Saturday, January 29, 2022

New program at UW School of Nursing to send students to work at long-term care facilities

By Jennifer Lee 

New UW program connects nursing students to long-term care

UW School of Nursing students participate in long-term care externship program to address staffing crisis in field.

The University of Washington School of Nursing is launching a new state-funded program in January that partners with local long-term care facilities to address the ongoing staffing crisis.

Select students will participate in the six-month externship program and work in skilled nursing homes with agencies such as EmpRes Healthcare and Pennant Healthcare.

"When I saw this opportunity I leapt at it because it just gives me more of a chance to work with other nurses and to learn from them before I become a nurse myself," said Michael Drake, UW School of Nursing student. "I get to see how nurses teach other nurses so that when I do that, I can do it well and hopefully bring up the next generation of nurses."

Drake said he used to help make video games and work in the gaming industry but eventually left his job to take care of his mother.

"I had a family member, my mother, who had terminal brain cancer and so I quit my job to be an end-of-life caregiver for her, and then after she passed I decided I wanted to continue to be a nurse," said Drake. "The work really resonated with me and I wanted to help other people who had been in a situation similar to mine."

The state is investing $167,000 into the new program with the interest of supporting and growing nurses who enter long-term care.

"The critical shortages in Long Term Care, especially in skilled nursing facilities has been exacerbated by several variables including lower wages, COVID demands, compassion fatigue, aging workforce, and more higher-paying work opportunities," said Susan Birch, Director of the Washington State Health Care Authority.

The long-term care workforce gap was identified to have shortages of up to 30 to 60 percent of vacant nursing positions in skilled nursing facilities, according to Birch.

The WA State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is also following this ongoing concern and said the number of people aged 65 and older in WA is expected to double over the next two decades.

"So the demand for nurses will increase.  Seventy percent of us turning 65 will need assistance with long-term services and supports during our lifetime," said Bea Rector of the WA State DSHS. "This partnership is an opportunity for nursing students get valuable experience in a long term care setting, to see how their knowledge and skills can be used to make a significant difference in the lives of older adults who have physical or cognitive disabilities and to demonstrate that a specialty in geriatrics opens up many career opportunities."

Mindy Schaffner is a clinical specialist with over four decades of experience in nursing. She is the program facilitator at Pennant Healthcare and said a company goal is to provide dignified long-term care.

"How better to do that than connect with an academic institution that has evidence-based practices and research and really can help foster the quality of care that we still want to provide in our facilities," said Schaffner. "I think most of all nurses that work in long-term care absolutely have to understand and want to care for people whose rehabilitation for their illness may take some time."

Students will have a faculty member who is a registered nurse during the externship and a main point of contact at the facility.

Kristin Bolos, the Director of Workforce Development at EmpRes Healthcare said the students will have the ability to come out in the field and practice their skills to help a "very tired workforce."

"We’re going to pair up with them. They’re going to come and they’re going to have a mentor within our centers and really just learn what our culture is and what long-term care is and these are the folks that are particularly interested in long-term care," said Bolos.

Spokesperson Tatiana Sadak of the UW School of Nursing said the plan is to expand the program to other universities and long-term care facilities around the state in the near future.

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Social Security: New Bill Would Protect Seniors From Guardianship Fraud

PIKSEL / Getty Images/iStockphoto

For those who prey on vulnerable seniors by acting as their guardians and using them for their money, a new bill was has been proposed that would make the fraud a lot harder to execute

A state court appoints an individual as a guardian when a senior citizen or person with a disability is unable to manage their own care and/or personal affairs. This guardian is also commonly appointed as a representative payee by the Social Security Administration. This means that the guardian receives and manages the Social Security benefits of the person for whom they have been appointed guardian.

The current system has few safeguards to protect seniors against exploitation by the individual appointed to oversee the senior’s care. Theoretically, a state court could remove a guardian for abuse, fraud and neglect, but that same person could still receive and spend Social Security checks meant for person they were appointed to care for, The Hill reported. Now, a new piece of legislation is being brought forth to help avoid this. 

The Senior Guardianship Social Security Protection Act would add an extra layer of protection to help avoid fraud and establish a direct line of communication between courts and the SSA. In the event a court has cause to remove a guardian, it would have to notify the SSA so that the SSA could also remove the individual as a representative payee.

Further, the bill mandates the SSA to report to Congress every two years on the number of Social Security payments being delivered to non-family representative payees. Currently, there is no clear understanding of how many payments are being made to guardian payees versus actual seniors, which makes oversight difficult.

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New Bill Would Fund States' Efforts to Protect Older Investors

by Melanie Waddell

What You Need to Know

  • The SEC would implement the grant program.
  • Bill provides $10 million in grants annually to state regulators to help investigate and prosecute senior financial fraud cases.
  • The bill is endorsed by AARP, Americans for Financial Reform, CFP Board and the Financial Services Institute.

Senators introduced Thursday the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act, bipartisan legislation to create a grant program, implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission, that would work closely with state securities regulators to protect older investors.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., “will provide $10 million in grants annually to state regulators to support the investigation and prosecution of senior financial fraud cases, invest in technology and training, and conduct outreach to older Americans and increase their awareness of scams,” the senators said.

The bill was previously introduced in the House by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and passed out of the Financial Services Committee by voice vote in November.

The senators cite a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging, released during the last Congress, which found that older Americans lose approximately $3 billion each year to financial scams and abuse. “A separate survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that approximately seven million Americans have reported being victims of financial exploitation,” the senators said.

