Saturday, November 12, 2022

Family wants answers after resident found dead in woods behind Akron assisted living facility

Son claims The Merriman lost track of 82-year-old woman with dementia 

By: Bob Jones

AKRON, Ohio — An 82-year-old resident of an Akron assisted living and skilled nursing care facility was found dead from hypothermia in a wooded area behind the building Tuesday morning, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner.

Joan Meredith had dementia and her death has left her loved ones devastated and confused.

Her son, Tom Freiheit, believes the staff at The Merriman on Merriman Road lost track of the senior citizen and mistakenly thought Meredith had been signed out of the facility by family.

An 82-year-old resident of an Akron assisted living and nursing care facility was found dead from hypothermia in a wooded area behind the building Tuesday morning, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner.

"I just don't understand how she disappeared and they didn't know she was gone and she died the way she died," Freiheit said. "All the levels of care and everybody dropped the ball. The whole entity is an egregious failure. It's horrific."

Freiheit said he moved his mother into The Merriman a few years ago as she began struggling with some of the effects of dementia. He said his mom was funny, loving and enjoyed playing bingo and cards with other residents.

"We put her in a safe spot. She felt comfortable there," he said.

On Tuesday morning, Tom and his wife, Renae, were panicked and bewildered when the facility called with a question: "When are you going to bring your mom back?"

Renae Freiheit responded, "We don't have her. What are you talking about?"

The couple rushed to the facility and they were met with confusion among the workers. It seemed no one knew where Meredith was.

However, there was a sense of relief albeit for a short period of time.

"When we first walked into the facility, the lady at the desk said, 'We found your mom.'" Renae Freiheit said. "And, I'm like, 'Oh great, where is she?'"

Renae said when employees didn't give her a straight answer, she called 911. After hanging up, she noticed an ambulance pulling onto the grounds. A firefighter would eventually tell the family that Meredith was found dead in a wooded area behind the building.

"The fireman's exact words were that 'she's been here for a while,'" Renae Freiheit recalled.

Tom Freiheit believes his mother may have been out in the elements for at least 40 hours. The couple said they were told by an employee that the senior was not in her room to receive medication at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

According to the Freiheits, the employee also indicated Meredith was marked in the system as signed out of the building by the family, but relatives had not done that.

"No. Epic failure. Failure on so many parts," Tom Freiheit said.

News 5 went inside The Merriman to ask how all of this happened. A reporter was told someone from the management team would get back in touch, but as of Wednesday evening, there was no response.

Akron police said they responded to the scene, but their involvement ended when it was determined that no foul play was involved.

Meredith's family hired attorneys Eric Henry and Tim Misny, who are considering filing a civil lawsuit. Henry said the Ohio Department of Health will conduct an investigation.

A message was left with ODH officials seeking comment on the process of that investigation.

In the meantime, the heartbroken Freiheit family stressed it's hard to explain how hard it is to lose a loved one this way.

"We understand dementia and I just feel there should have been some kind of check and balance that she was not in her room for that many days," Renae Freiheit said. "We thought she was safe."

On Friday, The Merriman provided this statement to News 5:

The Merriman is a building located in Akron, Ohio that includes an area designated as a licensed skilled nursing facility, as well as a separate and distinct area designated as a licensed assisted living community for older adults. In general, the residents of the assisted living have less clinical needs than the residents of the skilled nursing facility, and are on a whole more physically able, tending to move more freely both within and outside of the assisted living building.

During the week beginning on Sunday, November 6, 2022, one of the residents of the assisted living section of The Merriman exited the building and was subsequently found deceased. The Merriman is devasted as a result of this unfortunate tragedy, and is continuing to investigate the incident in order to determine what happened.

Full Article & Source:
Family wants answers after resident found dead in woods behind Akron assisted living facility

Grendell Accused of Misconduct, Faces State Disciplinary Counsel Complaint

by Amy Patterson 

Ethics Office Files 61-page complaint against Juvenile/Probate Judge

Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell has until Nov. 30 to respond to a complaint filed Nov. 10 with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct claiming multiple violations of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules of Professional Conduct.

In the complaint, the Ohio Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary Counsel outlined a pattern of alleged misconduct including Grendell’s handling of a child custody case involving two juveniles, a public dispute with employees of the Geauga County Auditor’s Office and public comments disparaging other elected officials and news media.

Grendell also is accused of abusing the prestige of judicial office in testimony before a government body and conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The ODC is charged with educating, investigating, and prosecuting attorneys and judicial officers who are accused of ethical misconduct. The office reviews grievances from the public, judges and other attorneys to determine whether there is evidence of unethical conduct and, if evidence exists, files formal disciplinary charges against the attorney or judicial officer.

In response to the complaint, Grendell issued a press release Nov. 10 stating the complaint “is without legal merit, reflects a lack of understanding of Ohio juvenile law and procedures, and contains many factually incorrect allegations that are two years old and older.”

“Judge Timothy Grendell followed the law, protected children, spoke truthfully and exercised his constitutionally protected free speech rights, especially as they pertain to protecting public confidence in the court. Judge Grendell violated no ethic rules and looks forward to the opportunity to prove that ALL of his actions were proper and ethical,” the release stated.

Family Matters

About half of the complaint relates to the custody case of two teenage brothers Grendell ordered sent to the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center in Ravenna during the COVID pandemic after they refused visitation with their estranged father, who had been accused of violence against them.

Grendell took over the case from the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division in 2019, after a court magistrate ordered the father to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment, and complete anger management classes and a parenting program.

By that time, the children had made clear multiple times to a court-appointed guardian ad litem that they did not wish to see their father, who the ODC filing said allegedly slammed one of the brothers against a wall in a February 2017 incident involving the Orwell Police Department.

