Saturday, September 17, 2022

How do we fix California's broken conservatorship system?

New legislation aims to provide more rights to people with disabilities who are in conservatorships.

Author: Andie Judson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — “I was totally trapped,” said Marie Bergum. From age 21 to 36, Marie was conserved by her parents.

“I acted like I was happy…but I wasn’t,” said Marie.

We wanted to hear about her experience of what being under a conservatorship was like. She said her father, as conservator, was controlling.

“It was kind of sad,” said Marie. “He saw me as a ‘disability daughter.’”

She said, as an adult, she wanted freedom. Instead, she had to get permission for things like leaving the house or seeing friends because she was conserved.

“It made me uncomfortable,” said Marie.

Because of a brain injury, Marie has a developmental disability, according to court documents. She requires “adult guidance” in making many decisions.

That is why her father and stepmother believed being under their conservatorships was in Marie’s best interest – so they could protect and assist her, court documents show.

We reached out to Marie’s father. While he expressed wanting what was best for Marie as the reason behind the conservatorship, he declined our request for an on-camera interview.

Marie said more and more restrictions under the conservatorship added to her frustration. Under the conservatorship, she said she couldn’t have a job or be responsible for her finances, cook, or ride the bus alone.

So, she decided to take life into her own hands.

“I had to do some research,” said Marie.

She found something called a “self-advocacy group” and began trying to reach out. She made calls in her room discreetly.

“I was really scared because I was doing it walking around at my stepmoms,” said Marie. “Walking around trying not to get caught.”

Eventually, Marie got in touch with Suzanne Bennett Francisco, an advocate and disability expert who has become well-versed with those dealing with conservatorships.

“A lot of those cases come to me. Most attorneys won’t take the cases,” said Francisco. “They consider it a conflict of interest because they also set people up in conservatorships.”

Francisco said she and others began helping Marie navigate California’s complex conservatorship system, including helping her request an investigation from the court.

“(They helped me) step-by-step, what to do,” said Marie.

With assistance, Marie was able to launch several actions for her conservatorship case, including the regional center writing an assessment.

Regional Centers are state-funded facilities under the Department of Developmental Services. In limited conservatorships – or conservatorships for those with disabilities – a regional center service coordinator must write an “assessment” or evaluation of the person being conserved. This assessment is submitted to the court for the judge to review before appointing a conservatorship.

But Marie had never had an assessment prior to her conservatorship because she was placed under a general conservatorship. General conservatorships are more restricting, stripping someone of all civil rights – unlike limited ones which have seven specific powers that can be taken away and given to the individual acting as conservator.

In getting an assessment done for Marie, it revealed she should have more of her rights than she did.

“That assessment did recommend she have some of her rights – and if she had certain supports then she could have some of those rights back,” said Francisco. “Because she was under a general conservatorship where all of her rights were taken.”

Those with disabilities being placed under a general conservatorship is a problem that happens often – something we’ve uncovered in previous episodes of this investigation.

The regional center assessment motivated Marie, even more, to get out of her conservatorship.

“I felt like it just makes me cut myself down,” said Marie. “It cuts me down to make me feel like I’m low functioning.”

But the process to get out and terminate the conservatorship proved extremely difficult.

“So, a public defender was assigned. The public defender spoke to the conservator – Marie’s father – and wasn’t speaking to Marie,” said Francisco. “The judge never heard her voice.”

As Marie navigated this complicated and flawed system, she added more and more people she trusted to her “team.” This was one of the first times she experienced supported decision-making.

“Supported decision making is what we do every day actually,” said Francisco. “If we need help or if there’s something we feel like we need more information about, then we go to trusted, chosen people.”

For example, think of a car mechanic or doctor; both experts who explain complicated processes to their clients to help them make decisions.

“They get information that they need and they’re seen as wise. People with disabilities, when they ask for help – they’re seen as weak,” said Francisco. “So this is just offering people with disabilities the same choice – to choose people they trust, family members, friends, professionals, to help them make choices where and how they want and need support.”

Francisco said supported decision-making is a shift in our culture to empower people with disabilities. And we’re seeing this shift for the first time in California legislation.

AB 1663 is a conservatorship reform bill proposed by California Assemblymember Brian Maienschein.

“At heart, this is really a human rights bill. What it’s going to do is it’s going to put a concept called 'supported decision-making' into law,” said Maienschein. “This will be the first time this will ever be written into law. It’s really groundbreaking – and it changes the whole dynamic when it comes to conservatorships.”