The bill is endorsed by AARP, Americans for Financial Reform, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., Consumer Federation of America, CFA Institute, Financial Services Institute, Insured Retirement Institute, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, North American Securities Administrators Association, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Wife Confesses To Crime While Asleep, So Husband Turns Her In To Police

By Dave Basner
Photo: Getty Images

In what seems like something out of one of Shakespeare's plays, a husband turned his wife in to the police after hearing her speaking in her sleep about a crime she committed.

It happened when Ruth Fort, 47, woke up her husband Antony, 61, by mumbling in her slumber about money. The incident occurred a few weeks after Ruth spent thousands of dollars on a family vacation to Mexico. The trip set off alarm bells for Antony, but she dismissed his suspicions. However, after hearing her sleep-talking, he started investigating and discovered in Ruth's purse the debit card of the wheelchair-bound woman Ruth was hired to look after. He then reported his wife, whom he married in 2010, to the police.

He told The Mirror, "I had my suspicions when Ruth began over-spending. It was more of an instinct really, at first. But when I found the debit card in her purse, I just knew. It was heartbreaking. I loved Ruth deeply, but I could not ignore what she had done. It was abhorrent to me that she could steal from a vulnerable person and I had to report her."

Antony, who lived with Ruth in England, explained he had been wary of her behavior for a few months, starting around the time she began her work as a caregiver. He said, "One night, in August 2018, I picked Ruth up from work and she told me she'd taken one of the care home residents out shopping that day. She said the lady, who was in a wheelchair, had 98k in her bank account. Something in the way she spoke just made my heart sink. I realized Ruth must have access to the card and pin number. There was no more to it, but I began worrying, even though I had no reason to. It was an instinct."

A few months after that was the trip to Mexico, then came her sleepy confession. He stated, "It all clicked into place, and I felt absolutely sickened. I couldn't believe it. When Ruth woke up, I confronted her, and she admitted everything. I told her to pack her bags and leave. It was heartbreaking, I loved her, and yet I knew I had no choice but to report her."

Last year, Ruth was given a suspended jail sentence of 16 months with required drug rehabilitation sessions. In the end, she stole nearly $10,000 from the woman in her care. Meanwhile, the judge praised Antony, calling his actions "commendable" and noting it "must have been a very difficult thing to do."

Ruth was back in court this month for skipping her rehab sessions and missing a meeting with her probation officer. The judge gave her another chance by imposing a curfew on her but warned that if she breaks any other rules she'll be put in prison. As for Antony, he said, "My anger has subsided now, and I want to help her. I feel as though the system has failed us so far."

Full Article & Source:

Former Florida deputy indicted for fraud

by: Aspen Popowski
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A former Santa Rosa County deputy was indicted on fraud charges after he allegedly exploited an elderly person for $10,000. A federal grand jury indicted Scott P. Haines, 49, on multiple counts of wire fraud and making false statements to federal agents, according to a news release from the U.S Department of Justice, Northern District of Florida. 

Investigators believe that the scheme took place over the course of six years, starting in January 2015 and ending in May 2021.The indictment alleges that Haines was able to take money from the victim after “inserting himself into the person’s personal and business affairs,” according to the news release.

When questioned about his relationship to the elderly person, the indictment says Haines lied to federal agents about his involvement in the victim’s affairs. Haines was arrested on state charges of exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult, theft from a person 65 years of age or older, and unauthorized access of a computer system or network. 

Haines’ indictment does not mean that he is guilty. Haines has been formally accused of exploitation by a grand jury and must be given a trail. Haines’ trial has been set for March 7, 2022.

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Caregiver Accused Of Stealing More Than $14,000 From Victim: Cops

by Skyla Luckey

POLK COUNTY, FL — A caregiver stole more than $14,000 from the 80-year-old woman she cared for in Poinciana from 2019 to 2021, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said.

Donnitta Jean Vaughn, 56, of Kissimmee was arrested on charges of criminal use of personal ID of a person over 60-years-old, exploitation of the elderly, fraudulent use of credit cards, obtaining property by fraud and grand theft.

Vaughn is in the Polk County Jail being held on $18,000 bond, deputies said. 

She detectives she felt she wasn't getting paid enough, and knew the victim did not have the mental capacity to give permission for an increased salary, so she began using the victim's credit cards to pay her bills and purchase other items, the sheriff's office said.

Donnitta Jean Vaughn, 56, of Kissimmee is accused of using an 80-year-old woman's credit cards to purchase personal products. (Polk Count Sheriff's Office)
Vaughn, a licensed certified nursing assistant (CNA), had been making $720 a week as the victim's caregiver. After a doctor's visit in December 2019, it was determined that the victim would not be able to make decisions pertaining to healthcare, finances or housing matters, deputies said.

A friend of the victim's, who had power-of-attorney, saw that one of her credit cards was missing at the beginning of 2021. This alerted the friend to review charges on the victim's credit card statement. Several fraudulent charges were shown on the statement, and unknown activity appeared on the victim's credit report, the sheriff's office said.

Vaughn is accused by investigators of receiving $4,868 more than her salary following a review of bank statements and credit reports. Payments were also made to Duke Energy that were credited to Vaughn's house account, deputies said.

Three credit cards belonging to the victim had been used by Vaughn to purchase clothing, cosmetics, bath, food and childcare fees, according to authorities.

