Saturday, August 27, 2022

Reflections on My Mom’s Eviction

A case study in how senior care facilities are kicking out elderly people, and getting away with it.  

by Bill Lueders

Elaine Benz with family. (Photo by Bill Lueders.)

Last fall, my then-97-year-old mother, Elaine Benz, was evicted from the senior living facility known as the Regency, in New Berlin, Wisconsin, where she had lived for ten years. My sister, Diane, was told on Thursday, October 28, that our mom would not be allowed to return the following morning, as planned, from a physical rehabilitation center to which she had been sent following a fall. The Regency had decided her needs had gotten too great.

It was a staffer at the rehab center and not someone from the Regency—officially ProHealth Regency Care Communities New Berlin—who broke this news to Diane. As she recalls, the staffer told her that the Regency would turn Elaine “away at the doors” if the center tried sending her back. We needed to find her a new place to live.

I have written elsewhere about my family’s efforts to negotiate a different outcome, both by appeals to the Regency and contacts with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which regulates nursing homes and other residential care facilities, including the Regency. The details of my mother’s displacement, and subsequent events involving the state’s regulatory apparatus, have been documented in more than a dozen articles for various outlets, including an 8,500-word piece in the Progressive earlier this year. I have received hundreds of pages of documents in response to open records requests.

This is my attempt to share the story’s full arc, which culminated in a meeting this month with the state Department of Health Services officials. It is an extraordinary tale in its particulars, given the actions of the state.

But in general, I learned, there is nothing unusual about it. What happened to my mother happens to elderly people in America all the time. A facility will conclude that a patient has become too much work or is no longer a good deal financially and find a way to get rid of her. Often, as with Elaine, nursing homes and other senior care facilities evict residents while they are temporarily moved to another facility.

Nicole Shannon, a frontline attorney for the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, told me how this sometimes works: “The nursing home will say, ‘Well, it sure seems like you need a psychiatric consult, we’re gonna send you to the hospital.’ The hospital turns around and says, ‘You know, this person does not require psychiatric care. You can go back to your nursing home now,’ and the nursing home says ‘Nope, no thanks, you’re no longer welcome here.’”

Shannon’s group has seen cases in which nursing home residents have had discharges approved for transfers to a homeless shelter, to the home of an unwilling relative, to a house that no longer existed because it had burned down, and to an apartment the person no longer rented.

On November 18, the day after we found a new place for Elaine to live, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a forty-page report on problems regarding “facility-initiated discharges.” It noted that “discharge/eviction” was from 2013 to 2019 the single most frequent complaint recorded by the federal Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which operates in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

The report says that several of the ombudsmen surveyed “volunteered that nursing homes have said that they would rather accept a deficiency or enforcement penalty than keep the resident.” Other ombudsmen “opined that stronger enforcement actions could help to reduce these discharges.”

The national experts I spoke with all agreed that improper discharges are, as Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, put it, “a huge problem across the board” and that lax enforcement was largely to blame. “Anytime there’s an inappropriate transfer discharge that either the federal government or state government finds out about, there should be significant financial penalties for that,” urged Tony Chicotel, a staff attorney for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “There’s got to be real deterrence.”

There was a time when I thought my mother’s case provided an opportunity for the state of Wisconsin to deliver that deterrence and send a message that providers who break the law shall be held accountable. Instead, the message those providers received is that they can get away with it.

Elaine ended up staying at the rehabilitation center for another 19 days, until we were able to move her into a new residence. During this time, the facility was in COVID-19 lockdown, meaning Diane could no longer visit, as she has almost every day for years. There were times when Diane stood outside in the cold, waving at our mom through a window. The rehabilitation center charged Elaine $7,486 for these 19 days. She also paid the Regency her usual $5,685 for the month of November, during which time she was not allowed to return to her room.

Our mom, who turned 98 in February, has since come to like her new residence. But it was a traumatic transition. When I visited her there in November, a few days after she moved in, she was atypically despondent. She would not eat her breakfast and, for more than an hour, did not say a word as I put up shelves for family photos in her new apartment. Then, as I knelt before her wheelchair, she looked at me and said, “I want to go home.”

Like the federal law governing nursing homes nationwide, Wisconsin law requires providers including the Regency to give residents 30 days advance notice before an involuntary discharge. But the experts I spoke to said this seldom happens.

“It is rare for a resident to ever get 30 days’ notice,” Chicotel told me. That’s because doing so involves informing residents of their right to appeal, which facilities don’t want because residents who do appeal usually win. “The benefits of breaking the law are greater than the cost of breaking the law. So, consequently, you get a lot of law-breaking.”

Both the state and federal laws provide an exemption from the 30-day notice if there’s an emergency, meaning that the person poses “an immediate and documented threat to the health or safety of the tenant or of others,” as the Wisconsin law puts it. This is what the Regency claimed to be the case in a letter we received via email on November 4, a full week after our mom was evicted. It also argued that she required more than 28 hours of direct care per week, beyond what the facility was licensed to provide. She has never needed or received this level of care, even to this day.

