Sunday, December 31, 2023

Autism Silenced This Teenager. It Couldn't Stop Him From Creating a 70-Minute Symphony

                                                      (Picture credit:  Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LOS ANGELES — 
“Unforgettable Sunrise’s” composer, 19-year-old Jacob Rock, listened from the far side of the room. Jacob, dressed in a brown Neil Young T-shirt, sat beside his father, Paul Rock, and watched through a mop of brown hair that nearly covered his eyes. Jacob was nearly vibrating with excitement as the strings rippled and marimba clattered. He had lived with this music for years, unable to get anyone to hear it. Now it was finally out.

After the rehearsal, Paul, 64, spoke about his son, bewildered by the scale of the music they’d just heard: “He’s been invisible to the world until this,” Paul said.

Jacob Rock lives with profound non-oral autism. His condition makes him all but unable to speak, with other debilitating physical effects inhibiting communication and socializing. Until three years ago, he’d been unable to speak with his family outside of physical gestures, which often conveyed deep frustration and self-harm.

In 2020, a breakthrough utilizing text-to-voice software revealed that Jacob had a deep acuity and sensitivity to language and art. He could now verbally communicate with his parents, and they could learn about his inner world.

Jacob revealed that since childhood, he’d been composing a symphony. He had all the arrangements and melodies locked in place. He couldn’t write notation or play the instruments his music required, but he could describe what he heard. Could they help him find a way to play it?

A Miniature Cow Shares Love and Hope With Elderly People With Memory Problems

A cute, miniature cow is creating a buzz in Oakwood Creative Care in Mesa, Arizona, for cheering and helping elderly people with memory problems.


Dolly Star visits the adult day center weekly to bring joy and a unique kind of therapeutic company to its community members who have been diagnosed with neurological disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia.

Their delightful encounters with Dolly are helping these elderly residents to develop new memories and recall old ones. The miniature cow responds with happy licks to affectionate pats and strokes. As a reward, the residents give the adorable cow marshmallows, which they learned is Dolly’s favorite treat.

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A Miniature Cow Shares Love and Hope With Elderly People With Memory Problems

Saturday, December 30, 2023

2023’s Big Leap: Shielding Older Adults From Financial Crimes

By Michael Pessman


The financial exploitation of older people is a distressing and often overlooked problem, but in 2023 it’s one that received significant legislative attention in the United States. More than 1 in 6 Americans were 65 or older just three years ago, and their numbers are growing faster than those under age 65. With a graying population, protecting these vulnerable members of society is more imperative than ever. 

During the past year, the number of states passing legislation to address concerns about financial exploitation of older adults reached 34, and 17 states enacted specific laws or adopted resolutions to combat financial abuse against seniors. 

Older adult financial exploitation involves the illegal or improper use of a person’s funds, property or assets. This type of abuse often goes unnoticed and unreported; many victims suffer in silence. Family members, unfortunately, are frequently the perpetrators of such exploitation, taking advantage of the trust and reliance their aging relatives placed in them.

Each year, older Americans lose an estimated $28.3 billion because of financial exploitation, according to a report by AARP. In addition, the report indicates that 87.5% of adults ages 60 and older who are victimized by someone they know do not report these incidents to authorities. This figure actually may be much higher because of underreporting, however.

Financial exploitation is particularly prevalent among individuals suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments. Often, family members justify their actions on the basis that they are “helping” or managing the finances of their relatives.

Several states took action in 2023 in recognition of the severity of this issue. The new laws are designed to improve protections for older adults, to clarify guidelines for legal guardians and caregivers, and to establish stricter punishments for those who violate them. Here are some of the areas these measures address:

Enhanced reporting and monitoring: Several laws were passed to improve the reporting mechanisms for allegations of financial abuse. The regulations include mandatory reporting requirements for professionals who work with older people, such as bankers, health care providers and social workers.

Tougher penalties for perpetrators: Several states have increased penalties for those who are found to have exploited older individuals financially. The punishment could include longer prison sentences and higher fines, particularly if the abuse involves substantial sums of money or results in significant financial harm to the victim.