The complaint details the lengths to which Grendell went to force the children into visitation with their father. The judge told their mother if she was not willing to encourage the children to have a relationship with their father, he would be awarded sole custody.

“What fosters a loving and bonded relationship is the children seeing dad, and mom encouraging them to have a good time when they see dad, and dad being smart and taking them out to play ball or to go on a picnic, or fish, or whatever dad likes to do with the boys that they can bond,” Grendell said during a May 2020 hearing. “… If the children come over with an attitude and that’s not a good thing, and children don’t develop attitudes on their own. Somebody has to help them develop the attitude, and I will be watching, ma’am. I will be watching.”

The children were still unwilling to visit their father after being escorted by Grendell’s constable John Ralph to an ordered visit, at which point Grendell issued an order to remand them to a juvenile detention center in Portage County.

Their mother offered to be detained in place of her children, expressing concerns related to the COVID pandemic during a time when many detention centers were releasing nonviolent offenders to slow the spread of the virus, according to the ODC filing. Ralph told the mother her children would be kept safe and isolated in the center.

While the rules for juvenile courts in the state of Ohio say a child placed in detention has the right to speak to his or her parents and/or legal counsel immediately upon being placed, and “at reasonable times thereafter,” Grendell imposed strict rules on the pair.

They were prohibited from calling their mother, but allowed to call their father. The siblings were kept in isolation and in separate rooms, and prohibited from contacting each other. Further, they were subject to physical checks every 15 minutes around the clock.

In September 2020, Grendell was informed ABC News 5 Cleveland would be running a story on the brothers. He refused multiple opportunities to comment on the story, the ODC filing said, and although he had handled it for over a year, Grendell returned the case to the common pleas court before the television story aired.

The second matter cited by the ODC involves a separate juvenile custody case during which Grendell issued an order prohibiting COVID testing of two children without his consent. The judge alleged COVID concerns were used to deny visitation rights to the other parent.

“Pardon me for being a little skeptical when I’ve got 15 or more women coming in here, some guys, saying that they shouldn’t go see their other parent because of COVID-19,” Grendell said during a hearing related to the case.

During that hearing the judge referred to COVID-19 as the “COVID-19 panic-demic,” and according to the ODC made several more inaccurate statements about the spread and severity of the virus.

In September 2020, one of the children was admitted to a Akron Children’s Hospital in need of emergency breathing treatments. Contrary to Grendell’s order, the hospital tested the child for COVID. In response, Grendell ordered Ralph to “physically seize” both children.

“Consequently,” the ODC complaint states, “Ralph went to ACH and physically removed (the child) from the hospital.”

The mother contacted the Geauga County Maple Leaf Nov. 10 and said she has neither seen nor spoken to her children in over two years.

The ODC alleges Grendell’s order prohibiting COVID testing without his approval violated multiple judicial rules of conduct, including that a judge:

  • shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety;
  • shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially; and
  • shall not permit family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.

In his press release, Grendell said the ODC complaint contains “speculation and false allegations” from two individuals who violated numerous court orders.

“Those individuals made false abuse allegations against their children’s fathers and actively worked to alienate the children from their fathers,” Grendell claimed.

Grendell also argued the complaint improperly cited a sheriff’s deputy as a legal authority — and the deputy was wrong as to Ohio juvenile law.

Abuse of Prestige

The fourth and final count alleged by the ODC is that Grendell used his judicial authority to “abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.”

In May 2020, Grendell’s wife, state Rep. Diane Grendell, introduced House Bill 624, also known as the “Truth in COVID Statistics Bill.” Diane alleged the state government, namely Gov. Mike DeWine and then Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, were misreporting COVID-19 statistics.

In testimony before the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee – on which Grendell sat during his time in the state house – the judge questioned the integrity of statistics reported by ODH, and accused the department as well as the media of creating an “atmosphere of fear.”

At the time, Diane was actively campaigning for re-election.

The ODC complaint says Grendell violated a rule of judicial conduct stating a judge shall not appear voluntarily at a public hearing before, or otherwise consult with, an executive or a legislative body or official.

In Grendell’s Nov. 10 press release, Grendell said as a member of the Law and Policy Committees of the Ohio Judicial Conference he is frequently asked to review, comment and testify in front of the Ohio Legislature on pending legislative matters.

“It is inconceivable that the Disciplinary Counsel would have any authority to pick and choose, in hindsight, the appropriateness of any such testimony,” Grendell said. “It is even more inconceivable that the Disciplinary Counsel would have any authority over the free speech of anyone testifying as an individual Ohio citizen, as Judge Grendell did in his personal testimony regarding HB 624, which is protected by both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution.”

Old Grievances

The ODC complaint rehashes a long-running battle between Grendell’s court and the office of Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder, including a June 2019 incident involving Grendell and his Court Administrator Kim Laurie and Fiscal Compliance Officer Seth Miller.

Miller and Laurie were asked to leave the auditor’s office after allegedly becoming disruptive. The pair left with a stack of purchase orders, vouchers and warrants Walder said were under his statutory control.

The ODC complaint describes an encounter the day of the incident between Grendell and Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus.

“Immediately following the incident at the Auditor’s Office, (Grendell) appeared unannounced at the CPD and spoke to CPD Police Chief Scott Niehus,” the complaint states. “During the conversation, respondent threatened Niehus and the CPD with a federal lawsuit if any of Niehus’ employees interfered with respondent’s employees.”

A court-appointed special prosecutor charged Miller and Laurie in Chardon Municipal Court with criminal mischief, a third-degree misdemeanor. They were eventually acquitted after a jury trial.

While the case was under investigation, the ODC complaint states Grendell continued to make public statements in which he attacked Walder, Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and the media, specifically the Maple Leaf.