Again, this is par for the course. Eric Carlson, director of long-term services and supports advocacy with Justice in Aging, a national legal advocacy group, told me that in most cases where a resident’s needs are said to have gotten too great, “the resident is still within” the level of care the facility is licensed to provide.

On November 5, I filed a grievance with the state, disputing the Regency’s representations. Three days later, on November 8, an inspector with the DHS’s Division of Quality Assurance paid an onsite visit to the Regency to review Elaine’s medical records. The inspector, Geralyn Spitzer, wrote a 12-page report concluding that the Regency had violated state administrative code in two particulars, including its false claim that our mother’s condition presented an “emergency” requiring her immediate discharge.

The inspection found: “The care needs the provider used as evidence of an emergency termination were the same care needs [Elaine] required prior to a temporary transfer for rehabilitation.” The Regency was also flagged for failing to “complete a comprehensive assessment . . . with the active participation of the tenant and the tenant’s legal representative,” as required.

We didn’t see the inspector’s report until early February, when it was posted on the state’s online portal for complaints against nursing homes and other senior care facilities. Also posted was the state’s Notice and Order,” dated Feb. 1, 2022, fining the Regency $1,200 for violating the rules regarding what constitutes an emergency and $300 for failing to properly consult. This was, I learned through a records request, only the third time over the past three years that a Wisconsin provider in the Regency’s licensing category, which includes over 350 facilities, was fined for violating the state’s rules regarding the discharge of residents.

I wrote a column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on how $1,500 was a ridiculously low penalty, noting that it came with an offer of a 35 percent discount, to $975, if paid within ten days. But, as it turned out, the Regency would not have to pay any fines at all.

On February 18, the Regency appealed the citations, requesting a hearing on the matter with the state Division of Hearings and Appeals. But in April, before a hearing could be held, the state rescinded the citations. A stipulated settlement agreement said the dismissal was made based on unspecified “additional information.”

When I pressed for specific information that was provided to the state, I was sent a number of my mother’s health records from the Regency, marked as exhibits. But by the state’s own admission, none of these records articulate a defense of the Regency’s actions. Moreover, the documents that existed prior to Elaine’s eviction are marked as having been “received” by the DHS Division of Quality Assurance on Nov. 8, 2021, the date of the inspection conducted by Spitzer.

In other words, this information was made available and reviewed prior to Spitzer concluding that the Regency committed two violations, a determination that was upheld on review by division staff prior to the citations being issued. To this day, Diane and I, who have power of attorney over Elaine’s health care, still don’t know why the state decided it was perfectly OK for the Regency to evict her, one day to the next.

As I recently learned as the result of an open records request, Otis Woods, the administrator of the Division of Quality Assurance, was blindsided to hear that unknown others in state government had rescinded the citations his division had issued.

“This is news to me that we withdrew the citations and other enforcement action,” wrote Woods, in an April 27 email to other officials marked as “high” importance. “Was there some legal settlement that we agreed to in this case? We confirmed violations, issued enforcement action, they appealed (I think), and we withdrew everything? Please take a look and, if needed, I would like to meet about this matter.”

Woods was responding to his copy of a letter I emailed that day to his boss, Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee of the state Department of Health Services (DHS), which includes Woods’ division, protesting the decision to rescind the two citations. I wrote in the letter:

What has happened here is an egregious failure on the part of DHS to enforce state administrative code against an especially flagrant violator. You are making it clear that providers of care to the elderly can violate the state’s rules with impunity. As such, the decision of the Department of Health Services to dismiss this case puts all of the state’s most vulnerable residents at unnecessary risk.

Woods ultimately defended the decision he was initially troubled to learn about in a response letter to me, but he gave no explanation for the state’s decision to back down, other than that “the facility provided additional information.” The letter concluded by telling me that “The Division of Quality Assurance appreciates your advocacy for the rights of residents in Wisconsin’s residential facilities.” I thanked Woods for this in my reply, but added, “isn’t advocating for the rights of residents in these facilities supposed to be your job, not mine?”

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that the state removed Spitzer’s 12-page report from its online portal, replacing it with a newly created document claiming the Nov. 8 inspection identified “no deficiencies” and that “the complaint was not substantiated.” Woods said switching the documents was “consistent with standard practice” so that “the published [record] accurately reflect[s] the current results” of a complaint investigation.

From the first page of the inspector’s November 8, 2021 report. 
(Highlighting added.)
After the state rescinded the citations, it replaced the report with this one, falsely 
stating that the November 8 inspection found no deficiencies. (Highlighting added.)

The Regency is owned by ProHealth Care Inc., a Waukesha-based “not for profit” provider that in 2020 reported $103 million in “revenue less expenses” and over a recent six-year period paid its president and CEO, Susan Edwards, nearly $19 million. At one point in my exchanges with state officials, I mused that ProHealth “has a lot of money and presumably a lot of clout,” which may have led it to believe it could get away with how it treated Elaine.