Educational programs: A number of states have implemented programs aimed at educating potential victims and the general public about the problem. These programs aim to raise awareness of the signs of financial exploitation and emphasize the importance of safeguarding older people’s assets and rights.

Legal and financial support services: A substantial amount of funding and other resources were allocated in 2023 to provide legal and financial counseling to help older adults protect their assets and seek justice if someone exploits them. New Hampshire, for example, has increased the number of cases of financial crimes against older adults that the state investigates and prosecutes.

Although these legislative efforts represent significant progress, there are still challenges to overcome. Critics argue that additional resources are needed to support victims and to enforce these laws effectively. A more cohesive approach to addressing the issue, these critics point out, requires better collaboration between state agencies, financial institutions, and nonprofit organizations.

Still, the legislative actions taken in 2023 are positive steps toward curbing a serious risk for older adults. It is imperative that we continue to raise awareness about this issue and ensure that states effectively implement and enforce laws to deal with the problem. Society must protect those who are vulnerable and ensure that they can live with dignity and security.

It is evident from the legislative achievements made this year that there is growing recognition of what has been a somewhat silent epidemic. The involvement of family members in such crimes adds a layer of complexity and betrayal to the situation for many victims. We must make sure that these laws are more than just words on paper and are actively enforced. 

As the fight against financial exploitation continues, legislators, professionals, community organizations and families must work together to ensure that no one preys upon older adults. They deserve our respect and protection.

Full Article & Source:
2023’s Big Leap: Shielding Older Adults From Financial Crimes

Exercise Boosts Connectivity Between Neurons in Older Adults, Helps Maintain Cognitive Health


Maintaining some level of physical activity as you age can help with strength, bone density, immune health, and warding off many chronic diseases. It’s also good for your mental health, as a mood booster. A new study finds that exercise helps maintain proteins that promote connectivity between neurons, as well, providing a protective benefit against cognitive decline.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco looked at the brains of seniors who had varying levels of physical activity to see how that impacted this nerve connectivity. Their findings, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, show that seniors who were more active had higher levels of proteins that help neurons exchange information with each other. While similar results had been found in mouse models, researchers say this is a first for human studies.

Full Article and Source:
Exercise Boosts Connectivity Between Neurons in Older Adults, Helps Maintain Cognitive Health

Friday, December 29, 2023

Cher Files for Conservatorship of Son Elijah Blue Allman

 Author: Zach Seemayer‍

Cher Files for Conservatorship of Son Elijah Blue Allman

Terry McGinnis/WireImage

Cher
has filed for a conservatorship over her adult son due to a fear that he is not fit to manage his own finances, according to multiple reports.

The pop icon has requested to be the sole conservator over 47-year-old son Elijah Blue Allman, amid his alleged struggles with drug addiction.

According to court documents filed on Wednesday, the singer claims that her son is "substantially unable to manage his own financial resources due to severe mental health and substance abuse issues," TMZreports.

Cher is reportedly concerned that the money her son receives from a trust set up by his late father -- music icon Gregg Allman -- will be spent on drugs rather than things needed to sustain his living conditions.

"Any funds distributed to Elijah will immediately be spent on drugs," Cher argues in the documents, "leaving Elijah with no assets to provide for himself, and putting Elijah’s life at risk."

The 77-year-old songstress stated in the docs, per Page Six, that she has been unable to "discuss Elijah’s preferences concerning the appointment of a temporary conservator" because he has been "unable to form or express a preference," allegedly due to his current mental state.

The documents state that, as his mother, she feels she would be the best person to manage his conservatorship. A hearing date of March 6, 2024, has been set by the court to evaluate the possible conservatorship.

In October, Cher was accused by her son's estranged wife, Marie Angela King, of allegedly hiding his whereabouts and blocking access to him.