In July 2019, Grendell addressed a meeting of the Geauga County Tea Party in a presentation titled “Just the Facts.”

“(Grendell) suggested that Auditor Walder had committed a crime, but would not face prosecution due to his relationship with Prosecutor Flaiz,” the ODC said.

In extensive quotes from the presentation, Grendell said Walder was being “protected by his buddy the county prosecutor.”

“It’s a page out of the Obama/Mueller handbook,” said Grendell. “The articles I was reading in the last Maple Leaf about, about special prosecutors brought back all the images of Mueller running around and, and misuse of authority. There’s nothing for a special prosecutor to do except waste taxpayers’ money.”

Grendell further accused Walder of conduct constituting felony intimidation. Additionally, the ODC said Grendell maligned the press, stating, “I will be vilified by those wonderful papers like the ‘Maple Leaf Rag.’”

In an additional comment to the Maple Leaf hours after his Nov. 10 press release, Grendell said the ODC allegations are over two years old and received media attention at the time.

“I was re-elected since then because the majority residents of Geauga County know better and trust me,” he said. “This temporary affliction will not change or impact my work providing efficient and fair justice to the public in Geauga County. I look forward to demonstrating that the allegations are baseless and without merit as the process proceeds.”

Full Article & Source:
Grendell Accused of Misconduct, Faces State Disciplinary Counsel Complaint

Friday, November 11, 2022

Wendy Williams’ son Kevin Jr gets power of attorney as Wells Fargo freezes her accounts

Wells Fargo bank has reportedly frozen all the host’s accounts claiming she 'is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation' 

By Divya Kishore

Wendy Williams and son Kevin Hunter Jr. attend her being honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 17, 2019, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Wendy Williams has now taken the help of her 21-year-old son as her legal fight with Wells Fargo bank continues. The multinational financial services company has reportedly frozen all the host’s accounts claiming she “is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation”. And as her lawyers fight to regain access, Kevin Hunter Jr has been given the power of attorney in her lawsuit against the bank.

The step was taken after Wells Fargo refused to talk to Kevin about her mother’s accounts containing millions of dollars without the power of attorney, as claimed by Williams’ lawyer. The attorney also said, “Wendy wanted online access to her accounts. Wendy wanted Little Kevin to begin to take on responsibilities,” before stating, “The only transaction that anyone tried to make is Wendy attempting to place a power of attorney in the files so that if there were any inquiries, she could have her son make them.”

The lawyer added: “No one attempted to purchase a car or buy property or anything like that. She just wanted online access to her account. We had submitted the power of attorney paperwork to Wells Fargo and they refused to honor it.”

Wendy Williams attends the Chiara Boni front row during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery II at Spring Studios on September 07, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

This comes after Williams' case against the bank was sealed. Attorney David H Pikus while representing Wells Fargo wrote to New York Supreme Court Judge Arlene Bluth, “We are concerned about [Williams’] situation. It is our hope that the Guardianship Part [of the court] will imminently appoint a temporary guardian or evaluator to review the situation and ensure that [Williams’] affairs are being properly handled.”

But the 57-year-old businesswoman refused the bank’s allegations and her lawyer LaShawn Thomas told Page Six, “Wendy wants the world to know that she strenuously denies all allegations about her mental health and well-being. [She is] disappointed about falsely circulated statements from an industry she has devoted her life to. Wendy is grateful for the love and the outpouring of support she has received from her fans, and she can’t wait to get back.”

Wendy Williams attends her being honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 17, 2019, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

“She thanks everyone who has been patiently awaiting her return and believes that, thanks in large part to the love and support of her son, her family, her new team of doctors and a change of scenery, she is on the mend,” Thomas added.

Reports have also said the ‘Think Like A Man’ host had written several letters to Wells Fargo requesting them to give access to her accounts but to no avail. She had said, “I have submitted multiple written requests to Wells Fargo and I have visited various Wells Fargo branches in the South Florida area in an effort to resolve this matter outside of the courtroom. I have defaulted and I am at risk of defaulting on several billing and financial obligations, including, but not limited to, mortgage payments and employee payroll.”

Wendy Williams (L) poses for a photo with her son Kevin Hunter Jr. (C) as she officially unveils her Madame Tussauds wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York on May 10, 2021, in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds New York)

Meanwhile, Williams’ case has attracted a lot of attention online. A user recently tweeted, “Within the past 12 months Wendy Williams was reporting on Britney’s conservatorship. Now she is potentially being forced into one. We all need to pay attention and really think about what’s happening here. It could happen to any of us.” The second user said, “The fact that Wells Fargo… a bank… is legally filing for Wendy Williams to be in a financial conservatorship is terrifying.”  (Continue reading)

Full Article & Source:
Wendy Williams’ son Kevin Jr gets power of attorney as Wells Fargo freezes her accounts

See Also:
Wendy Williams

Guns, drugs seized from man accused of financially exploiting an elderly Hall County woman

By Now Habersham

A Gainesville man under investigation for the financial exploitation of an elderly Hall County woman has been charged with a long list of crimes, including theft of funds from the victim, as well as weapons and narcotics offenses.  

Authorities say Dillon Stowers knew
 the elderly woman he’s accused of
 exploiting. (Hall County Sheriff’s Office)
Dillion Ross Stowers, 28, was arrested Monday, November 7, at his residence in the 4800 block of Highway 52. Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators went to the residence as part of their investigation into the theft of more than $50,000 from the 82-year-old victim.

“When they arrived at the scene, they discovered Stowers hiding in a closet. A further search of the property turned up 35 weapons, including one with an altered serial number,” says Hall County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer B.J. Williams.

According to Williams, Stowers was also found in possession of 9.5 pounds of processed marijuana, which investigators said had a street value of approximately $45,000.