"Licensed medical professionals are entrusted with caring for and protecting people during their most vulnerable moments," Sheriff Grady Judd. "Instead of caring for the victim, Vaughn took advantage of her situation and stole thousands of dollars from her. Thankfully, the victim's friend called us right away, and we will do everything in our power to ensure Vaughn is held accountable."
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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ohio Families Urged to Act on Nursing-Home Camera Law

Esther Piskor's family says she suffered abuse and neglect in six different nursing homes over a 15-year period. Her struggle resulted in passage of a new law in Ohio. (Elderly Nursing Home Abuse Advocates)

A Cleveland man's crusade to help Ohio families better protect their loved ones in nursing-home care from abuse and neglect will soon come to fruition.

Esther's Law goes into effect March 23. It allows patients in Ohio long-term care facilities to install cameras or other electronic monitoring devices in their rooms.

Steve Piskor, founder of Elderly Nursing Home Abuse Advocates, explained the measure is named after his mother, whom he said suffered abuse at the hands of eight nursing-home workers in 2011.

"I would have never known that the abuse was going on if I didn't put a camera in," Piskor recounted. "One aide went to prison for 10 and a half years; one aide went to jail for six months; three aides were fired, and three aides were disciplined. And the nursing home was fined $357,000."

Since then, Piskor has been advocating to allow the use of cameras in nursing homes. Under Esther's Law, the resident or their guardian is responsible for the cost of the device, as well as installation, maintenance and removal. There were an estimated 15,000 reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of adults over age 60 in Ohio between 2017 and 2018.

About one in ten caregivers handles those care-giving responsibilities long-distance.

Veronica McCreary-Hall, advocacy volunteer for AARP Ohio, said she drove more than 30 minutes, five to seven days a week, to visit her father in a nursing facility. She believes electronic monitoring would have brought her peace of mind.

"Every time I left, he would always look so sad and say, 'I hate to see you go,'" McCreary-Hall recalled. "It would have been absolutely wonderful for both of us to know that we could see each other, and that I knew exactly what was going on with him."

McCreary-Hall noted COVID-19 underscored the importance of the measure, when nursing-home facilities had to restrict visitations for months on end.

"People who are in facilities, a lot of them cannot advocate for themselves," McCreary-Hall pointed out. "Esther's Law will make so many people comfortable and feel safe, not only on the end of the facility, but also on the end of the loved one."

Piskor encouraged families to start the process of getting a camera installed now.

"Make sure you get a good camera," Piskor urged. "There's a good variety of cameras out there today. And nursing homes are required to let you use their public Wi-Fi, if they have it. And internet providers, they do offer free and low-cost Wi-Fi for people that are low-income and people that are on Medicaid."

Esther's law passed with unanimous support. Ten other states have similar laws, and Piskor said he hopes to see more. A ceremonial signing of the bill, scheduled for this week, was delayed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

Full Article & Source:

SC Attorney Disbarred After Client Complaints, Arrest For Forgery, Conspiracy And Identity Theft

By Liz Farrell

A Lancaster attorney accused of using personal client information to steal money and counterfeit checks to buy a car has been disbarred by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

In the court’s nine-page decision that outlined the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s findings, Christi Anne Misocky admitted to a litany of misconduct and agreed to pay unspecified restitution and costs.

According to her Facebook page, Misocky specialized in adoption and property law and practiced in North and South Carolina. She is currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of federal conspiracy.

Misocky’s case is yet another black eye against South Carolina’s lawyers, who in some parts of the state— particularly in the Lowcountry — are experiencing a backlash from clients as a result of the ongoing criminal investigations against powerful Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh.

The decision against Misocky, however, shows a thorough investigation and strong response by the ODC, which responds to allegations of attorney misconduct.

The Criminal Charges

In March 2019, Misocky’s license to practice law was placed on interim suspension in South Carolina after she was arrested and charged with two counts of forgery.

A year later, she was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, forgery, counterfeiting and identity theft. The two forgery charges in 2019 were dismissed after the federal indictment.

Misocky is accused of giving “personal client information” to two acquaintances — Howard Everett Anderson and George Dusean Norman, both of Rock Hill — who “used that information to make and pass counterfeit and forged securities in the names of clients.”

“These two other individuals deposited the money from the forged securities into a designated account from which Respondent paid them a percentage of the fraudulently obtained proceeds,” according to the S.C. Supreme Court decision.

Misocky allegedly endorsed the stolen checks and attempted to use another person’s identity to “facilitate a vehicle trade” on Oct. 15, 2018. That same day she is also accused of using a fake driver’s license and Social Security Card and attempting to use them to buy a car at Vehicles Direct in North Charleston.

At the end of November 2018, Misocky “purchased a new vehicle at Rick Hendrick Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram in North Charleston” using a fake identity, according to the federal indictment.

“On or about Nov. 30, 2018, Christi Anne Misocky passed two counterfeit checks in the amount of $10,500 each with the intent to defraud Rick Hendrick Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram in North Charleston.”

On Feb. 15, 2019, Misocky was arrested by an officer with the North Charleston Police Department and charged with two counts of forgery, according to the Charleston County Public Index.

According to the federal indictment, on Feb. 26, 2019, Misocky was discovered with the fake IDs, fraudulent checks and client files from her law office.

She is also accused of endorsing stolen checks in the amounts of $693.92 and $1,841.48, possessing and using someone else’s identification, as well as possessing “at least 15 devices which were counterfeit and unauthorized access devices.”

The Client Complaints

Problems with Misocky began to surface in 2017 when a client accused her of failing to communicate important details about a 2016 child support modification action brought against him.

Misocky “did not communication with Client A … and failed to diligently work on the case,” according to the Supreme Court decision.

Misocky withdrew as counsel in September 2017, and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel sent her a notice of investigation with a request to respond in 15 days. Misocky did not respond, however, and was subpoenaed by the ODC for her client’s file.