In court documents obtained by ET at the time, King requested that the court compel Allman to attend the estranged couple's divorce hearing, after he missed a trial conference to update the court on the divorce case. King claimed she hasn't seen Allman in more than six months, and she pointed the finger at Cher, who allegedly "continues to interfere with his health management as well as his location and accessibility."

That was just the latest in King and Allman's ongoing divorce battle. Back in September, Cher made headlines after King accused her of hiring four men to kidnap her son from a New York hotel room in an effort to stop him from reconciling with her. Those documents were filed back on Dec. 5, but they only made headlines after the case was uncovered by the media. 

Following King's claims, Cher denied the accusations in a statement to People and called "the rumor... not true."

Cher and late ex-husband Gregg Allman shared Allman, who was born on July 10, 1976. She and late ex-husband Sonny Bono, who together performed as Sonny & Cher, shared son Chaz Bono, born on March 4, 1969. 

 Full Article & Source:
Cher Files for Conservatorship of Son Elijah Blue Allman

California At Bottom Of Elder-Abuse Protection Study


With many people facing ongoing economic challenges, it is important to recognize that the elderly population, who often rely on a fixed income, are particularly vulnerable to financial, emotional, and physical abuse. To shed light on this important issue, the personal finance website WalletHub recently released its annual report on the States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections. To determine which states have the best elder-abuse protections, WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: the prevalence of elder abuse, resources for prevention and assistance, and the quality of those elder-abuse protections.

Elder-Abuse Protections in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

*Per resident aged 65+

20th – Total Expenditures on Elder-Abuse Prevention*

19th – Number of Certified Volunteer Ombudsmen*

12th – Nursing-Homes Quality

17th – Total Expenditures on Legal Assistance Development per Residents aged 65+ years

1st – Presence of Financial Crimes against the Elderly Legislation

 
For the full report, visit: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-best-elder-abuse-protection/28754

“Wisconsin has the best collection of elder-abuse protections overall because it features a high number of eldercare organizations and services per capita and invests three times more per elderly resident in elder-abuse programs than the state average,” said Cassandra Happe, WalletHub Analyst. “Plus, the Badger State promotes educational programs to inform seniors, their families, and caregivers about the signs of abuse, the rights of older adults, and the available resources for assistance. Wisconsin even has mandatory reporting laws that require professionals to report suspected elder abuse.”

Massachusetts ranked second in the U.S. for its elder abuse protections. The state invests a substantial amount in elder abuse prevention programs each year, yet the Bay State’s investment in its long-term care ombudsman program is lower than in many other states, including Wisconsin. Ohio secured the third position due to the state’s remarkable investments in its ombudsman program and a high number of certified volunteers in proportion to its older population.

Wisconsin did come in at number one, followed by Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Vermont, Wyoming, Iowa, West Virginia and, rounding out the top 10, Louisiana.

Conversely, the bottom 10 in Elder-Abuse Protection were Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Delaware, New Jersey, South Carolina, Montana, Utah and, at the bottom of the list, California.

Tips for Spotting Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Watch for Unusual Bank or Credit Card Activity: Be alert to unexplained or sudden changes in an older adult’s financial situation, such as significant withdrawals, transfers, or expenditures. Keep an eye out for any unusual ATM use or unfamiliar purchases.

Be Wary of New or Unusual “Friends”: If the older person has a new acquaintance who seems overly interested in that person’s finances or property, it may be a sign that they have bad intentions. Scammers may capitalize on an older adult’s good nature and friendliness to gain their trust so they can exploit them financially.

Keep an Eye on Social Media and Internet Use: Social media and other online platforms can open the door for fraudsters to engage with vulnerable older adults. It is a good idea to monitor an older adult’s social media profile for suspicious connections and posts that may divulge personal information to others. It’s also wise to monitor their email accounts for potential security concerns.

Pay Attention to Changes in Legal Documents: Watch for any changes in wills, trusts, powers of attorney, or other legal documents that appear to benefit someone other than the older individual. These changes could be the result of coercion or manipulation by family members, caregivers, or others who may be pressuring the older adult to make financial decisions against their will.