Investigators also seized several THC vape cartridges and a small quantity of Schedule IV drugs. 

Authorities say Stowers and the victim knew one another, but are not commenting further as to the nature of their relationship.  

Stowers faces the following charges:

  • Exploitation of an elderly person
  • Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (35 counts)
  • Criminal use of an article with an altered ID mark
  • Possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime
  • Felony possession of marijuana
  • Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute
  • Possession of THC oil with the intent to distribute
  • Possession of Schedule IV drugs

He remains in the Hall County Jail with no bond.

Full Article & Source:
Guns, drugs seized from man accused of financially exploiting an elderly Hall County woman

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Americans with disabilities need an updated long-term care plan, say advocates

 by Sam Whitehead

Courtney Johnson, who has autism and multiple chronic illnesses, lives relatively independently. Her grandparents and friends have helped her access social services. Still, she says, "thinking about the future is a bit terrifying to me."
Tristan Lane

Thinking about the future makes Courtney Johnson nervous.

The 25-year-old blogger and college student has autism and several chronic illnesses, and with the support of her grandparents and friends, who help her access a complex network of social services, she lives relatively independently in Johnson City, Tenn.

"If something happens to them, I'm not certain what would happen to me, especially because I have difficulty with navigating things that require more red tape," she says.

Johnson says she hasn't made plans that would ensure she receives the same level of support in the future. She especially worries about being taken advantage of or being physically harmed if her family and friends can't help her — experiences she's had in the past.

"I like being able to know what to expect, and thinking about the future is a bit terrifying to me," she says.

Johnson's situation isn't unique.

25% of U.S. adults live with a disability

Experts say many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have long-term plans for when family members lose the ability to help them get access to government services or to care for them directly.

Families, researchers, government officials, and advocates worry that the lack of planning — combined with a social safety net that's full of holes — has set the stage for a crisis in which people with disabilities can no longer live independently in their communities. If that happens, they could end up stuck in nursing homes or state-run institutions.

"There's just potential for a tremendous human toll on individuals if we don't solve this problem," says Peter Berns, CEO of the Arc of the United States, a national disability-rights organization.

About 25% of adults in the U.S. live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 75% of Americans with disabilities live with a family caregiver, and about 25% of those caregivers are 60 or older, according to the Center on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Kansas.

Any care plan needs to be 'a living document, because things change'

But only about half of families that care for a loved one with disabilities have made plans for the future, and an even smaller portion have revisited those plans to ensure they're up to date, says Meghan Burke, an associate professor of special education at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

"Engaging in it once is good, right? But you can't only engage in it once," she says. "It's a living document, because things change, people change, circumstances change."

Burke's research has found several barriers to planning for the future: financial constraints, reluctance to have hard conversations, trouble understanding government services. Creating plans for people with disabilities also is a complex process, with many questions for families to answer: What are their relatives' health needs? What activities do they enjoy? What are their wishes? Where will they live?

Rob Stone was born with a condition that restricts much of his movement. His mother, Jeneva, says her family has been "flummoxed" by the process of planning for the future. They just want to make sure Rob will have a say in where he lives and the care he receives.


Burke has firsthand experience answering those questions. Her younger brother has Down syndrome, and she expects to become his primary caregiver in the future — a situation she said is common and spreads the work of caregiving.

"This is an impending intergenerational crisis," she said. "It's a crisis for the aging parents, and it's a crisis for their adult offspring with and without disabilities."

Nicole Jorwic, chief of advocacy and campaigns for Caring Across Generations, a national caregiver advocacy organization, says the network of state and federal programs for people with disabilities can be "extremely complicated" and is full of holes. She has witnessed those gaps as she has helped her brother, who has autism, get access to services.

"It's really difficult for families to plan when there isn't a system that they can rely on," she says.

Advocates see a chronic underinvestment in Medicaid disability services

Medicaid pays for people to receive services in home and community settings through programs that vary state to state. But Jorwic says there are long waitlists. Data collected and analyzed by KFF shows that queue is made up of hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Even when people qualify, Jorwic adds, hiring someone to help can be difficult because of persistent staff shortages.

Jorwic says more federal money could shorten those waitlists and boost Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers, which could help with workforce recruitment. She blames chronic underinvestment in Medicaid disability services for the lack of available slots and a dearth of workers to help people with disabilities.

"It's going to be expensive, but this is four decades of funding that should have been done," she says.

Congress recently put about $12.7 billion toward enhancing state Medicaid programs for home- and community-based services for people with disabilities, but that money will be available only through March 2025. The Build Back Better Act, which died in Congress, would have added $150 billion, and funding was left out of the Inflation Reduction Act, which became law this summer, to the disappointment of advocates.

Jeneva Stone's family in Bethesda, Md., has been "flummoxed" by the long-term planning process for her 25-year-old son, Rob. He needs complex care because he has dystonia 16, a rare muscle condition that makes moving nearly impossible for him.

"No one will just sit down and tell me what is going to happen to my son," she says. "You know, what are his options, really?"

A special savings account and plan in place for 'supported decision-making'

Stone says her family has done some planning, including setting up a special needs trust to help manage Rob's assets and an ABLE account, a type of savings account for people with disabilities. They're also working to give Rob's brother medical and financial power of attorney and to create a supported decision-making arrangement for Rob to make sure he has the final say in his care.

"We're trying to put that scaffolding in place, primarily to protect Rob's ability to make his own decisions," she says.

Alison Barkoff is principal deputy administrator for the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her agency recently released what she called a "first ever" national plan, with hundreds of actions the public and private sectors can take to support family caregivers.

"If we don't really think and plan, I'm concerned that we could have people ending up in institutions and other types of segregated settings that could and should be able to be supported in the community," says Barkoff, who notes that those outcomes could violate the civil rights of people with disabilities.