Elaine’s eviction came as she is nearing the end of her life savings, after she and her late husband Don paid the Regency more than $321,000 in rent over a ten-year period. She soon will no longer be able to afford her current $7,365 monthly rent, which is far in excess of the  roughly $2,100 a month she receives in Social Security and small pensions from my late father and her years working at Woolworth’s in Milwaukee. When her savings run dry, a government program will likely pick up some of the costs, but the amount would be far less than what the Regency had been receiving and what her new provider is receiving now.

Whether this was a factor in the Regency’s desire to get rid of her, we don’t know. On April 16, an attorney representing the Regency offered to pay my family a settlement of $7,865 “to resolve this matter.” But that offer was withdrawn after the state dismissed the citations.

On August 8, Diane and I met with two DHS officials, including Assistant Deputy Secretary  T.R. Williams, to discuss our concerns regarding how this matter was handled. They were both very kind and professional. Williams defended DHS staff against the negative attention I have showered on this situation. She said that my “intuition” has always been that there is something “nefarious” regarding how Elaine’s case was handled, when in reality these were hard-working state employees doing what they thought was right.

That’s a fair point and, as I said in an article I wrote on the meeting, “I am sorry . . . that their already difficult jobs, which they do because they want to make a positive difference in people’s lives, have been made more difficult by my reporting on this topic, and my family’s demand for answers.”

Williams said there was no other information beyond the medical records we were given regarding the state’s decision to rescind the citations: “Information was given, you just thought it was insufficient.” She would not say whether the division’s frontline staff agreed that the citations had been issued in error. And there is apparently no way we can appeal this decision; only the regulated facilities have the ability to challenge the actions of the state.

But Williams did say that, beyond this particular case involving Elaine, which DHS considers closed, the state would be open to having a larger “conversation about policy or legislative advocacy,” if we have ideas for addressing the problem she admits does exist regarding the improper evictions of elderly people from their homes.

I appreciate that openness, and afterward made some suggestions:

The state should improve its online portal for complaints against residential care facilities by allowing aggregate searches, not just residence-specific ones, and by keeping all records regarding the complaint posted, even if the status of a case changes. The state should take the lead in educating residents and families on their rights; encourage them to ask providers upfront about when and under what circumstances (falls, incontinence, dementia) a resident may be evicted; and let them know that national experts recommend that residents refuse to leave when told to do so, and that they should instead insist on their their due process and appeal rights.

Finally, I said, the state should look for opportunities to enforce its existing rules and regulations in a public way, calling attention to those cases—however few and far between—when facilities are busted for improper discharges and other rule violations.

My family believes that we gave the Wisconsin DHS an opportunity to do exactly this, but that did not happen. Maybe next time—and sadly, there is no doubt there will be one—the state, or other regulators in other states, will respond in a way that will make it less likely, not more, that it will happen to others.

Full Article & Source:

Columbia Woman Charged with Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Individuals

From TBI Newsroom

MAURY COUNTY – An investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Medicaid Fraud Control Division has resulted in the arrest of a Columbia woman, charged with financially exploiting two vulnerable adults.

At the request of Adult Protective Services, in August 2021, agents began an investigation into an allegation of financial exploitation of two vulnerable adults. During the course of the investigation, agents developed information that identified Deleshia Booker, the now-former manager of a service that provides support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as the individual who used some of her clients’ finances on two dates in July 2021 for her own personal gain.

On August 19th, the Maury County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Deleshia Quantay Booker (DOB 03/21/1988) with two counts of Financial Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person. Booker was arrested on August 24th and booked into the Maury County Jail on a $20,000 bond.

The TBI’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $6,879,772.50 for federal Fiscal Year 2022. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $2,293,257.00 for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, is funded by the State of Tennessee.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, August 26, 2022

Families fighting state-run conservatorships are trapped in a broken, systemic web of conflicting interests

Want to fight a state-run conservatorship? You'll face the California Attorney General - and have nowhere to turn for help.
Author: Andie Judson

SACRAMENTO, Calif — The state of California will not let Deborah Findley see her son, Andrew, in person.

She has spent over $300,000 in legal fees fighting the state’s court-ordered conservatorship, trying to get access to him.

Credit: Deborah Findley

In December 2021, she was only allowed virtual visitation where she had to follow “guidelines.” Questions like ‘how he’s feeling’ are called “triggering,” and put her future visits in jeopardy.

“Over the past three years, I’ve only been allowed less than 100 hours of contact with him,” said Deborah.

So, to abide by the guidelines, instead of asking questions she shows him his favorite things like his Christmas presents underneath the tree since Andrew is not allowed to come home for the holiday.

“I’ve had that Christmas tree there for three years, waiting for him to come home,” said Deborah.

During the virtual visitation, Andrew, who is 21 years old, was hard to understand and lost focus often. Deborah said he is on many medications that she is opposed to – but because of the conservatorship, Deborah has no say over it.

“It just leaves me as a mom worried sick for my son,” said Deborah. “He used to be fully conversational…he is just a shell of a human being right now.”

This was not what Deborah was expecting when she sought conservatorship nearly four years ago.