In December 2017, Misocky submitted a response to the ODC but “did not address Client A’s allegations, instead claiming Client A’s wife filed the complaint due to a personal grudge Client A’s wife had” with her. In response to the subpoena for her client’s file, Misocky provided an invoice of fees, a copy of the motion to withdraw as counsel and a copy of a proposed order of continuance.

Misocky sent an additional response in March 2018, denying the accusations against her but providing no evidence to support the denial.

Several more complaints followed this.

In December 2016, Misocky was hired to represent Client B in a foreclosure case.

Misocky was “late to the first hearing in the case, and when she did arrive, she was not prepared.” The hearing was rescheduled, but Misocky “failed to appear for the sedan hearing.

“Client B attempted to call Respondent several times with no success. Client B also emailed Respondent in an attempt to reach her, but Respondent did not respond.” (Click to continue reading)

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Inside Olympia: Advocacy week is here, nurse staffing companion bill bumped back, guardianship bill introduced

This week is WSHA’s Advocacy Week! Thank you to everyone who has signed up to participate to meet with legislators to advocate for our health care community and tell the hospital story. We know you all are so busy given the pandemic, but please do your best to prioritize these meetings with your legislators.

We are pleased to report that more than 650 health care advocates signed in against HB 1868 last week, making their voices heard against a bill that would impose rigid staffing minimums and impose other regulations hampering hospital staffing. We would like to thank our hospital members who took part in this effort and especially those who testified at the public hearing. The Senate companion to this bill, SB 5751, will come before the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs next week. SB 5751 was originally scheduled for a hearing Monday, Jan. 24, but was removed from the schedule.

The first cutoff of session is Thursday, Feb. 3, when most bills will need to pass out of their committees of origins (except those in fiscal committees).

HB 2083: Addressing consent to long-term care placement and services

Across the state patients are stuck in hospitals awaiting the appointment of a guardian to move to long-term care. WSHA is pleased that HB 2083 has been introduced, which allows close friends and family members to consent to placement in long-term care settings for patients who lack capacity. The bill also amends parts of state law on guardianship to allow quicker process for long-term care placement. As a result of a change of interpretation by the state, a family member can no longer agree to long-term care for a patient who lacks capacity. If the patient didn’t appoint a decision maker in a power of attorney document, the only option is a court-appointed guardian. The guardianship process is expensive, time-consuming and highly restrictive. Since the change in interpretation in state law, hospitals have seen double or triple the number of patients waiting to receive a guardian. Hospitals are full due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the courts are delayed, and it is paramount that patients who no longer need acute care are able to transfer to more appropriate care settings. Read more from WSHA’s issue brief. HB 2083 is scheduled for hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26 in the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary. WSHA’s input played a key role in crafting this legislation. (Zosia Stanley)

WSHA Weighing In: Jan. 24-28

WSHA is weighing in on the following bills this week:

Monday, Jan. 24

  • House College and Workforce Development:
    • HB 2007: Establishing a nurse educator loan repayment program under the Washington health corps. (Ashlen Strong)
  • House Health Care & Wellness
  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5821: Evaluating the state’s cardiac and stroke emergency response system. (Jacqueline Barton True)
    • SB 5892: Establishing pilot projects for utilizing high school student nursing assistant-certified programs to address the nursing workforce shortage and promote nursing careers in rural hospitals. (Jacqueline Barton True)
    •  SB 5900: Creating a provisional paramedic or emergency medical technician license. (Hearing is on the Proposed Substitute.) (Cara Helmer)

Tuesday, Jan. 25

  • House Civil Rights & Judiciary
    • HB 1850: Protecting and enforcing the foundational data privacy rights of Washingtonians. (Cara Helmer)

Wednesday, Jan. 26

  • House Civil Rights & Judiciary
    • HB 2083: Addressing consent to long-term care placement and services. (See article above) (Zosia Stanley)

Thursday, Jan. 27

  • House Health Care & Wellness
    • HB 1893: Allowing emergency medical technicians to provide medical evaluation, testing, and vaccines outside of an emergency in response to a public health agency request. (Cara Helmer)
    • HB 1959: Concerning managed health care system rate review. (Andrew Busz)
  • Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs
    • SB 5911: Providing hazard pay retention bonuses to certain health care employees. (Ashlen Strong)

Friday, Jan. 28

  • Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee to Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5829: Concerning appropriations for behavioral health. (Andrew Busz)
  • Senate Health & Long Term Care
    • SB 5790: Strengthening critical community support services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Zosia Stanley)
    • SB 5794: Concerning continuity of coverage for prescription drugs prescribed for the treatment of behavioral health conditions. (Andrew Busz)

Thank you for testifying!

Thank you to everyone who has testified in support of WSHA’s legislative efforts:

  • Jennifer Culbertson, Chief Nursing Officer, Swedish Edmonds
  • Katy Erickson, Nurse Manager, MultiCare
  • Jeannie Eylar, Chief Clinical Officer, Pullman Regional Hospital
  • Mike Martinoli, Chief Nursing Officer, Ferry County Memorial Hospital
  • Lisa Morten, Director, Human Resources, Overlake Medical Center
  • Dr. Michael Myint, Infectious Disease Physician and Epidemiologist, MultiCare
  • Brenda Sharky, Chief Nursing Officer, Ocean Beach Hospital
  • Susan Stacey, Chief Executive, Providence Inland Northwest Washington
  • Melissa Strong, Chief Nursing Officer, Mason General Hospital
  • Jill Toombs, President, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Puget Sound ChapterContacts
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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

What to Do When a Family Member Needs a Guardian

by Jackie Stewart
Gerald Teaster spent five years as his mother's legal guardian trying to balance her need for independence with his responsibility to protect her. There was the time that she tried to rent out a mobile home she owned to a stranger, and Teaster had to step in and tell the tenant that his mother couldn't legally agree to the contract. Then there was her insistence to only use cash so Teaster, a retired attorney, gave her $500 a month to spend. And there was the fight over where she would live. Teaster's mother didn't want to leave her home in Marion, Va., though eventually a fall and hospital stay forced the issue and she agreed to move into a nursing home.