But the bill is also in part thanks to the Free Britney movement.

“We think it makes sense,” said Matthew Rosengart, Britney Spears’ attorney during a rally in front of the Stanley Mosk Los Angeles Courthouse. “We support it. We’re glad Britney shined a light on some of the problems systemically.”

“The main organizers of the Free Britney movement have been incredible civil rights leaders throughout this whole process,” said Judy Marks.

Marks is the President of Disability Voices United, a statewide organization directed by people with disabilities and their family members. The Free Britney movement brought Marks and other advocates to rallies when Spears was still under conservatorship.

“And put us out front to say, ‘This has got to change. The entire conservatorship system has got to change and Britney is just one example,’” said Marks.

Marks and the Free Britney movement have worked with Assemblymember Maienschein to help create and get AB 1663 through the many steps of making it law.

“We call this the last civil rights movement,” said Marks. “Because you’d never say a person should have all their rights taken away because of their race, because of the language they speak, because of their gender. But now we’re seeing people can have all their rights taken away just because they have a disability.”

AB 1663 aims to change California’s conservatorship system in four main ways. In addition to supported decision-making, the bill would require California probate courts to prove conservatorship is truly the last resort.

“The bottom line for AB 1663 is that it makes it harder to get into conservatorships and easier to get out of them,” said Marks.

Right now, experts say other options are not being considered.

“Across the nation, conservatorship is supposed to be the last most restrictive option,” said Francisco. “If parents are given one choice, one option, how is that a choice? Because a choice has at least two options.”

The bill aims at making conservatorships easier to terminate.

“The individual will know there may come a time when it is no longer necessary, and they have the right to ask to have their conservatorship removed,” said Maienschein. “It will also make sure a hearing is required at that time on the request of the conservatee.”

AB 1663 also would try to ensure the person's conserved desires are upheld.

“A judge will have to make sure the individual has been advised of their rights,” said Maienschein.

Since being introduced in January 2022, AB 1663 has moved through the complicated process of becoming law.

[ABC10’s] investigation’s timing could not have been better for getting AB 1663 passed,” credited Marks. “Your investigation delved into limited conservatorships, you found they were anything but limited.”

At our time of reporting, AB 1663 was sitting on Governor Newsom’s desk. If passed, it will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

“Our bill, AB 1663, will definitely hold DDS (Department of Development Services) more accountable for the 413 people they conserve,” said Marks. “But overall, it means that between your investigation and AB 1663 it means people are watching. People are saying to DDS, ‘Why are you conserving these people?’”

Marks said ABC10’s investigation, The Price of Care: Taken by the State, has already held DDS more accountable because just two days before episode one aired, DDS announced steps they’re taking to reform their conservatorship system, such as creating a panel to review the 413 people DDS acts as conservator to.

“That was all prompted by your investigation,” said Marks. “But these efforts have just begun because they’re being done in private and advocates like myself who’ve been working on this issue for years were not invited to be involved. So, we hope there’s some light that’s going to be shined on these conservatorships and these investigations soon.”

The California State Auditor has also released a number of audits into the Department of Developmental Services – including one in June 2022. In this audit, they said several times that DDS is aware of flaws in their system as past audits have pointed this out – yet DDS has failed to make changes.

That’s why people like the Schutte family, who we introduced in episode one, are not sold on DDS’ new promises or AB 1663.

“Organizations that are supposed to be monitoring, managing, and making sure people do the proper things – and following the current laws – frankly, no one cares. No one is doing those things,” said Russell Schutte. “So, I’m excited there’s a new assembly bill moving forward, but if current laws aren’t working – I don’t expect that to either.”

Meanwhile, the impact of a broken system and laws not being followed will continue to cause harm – like it already has to people like Marie.

“When you conserve someone, you’re basically signing a piece of paper… and saying goodbye,” said Marie.

After a lengthy legal battle to get out of her general conservatorship, Marie was placed under a limited one, court documents show…the type of conservatorship she should’ve been under initially.

Marie and Francisco said the limited conservatorship was not less restrictive in any way.

“Nothing changed. It was just called limited,” said Francisco. “So, it was very hard, and she went back and she had another court hearing. We just kept at it.”

They continued to fight – and while they could not get Marie out of her conservatorship, they came to an agreement: Marie could choose new conservators.

“They had to be approved by me,” said Marie. “And my supportive team.”

Marie chose her aunt as well as an advocate that was close to her.

The court agreed Marie must remain under this conservatorship with new conservators for a year, then could re-apply to terminate it.