“You’re told when your special needs child turns 18, you need to get a conservatorship,” said Deborah. “The regional centers kind of pound that into parents too.”

Experts ABC10 spoke with said there is a pipeline that leads to conservatorship – starting through school, doctors, and/or regional centers.

Andrew has autism as well as other developmental disabilities and requires 24-hour care, court records show.

“Had some challenges but we had the best therapists in northern California,” said Deborah. “The best of everything we provided for him.”

They thought they could continue his care with the conservatorship. They raised Andrew in northern California in Shingle Springs. As he approached age 18, their family moved to Templeton in central California.

After their move, Deborah and her husband petitioned for conservatorship. She says they were blindsided.

“It was pretty much a done deal before our attorney even walked in,” said Deborah. “And he was blindsided too.”

In reality, the court was in control. 

“We had no idea that something like this could happen,” said Deborah.

What the probate court received alongside the Findley’s petition for conservatorship was a competing one from California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) saying they should be conservator because Andrew’s parents were allegedly abusive.

DDS has continued to say throughout the conservatorship proceedings that, “throughout Andrew’s life his parents have interfered with his health, safety, welfare," and that they could not handle his growing aggression and were not providing proper care, court documents show.

Deborah said she was never asked about this.

“(The) court-appointed investigator never interviewed us. Still hasn’t in three years,” said Deborah. “We never got due process.”

Credit: Deborah Findley

The court listened to DDS, granting them temporary conservatorship in September 2019, after a fiduciary served as conservator for a period and a different Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship also was instated for a year. The conservatorship stripped Andrew’s parents of their right to care for their son like they had for the first 18 years of his life.

“We became legal strangers to my son,” said Deborah. “He was treated like an orphan.”

Since the conservatorship process began, Deborah said for periods of time she has not been told where her son is.

“It was a lot of nights of crying myself to sleep going, ‘Where is my son? Is he alive? Is he dead? I don’t know. Nobody would tell us,’” said Deborah.

Seeing people like his mother may “cause regression,” DDS told the court and that the court should “not be swayed by impassioned pleas from family.”

“Nine months, I had no idea where he was. They wouldn’t let me know anything about him,” said Deborah. “It’s inhumane. It’s absolutely inhumane.”

With DDS being the conservator, information about her son is impossible for Deborah to get.

“The (regional center) staff and supervisors aren’t allowed to communicate with me. I have to go through the conservator,” said Deborah. “(For) anything with my son. I’m like, ‘Did he get my card?’ ‘Oh, you have to ask the conservator.’”

That means Deborah has to ask a massive multi-billion-dollar state agency if her son received his Christmas card.

Deborah says Andrew wants to come home, asking during every visit they have. DDS says the current situation is what is best for Andrew. Unlike in episode one of this investigation, some of the confidential court documents were not accessible for this complex case. But it provides a window into a broken system, keeping families apart - and we at ABC10 wondered how it is that DDS, a massive government agency, can serve as conservator of an individual with very specific needs.

“The law permits the Director of the Department of Developmental Services to be appointed as conservator,” said Tom Coleman, attorney, and founder of Spectrum Institute – a human rights non-profit organization.

He believes DDS being able to be a conservator is “ridiculous.”

“Someone who is running a billion-dollar department with hundreds, if not thousands of employees…that person is going to be a conservator of an individual and look after their needs and care for them? It is a farce,” said Coleman.

DDS often becomes a conservator by way of its regional centers. That is what happened in Andrew’s case; Tri-Counties Regional Center nominated DDS to be conservator, court records show.

“It totally is a conflict of interest,” said Deborah.

Deborah believes this is a conflict of interest because when a regional center nominates DDS as a conservator and it is granted, the responsibilities of the conservator are returned to the regional center, funded by DDS.

“DDS is the funding agent…they have full control of how that money is spent,” said Deborah.

What is also funded by DDS is the live-in care facilities where 86% of those conserved by DDS live, according to public records requests as of July 2022, like Andrew – as well as Garth, who we introduced in part one of our five-part investigation.

“Prisoners get calls. They get visitors,” Deborah said. “My child is not allowed any of that.”

These conservatee’s care homes, as well as caregiving expenses, are all paid for by taxpayers.

Yet, a June 2022 audit found these facilities are not being properly monitored by DDS or regional centers as state law requires, including medication not being properly distributed in some – a life-threatening issue.

This “care” is all part of the $12 billion budget DDS has, including the ongoing legal battles to keep conservatorships in place.

“The attorney general represents DDS,” said Deborah. “So, there’s the attorney general, DDS’ lawyers, there’s tri-counties regional center lawyers.”

One of those is Andrew’s own court-appointed attorney. The court approved over $13,300 in pay, funded by taxpayers for about 20 days of work. And he is just one of the many attorneys involved. Others came from the California Attorney General’s office.

“The assistant attorney general. Two of them,” Deborah recalled. “Talk about a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

As a state agency, in a court of law, the Department of Developmental Services is represented by California’s Attorney General.

“It was daunting to be in court with the Attorney General,” said Deborah.