Be Mindful of Changes in Behavior: Pay attention to changes in the older person’s behavior, such as appearing fearful, anxious, or secretive about their finances. Isolating vulnerable individuals from their friends and family is a common tactic used by fraudsters to maintain control over their victims. If the older adult is avoiding family and friends or is reluctant to discuss their finances, it could be a red flag for elder financial abuse.

Take Note of Any Decline in Personal Care Conditions: Poor living conditions, lack of necessary medical care, or improper nutrition may suggest that financial resources are not being used for the person’s well-being. If the older person is seemingly denied access to food, medication, or necessary care despite having the means to afford it, it could indicate financial exploitation.

Full Article & Source:
California At Bottom Of Elder-Abuse Protection Study

Domino's pizza delivery driver raising newborn gets the biggest tip of his life from a Secret Santa

The EastIdahoNews.com team is busy helping a local Secret Santa give $1 million to deserving people in eastern Idaho this holiday season. 

Nick is a recovering addict who has been sober for early six years. He is raising his 11-month-old daughter on his own. It's been a challenging time for him because he doesn't have much family here to help and he's been working full-time while taking care of a newborn. 

When Hailey was born, Nick was working a job where he had to wake up at 4 a.m. and ne to work by 5 a.m. Having a newborn and going without much sleep most nights made this work schedule very hard, so a few months ago he found a new job with better working hours. That job didn't work out because he didn't have enough experience, so for now he's working at Domino's delivering pizza. 

Nick adores his baby girl and she loves him. Everything he does is for her. He's doing all he can, the best he can, to build their life together. 

Secret Santa asked the East Idaho News elves to pay Nick a visit and we decided to have some fun with this surprise! Check out the video in the player above. 

Source:
Domino's pizza delivery driver raising newborn gets the biggest tip of his life from a Secret Santa

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Conservatorship: The Racket That Ruined My Father’s Last Years

By Poppy Helgren

One of the greatest things about this country that we live in is the freedoms we enjoy.

Those freedoms were embedded in my parents. They believed in them, serving the country that proclaimed them after growing up in families that served as well. They believed in the Declaration of Independence, which held “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”otherwise known as the American dream. 

Unfortunately, this phrase is not legally binding. 

Sadly, I have watched as my father’s pursuit of happiness was swept away by the court system in his senior years. His liberty, including his freedom to live according to his lifelong and clearly stated desires, was destroyed by a conservator and attorneys fueled by greed.

The author’s parents, Lester Moore and Lou Dell Hart Moore

He and my mother, Lester Moore and Lou Dell Hart Moore, were both survivors of the Great Depression. They both grew up in the South, experiencing extreme poverty before climbing out and crafting a life and a family together. Carefully and responsibly, they built assets that grew over time and made plans for the future. They could not have knownso few people dothat a system of legalized theft exists that would toss aside their plans and siphon off much of their money. Called conservatorship in some states, guardianship in others, it has stripped away the rights and assets of vulnerable people across the country, including the aged, the disabled, and people labeled with psychiatric disorders. 

Lester was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, the first of nine children. He had one pair of pants and one shirt that his mother would frequently wash so that he could attend school. He wore a pair of hand-me-down shoes. His dream was never to be poor again when he joined the US Navy at age 17 and traveled to California for boot camp. Because he was so tiny, he had to gorge himself on bananas to make the weight required to enlist. 

During the next five years, covering his time during the Korean War, he sent his paychecks home to his parents to help with the expenses of his younger siblings. After separating honorably from the Navy and going home on leave, he decided to return to California to train to be an aircraft mechanic.

My Mother, Lou Dell, was also a survivor of the Great Depression in Texas, and she also spent time in the military. She joined the US Army during WWII, serving stateside. 

My parents met while both working at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, Calif., and were married in 1952.

Lester was very serious-minded and, like most Southerners, he loved his home state and the idea of owning land there. In 1956, not even 30 years old, Lester bought his first 563 acres. The idea of eventually moving back to Arkansas was always on his mind. He would frequently travel there, ranching and raising cattle on his property with his younger brothers. My parents were frugal people, working hard and saving their money. 