It’s the only conservatorship Francisco has seen in all her years that has gotten this close to being terminated.

“Man, we’re going to have a party,” Marie said when asked about what she planned on doing if and when the conservatorship was officially terminated.

Throughout two years of investigating California’s conservatorship system, we’ve spoken with experts, and system insiders, and stood in empty homes, hearing the stories of those heartbroken having their loved ones taken from them - all because of a broken system.

Broken on multiple levels – but especially at the top; the state agency in charge of ensuring people with disabilities receive fair treatment and have equal rights – California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

So, we’ll end this investigation where we began, with the Schutte family, and their message for DDS.

“Clearly the system is broken,” said Russell. “And parts of this system can be fixed here and now. (It) doesn’t require additional law, they just require people to do the right thing. Please do so.”

Full Article & Source:
See Also:  

Resource guide for Californians dealing with conservatorships

For two years, ABC10 has been investigating California’s conservatorship system. Compiled is information to help you understand, navigate and change the system.

Credit: ABC10/KXTV

Author: Andie Judson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — ABC10 has been investigating California’s conservatorship system for two years.

In season one, we dug into general conservatorships in a five-part investigative series. In our second five-part series, we focused on limited conservatorships for those with disabilities.

This complex system is filled with complicated legal processes, jargon and questionable practices.

Here at ABC10, we stand for you, and we wanted to ensure anyone watching our reporting could thoroughly understand this complicated system. In the aftermath of our reporting, we want to make sure viewers are connected to resources that could help anyone navigate a conservatorship or get involved to push for change.

RELATED: Watch all five episodes of Season I of "The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships"

With the help of system insiders, experts and advocates, we have gathered the information below for the past two years while investigating conservatorships and compiled the following resources for you.

Below you’ll find an index of terminology, the agencies, experts and those impacted by this system that we featured in season two of our investigation, The Price of Care: Taken by the State

We also provided contact information to the many agencies entrusted with this system to reach out, and provide feedback, and any concerns sparked from our investigation.


Conservatorship: Known as guardianship in states outside California, a conservatorship is a legal arrangement where someone assumes rights and responsibilities over another person who is unable to care for themselves. Conservatorships are a tool to help protect and provide assistance to our most vulnerable populations. Conservatorships must be approved through the probate court. While there are different types of conservatorships in California, limited and general, both have two main ways of taking control - when someone assumes responsibility over another person’s finances, it’s called “conservatorship of the estate.” If someone takes responsibility for an individual’s personal life, decisions and health choices it’s known as “conservatorship of the person.” Often, conservatorship over the person and their estate occur together and are very powerful as the person acting as a conservator can make all choices for the person who is conserved.

General conservatorship: A general conservatorship strips someone completely of their civil rights and gives them to another person. These types of conservatorships are often for the elderly or those with dementia. Conservators in general conservatorships are often family members or professional fiduciaries.

Limited conservatorships: A limited conservatorship gives a conservator specific authority over another person’s life, i.e. “the conservatee.” These conservatorships are specifically tailored to those with disabilities and are called “limited” because they’re supposed to be unique to the individual being conserved. The conservatorship is supposed to limit the powers and civil rights taken from a person to only seven specific items they need assistance with. Conservators in limited conservatorships are often parents, however, the Department of Developmental Services can be appointed as conservators in some cases where other potential conservators are “deemed inappropriate.”

7 powers of limited conservatorship:

  • Power over the conservatee’s residence or place of living

  • Access to the conservatee’s confidential records

  • Give or withhold consent over the conservatee’s marriage

  • The ability to enter into contracts on behalf of the conservatee

  • Power over medical decisions

  • Power over educational decisions

  • Power over the conservatee’s social and sexual relationships

Lanterman Act: Passed in 1969, this California law ensures people with disabilities have equal rights. To uphold this law, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) was established as a service system to meet the individual needs of Californians with disabilities. This state agency oversees regional centers which directly provide services to people with disabilities as well as their families. The Lanterman Act is codified in the California Welfare and Institutions Code.

Service coordinator: Service coordinators play an important role in each regional center as they have “cases” or people with disabilities assigned to them. The coordinators are entrusted to conduct an Individualized Program Plan (IPP) that’s unique to the individual. With their IPP plan, the person can get specific services they need that help enable them.