In cases like Deborah’s, they represent DDS to defend the conservatorship. Coleman finds this hugely problematic.

“That is a problem, in my view – a big one, because the Attorney General of California is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the state, including civil rights laws,” said Coleman. “The Department of Justice has a civil rights protection division.”

“Protecting and promoting the civil rights of all people in California” is the division’s job, their website states.

“So, the Attorney General can intervene, file lawsuits, and investigate when the civil rights of people are being violated,” said Coleman. “What if the violator is a state official? Or a state entity, like the Department of Developmental Services. Then the Attorney General has a choice because you can’t do both, you can’t be a prosecutor and a defense attorney at the same time – it’s a conflict of interest.”

We reached out to the Attorney General’s office. They said they “do not engage in enforcement against our client state agencies,” one being the Department of Developmental Services.

“However, that does not preclude other entities from bringing civil rights claims where applicable,” their statement said.

One of those “other entities” is Disability Rights California, which under federal law is required to protect the rights of those with disabilities.

“But sadly, every time I’ve reached out to them I’ve just been told that they only will communicate with the client – and that my son has to call them and ask them for help,” said Deborah.

But people with disabilities often communicate in different ways as well as non-verbally. Making a call to express a complicated legal system could be a massive challenge and hurdle.

Disability Rights California has a branch called the Office of Clients Rights Advocacy (OCRA).

“This part of them, this agency, is supposed to protect the civil rights of regional center clients,” said Coleman.

But Coleman said OCRA isn’t helping those conserved.

“As soon as they hear there’s a conservatorship involved, they’re nowhere to be found,” said Coleman.

And guess who OCRA is funded by? The Department of Developmental Services.

“I’ve reviewed their funding. I’ve reviewed their contracts with DDS,” said Coleman. “They have the authority. They have the funding. They have the moral duty.”

So, we asked Disability Rights California’s OCRA Manager Shannon Cogan about this. She said with conservatorships, the organization mainly provides alternatives. Their policy is to not help anyone obtain a conservatorship.

“I think it’s really easy to criticize people who are doing hard work instead of collaborating with them,” said Cogan. “We don’t have a mandate to file lawsuits or administrative complaints about anything related to conservatorship – we do a lot of good work for people who might be impacted by conservatorship.”

“They nibble around the edges. They will do a little bit of this or do an educational forum. We don’t need education,” said Coleman. “You are a law firm. You are a civil rights enforcement legal entity.”

OCRA’s own website states they provide “legal advice and representation” to clients of regional centers – where conservatorships often begin.

But Cogan said OCRA doesn’t take on cases to fight conservatorship – it is “one of the other branches of the tree.”

For months, we asked OCRA for specifics on how many conservatorship cases this “other” Disability Rights branch represented – they never gave us that data.

As for getting involved after a conservatorship happens, Cogan validated Deborah’s experience: a client must give consent – so Andrew, rather than his mother, but a parent calling could spark action.

“Certainly if this was an issue of extreme rights deprivation, health or safety, we send our employees to that person to interact with them,” said Cogan.

Coleman and Deborah say it is not enough.

“I had so many people say, ‘I’ve gone to Disability Rights California. They won’t do anything,'” said Coleman.

Specifically for Deborah, it seems like a never-ending loop of conflict of interest: the regional center, funded by DDS, nominated DDS to be the conservator. When the conservatorship was enacted, the duties of the conservator went back to the regional center which then placed Andrew in a care facility, also funded by DDS. She then went to Disability Rights California to ask for help, an agency also funded by DDS.

Yet, Cogan said their funding would not stop Disability Rights California from representing someone conserved by DDS, like Andrew.

“Yes, we can. Absolutely,” said Cogan. “We have clients that are conserved by DDS…there’s no inherent conflict and we can do it.”

For over eight months, we asked DDS for an on-camera interview. They refused.

We also sent them a detailed three-paged, single-spaced letter outlining our investigation’s findings and asked 15 specific questions including about conflicts of interest. They sent us a written statement, included below. It did not answer any of our questions.

So, we took our questions about DDS’ budget to Amy Westling, the Executive Director of the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA). This association represents all 21 of the state’s regional centers.

Westling knows DDS’ multi-billion-dollar budget in and out.

In addition to fully understanding the budget, we were curious if DDS has an incentive financially to conserve people. Westling doesn’t believe so.

“My experience with DDS is they are pretty conservative with which cases they become conservator for,” said Westling. “DDS doesn’t get additional funds for conserving people.”

But no matter which way you look at it, taxpayer dollars are funding DDS conserving people.

Credit: Deborah Findley

Parents like Deborah continue to lose hope.

“Every time I have a call or visit, I’m scared it’s the last one – that I won’t ever see my son again,” said Deborah. “It’s just not a way to live.”

Since our interview, Deborah’s virtual visitation has been “paused.”

Her long legal fight with the Department of Developmental Services will continue in October 2022 when the probate court will determine if DDS’ conservatorship becomes permanent.

Deborah has no idea if she’ll ever see her son again.