She says her agency is working to address the shortages in the direct care workforce and in the supply of affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities, as well as the lack of disability-focused training among medical professionals.

Evan Woody has needed round-the-clock care since his brain injury and lives with his parents in Dunwoody, Ga. His father, Philip, says his family has some plans in place for Evan's future, but one question is still unanswered: Where will Evan live when he can no longer live with his parents?

Philip Woody

But ending up in a nursing home or other institution might not be the worst outcome for some people, says Berns, who points out that people with disabilities are overrepresented in jails and prisons.

A step-by-step guide to coming up with the right plan

Berns' organization, the Arc offers a step-by-step planning guide and has compiled a directory of local advocates, lawyers, and support organizations to help families. Berns says that making sure people with disabilities have access to services — and the means to pay for them — is only one part of a good plan.

"It's about social connections," Berns says. "It's about employment. It's about where you live. It's about your health care and making decisions in your life."

Philip Woody feels as though he has prepared pretty well for his son's future. Evan, 23, lives with his parents in Dunwoody, Ga., and needs round-the-clock support after a fall as an infant resulted in a significant brain injury. His parents provide much of his care.

Woody says his family has been saving for years to provide for his son's future, and Evan recently got off a Medicaid waitlist and is getting support to attend a day program for adults with disabilities. He also has an older sister in Tennessee who wants to be involved in his care.

But two big questions are plaguing Woody: Where will Evan live when he can no longer live at home? And will that setting be one where he can thrive?

"As a parent, you will take care of your child as well as you can for as long as you can," Woody says. "But then nobody after you pass away will love them or care for them the way that you did."

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national, editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

Full Article & Source:
Americans with disabilities need an updated long-term care plan, say advocates

Oswego Hospital Agrees to Pay $98,694.36 for Improper Medicare and Medicaid Billing

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Oswego Hospital Agrees to Pay $98,694.36 for Improper Medicare and Medicaid Billing

Hospital Improperly Bills for Services of Licensed Master Social Worker

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK - Oswego Hospital has agreed to pay $98,694.36 to resolve allegations that it knowingly violated the False Claims Act by: (1) improperly billing Medicare and Medicaid for outpatient mental healthcare services that were rendered by an unsupervised LMSW, and (2) improperly billing Medicaid for outpatient mental healthcare services rendered by another LMSW for which Oswego Hospital could not provide documentation to support those claims.

“The integrity and strength of our federal healthcare system depends on accurate and honest billing for services that are provided by qualified healthcare workers,” said United States Attorney Carla Freedman.  “We will continue to use the False Claims Act to hold healthcare providers accountable when their billing practice do not meet this standard.”

This case began in April of 2019, when a whistleblower filed a qui tam complaint investigation under seal in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. When a whistleblower, or “relator,” files a qui tam complaint, the False Claims Act requires the United States to investigate the allegations and elect whether to intervene and take over the action or to decline to intervene and allow the relator to go forward with the litigation on behalf of the United States. The relator is generally able to then share in any recovery. The relator in this case will receive $19,738.87 of the settlement proceeds.  The case is docketed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York under number 5:19-cv-0431 (GTS/ATB).

The investigation and settlement were the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service on behalf of the Defense Health Agency.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl G. Eurenius, and New York State was represented by Special Assistant Attorney General Ralph D. Tortora, III.

Oswego Hospital Agrees to Pay $98,694.36 for Improper Medicare and Medicaid Billing

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Plaintiffs win class action lawsuit against Bob Dean over Hurricane Ida nursing home evacuations

In advance of the Hurricane Ida, 843 nursing home residents from Orleans, Jefferson, Lafourche, and Terrebonne parishes were packed into a warehouse in Independence.

NEW ORLEANS — After hearing dueling legal arguments from high-powered local plaintiffs’ attorneys, a Jefferson Parish judge ruled Monday in favor of a class-action settlement against nursing home owner Bob Dean stemming from his ill-fated evacuation of 843 of his patients during Hurricane Ida.

Judge Michael Mentz approved the settlement that would divvy up Dean’s insurance coverage – about $15 million – with 22.5 percent of that covering legal fees for Couhig Partners, LLC, the law firm that pushed for the quick resolution.

Early estimates peg the amount going to individual plaintiffs at less than $10,000 each, although the amounts will be higher or lower depending on hardships suffered by each patient.

Several patients died and others had to be hospitalized after they were rescued by state officials from Dean’s warehouse in Tangipahoa. WWL-TV was the first to report on the unsanitary conditions at the shelter, including lack of food, water and bathroom facilities.

The settlement agreement was far from unanimous, with other attorneys led by well-known accident attorney Morris Bart objecting, saying the agreement lets Dean personally off the hook. However, Couhig Partners, LLC, which negotiated the settlement said time is of the essence for the aging plaintiffs.

Don Massey, of the Couhig firm, applauded the judge’s ruling to go forward with the settlement.

“We’re pleased that the judge took into account the important facts of our clients’ age and how much they suffered already and the need to give folks some closure,” Massey said after the hearing. “We’re pleased that the judge recognized the obvious, that Mr. Dean no longer has any assets, he’s under criminal prosecution, he’s under a guardianship.”

But other attorneys with lawsuits believe that Dean has not fully disclosed all of his assets, which had included everything from an antique car collection to several houses across the country.

Well-known New Orleans accident attorney Morris Bart, who represents more than 100 plaintiffs, was among those who unsuccessfully argued to spend more time investigating Dean’s assets.

“This class-action settlement is very unfair,” Bart said outside of the courthouse. “We have fought for our clients and despite the judge’s ruling today, we are going to continue to fight for our clients to get them the compensation they deserve for this horrible travesty that they have been through.”

Bart said his firm will appeal Mentz’s ruling.