Regional Center Assessment: When a limited conservatorship is petitioned for in probate court, an assessment must be done by the proposed conservatee’s regional center. Service coordinators are responsible for doing this assessment, which is an evaluation of the person that may be conserved. The assessment evaluates the person’s specific needs, and capacity and recommends which of the seven powers should be taken and given to a conservator. It also includes an overall recommendation of whether or not the conservatorship is appointed. The assessment goes to a probate court judge to help them decide whether or not the conservatorship petition should be approved.

Petition: This is the first legal step in conservatorship proceedings. A petition is a legal request, filed in court, to do something. When a conservatorship petition is filed with the probate court, it’s requesting the judicial action of starting conservatorship proceedings, which would lead to the approval of the conservatorship.

Court-appointed attorney: After a conservatorship petition is filed, California law requires the court to appoint/assign a lawyer for the person that may be conserved. This attorney is supposed to be a third party, stand for what the individual wants - like if they want to be conserved or not - and represent their voice and desires in a court of law.

Court investigator: Another action required after a conservatorship petition is filed is for an investigator from the court conduct a review of the person being conserved and the circumstances of their life. Their investigation findings are submitted to the court for the judge to review. If a conservatorship is appointed, the court investigator is also supposed to do annual or bi-annual check-ins of the conserved individual.

Visitation: For general conservatorships and limited conservatorships that have power over social and sexual contacts, restrictions over who the conserved person can and cannot see can be implemented. Many conservatorships we reviewed in our investigation had “visitation,” of loved ones, where family members had to get approval from the conservator and abide by a strict time frame and setting they were allowed to visit the conserved individual within.


Department of Developmental Services (DDS): This is the overarching state agency responsible, by law, for overseeing the coordination and delivery of services and support to 400,000-plus (by 2023) Californians with developmental disabilities. DDS has a $12-billion+ budget funded by tax-payers to execute their responsibilities and ensure Californians with disabilities “have the opportunity to make choices and lead independent, productive lives as members of their communities in the least restrictive setting possible.” DDS also serves as a conservator to 400+ individuals.

Regional Centers: There are 21 regional centers throughout the Golden State that execute DDS’ responsibilities of ensuring people with disabilities have equal opportunities. These centers provide an array of services from arranging transportation to speech therapy to adult daycare classes to in-home caregiving.

Probate Court: The probate branch of court falls under each county’s superior court. This segment of the judicial system primarily handles matters such as wills, estates and conservatorships.

California Attorney General: As the state’s chief law officer, the California Attorney General is responsible for ensuring the laws of the state are enforced and safeguarding Californians from harm. This state entity has three main legal services divisions to uphold these responsibilities: Division of Civil Law, Division of Criminal Law, and Division of Public Rights. The California Attorney General is also responsible for representing state agencies and officials in a court of law.

Disability Rights California (DRC): This non-profit agency is designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The organization has a number of programs and branches including litigation, legal representation, advocacy services, investigations and public policy and provides information to those with disabilities.

DRC Office of Clients Rights Advocacy (OCRA): This is a branch within Disability Rights California funded by the Department of Developmental Services, OCRA was created in the late nineties by the state legislature for “independent client rights advocacy by people who are not employed by regional centers (or) the Department of Developmental Services.” OCRA has at least one “advocate” assigned to support the clients of each of California’s 21 regional centers.

California Auditor: The California Auditor’s Office is our state’s “in-house watchdog” that’s independent of the executive branch and legislative control. Their work primarily comes from the legislature by joint way of the legislative audit committee. This state agency conducts a variety of audits including financial audits, compliance audits, performance audits and audits mandated by state law. The auditor’s goal is to determine whether or not government agencies are effective in fulfilling their missions and compiling with the law.

Spectrum Institute: A non-profit organization founded in 1987 by attorney Tom Coleman. The organization engages in research projects and educational programs on a wide range of human rights issues involving adults with mental or developmental disabilities. Spectrum Institute has published a number of detailed articles on how and why California’s conservatorship system is broken as well as solutions and steps to reform it.

Disability Voices United: A statewide organization directed by and for individuals with disabilities and their families that focuses on advocating for “choice and control, equity and accountability and meaningful outcomes.”

TASH: An “international leader in disability advocacy” founded in 1975, TASH advocates for human rights and inclusion for people with significant disabilities and support needs.

Free Britney: Sparked by the conservatorship of Britney Spears, the Free Britney movement has stood to ensure the superstar was released from her conservatorship and received justice for mistreatment. The movement is credited for both putting pressure on the judicial process in getting Spears free from conservatorship as well as transitioning to a civil rights movement for all those under conservatorship.

Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA): As the representative and “trade union” for California’s 21 regional centers, the Association of Regional Center Agencies’ mission is to promote and advance regional centers in upholding their duties designated by DDS and the Lanterman Act.

Adult Protective Services: Each California county has an Adult Protective Services (APS) division to help elder, dependent or vulnerable adults who are unable to meet their own needs. APS is entrusted to conduct investigations/reviews and work with law enforcement agencies to protect adults who need their services. 

Contact information:

Department of Developmental Services:

Physical Address: 1215 O Street, Sacramento, California 95814

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 944202, Sacramento, California 94244-2020

Phone number: 916-654-1690

General Information line: 833-421-0061, TTY: 711

Click here for DDS’ contact page to report a concern

Nancy Bargmann, DDS Director:

  • Email:

Maria Nunez, DDS Conservatorship Liaison:

  • Email:
  • Phone: 916-639-4724
  • Office Phone: 951-554-1080

Brian Winfield, DDS Chief Deputy Director of Program Services:

  • Email:             
  • Phone: 916-654-1569

California Department of Health and Human Services

Physical Address: 1600 9th Street #460, Sacramento, California 95814

Phone number: 916-654-3454

Click here for information on how to schedule a meeting with a member of the California Health and Human Services Department

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary

  • Email:

California Attorney General

Physical Address: 1300 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, California 94244-2550

Phone number: 916-445-9555

Click here for information on contacting a specific person or program at the California Attorney General’s office

Judicial Council of California

Physical Address: 455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone number: 415-865-4200

Cathal Conneely, Public Information Officer

Disability Rights California

Physical Address: 1831 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95811-4114

Phone number: 916-504-5800

Disability Rights California has a number of offices throughout the state, for their contact information click here

Disability Rights California OCRA:

Northern California Office: 1-800-390-7032

Southern California Office: 1-866-833-6712

To contact OCRA, file a grievance or find your OCRA contact, click here

Regional Centers:

Click here for a full list of all California’s 21 regional centers and their contact information as well as executive director’s contact information

California State Auditor:

Physical Address: 621 Capitol Mall, Suite 1200, Sacramento, California 95814

Phone: 916-445-0255

Whistleblower Hotline: 800-952-5665

File a complaint with the California Auditor’s office by clicking here, by calling the whistleblower hotline above or mailing your complaint to: Investigations California State Auditor, P.O. Box 1019, Sacramento, CA 95812

You can download a PDF complaint report by clicking here

Legislative Contact: 916-45-0255

Accessibility Contact: 916-445-0255

Your Elected Leaders:

Look up your California State Assemblymember and Senator by clicking here

Look up your Congressional Representative by clicking here

Loop up your U.S. Senators here

Full Article & Source:

Friday, September 16, 2022

Opening state­ments Wednesday in trial of ousted Central Florida guardian

By Jason Lanning

TAMPA, Fla. — Opening statements are scheduled to start on Wednesday in the trial of a former Central Florida guardian.

Rebecca Fierle, the professional guardian ousted from hundreds of cases following the death of a ward in her care, is facing charges of abusing and neglecting an incapacitated client.

The case sparked a statewide scandal in Florida’s guardianship system and eventually led to new laws in 2020 to better protect seniors.

What You Need To Know

  • Professional guardian on trial after the death of seniors in her care

  • Rebecca Fierle facing charges of abusing and neglecting an incapacitated client

  • Fierle oversaw the medical care of dozens of seniors across the state; case led to new laws in 2020 to better protect seniors

Fierle oversaw the medical care of dozens of seniors across the state, but that came to a halt in May of 2019. The family of 74-year-old Steven Stryker, one of her patients, says she issued a do not resuscitate order for Stryker, even though he wanted to live.

According to Stryker's daughter Kim, that's what happened on May 13, 2019, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Because of the DNR order from Fierle, hospital staff couldn't work to help Stryker and he died as a result.

The case now has Fierle facing charges of abusing and neglecting the elder Stryker. A jury was selected Tuesday.

The case forced a state investigation into the guardianship program in Orange County. It found a dozen problem cases out of 3,000 dating back to 2007. There had been eight prior complaints concerning Fierle before the Stryker case.

Rebecca Fierle, the professional guardian ousted from hundreds of cases following the death of a ward in her care, is facing charges of abusing and neglecting an incapacitated client. (Marion Co. Sheriff's Office)

Fierlie resigned as a result of the audit and was removed from 98 patient cases in Orange and Osceola counties.