But the Department of Developmental Services is not just responsible for the 414 people they are conservator to; this agency’s main duty, by law, is to help ensure 400,000-plus Californians with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities.

Yet, there’s a concern – and evidence – that they are not doing their job. Even from California’s in-house watchdog, the California State Auditor.

That is next in episode 3 of The Price of Care: Taken by the State.

Full Article & Source:

Georgia Supreme Court says no again to suspension of Douglas County judge

In her short time on the bench, Douglas County Probate Judge Christina Peterson has become a lighting rod of controversy. Georgia’s Supreme Court once again denied a request to temporarily suspend Peterson.


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Georgia’s Attorney General hosts round table discussion on preventing elderly abuse at Dalton State College

by Hannah Bullard

DALTON, Georgia (WDEF) – Representatives from several Georgia agencies met at a round table this afternoon hosted by Georgia’s Attorney General Chris Carr.

The meeting was held at Dalton State and the topic of discussion was how to protect the elderly from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Dan Flynn is with the North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force. He said complaints of elderly abuse ranged from local nursing home neglect to federal level financial scams.

“We partner with the US Secret Service and what we’ve been doing very successfully with their assistance recently is when we tie him to the thing that we’re seeing lately these huge financial scams $100,000 Plus scams against the elderly,” said Flynn.

Some of the major cyber money scams can look like an IRS or Medicaid scam. There are also scams called the Grandparent or Romance scam, these are when someone calls claiming to be a grandchild or an online romantic interest and present the victim with a urgent situation that can only be resolved with money.

Never agree to give any bank account information, transfer money, or re-ship goods they send you.

Unfortunately, online charitable giving can also be a hidden scam. Before you donate you can verify the agency on or

Red flags include high pressure situations, insistence you pay via cash or wire transfer and uses a name that is closely related to a well known and trusted charitable organization.

Pam Clayton with the Georgia Healthcare Association said everyone should know the proper way to report elder abuse and that starts with front line workers.

“It’s ensuring that providers at every level so from leadership all the way through to that front line staff understand what their role as a mandated reporter is, what constitutes abuse, neglect, exploitation misappropriation of property.“

A representative with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said, “It’s the old adage if you see something, say something definitely, we always remind people that Georgia is a dual reporting state that has to be reported to Adult Protective Services and law enforcement at the same time.”

To learn more about resources on how to protect yourself or elderly family members download the Georgia abuse neglect exploitation app. Search G-A-N-E on the apple app or google play store.

Full Article & Source:

Marianna lawyer charged with stealing $60,000 from clients

Gilbert is accused of stealing money from clients.(MPD)

By WCTV Staff

MARIANNA, Fla (WCTV) – A former attorney is under arrest, accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from clients.

Marianna Police say LaDray Gilbert faces charges of grand theft and money laundering.

Investigators say Gilbert failed to provide settlement funds to clients of his law firm, The Gilbert Firm, P.A.

Detectives say Gilbert moved money out of a trust account for his personal benefit, stealing a total of more than $60,000 from the victims. Police say Gilbert would write checks or have checks written directly from the trust to himself.

Sometimes, multiple checks were written on the same date, totaling more than $10,000.

Police say Gilbert turned himself in at the Jackson County jail on Tuesday and is awaiting the first appearance.

Full Article & Source:

Mamou man accused of stealing from elderly neighbor

Photo by: KATC Photo

A Mamou man has been booked by Opelousas Police, accused of stealing from an elderly neighbor.

Jason Shillow, 62, was booked with identity theft, exploitation of the infirm, theft and attempted theft.

The investigation began last week when police were called about suspicious activity in the savings account of an 82-year-old man. During their investigation, officers learned that about $13,000 had been withdrawn from the man's account, from banks in Ville Platte and Alexandria. Another $1,500 had been withdrawn from an Opelousas bank.

Investigators applied for a search warrant for account information and surveillance video from the Opelousas bank, and while they were waiting for approval they got a call that someone was at the bank trying to withdraw $2,000 from the man's account. 

Patrol officers were sent to the bank, and they detained the man trying to make the withdrawal. Investigators arrived with the search warrant, and took their evidence and the suspect back to the police department.

Shillow allegedly admitted that he was the victim's neighbor and had some of the victim's identification documents. He allegedly admitted that he used those documents to pose as the victim and withdraw money from his accounts. 

Investigators have contacted law enforcement in other jurisdictions regarding the case and offered assistance, so additional charges are pending.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Meghan Markle brother wants 'Britney-style' conservatorship for dad Thomas Markle

Meghan Markle's half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr, is pursuing to take over his father's property.

Thomas Markle Sr, who has had strokes multiples times in the past few years, is told to let his son handle legal and business affairs so that he can focus on his health.

Tom Jr has lodged a bid for Thomas Senior, 78, to be put under a “conservatorship”

A source told the Sunday Mirror: “Tom Snr has had a series of health scares and his son wants to do the best for him by taking any stress away.

“Cases in America grind on for months or years so it will be a weight off Tom Snr’s mind. It will help him focus on his recovery.”