Still, Teaster tried to take his mother's wishes into account until she passed away in 2017 at the age of 87. As guardian, "you may have the power to do it legally," Teaster, 65, of Blacksburg, Va., says, "but how do you force your mother to leave the house she has lived in for 50 years?"

When someone is legally deemed incapable of managing their own affairs and hasn't named a financial power of attorney to do it for them, a guardian or conservator may be needed, and a family member, like Teaster, may be appointed to the job. Guardians are usually responsible for personal affairs whereas a conservator is generally limited to financial matters. The terms, which can vary by state, are often used interchangeably because in many jurisdictions the same person fills both roles.

This control over another person's life and money has been in the news lately and not in a good way. Conservatorships gained notoriety recently when singer Britney Spears contested her father's 13-year control of her finances. The conservatorship finally ended in November. "If a court falls down on the job in such a highprofile case, just imagine the level of monitoring in ordinary cases," says Nina Kohn, a professor specializing in elder law at the Syracuse University College of Law in New York.

Even Netflix portrays these legal arrangements as little more than an invitation for fraud in "I Care a Lot," a 2021 movie featuring Rosamund Pike as a professional guardian who bilks her clients out of their life savings.

But there's a lot more to guardianships, than pop culture suggests, though they are a reminder of why estate planning and advance directives, like a power of attorney, are so important. "Every adult is assumed to be mentally capable of making their own personal and financial decisions," says Naomi Cahn, co-director of the University of Virginia Law School's Family Law Center in Charlottesville. "It's only when someone becomes unable to make those decisions and has not made any alternative plans that we start thinking about a conservatorship or a guardianship."

When to Seek a Guardianship

Although the rules vary by state, generally when someone -- a petitioner -- files a petition with a local court to seek guardianship of an adult, a judge holds a hearing to determine whether that person -- the respondent -- meets the state's standard for needing a guardian. The respondent has a right to legal representation and can contest the petition.

Someone requiring guardianship can lose important rights, including the ability to marry, travel, make certain medical decisions, possess firearms or even vote. Courts may be understandably reluctant to allow such an all-encompassing loss of rights. In fact, most states permit courts to limit a guardian's authority so that it only addresses a specific area the respondent needs help with, such as managing bills and maintaining a home. The least intrusive option is generally preferable. "It doesn't need to be an all or nothing situation," says Larisa Gilbert, an elder law attorney at Duncan Galloway Greenwald in Louisville, Ky.

An exam is usually required to determine if the respondent suffers from a medical condition that impairs judgment, says Dr. Gary Oberlender, president of Senior Evaluations, a company in Charlotte, N.C., specializing in geriatric medicine and competency assessments. The courts won't intervene if a person is physically disabled but mentally sharp. Making bad financial decisions also isn't grounds to be placed under a guardian's care. "The law can't protect you if you want to be a fool," Oberlender says.

Sometimes, though, the need for a guardian is clear -- for instance, a person who has suffered a stroke and is in a coma. Dementia is the most common reason why an adult might be declared incapacitated, says Oberlender, who finds that 85% of the respondents he assesses lack the ability to make essential decisions.

Depression, which can be mistaken for dementia, and delirium, which can cause a person to be confused and unaware of their environment, are other common causes. Oberlender once testified in a case that named a son the conservator for his father after the father gave away more than $1 million to cybercriminals. Just because someone is the victim of a financial crime doesn't mean that person needs a guardian, but in this case, the father adamantly believed that he hadn't been swindled, despite considerable evidence to the contrary and police involvement. As a result, he met the diagnostic criteria for delusional disorder and was deemed incapable of making his own financial decisions, Oberlender says.

Guardrails for a Guardianship

When the state's standard is met and a guardian is needed, courts typically prefer to appoint a family member, but sometimes there's no one appropriate, Gilbert says. In that case, the court may appoint a public guardian paid by the state or occasionally a professional guardian paid with private funds.

A guardianship petition can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars, depending on the jurisdiction, court filing fees, attorney fees, the cost of a competency exam and whether the petition is contested. If a professional guardian is appointed, the charges can run upwards of $250 an hour. The court process can also be emotionally wrenching. "By design, it's an adversarial proceeding, and though it's not the intention to strip someone of their feelings of dignity, choice and control, that can be a byproduct of the process," Gilbert says.

When a professional guardian is needed, sometimes courts give family members a say in the selection. Whether you're required to choose a professional or just prefer one, look for an experienced candidate. The Center for Guardianship Certification has national educational standards and examinations that guardians must pass for two levels of certification: guardian and master guardian. Ask the candidate about their caseload, how frequently they visit clients and how they communicate with family members.

Bear in mind that the guardian's job is to protect your loved one, not serve your interests. The family dynamics can be stressful because the relatives think I'm spending their inheritance, says Shannon Butler, a certified national master guardian and founder of Ethical Solutions, which provides professional guardianship and conservatorship services. "I'm not here to preserve your inheritance," she says. "I'm here to take care of your mom."