The case ultimately drove lawmakers to unanimously vote to amend Florida's guardianship law in 2020. The law required permission from a family member or judge before requesting a DNR order.

Since her arrest, Fierle has not talked to the media.

It's unclear how long this trial will last or exactly how long she could spend in prison if convicted.


Full Article & Source:
See Also: 

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle asks judge to pause lawsuit by family of man who died under DNR

Marion deputies release video of arrest of former Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle

Attorney General Ashley Moody fires back at embattled former Florida guardian

Guardian at center of Florida scandal appeals judge’s ruling that she broke state rules by misusing DNRs

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle charged Altamonte Springs facility $100K, illegally pocketed refunds, investigation finds

Florida Elder Affairs chief announces ‘immediate’ changes as embattled Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle resigns from all cases

Florida professional guardian Rebecca Fierle: Devoted or dangerous? | Exclusive

Cremated remains of 9 people found at Orlando office of disgraced former guardian Rebecca Fierle

Expert’s complaint against Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle was ignored for years before scandal erupted | Exclusive

Orlando guardian accused of filing unauthorized ‘do not resuscitate’ orders resigns from Seminole cases

Watchdog: In Short Hearing, Fierle Given Guardianship Over Patient

Judge releases confidential information to authorities investigating former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle

25 Investigates obtains report: Local nursing home patients roaming halls, waiting for medication

By Ted Daniel

A staffing shortage at a Chelsea nursing home left some patients without anyone to care for them, according to a report 25 Investigates obtained from the city’s fire department. Firefighters and EMT’s responded to AdviniaCare Eastpointe at 255 Central Avenue Saturday afternoon when a woman visiting the facility complained that an elderly patient with diabetes had not received her insulin.

In the report, a Fire Lieutenant described, “Five to seven patients lined up at a medication cart, waiting for their medications.” on the 3rd floor. Firefighters, “were initially unable to find any LPN’s or RN’s on that side of the nursing home with multiple patients roaming the hall,” according to the one-page narrative.

First responders treated several residents and transported one woman who was complaining of back pain to the hospital. They were told the nurse who had been working on the floor earlier had left after a double shift and there was no one to replace her. Another nurse on the floor said he was taking care of his own patients, “and if he had time he would go to the other side and give out their medication,” the report said.

Dr. Heidi Kummer of Boston is a clinical care physician and the President of the Patient Advocate Certification Board. She said lists the turnover rate for registered nurses at Eastpointe at 70% which is higher than the national average of 52% percent. Kummer called staffing shortages the biggest patient safety issue in all sectors of healthcare right now.

“This is a case in point where you have a nurse who worked two shifts back-to-back, probably not planned to, probably stayed on because there was nobody to cover. But after two shifts, you yourself aren’t safe anymore to be taking care of someone else and giving out insulin,” Dr. Kummer said.

AdviniaCare Eastpointe is operated by the Pointe Group Care. The company’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Hannon released this statement to 25 Investigates:

“AdviniaCare Eastpointe had a staffing challenge on a shift this past Saturday, which was addressed very promptly on that same day through the deployment of additional personnel from our company and supplemental staff through the Mass. Department of Public Health’s rapid response team. We are grateful for the team’s support, and as always, the support of our local health and safety officials. Staffing has now stabilized in the building. Despite the situation on Saturday, all residents received proper and necessary care. At no time was there a need to consider transferring residents.”

The MA Department of Health confirmed it sent a rapid response medical team to the nursing home Saturday when it learned of the staffing shortage. DPH has launched an investigation at the facility.

Full Article & Source:

Records reveal a decade of poor conditions at Upstate assisted living facility

FOX Carolina Investigates finds vermin, elopement were ongoing issues at Oakridge Community Care

By Grace Runkel

INMAN, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - It’s been seven months since an arrest revealed the horrors happening at one Upstate assisted living facility.

Darryl Mast, who owned Oakridge Community Care Home, was arrested in February and charged with neglect, exploitation and breach of trust with fraudulent intent.

When officials got inside the facility in Inman, they found a bed bug infestation so bad residents had to leave almost all of their belongings behind.

Since his arrest in February, we’ve been asking how could the conditions inside got so bad.

According to more than 40 complaints filed with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, bug infestations were just one of many issues the residents had been dealing with for at least 10 years.

People filed the complaints, asking SCDHEC for help. Investigators followed up and in 32 cases found Mast violated the regulations meant to keep residents safe.

Almost half of the complaints mention bug infestations and more than a quarter say residents weren’t getting their medication.