Earlier this year, Thomas Markle Sr was rushed to the hospital in Mexico after suffering from a stroke.

After being discharged from the hospital, the Duchess father said: “I feel hugely grateful and know how lucky I am to be alive.

“I want to thank everyone, especially the wonderful doctors and nurses who saved my life. They are angels.

“I have been deeply moved by loving messages I’ve received from all over the world. People have been so kind. I can’t speak right now, but I am working hard and will thank people properly when I can.”

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Columbus criminal defense attorney disbarred, informed of disciplinary by a judge

by: Chuck Williams

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A Columbus attorney has been disbarred, and he was told about the disciplinary action by a judge in court on Tuesday morning.

Criminal defense attorney Michael Eddings was disbarred on Aug. 9, 2022, following the recommendation of the State Bar Disciplinary Review Board.

“I’m in shock,” Eddings said when reached by WRBL.

Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court Judge Gil McBride told Eddings of the state Supreme Court’s decision, Eddings said. The murder trial Eddings was defending was stopped.

At the core of the reason for the suspension is a 2017 meeting that Eddings had with a witness in a murder case.

That witness was represented by Stacey Jackson, now a DA but a criminal defense attorney at the time.

During that court case Eddings testified under oath he did not have permission from Jackson. The next day he sent an e-mail to the judge, prosecutors, Jackson saying he recanted his testimony. And he did have Jackson’s permission.

Jackson provided a sworn statement to the state bar saying he never gave consent.

“Stacey Jackson lied,” Eddings said.

The Supreme Court found Eddings actions violated the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.

Here’s Eddings reaction to the disbarment. He draws comparisons to former DA Mark Jones, who was convicted last year of public corruption.

“They have been trying to see me hurt and fall in this city for years,” Eddings said. “But you know what, I am standing tall. I am standing firm. I am going to continue to stand firm. All you want to do is punish good people and reward liars like Mr. Jackson. And it’s ridiculous. They did Mark Jones the same way. That man didn’t deserve to lose his license. And he didn’t deserve to go to prison. Every time you turn around, this city ruins the careers of good people.”

“The 22-page Georgia Supreme Court decision speaks for itself,” Jackson said.

Eddings can’t appeal the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, but he can ask the high court to reconsider.

In court documents obtained by WRBL, reasons cited for Eddings disbarment include giving false statements to a tribunal, giving false statements to third persons in connection with the representation of a client, communications with persons represented by counsel, giving false statements in connection with a disciplinary proceeding, and dishonesty in professional conduct.

According to the formal complaint, the Bar asserted that, while representing a client, who had been charged in Muscogee County with murder, Eddings tape-recorded his July 22, 2017 interview with a material witness, who had been charged with making a false statement in connection with the victim’s death. Because the witness’s interview contained information exculpatory as to Eddings’s client and inculpatory as to the witness, Eddings provided a copy of the recording to the Assistant District Attorney in his client’s case, who subsequently indicted the witness as a codefendant in the murder case.

The complaint continues, apparently, the two co-defendants were tried separately, and both were acquitted. However, during the witness’s May 2018 trial on the murder charge, Eddings was called by the State to authenticate his recording of the witness’s statement to him, and Eddings testified under oath that he knew at the time he interviewed the witness that the witness was represented by attorney Stacey Jackson; that he was unsuccessful in his attempts to contact Jackson to obtain his consent to interview the witness; and that he conducted the interview anyway because he believed he did not need Jackson’s permission.

The very next day, however, on May 18, 2018, Eddings sent an email to the Judge who presided over the witness’s murder trial, and to the Chief Judge of the circuit, the Assistant District Attorney in
the witness’s case, and Jackson. In that email, Eddings attempted to disavow his sworn trial testimony from the day before, asserting that he had “forgotten” that he actually had received consent from Jackson to interview the witness; that he obtained that consent in a June 30, 2017 telephone conversation with Jackson; that there had been witnesses to the consent because he had engaged in the conversation with Jackson via speakerphone while he was in a meeting with his client’s family; and that his wife, Cynthia Eddings, who was also his legal assistant, had reminded him of the meeting and Jackson’s consent immediately after he completed his testimony under oath at the witness’s trial. During the Bar’s investigation of this matter, Eddings presented to the State Disciplinary Board (“SDB”) sworn affidavits from his wife and from two men, both of whom are related to Eddings’s original client. In those affidavits, the witnesses supported the version of events laid out in Eddings’s email.

At the time in 2017 and 2018, Jackson was a criminal defense attorney. Jackson was appointed earlier this year as the Chattahoochee Circuit district attorney by Gov. Brian Kemp.

“The 22-page Georgia Supreme Court decision speaks for itself,” Jackson told News 3.

Eddings, who has offices in Atlanta and Columbus, said he has not had time to digest the 22-page order.

This is the third time that Eddings has been disciplined by the Georgia Bar Association, the organization that governs Georgia attorneys.

The Georgia Bar Association recommended disbarring Eddings from practicing law in the state of Georgia in 2016 when more than $2 million was found missing from his office’s legal trust fund. Eddings was a prominent real estate closing attorney.