“We will 100 percent appeal this,” he said. “This judgment allows Bob Dean to walk away without paying one dollar for his actions. Not one dollar for what he did. We think that’s unfair. We presented evidence that Bob Dean is worth $15 to $20 million dollars and right now today continues to live as a king in his estate in Georgia.”

Mentz acknowledged the different positions taken by the attorneys, but said that after hearings last week, he was not convinced that Dean’s assets exceeded the amount of his debts.

“Every day that the settlement is delayed, the amount of debt against Mr. Dean continues to grow,” Mentz said in his ruling from the bench. “And every day, more plaintiffs die.”

In the end, Mentz said he was faced with a “lose, lose, lose situation” in which Dean has lost his nursing home empire while his patients and their families suffered greatly during the storm and, as a result of Dean’s crumbling fortunes, “they lost the ability to be fully compensated.”

Dean, who lives in Georgia, still faces felony criminal charges in Louisiana, including cruelty to the infirm and Medicaid fraud.

Full Article & Source:
Plaintiffs win class action lawsuit against Bob Dean over Hurricane Ida nursing home evacuations

Las Vegas Assisted Living Employee Caught Stealing From Elderly Patients

By Dane Enerio

Representation. An elderly person holding a cane. Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay


  • A woman, 41, stole the personal information of residents of an assisted living facility in Las Vegas
  • The woman, who carried out the theft while working at the facility, used the information for personal purchases
  • She was arrested Sunday and booked on multiple charges, including the exploitation of a vulnerable person

A 41-year-old woman has been accused of stealing from the elderly residents of a Las Vegas, Nevada, assisted living facility that she worked at, according to authorities.

Tami Friend was booked on three counts of theft over $5,000, exploiting an older or vulnerable person and using another person's identification following her arrest Sunday, newspaper the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing a press release from the city's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

While working at an undisclosed Las Vegas assisted living facility, Friend stole the personal information of residents and used the data for personal purchases, police claimed.

Further details on Friend's case were not immediately available.

Friend, who has since been booked into the Clark County Detention Center, may have more victims, according to authorities.

Police have urged anyone with information about Friend to reach the MPD's Financial Crimes Section at 702-828-3483.

Tipsters wishing to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 702-385-5555 or on the internet via their website.

In a similar story, a couple in the United Kingdom posed as nurses to steal morphine and painkillers from the houses of terminally ill patients.

Ruth Lambert and Jessica Silvester, two female paramedics from the southeastern English county of Kent, were sentenced to jail for five years each after they pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to burgle and conspiring to commit theft.

The two stole the medication prescribed to patients receiving end-of-life care while posing as nurses.

They also collected medication from three houses by convincing residents that they were from the health department collecting medicines after the deaths of patients.

Authorities arrested Lambert and Silvester in August last year after police received multiple complaints of burglaries, and they were identified through surveillance cameras.

Investigators found medications that had the names of other people, nurses' uniforms and a computer stolen from the health department at the couple's residence in Gap Road, Margate.

Lambert and Silvester carried out 29 burglaries in and around Kent, stealing medication such as morphine and painkillers to feed their drug addiction.

"This was an extraordinarily callous and uncaring form of exploitation of the most vulnerable people often when they were terminally ill or dying or in some cases when they had actually died," a judge said during the duo's sentencing.

Full Article & Source:
Las Vegas Assisted Living Employee Caught Stealing From Elderly Patients

Former Eufaula nursing home employee arrested on fraud, forgery charges

Woman arrested on forgery, theft charges at Eufaula nursing home(Source: Eufaula Police Dept.)

By Ashton Akins

EUFAULA, Ala. (WTVM) - An investigation into forgery and theft at Crowne Nursing Home in Eufaula culminated in the arrest of a former employee.

On November 7, 49-year-old Rebecca Jo Allen, of Hurtsboro, was arrested for theft of property 1st degree, forgery 3rd degree and financial exploitation of elderly 1st degree.

Allen is accused of making fraudulent transactions from 84 residents. The fraudulent transactions totaled an estimate of $20,830. Allen is being held at the Eufaula City Jail awaiting a bond hearing.

This case remains under investigation. Additional charges may be pending.

Full Article & Source:
Former Eufaula nursing home employee arrested on fraud, forgery charges

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

I-Team: Families take legal advice, find themselves regretting guardianship

by Danielle DaRos

Chris and Kim Gonsalves were married for almost 30 years. (WPEC)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBS12) — After more than a year of I-Team reports, the issues in Florida’s guardianship system are well-documented. It’s a program that’s supposed to help the elderly and disabled manage their affairs, but we’ve shown you how, too often, the professionals paid to protect their wards are taking advantage of them.

Many of the families who have been featured in our I-Team reports have similar stories: they pursued guardianship for their loved ones because a lawyer told them it was the best way to safeguard their money. By the time they learn they’ve signed away all control, it’s too late.

For one family in South Florida, a guardianship meant a husband was no longer able to make end of life care decisions for his wife.

When we met Chris Gonsalves, he was outside a hospital in Broward county, in between visits with his wife, Kim.

“[The visits] are difficult,” he said. “As much as I try to be there for comfort, they are hard on me.”

For one family in South Florida, a guardianship meant a husband was no longer able to make end of life care decisions for his wife. (WPEC)

Kim Gonsalves was suffering from pneumonia complications and placed on a ventilator. There were a lot of tough decisions to be made: how long should she receive treatment? Should she have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order?

After nearly 30 years of marriage, Chris couldn’t make those decisions. That job went to a professional guardian: a stranger, appointed by a judge, paid out of Kim’s estate.

Chris didn’t realize pursuing a guardianship for his wife would turn out this way.