Most guardians are well meaning and do their best under difficult circumstances. "You have to manage their bills, their mortgage, the upkeep of their home," says Deirdre Lok, assistant director and general counsel for the Weinberg Center for Elder Justice.

Still, the system can be exploited. A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office identified hundreds of allegations of physical abuse and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 2010. Courts are supposed to monitor guardianships, but sometimes the oversight is lax. "Older adults with cognitive decline and those with intellectual disabilities historically have been treated as expendable," Kohn says.

There isn't reliable data on the number of people placed under a guardian's care, though the best estimate is around 1.3 million Americans, Kohn says. "This lack of transparency is itself a barrier to holding courts accountable," she adds.

There are some safeguards, Butler says. For instance, the petition must list all interested parties, such as the ward's spouse, children or siblings, who are notified about the application right from the start. A guardian must also send annual reports describing the ward's condition and disclosing to the court and the family how funds were spent, giving relatives a chance to raise concerns.

Those requirements also apply to a family member who serves as guardian. The family member should keep clear records of how any money was spent and discuss any reimbursement for expenses, such as the time and mileage for transporting the ward to appointments, in advance, Butler says. "It should be seen as a professional job. Depending on the situation and how complicated it is, it can be a lot of work."

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Ex-Judge Banned From Office for Life by Indiana High Court

by David McAfee

A former Indiana superior court judge received a lifetime ban from holding judicial office after the state’s High Court ruled that he engaged in misconduct while in office by commingling his court duties with his political campaign.

Patrick Miller was a judge for the Adams Superior Court when he hired an unnamed employee for the county drug court in 2015. After he announced his 2020 campaign for reelection, the employee worked on Miller’s campaign while in the courthouse and during her regular hours. Miller never explained that there were rules about working for the court while working on a campaign, or about working on a campaign while in the courthouse.

Miller also discussed providing a campaign sign to a defendant while wearing his robe and seated at the bench, and later did so. Miller nevertheless lost his reelection bid.

Miller and the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications agreed that the misconduct violated multiple rules, including a rule prohibiting judges from using court staff in a campaign for judicial office.

Because Miller had been publicly repirmanded for an earlier infraction, his sentence here was enhanced, and it was agreed that the lifetime judicial service ban and another public reprimand was appropriate. Miller was also taxed costs of $1,497.

The Supreme Court of Indiana approved the discipline Jan. 21.

Miller represented himself.

Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush wrote the unanimous opinion.

The case is In the Matter of Patrick Ryan Miller, Ind., No. 21S-JD-00513, 1/21/22.

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Warm Springs man arrested on financial abuse of the elderly

Warm Springs man arrested on financial abuse of the elderly(Source: Auburn Police Division)

By Jessie Gibson

WARM SPRINGS, Ga. (WTVM) - A Warm Springs man is behind bars after committing financial exploitation.

On January 14, Auburn police arrested 23-year-old Elijahwon Keonte Rolax and charged him with financial exploitation of the elderly, a second degree felony.

The arrest stems from officers responding to a call on November 24, 2021. Officers met with a victim that reported a man performed a minor residential landscaping task for them. The victim, who is over the age of sixty, advised the man used undue influence to force them to pay an exorbitant fee for the service.

Rolax was developed as a suspect, and after further investigation, police obtained an arrest warrant. Rolax was taken into custody on January 14.

Rolax was transported to the Lee County Jail and held on a $5,000 bond.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Man Claims Wife’s Conservatorship is Preventing Her From Doing What She Wants With Her Own Money

Robert claims that his wife’s conservatorship is controlling every aspect of their lives. “Sarah can’t do what she wants to do with her own money,” Robert says. Sarah received a $5.1 million medical malpractice settlement at age 4, but instead of her receiving the money at 18, or a designated age, the 36-year-old claims family members tried to control the money -- and her. Now, Sarah's money is under the control of an irrevocable conservatorship, which she agreed to. “If we have a repair, then we wait for the judge,” Robert says. “So while we’re waiting for the judge to approve, we’ve got kids living here in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and I don’t like that.” What does Robert claim the lawyers accuse him of? And, why does Sarah say she agreed to the conservatorship? Hear what they say in the video above. On Monday’s episode of Dr. Phil, "My Conservatorship Keeps Me from My Millions," Sarah, who says she has been told that she is "mentally disabled" and has brain damage and that’s why she can’t have control of her money, meets with Dr. Charles Sophy, child and family psychiatrist, for an evaluation. What does it reveal? Plus, eldercare and estate planning attorney Ann-Margaret Carrozza weighs in. Check local listings to see where you can watch. TELL DR. PHIL YOUR STORY: Hopelessly in need of Dr. Phil's Help?
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Judge’s Firing Upheld for Remarks in Sex-Harassment-Related Case

by Patrick Dorrian

A California administrative judge failed to show he was punished too harshly when he was terminated for comments he made during a workers’ compensation appeal by an employee fired for alleged sexual harassment, a state appeals court ruled Monday.

T. Fitzgerald Smith, formerly on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, concedes he made the remarks while presiding over Enrique Sandoval’s unemployment benefits hearing, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, said in an unpublished ruling. The hearing concerned whether Sandoval was still entitled to benefits even though he was fired for allegedly sexually harassing a co-worker, the court said.

Sandoval’s attorney during the hearing pressed the human resources chief for Sandoval’s former employer about the appearance of the co-worker Sandoval allegedly harassed, the court said. Smith interjected to say the line of questioning was fair and asked if the co-worker “would be considered you know, an eight as opposed to a two?”