The State Supreme Court rejected the Georgia Bar’s recommendation in December 2016 and agreed to issue Eddings a public reprimand instead.

Eddings ex-wife and former office manager, Sonya, pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court and was sentenced to three years in prison.

In February 2016, Eddings received his first reprimand from the State Bar. It was a similar offense to the one that he was disbarred for.

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How Common Is Elder Abuse In Nursing Homes

by Kathy Scribner

Elder abuse is constantly increasing nowadays. Elder abuse is any type of harm to elderly citizens in emotional or physical injuries, financial exploitation, and sexual assault. All these things are usually faced by the residents of the nursing homes who live in long-term care facilities.

The residents’ families put their trust in nursing homes to watch over their loved ones so that they can be cured as soon as possible, yet nursing homes don’t always provide the expected secure environments. The nursing homes are the epitome of good hospitality, but it is, unfortunately, vanishing away.

Reports of elders suffering various forms of nursing home abuse have made big headlines recently in every country. Elder abuse cases are increasing in every country, and this needs to get stopped as soon as possible.

It is pretty surprising that most of all the abuse is done by the nursing home staff, the very people hired to take utmost care of the residents. Other issues related to finance are the result of senior care corporations, which may sacrifice proper staff training and hospitality, and other quality and ethics measures to make a profit and bill out the minimum services they render to the residents.

Statistics On Elder Abuse:

  • According to the World Health Organization, recent years have shown that 6 out 1 elder people in a nursing home face elderly abuse, and recently the cases are increasing rapidly.
  • The residents’ families register nearly 1 out of 3 nursing homes for elderly abuse.

Types Of Elderly Abuse:

There are many elderly cases of abuse done by the nursing homes, and further, we will discuss it in detail.

Physical Abuse:

Physical abuse is one of the most prominent forms of abuse faced by the residents of nursing homes. You will be shocked to know that death cases because of physical abuse in nursing homes are pretty high. There are some warning signs which will help you trace out if there is some severe physical abuse. Some of them include:

  • Broken bones are the most painful and the worst physical abuse that affects the body of the residents.
  • Bruises, sprains, tooth loss, and sudden hair loss are prominent signs and are considered pretty serious physical abuse that needs quick action.
  • Sometimes the signs are not so traceable on the bodies of the individual; then, you can trace out by experiencing some discomfort from the elder towards any nursing staff or any individual.

Sexual Elder Abuse:

Sexual elder abuse is a forced unwanted interaction of any kind towards a nursing home resident. This abuse is usually traced to those innocent individuals who have Alzheimer’s or dementia, who tend to forget everything in a short period of time. Some severe signs that you can easily trace out includes:

  • Social and emotional withdrawal is one of the easiest ways through which you can see if the individual is going through something really serious.
  • Frequent panic and anxiety attacks are pretty common in the residents. The residents have sleeping disorders, and they tend to get up in the mid-night because of recurring nightmares that snatch their peaceful sleep away.
  • Pain in their intimate areas and also while sitting and walking. If you feel that there is something wrong with their walking and sitting pattern, you must ask them about it and ensure that they are vocal about their sufferings.

Emotional and psychological abuse:

Emotional and psychological abuse is one of the most challenging abuse to trace out in older adults as they tend to hide it easily because they do not want to stress you out about it. It does not contain any physical tracing out signs, so it becomes hard for you to know them.

Emotional abuse is usually an intentional act that includes fear, mental pain, or distress on an elder. If the individual does not talk much, it can be possible that they are facing some psychological abuse. This abuse is usually done through insults, humiliation, threats, and isolation. Some of the signs include:

  • Attempting to hurt themselves, if you see any physical signs on their body, can also be because of the abuse.
  • Avoiding eye contact, low self-esteem, and cutting themselves off from any social gatherings and mood swings are usually easily found in the individuals facing this issue or abuse.
  • Isolating themselves from their family or loved ones is one of the most heart-wrenching signs, and if you feel like this is happening, then there is a need to take strict actions against this abuse and protect your loved one from any further suffering.

How To Stop These Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is not something that you must avoid; if you believe your dear one is suffering from nursing home abuse, you have a lot of options. If you feel that there is something wrong in the services of the nursing home, report any signs of abuse to authorities and take legal action so that you can put a stop to elder abuse.

You can take the help of an attorney and file a case against the people who are abusing innocent elderly people. If you are looking for one such attorney, you can visit and take appropriate action for the ill practices.

If your loved one has been injured due to the wrongful act or negligence of a nursing home and its staff members? If any malicious activities have affected your dear ones or even you in any way, then taking accurate and proper measures is the solution.

Bottom Lines:

Elder abuse is significantly increasing a lot which is not a good thing and if you really want to do something for it then you must take strict legal actions so that you can also protect the people who might face this abuse in the future.

This article contains all the necessary information that will guide you if your close one is facing any elder abuse in the nursing homes. Next time you must once go through this article so that you can take appropriate actions.

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