My father eventually left Lockheed, beginning his career at Flying Tiger Airline and later working with Federal Express when they acquired it. My mother became a fulltime mom when I was born, their only child, in 1957.

And they thrived. 

In 1993, my parents created the Moore Family Trust, which clearly stated their financial and medical wishes. By then they had several million dollars in assets, including 600 acres of property and four homes in Arkansas, plus $600,000 in FedEx stock, a home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and hundreds of thousands of dollars in CDs, savings accounts, investment accounts, and oil and gas rights on their property. 

My mother passed away in 2001. When my father was diagnosed with dementia in 2010, I assumed the role of Successor Trustee, per the trust documents. My children, spouse, and I live in Nevada, but I knew that my father’s plan was always to return to Arkansas to live on his property. He had no relatives in California and always wanted to “go home to Arkansas.” His siblings all lived there, too. 

But in 2010, a predator female and a lawyer withdrew multiple thousands of dollars from his accounts and attempted to change the trust, and I was advised by an attorney that the only way to stop the harm to my father was to seek conservatorship for him.

I became aware of his dementia when my father reached out to me and asked for my help, as did his physicians at Kaiser Permanente as well as his financial advisor. So I went to California in 2009 to assist with paying his bills, and Dad introduced me to his tax accountant. While going through his checkbooks, I became aware that he was regularly giving large sums of money to Lilo Kruger, his “lady friend.” Dad had met her at a grief group in February 2004. Within three weeks, he had given her a check for $700. 

That was just the beginning. He took her on many vacationsto Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, and Germany. He also gave her cash every two or three weeks. As I dug further, I began to suspect she was a predator who specifically went to the grief group to meet men to exploit financially.

Lester Moore, top left, and his brothers
At the same time, I learned that Lilo only had specific days and times that my Dad could visit her: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-9 pm. When Lilo realized that I was aware of what she was doing, she had her friend’s son, attorney William Salzwedel, come on board to change the Moore Family Trust. He removed me as the successor trustee, placing himself as both successor trustee and my dad’s attorney in 2010. This was done nine months after my father had been declared incompetent by his longtime physicians. 

Salzwedel proceeded to change the ownership of my father’s accounts that were originally in my name as the successor trustee of the Moore Family Trust. 

But no longer. 

The Absolute Power of Judge and Conservator

For the record: Lilo Kruger died about a year ago. Court documents show her involvement with William Salzwedel and the changing of the trust, and I have complained to the California State Bar about everything he did, so they are well aware of the havoc he has caused to my family.

My entire purpose, as both my father’s successor trustee and his daughter, was to protect him and to help him move to Arkansas to be with his siblings on his property—which had been his dream since the 1950s. I wanted things to be made right. I wanted the exploitation of my father by these two predators to be stopped. At the time, I believed it would be.

That’s when I sought out legal counsel by obtaining my own attorney, John Barlow. He said that the only way to fight Kruger and Salzwedel was to pursue conservatorship of my dad, even though there was a family trust from 1993, and my father had dementia that was attested to by his two physicians. Per the trust documents, I had already assumed the role of successor trustee. That should have been enough to help him. 

If only I knew back then what I know now, that instituting conservatorship would make the situation so much worse. It literally opened my dad’s estate up to the looting by attorneys and conservators, blessed by a probate judge—all because of the advice of an attorney who, I realized too late, was complicit in the probate abuse in that court. In 2012 the probate judge, after delaying for 18 months, ignored the Moore Family Trust document and placed not me but an outsider, Angelique Friend, as his conservator and trustee.

Lester Moore never again saw his beloved state of Arkansas, not even to attend the funeral of his younger brother Bill in 2016. After the conservator was appointed in 2012, she never allowed my father to leave the state of California, even for a visit. My lawyer repeatedly told me that “we will get things turned around, and you will be put in charge.” It never happened. (As I did with Salzwedel, I have also made complaints against Angelique Friend to the Fiduciary Commission in California. The attorneys that I have supposedly had on my side are very much aware of my complaints against these people.)