Smith also remarked that the co-worker would logically be overweight if she recently had a baby and defined modern romance in crass terms, the court said.

The California State Personnel Board didn’t abuse its discretion in rejecting Smith’s appeal of his own firing, Justice Carol D. Codrington said.

Smith said he should have received a lesser sanction because he hadn’t previously been disciplined and the CSPB had a history of disciplining employees on a progressive basis.

But the cases he cited all concerned state workers in jobs held to a lower level of accountability, Codrington said. Judicial officers and police officers are held to a higher standard, she said.

And Smith not only admitted his transgressions, he also acknowledged that his behavior failed to meet that standard and violated several judicial ethics rules, the court said.

There also was nothing requiring the CSPB to discipline employees progressively, even if an administrative law judge who reviewed Smith’s case recommended that he just be suspended for six months, Codrington said.

The ALJ also found that Smith’s offensive behavior was likely to recur because he didn’t take full responsibility for it, and instead tried to explain it, the court said.

Justices Art W. McKinster and Michael J. Raphael joined the opinion.

Brunick, McElhaney & Kennedy PC represented Smith. The California attorney general’s office represented the state.

The case is Smith v. State Pers. Bd., 2022 BL 22392, Cal. Ct. App., 4th Dist., No. E074300, unpublished 1/24/22.

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When Can Someone Be Declared Legally Incompetent?

If a loved one is experiencing memory loss or suddenly making poor decisions, you may want the court to appoint a guardian, which requires a declaration of incompetence. Determining whether someone is incompetent to make their own decisions is a complicated process. 

If a loved one is unable to make decisions for him or herself, the court may appoint a substitute decision maker, often called a "guardian," but in some states called a "conservator" or other term. A guardian is only appointed as a last resort if less restrictive alternatives, such as a power of attorney, are not in place or are not working.

The standard under which a person is deemed to require a guardian differs from state to state. In some states the standards are different depending on whether a complete guardianship or a conservatorship over finances only is being sought. Generally, a person is judged to be in need of guardianship when he or she shows a lack of capacity to make responsible decisions or decisions that are in their best interests. 

The court usually looks at a number of factors in determining the need for a guardian or conservator, including the following: 

  • Comprehension of important medical or financial information
  • Appreciation of the importance of medical and financial decisions and understanding the effect of those decisions 
  • Ability to make reasonable decisions using the information available 
  • Capacity to communicate decisions in a consistent manner
  • Ability to maintain a safe environment 

A person cannot be declared incompetent simply because he or she makes irresponsible or foolish decisions, but only if the person is shown to lack the capacity to make sound decisions. For example, a person may not be declared incompetent simply because he or she spends money in ways that seem odd to someone else. Also, a developmental disability or mental illness is not, by itself, enough to declare a person incompetent.

Keep in mind that the standard for whether someone is legally incompetent to care for themselves is not always the same as whether they have the capacity to make legal decisions. Proper execution of a legal instrument requires that the person signing have sufficient mental "capacity" to understand the implications of the document. 

For information on how to file for a guardianship, click here

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Monday, January 24, 2022

‘Bored’ grandma turns the tables on phone scammer

A Long Island woman received a scam call that her grandson was in a drunken car crash. She notified the police, who helped tackle the fraudster when he showed up demanding money.



Baltimore state's attorney indicted on federal charges

By Tyler Clifford and Steve Gorman

Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby (C) departs the courthouse on the first day of the Caesar Goodson trial in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Jan 13 (Reuters) - Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the city's top prosecutor, was indicted on Thursday on federal charges of perjury and filing false mortgage applications related to her purchase of two Florida vacation homes.

Mosby, a Democrat elected to her post in 2015, is accused of falsely claiming twice to have suffered a work-related financial hardship from COVID-19 in order to request early withdrawals totaling $90,000 from her city employee retirement account.

In both instances, the indictment stated, Mosby fraudulently cited a federal CARES Act provision allowing for emergency distributions of up to $100,000 from her retirement plan in the event of a furlough, layoff, quarantine, reduced work hours, lack of childcare or impact on one's own business caused by COVID-19.

Prosecutors said Mosby, 41, used the money she received - $36,000 in May 2020 and $45,000 on Dec. 31 of that year - toward down payments on vacation homes in Kissimmee, Florida, and Long Boat Key, Florida.

The two counts of perjury stem from Mosby's false statements of coronavirus-related financial duress at a time when she was earning a gross annual salary of nearly $248,000 in full, the indictment asserted.

Mosby is further charged with two counts of making false statements on mortgage applications seeking a total of more than $900,000 in loans to purchase the two Florida properties in question.

In particular, the indictment says, Mosby failed to disclose as required in both applications that she and her husband were delinquent in federal tax payments resulting in $45,000 tax lien filed against them by the Internal Revenue Service in 2020.

Mosby, who ran for office as a part of a movement of "progressive prosecutors" promising to address systemic inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system, made national headlines in 2015 when she charged six officers in the police custody death of Freddie Gray, a young Black man.

The death of Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while being transported without a seatbelt in a police van, led to rioting on the day of his funeral. None of the six officers charged in his death was convicted.

There was no immediate comment from Mosby, her office or any legal representative about the indictment.

If convicted, she could face up to five years for each of two perjury counts and decades in prison on charges of making false mortgage applications, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for Maryland.

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Baltimore state's attorney indicted on federal charges

Georgia pastor and wife arrested after disabled people found locked in basement

By Pilar Arias
Police in Georgia arrested a pastor and his wife after discovering multiple disabled people locked in the basement of an unlicensed "group home."

