaman, DDA’s quality assurance chief.

Seaman said the state is committed to quality improvement and interested in supporting Aacres so that it can get back on track.

Getting results

Lately, Bo Simmons said he’s seen some signs of progress.

First, DDA dispatched an inspector to visit all of the Aacres homes in Snohomish County to document immediate health and safety hazards. Aacres is now required to submit weekly reports on progress in correcting any deficiencies, according to email communications Simmons shared with the Northwest News Network.

Simmons also met with Aacres management and received assurances that the company would address his concerns. Soon after, Aacres held a retraining session for the staff who work with Andrew.

Aacres management also sent a behavioral clinician and its clinical director to visit Andrew and observe him in his environment. The behavioral clinician plans to continue twice weekly visits with the goal of modeling “for staff how to work with him,” according to an email Aacres’ area director sent Simmons.

Then, on the evening before Thanksgiving, both parents attended a virtual meeting with DDA officials. In a post-meeting email, Simmons said the DDA staff showed “empathy and compassion for our situation.”

The state has also agreed to make a referral for Andrew to a state-operated home for people with developmental disabilities, although there’s no guarantee of a bed being available for him.

Simmons is hopeful Andrew’s care will improve. But he also continues to question whether Aacres is deserving of the $726.28 a day that the state pays the company to care for his son.

“Andrew is most definitely not receiving what the state is paying for,” Simmons wrote in his September email to DDA.

Leigh Anne Francisco, Angus’ mother, also reported her concerns to DDA and RCS, but said months went by before she heard back from anyone. Separately, she was contacted by Adult Protective Services (APS) and provided the investigator with a statement. APS would neither confirm nor deny if it's currently investigating Aacres.

Like Simmons, Francisco also decided that she needed to get Angus moved out of the Aacres home. Her final straw came when her son and his housemate were left unattended overnight earlier this year.

“He’s not safe there, the other roommate is not safe,” Francisco said.

But in the months since, she’s had no luck finding another provider to take him.

“I feel as if I’ve failed as a mother because I haven’t gotten him out of there,” Francisco said.

Francisco recently had a conference call with the new area administrator for Aacres who apologized and told her they want to do better.

Even before that call there were some hopeful signs. The waist-high lawn in front of Angus’ house was finally mowed and damage the residents had done to the walls, which had previously been covered by cardboard, was repaired.

“I’m always cautiously optimistic,” Francisco said: “But the story that I’ve been given so many times is ‘we’re going to make this better, we’re so sorry, we’re retraining everybody.'"

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