A few years ago, Kim suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and collapsed. While recovering in a hospital, she was left unattended for several minutes, fell, lost oxygen to her brain, and suffered even more debilitating injuries.

A medical malpractice lawsuit awarded Kim $15 million dollars, Chris said, and provided a way to ensure her care and comfort in the years that followed.

“I was told by my attorneys that a guardian would be needed because of the trust in the amount of money,” Chris said. “That it was protection, the best choice.”

He filed a petition to be designated as her guardian, but what he didn’t know at the time was that a drug conviction from his past would disqualify him.

A judge appointed a professional guardian to make all of Kim’s health care and financial decisions.

From court filings, it’s clear Chris’ relationship with the guardian got tense.

The two disagreed about housing and issues like a DNR. Chris filed emergency orders to intervene in his wife’s behalf, and accused the guardian of over spending and unethical practices. The guardian’s attorney filed an order to have Chris removed as an interested party on the case and accused him of being after the money, writing his “gravy train” is over.

The two sides were at odds over a DNR when Chris spoke to the I-Team. Days later, he received an email from the guardian. “Kim passed,” the email said, writing that according to her nurse, Kim had gone into cardiac arrest.

A six sentence email: that’s how Chris found out the love of his life was gone.

As he prepares to bury his wife, Chris regrets pursuing a guardianship and wants other families to know the reality of these court appointed arrangements.

We wanted to know if there is anything you can do proactively to ensure you or your loved one is never placed in one.

Sancha Brennan, an attorney who specializes in estate planning and guardianship law, said there is no guarantee that guardianship is off the table — but there are ways to reduce your risk.

First, she said, people should plan ahead and consider legal documents that name a durable power of attorney and healthcare surrogate to make financial, personal and medical decisions in the event of incapacity.

“There are situations where those documents, if they are not maintained or updated regularly, they would not be affective to keep you from having a guardianship filed on your behalf,” Brennan explained.

Despite your directives, a judge can bypass them and appoint a professional guardian if he or she determines the appointee is unfit to serve.

The guardian in the Gonsalves case declined our request for an interview.

Full Article & Source:
I-Team: Families take legal advice, find themselves regretting guardianship

Elder Abuse Task Force releases guide on legal actions against financial exploitation

LANSING, Mich. — A new guide outlining legal actions against those suspected of exploiting the elderly and other vulnerable adults has been released.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Monday A Guide to Investigation & Prosecution of Vulnerable Adult Financial Exploitation is available to all police officers and prosecutors in the state of Michigan.

The guide, released by the Elder Abuse Task Force, may be accessed on the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan’s website, Nessel’s office says.

“As the population of Michigan ages, we expect to see more reports of vulnerable adult financial exploitation made to local law enforcement,” says Nessel. “It is critical that police officers and prosecutors have access to the tools and training they need to thoroughly investigate these cases and to prosecute criminal activity, and I continue to be proud of the work of the Elder Abuse Task Force to help serve as a resource to law enforcement.”

We’re told the guide has since been forwarded to Michigan State Police, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

Full Article & Source:
Elder Abuse Task Force releases guide on legal actions against financial exploitation

Sibling caretakers arrested: Disabled adult seen climbing out of window, calling for help in Winston-Salem

When officers arrived, they saw a woman hanging halfway out of a bedroom window yelling for help.

Author: Blair Barnes

Two people were arrested after a woman was seen climbing from a bedroom window calling for help in Winston-Salem, according to police

Winston-Salem police were sent to the 1900 block of Bramblewood Trail after getting a call about unknown trouble. 

When officers arrived, they saw a disabled woman hanging halfway out of a bedroom window yelling for help. The woman lived at the home under the care of Mary Kathleen Adkins. However, Adkins' brother, George Murry Adkins Jr. was present in the home at the time of the incident as her caregiver.

After an investigation, police discovered the victim was locked in the room for more than 12 hours. 

On Oct. 13. the siblings were charged with the following:

  • Mary Adkins- 2 counts of domestic abuse/ neglect/ exploitation of a disabled adult 
  • George Adkins- 1 count of Domestic abuse/neglect/ exploitation of a disabled adult 

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is asked to call the Winston-Salem Police Department at 336-773-7700, Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800, or En Espanol 336-728-3904.

Full Article & Source:
Sibling caretakers arrested: Disabled adult seen climbing out of window, calling for help in Winston-Salem

Monday, November 7, 2022

Hospice nurse charged for allegedly cutting off man’s foot without permission

By Jeff MacDonald

PIERCE COUNTY, Wis. — A hospice nurse in Wisconsin could face 40 years in prison after she allegedly amputated the foot of a dying man without his permission.

According to the criminal complaint obtained by KSTP, a Pierce County medical examiner first noticed during an autopsy that a foot had been removed from a body he was supposed to examine. Before he died, the unnamed elder person had been in the care of Mary K. Brown, 38, a Spring Valley Health and Rehab Center nurse.

The man had been admitted to the center in March with severe frostbite on both feet, according to WQOW. By May, it was believed that he was close to the end of his life, according to the criminal complaint.

According to authorities, witnesses said that Brown cut off the patient’s right foot on May 27 without permission from a doctor or the patient.

“Brown had no doctor’s order to conduct an amputation. She stated that she did not have any authorization to remove VICTIM’s foot. Brown did not have VICTIM’s permission to amputate his foot. Administrators of the nursing home agreed that it was outside of the scope of Brown’s practice to conduct such a procedure and a doctor’s order was necessary prior to any amputation,” according to the criminal complaint.

A nurse later told police that Brown said she intended to preserve and display the foot, according to KSTP.

Kevin Larson, the administrator and CEO of Spring Valley Senior Living and Health Care, said Brown is no longer employed with them.

Brown is facing two felony charges of abuse of an elderly person and mayhem, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison but could be higher because the victim is an older person, WQOW said.