Curtis Keith Bankston, 55, and Sophia Simms-Bankston, 56, face false imprisonment charges following an investigation.
Crews with Griffin Fire Rescue responded to an unlicensed group home under the "guise of a church" on Jan. 13 in response to a report of someone having a seizure. 

When they arrived, they found the entrance to the basement dead bolted and had to climb through a window to reach the patient, according to a police news release.

Once inside, authorities found as many as eight people between the ages of 25 and 65 who were mentally or physically disabled, who at times had been "locked in" by their "caretakers."
Sophia Simms-Bankston, 56, faces false imprisonment charge.

Sophia Simms-Bankston, 56, faces false imprisonment charge. (Griffin Police Department)

Investigators say the Bankstons had been leasing the home for around 14 months and operating the unlicensed facility under the appearance of a church called the One Step of Faith 2nd Chance.

Officials say they found out that Curtis Bankston, who claims to be a pastor, and his wife were in control of the individuals' finances, benefits, and medications. Investigators allege the couple would deny the individuals medication and medical care in some instances. 

"It is both frightening and disgusting to see the degree to which these individuals have been taken advantage of by people who were in a position of trust," the City of Griffin Police Department said in a statement.

Bankston, his attorney Dexter Wimbish, and a handful of religious leaders pushed back against allegations that he was holding people against their will. 

"At no time was anybody held against their will. There was no kidnapping," Wimbish said at a news conference Thursday. "There is no fraud here. This is simply a Christian man who was following his calling to help those who are in need. We cannot sit by and allow ministry to be attacked."

The Georgia Department of Human Services have placed all the individuals affected into suitable care and housing. 

Griffin Police Department is asking anyone who may have had a family member or loved one under the care of the Bankstons either currently or in the past contact investigators. 

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

The judge who shamed a cancer patient for his untidy yard says she's embarrassed and made a mistake

By Alisha Ebrahimji

(CNN)A Michigan judge who berated an elderly cancer patient for his untidy yard has apologized for her behavior, and said she "made a mistake, acted intemperately" and is "very embarrassed."

Burhan Chowdhury, 72, was given a citation in May of 2021 for not keeping up with the yard work at his Hamtramck home, his son Shibbir told CNN.
During an online Zoom court appearance about the yard on January 10, Burhan appeared with Shibbir to help bridge the language gap, since the older man doesn't speak a great deal of English, Shibbir said.
Burhan has lymphoma, a cancer that has attacked his lymph nodes and left his body weak, Shibbir said, but instead of a slap on the wrist from District Judge Alexis G. Krot, Burhan was berated.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Krot said during the court appearance regarding the yard work, as seen in an online recording of the Zoom appearance. "Have you seen that photo? That is shameful."
"If I could give you jail time on this, I would," Krot went on to say. "That is totally inappropriate."
Video of the Zoom meeting circulated online and many on social media expressed outrage over Krot's comments.
"I apologize to the person who appeared before me and to our entire community for having failed to meet the high standards we expect of our judicial officers and that I expect of myself," Krot said in a letter posted on the court's website Tuesday.
"When someone appears before me and has made a mistake, I expect them to own up to it," she wrote. "I expect nothing less of myself." 
Krot said she self-reported her behavior to the Judicial Tenure Commission.
"I had no legal duty to report myself to the Commission, but I did so because, like apologizing to the community, it was the right thing to do. I will continue to hold myself to the standards I set for others." 
Typically, before Burhan's cancer diagnosis three years ago, Shibbir said he, his mother and Burhan would all work on the yard together. While he was in Bangladesh, his mother fell down the stairs and hurt her back, leaving no one to do any yard work while he was away.
As soon as he returned, Shibbir said he cleaned up the yard himself.
"My father was trying to explain that he was sick and he had cancer, but (he was) feeling shame," Shibbir said. "We didn't expect she could tell us like this. Maybe she could have told us more respectfully or maybe, like, normally how people speak," he said referring to the judge.
Shibbir thinks a neighbor filed a complaint with the city, but he's not sure. If that's the case, he says he wishes the neighbor would have just talked to him about the yard themselves before escalating the situation.

The community is watching

The incident caught the attention of Michigan State Rep. Abraham Aiyash and prompted him to speak out about it at a city council meeting last Tuesday. 
Watching video of the Zoom hearing gave Aiyash flashbacks of a time when he went to the courtroom with his parents who spoke English as a second language and were mistreated, he told CNN on Friday.
"Remorse is seen through deed and that's what we want to see," he said. "Will there be a change in action? Will there be a change in conduct moving forward?"
Aiyash said he is in touch with the Chowdhury family and preparing a formal complaint to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, an independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and judicial incapacity, and for recommending discipline of judicial officers by the Michigan Supreme Court.
"We would expect any of our elected officials in Hamtramck to treat people with dignity and respect and in the event that they're not, we will hold them accountable," Aiyash said. "What you saw over the last week and a half that surfaced from, particularly, Hamtramck community members is a reaction to pain. 
"These are people who have felt and seen and experienced mistreatment and are sort of voicing their outrage from their own personal experience," he continued. "So many of us feel sympathy for Mr. Chowdhury, but for a lot of people, this just brings back flashbacks to their own experience and this moment opened up the eyes of a lot of folks who said enough is enough." 
About a week after the city council meeting, Amer Ghalib, the Mayor of Hamtramck also spoke out about the incident during a weekly address to the community saying it was "inhumane to stay silent in this case."
"My personal opinion is the treatment that Mr. Chowdhury received was inappropriate, unacceptable and unbecoming of the court," he said. "Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. In this country no one should be afraid of elected officials."
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