None of this was in my dad’s best interest. There were many options for him to live out his life the way he intended. The only people served by keeping him in California were the conservator and the multitude of attorneys involved, all of them billing their hours to his estate.

The Arkansas property was disposed of by the conservator in 2016. Keep in mind that to a Southerner, property is everything. I remember the quote in the movie Gone With The Wind, when Scarlett’s father told her: “Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for. Because it’s the only thing that lasts.” My father’s land was meant to stay in the family forever. There was never an inventory of the ranching equipment, vehicles, antique cars, guns, and houses full of family mementoes that were sold off. All of the excessive fees for the conservator and lawyers were rubber-stamped by the probate judge, who eventually retired, but it all continued with the judge who took over.

The conservator prevented my father from living in the Nevada State Veterans Home, where I am director of nursing, because she would not allow him to leave California. As my Dad’s dementia progressed, I believed that he would be happy near his family.  But that suggestion was disregarded. In 2020, the home in Thousand Oaks was sold over my objections, and my dad was placed in a group home. From February of that year onward, I was not allowed to see my fatherwith the Covid-19 pandemic cited as an excuse. But the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) never had such a restriction. Families were allowed to see their elderly loved ones. 

Within 11 months, Lester Moore was dead of sepsis, caused by bowel obstruction from a fecal impaction, all resulting from caregiver negligence. This was substantiated by the State of California licensing agency for group homes. 

I was notifiedby email!of my father’s death. 

Over a year later, the judge ruled to hold back $250,000 from the Moore Family Trust assets, in case of further legal costs. Now my father has been dead for two and a half years, and they still have not released that money to me, the heir. Poppy Helgren with her father, Les Moore.

Poppy Helgren with her father, Les Moore.
Just how long can this go on? The absolute power of the probate judge and conservator altered my dad’s last years and all that my parents planned for their assets. There appears to be no accountability for the predators that exploit the vulnerable elderly and their families. Conservatorships redistribute the victim’s wealth into the pockets of the conservators, the lawyers, and the judges. 

Horrific stories of the corrupt conservatorship/guardianship racket need to be told. The dirty little secret of what happens so often in probate court must not be hidden from the public any longer. We need justice for victims. We need a movement to educate people about the harms. It needs to happen. 

Vultures Lining Up To Pick Off The Bones

How has all this affected me? How do I feel about what has occurred to my father at the hands of those whose primary mission was to gain access to his assets? It is surprising to me, all the many emotions that have surged over the unnecessary suffering brought upon my family by the perpetrators of our misery and the root cause, greed. Over the years, I have felt angry, powerless, shattered, disappointed, and disillusioned. I am heartbroken for what was planned for and supposed to bebut was destroyed by the probate court system.

Initially, I had confidence in the justice system. I unshakably believed that the theft by Lilo Kruger and William Salzwedel would be stopped by someone: the police, adult protective services, Thousand Oaks Senior Concerns, the district attorney, or the probate judge. I had confidence that someone would see the big picture.

The first court proceeding I attended in probate court, I was shocked at all the attorneys present who received assignments from the judge, such as the one in charge of my dad’s assets. As we all walked out of the court into the parking lot, I watched the attorneys in their expensive custom suits and Italian leather shoes, getting into their Mercedes Benzes, Land Rovers, and Jaguarsand it hit me in a way that has stuck with me for years. They were vultures lining up to pick off the bones. It was like a premonition of what was to come. 

All of this was exactly what my father had tried to avoid by having a family trust created in 1993. 

As a result, after the judge placed my father into a private, for-profit conservatorshipinstead of adhering to the trust that named me, the only child, the successor trusteeI felt not just disappointed but sickened. I asked myself: how could this happen? No one did what they should have done. They did what they could do. There was no protection of a vulnerable man with dementia; instead, it was done to gain access to his $3-plus million estate. This has become clearer to me as the years have passed, and I have met so many other victims of the same racket in this country.