Full Article & Source:
Hospice nurse charged for allegedly cutting off man’s foot without permission

Massachusetts Senate Passes Legislation To Help People With Disabilities Live Independently

In full transparency, the following press release was submitted to SOURCE media by the Senate President’s office.

BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed two bills to help people with disabilities live independently in Massachusetts.

First, An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities takes steps to ensure that people with physical disabilities who rely on wheelchairs are not stranded for long time periods in the event of the breakdown of an in-warranty wheelchair.

Second, An Act relative to supported decision-making for agreements for certain adults with disabilities recognizes supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship, allowing certain people with disabilities to retain greater decision-making power over their lives.

“I have fought my entire career to make Massachusetts a more inclusive place for people of all abilities to live, work, and play,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “It is especially fitting that the Senate has passed these bills on the same day that we adjourn in memory of Paul Spooner, a committed and tireless disability rights and inclusion activist working in MetroWest and a dear friend of mine. By helping us move closer to our goal of ensuring that all people have opportunities to live independently, we honor Paul’s legacy and make the Massachusetts a more compassionate and accessible Commonwealth. I want to thank the many Senators who worked to ensure the passage of these bills, including Senators Rodrigues, Lovely, Cronin, Moran, and Gomez.”

Having passed the Senate, the bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“The passages of these bills today speak volumes of the Senate’s long and unwavering commitment to making life better for people with disabilities,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her steadfast leadership for putting the issues of accessibility and inclusion front and center, ensuring we do what’s right for our people, and thank you to Senators Lovely, Cronin, and Moran for your leadership on these critically important bills. Because of our collection today to support wheelchair users and recognize supported decision-making agreements, we have made our Commonwealth stronger and more inclusive.”

Expanding Wheelchair Warranties

Wheelchair repair poses substantial problems for people with physical disabilities in Massachusetts. In the event of a wheelchair breaking or otherwise failing to function, it is not uncommon for those who use wheelchair to need to wait for weeks for repairs, including for wheelchairs under warranty. This leaves these individuals stranded at home and unable to go to work, school, medical appointments, grocery shopping, or elsewhere. This creates a crisis for individuals and families and often exacerbates other health conditions. Existing state law does not set any timeline for assessing repairs or require dealers to offer wheelchairs on loan within a fixed time period.

Legislation passed by the Senate today addresses these problems by strengthening consumer protections for those who use wheelchairs. The legislation requires that wheelchair manufacturers, lessors and dealers provide consumers with written notification of the warranty for their wheelchairs, and increases the minimum duration for an express warranty on wheelchairs to two years. If an in-warranty wheelchair stops functioning, the bill requires that manufacturers, lessors, and dealers assess the wheelchair within three days, provide a temporary wheelchair on loan within four days, and cover collateral costs to the user.

“I am so grateful to Senate President Spilka for her commitment to expand consumer protections to support the independence and dignity of our disability community. This bill’s passage is an important step forward to protect wheelchair users and their families,”” said Senator John J. Cronin (D-Lunenberg), chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. “The bill implements critical protections in the law to prevent wheelchair users from being stranded in their homes for prolonged periods when their wheelchair or mobility device becomes inoperable.”

To enforce these new requirements, the bill authorizes the state attorney general and consumers to commence legal actions against any violation of provisions protecting wheelchair users from unfair and deceptive business practices relating to warranty-fulfillment.

Independent living through supported decision-making agreements

Supported decision-making is an alternative to guardianship for individuals with an intellectual or development disability, dementia, or mental health diagnosis. Unlike in traditional guardianship, where a guardian makes medical, financial, or other life decisions for a person with disabilities, supported decision-making allows an individual with a disability to make his or her own decisions with the support of a designated person or team of trusted supporters. In such an agreement, ‘supporters’ assist in communicating and understanding decisions but cannot override an individuals’ own choices.

“I am incredibly proud that this life-changing legislation has advanced through the Senate,” said Senator Joanne B. Lovely (D-Salem), chair of the Senate Committee on Rules. “Supported decision-making agreements maximize the dignity, freedom, and independence of persons with disabilities and provide a proven, cost-effective, and less restrictive alternative to guardianship. Thank you, President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and the many advocates who worked tirelessly to move this bill forward. Everyone should have the opportunity to be the decision-maker of their own lives, and this legislation will empower many for whom that was not previously possible.”

“People with disabilities deserve the freedom to maintain their independence and dignity,” said Senator Susan L. Moran (D-Falmouth), chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “I’m proud to vote for this bill to enable supported decision making for people with disabilities, and take another strong step in supporting residents with disabilities in the Commonwealth.”

“I have had the opportunity, as the Senate Chair of Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities to meet with many individuals across our state who are both strong advocates for supported decision-making and could greatly benefit from this bill,” said Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield), Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. “Supported decision-making is a no brainer that allows individuals, including those with disabilities and elders, to maintain their rights and independence, allowing them to choose one or more trusted advisors to provide assistance in making decisions about their lives. I am thrilled that this legislation is moving forward and I know it will change many lives.”

The legislation passed by the Senate today legally recognizes supported decision-making agreements, acknowledges them as a viable alternative to guardianship for some individuals, and establishes guardrails to ensure that these agreements keep an individuals’ best interests at heart. In cases where there is evidence of undue influence or coercion, the law renders such decision-making agreements invalid. The legislation permits members of the public, and requires mandated reporters, to petition the Probate and Family court to revoke or suspend a supported decision-making agreement in cases where there is suspicion of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Under the bill, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services will create training on supported decision-making, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will assist in informing students and their families or guardians about supported decision-making as needed.

Full Article & Source:
Massachusetts Senate Passes Legislation To Help People With Disabilities Live Independently