On March 8, 2019, someone anonymously reported the facility has bed bugs, medications were not being given and the on-site pharmacy wasn’t doing reviews.

An investigation happened 10 days later and the SCDHEC employee found the complaint to be true.

Mast submitted a plan detailing how he would fix the problems and SCDHEC officials approved it.

But we found 10 more complaints about bugs were filed before the facility finally closed earlier this year.

Photos from the SCDHEC inspection into a Nov. 16, 2020 complaint show the extent of the...
Photos from the SCDHEC inspection into a Nov. 16, 2020 complaint show the extent of the infestation. The report says "live, small, reddish-brown, wingless insects were observed" in eight resident rooms. Multiple residents slept in each room.(SCDHEC)

Other complaints revealed a different issue entirely: Oakridge couldn’t keep track of its residents.

A complaint filed on Aug. 26, 2021 said a resident had a doctor’s appointment. However, they arrived at the office without any identification or paperwork.

“... all that was provided was a sticky note with a phone number,” the complaint said.

The report goes on to say the resident had trouble answering the doctor’s questions, so they couldn’t complete the appointment.

They called the number on the sticky note three times, and eventually the number, which belonged to Oakridge, called back. The person on the phone told the doctor’s office the patient wasn’t theirs.

A few calls later and someone on the phone at Oakridge tells the doctor’s office they have to call the transportation company that dropped off the resident.

They give the doctor a number, but when the office calls it they’re told the transportation company says, “we did not bring this patient and we have no trace of [redacted] in our system.”

Another call is made to Oakridge. This time the person on the phone says they made a mistake and tell the doctor’s office they will come pick up the resident.

The complaint ends saying they, “... waited two and a half hours for a ride with no knowledge of what was going on or where [redacted] needed to go.”

SCDHEC investigated the incident, but found no violations.

Losing residents happened again and again.

In 2017, a complaint reports residents wandering off property “happens regularly,” adding that residents from Oakridge’s second location on Howard Street “are constantly wandering off in search of food.”

The investigation that followed revealed another incident happened on May 19, 2017. This time a resident “crawled down the road and went to another house.”

This time, SCDHEC cited them for violating regulations, yet the facility continued to operate and take in more residents for five more years.

There are more than 470 of these facilities in South Carolina. By looking through reports from many different state agencies, we’ve found the problems at Oakridge aren’t unique. According to the Department on Aging, the most common issue is cleanliness.

We’ve talked with SCDHEC about our findings and asked: Is the system working? We’ll bring you their answer tomorrow, Sept. 13, on The Six O’clock News.

We’ve reached out to Darryl Mast for comment on his charges multiple times since his arrest in February. He has declined to comment.

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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Orlando guardian’s client wanted to live, but she overruled him, hospital staff testify

By Monivette Cordeiro 

Rebecca Fierle, sits in a Tampa courtroom on trial having been charged with aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Fierle is charged in the case of Steven Stryker, a 75-year-old man whose death sparked a statewide scandal in Florida’s guardianship system. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel)

TAMPA — When psychiatrist Dr. Kirtikumar Pandya examined Steven Stryker at Tampa’s St. Joseph’s Hospital in 2019, the 75-year-old man showed cognitive problems with memory and judgment but was clear on his desire to continue treatment, Pandya testified in court Wednesday.

“Did you indicate ... that he was able to determine that he wanted to live?” Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Cass Castillo asked.

“Yes,” Pandya answered.

“Was that your opinion — that he was able to make that decision?” Castillo asked.

“Yes,” the psychiatrist said.

Prosecutors say that went contrary to the desires of his court-appointed caretaker, former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle, who signed a “do not resuscitate” order on Stryker’s behalf against his wishes and ordered medical staff at a Tampa hospital to cap his feeding tube, despite warnings that he could choke and die.

Stryker aspirated and died five days after the tube was capped.

Fierle, 53, is charged with aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult in the case of Stryker, whose death sparked a statewide scandal in Florida’s guardianship system. Fierle, who pleaded not guilty, has denied wrongdoing in the past.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case against Fierle early Thursday. On Wednesday, jurors heard from an array of hospital staff members who said she went against Stryker’s wishes, favoring choices she claimed would prioritize the “quality” of his life over its length.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation found Fierle left St. Joseph’s staffers unable to take lifesaving measures because of the DNR order. Jurors, though, did not hear about the order after a judge ruled to exclude it from the trial.

Fierle’s attorneys argued the DNR “never came into play” in Stryker’s death because Stryker was found deceased in his hospital room and no care or treatment was ever withheld from him because of the order.