Poppy Helgren
I have reached out to governors, senators, congressmen, district attorneys, and the state attorney general, only to be told it was a civil matteror to have it ignored altogether. This is the country that my family has served in the military for generations, from my great grandparents to my parents, uncles, cousins, sons, husband, and myself (as a U.S. Army nurse).

As Winston Churchill once said, “Never give in, never, never, never, never.” I believe that. But I have fought this monster for 14 years. Where do I go from here? Sometimes, things happen that are so out of our control that there is nothing we can do to alter the results. 

My father’s conservatorship did not protect my father, it devastated him and his family.

This can happen to anyone.

Full Article & Source:
Conservatorship: The Racket That Ruined My Father’s Last Years

Bolstering our sense of smell may reduce the risk of dementia

Scientists are studying how a decline in our olfactory abilities can signal conditions such as Alzheimer’s


Whether it is the waft of clove-studded oranges or the crisp fragrance of a fir tree, the festive season is filled with aromas that conjure Christmases past. Now researchers say our sense of smell, and its connection to our memory, could be used to help fight dementia.

Our senses can worsen as a result of disease and old age. But while impairment to hearing or vision is quickly apparent, a decline in our sense of smell can be insidious, with months or even years passing before it becomes obvious.

“Although it can have other causes, losing your sense of smell can be an early sign of dementia,” said Dr Leah Mursaleen, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, adding it was a potential indicator of damage in the olfactory region of the brain – that is, the part of the brain responsible for smell.

That has led to researchers examining whether loss of smell could be used to diagnose conditions such as Alzheimer’s long before symptoms such as memory loss set in – an approach, experts say, that could allow patients access to drugs such as lecanemab early in the course of the disease, when they work best to slow cognitive decline.

But just as research has suggested the use of hearing aids could reduce the risk of developing dementia, questions are being asked about whether bolstering our sense of smell could do the same. Could a declining sense of smell be a risk factor for cognitive decline, not just a symptom?

“Olfaction is intimately involved in many brain processes, and especially the emotional processing of stimuli,” said Prof Thomas Hummel, of Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden. Indeed, smells, memories and emotions are often tightly bound, with research revealing recollections triggered by scent tend to be rooted in our childhood.

“If olfactory function fails, stimuli lose salience, which may affect general cognitive functions,” said Hummel.

Neurons involved in the olfactory system are also involved in other systems in the brain. Indeed, as Hummel and others note, some areas of the brain play a key role in cognitive and olfactory processes. As a result, if the sense of smell becomes dysfunctional, cognitive processing might also be affected.

A coloured transmission electron micrograph of a section through smell receptors (cilia) projecting from an olfactory neurone (blue). This nerve cell is responsible for detecting smell. Photograph: Science Photo Library/Steve Schmeissner/Getty Images

A number of studies
have found that exposure to certain odours can either boost or hinder cognition, while work by Hummel and colleagues has suggested smell training in older people can improve their verbal function and subjective wellbeing.

More pertinent still, a small study published last year, by researchers in Korea, revealed that intensive smell training led to improvements in depression, attention, memory and language functions in 34 patients with dementia compared with 31 participants with dementia who did not retrieve such training.

“We’ve already seen some early studies suggesting that ‘training’ our sense of smell, through repeated exposure to strong-smelling substances, could have benefits in improving cognitive performance in certain tasks,” said Mursaleen.

“However, much more research is needed to understand whether things like olfactory training could help prevent or slow down the onset and progression of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.”

Among other problems, intensive scent training takes time and effort. In an attempt to solve this problem, Dr Michael Leon, professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine, and his team have come up with a device called “Memory Air that emits 40 different smells twice a night, while people are sleeping – an approach Leon says allows “universal compliance”. The hope is that exposing people to more smells, even when they are asleep, could strengthen their olfactory abilities.