“Any discussion of the DNR has the risk of inflaming the jury and improperly appealing to their emotions,” Circuit Judge Robin Fuson wrote in a June 13 order.

Stryker was a patient at AdventHealth Orlando in 2018 when the hospital asked a judge to declare him incapacitated and appoint Fierle to make all his decisions. Stryker had a history of dementia and suffered from multiple conditions, including esophageal strictures, which made swallowing difficult and required him to use a feeding tube, medical staff testified.

While under Fierle’s care, Stryker was in different hospitals and assisted living facilities, staff said. It was difficult to place Stryker in an assisted living facility because of his feeding tube and his registration as a sex offender for lewd exhibition, according to staff.

While Stryker was at St. Joseph’s Hospital starting in April 2019, nurse practitioner Julie Thomas said Stryker told her he wanted to continue aggressive medical measures to prolong his life. She told jurors she takes what dementia patients say with “a grain of salt” because they’re not consistent.

Pandya told jurors Stryker did not have the capacity to make quality-of-life decisions or understand the full scope of his medical issues, so he asked for a consultation between the hospital ethics committee and Fierle.

Nelson Lezcano, a doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital who treated Stryker, said Fierle told medical staff at the meeting that she wanted Stryker’s feeding tube capped so he would be accepted into an assisted living facility despite their warnings of the risk.

“Why did you cap the feeding tube if it didn’t have a medical benefit?” Castillo asked.

“It was a request from [Fierle],” Lezcano said. “... At some point, specifically, she said she preferred the patient to have quality over quantity of life.”  (Click to continue reading)

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See Also: 

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle asks judge to pause lawsuit by family of man who died under DNR

Marion deputies release video of arrest of former Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle

Attorney General Ashley Moody fires back at embattled former Florida guardian

Guardian at center of Florida scandal appeals judge’s ruling that she broke state rules by misusing DNRs

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle charged Altamonte Springs facility $100K, illegally pocketed refunds, investigation finds

Florida Elder Affairs chief announces ‘immediate’ changes as embattled Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle resigns from all cases

Florida professional guardian Rebecca Fierle: Devoted or dangerous? | Exclusive

Cremated remains of 9 people found at Orlando office of disgraced former guardian Rebecca Fierle

Expert’s complaint against Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle was ignored for years before scandal erupted | Exclusive

Orlando guardian accused of filing unauthorized ‘do not resuscitate’ orders resigns from Seminole cases

Watchdog: In Short Hearing, Fierle Given Guardianship Over Patient

Judge releases confidential information to authorities investigating former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle

Wendy Williams Enters Wellness Facility Due to 'Overall Health Issues'

The TV personality is seeking help to manage her health as she hopes to make “a major comeback” in her career

 By Vanessa Etienne

Wendy Williams is taking steps toward getting her health on track.

The 58-year-old TV personality has reportedly entered a wellness facility, seeking help as she hopes to manage her "overall health issues."

"She is taking some time to focus on her health and wellness as she prepares for a major comeback for the next level in her career with The Wendy Experience Podcast," a press release from her publicist Shawn Zanotti states. "Ms. Williams is being treated by a team of some of the best doctors in the world. We ask for your prayers and well wishes during this time."

Earlier this year, Williams' ongoing health concerns previously kept her from returning to host The Wendy Williams Show, which was delayed twice before Leah Remini stepped in to guest host. Other stars were later tapped to do the same, including Michael Rapaport, Whitney Cummings and Jerry Springer

Wendy Williams. Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Sherri Shepherd
proved to be a fan-favorite among the guest hosts, even scoring season-high ratings during her initial stint last November. It was later announced that the 54-year-old was given her own namesake talk show, Sherri, that would take over Williams' program's time slot. With that, Williams' own show concluded after more than a decade on-air.  

"She understands why this decision was made from a business point of view," Howard Bragman, a rep for Williams, said in a statement in February. "She has been assured by Debmar-Mercury that should her health get to a point where she can host again and should her desire be that she hosts again that she would be back on TV at that time." 

At the time, she had tested positive with a breakthrough COVID-19 case amid other ongoing health complications tied to her Graves' disease.

In March, Williams appeared on Good Morning America and assured she was "absolutely" of "sound mind" following speculation about her health.

"When people want control of their accounts, they say anything, including something crazy like that about me," she said.

"[My] health is very well. And I've actually had a few appointments," Williams continued. "You know, I'm 57 now and I have the mind and body of a 25-year-old." 

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