The team is about to start a large trial with the gadget among older adults without dementia, building on a smaller study that suggested the approach could improve memory performance in such participants. “We will then start a large trial with Alzheimer’s patients using that device,” said Leon.

In another small study, Dr Alex Bahar-Fuchs, a clinical neuropsychologist at Deakin University, Australia, is looking at whether training cognitively healthy older adults to distinguish smells using a scent-matching memory game can help improve wider aspects of memory and cognition, compared with using a similar game based on matching pictures. The approach, he said, goes further than passive exposure to odours by setting cognitive tasks for participants.

“We believe that the neuroplastic properties of the olfactory centres in the brain might make it more likely that improved performance on olfactory memory will generalise, or transfer, to memory functions more broadly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prof Victoria Tischler, at the University of Surrey, is working to learn more about how our olfactory function changes as we age normally.

As part of their work, the team hopes to produce olfactory training kits suitable for healthy older people, those with mild cognitive impairment, and those living with dementia in care homes.

Tischler said it was important to cherish our most enigmatic sense. “I would advise the public to look after their sense of smell, much like they look after other aspects of their sensory health” such as their eyesight, she said.

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Bolstering our sense of smell may reduce the risk of dementia

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

New California law addressing mental illness, addiction among homeless delayed by Valley counties. Here's why

 by MARIJKE ROWLAND

Community Medical Center's CareLink Mobile Outreach Team leaves water and snacks at an empty encampment in Stockton hoping their patient returns to find the supplies on Nov. 9, 2023.
Vivienne Aguilar/CVJC

Historic changes to California’s conservatorship law, which will expand who can be placed in involuntary care and treatment in an attempt to address the state’s ongoing homelessness crisis, will have to wait in the Central Valley.

The board of supervisors in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties have opted to defer the new law, which otherwise would have gone into effect in January. Officials in both counties will now have an additional two years to comply with the changes.

The bill from Sen. Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this October, represents the first major changes to the state’s landmark 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. Signed by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, the legislation upended how California dealt with the “gravely disabled” and ended the state’s previous practice of warehousing those with mental illnesses in state hospitals or psychiatric facilities.

Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties are joined by other Central Valley counties, including Kings, Merced, Fresno, Sacramento and Kern, as with much of the state in postponing implementation. Once enacted, the law will give officials greater leeway in who can be placed in involuntary short-term psychiatric holds, longer detention and treatment programs.

Currently, only those deemed “gravely disabled” can be placed in involuntary mental health care or conservatorship, including 5150 holds initiated by law enforcement or health providers that detain people in psychiatric facilities for 72-hours.

The new law expands that definition to include “severe substance use disorder” without any accompanying mental illness. It also broadens the criteria for those with existing mental health disorders to include those who cannot provide for their “personal safety or necessary medical care.” Previously only those who could not provide for their own food, clothing and shelter could be eligible for involuntary care.

While groups like the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) California and California State Association of Psychiatrists have supported the bill, its signing was not without controversy. Disability Rights California, Human Rights Watch and other disability and mental health organizations have argued it would infringe on the civil rights of an already vulnerable population, and could lead to more mass involuntary conservatorships.

The behavioral health services directors for both Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties successfully asked their supervisors for more time to implement the changes. They cited worries of insufficient capacities at county behavioral health facilities, area emergency rooms and drug treatment facilities among the reasons for the additional two-year window.

Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director Tony Vartan told the board last week that the changes would have an impact beyond his department. Law enforcement, courts, hospitals and other mental health providers in the region will also have to grapple with the new expanded definition of “gravely disabled.”

He said without sufficient existing treatment programs or care facilities, it would force “hospitals to be stuck with a lot of patients in an involuntary hold,” which could mean less beds for other sick or injured patients.

The California Hospitals Association has reached out to county administrators across the state, including in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, urging them to delay implementation.

In San Joaquin County, Behavioral Health Director Genevieve Valentine said the extra time is needed to build-out infrastructure and staffing. While statewide it is predicted the changes will result in an about 10% conservatorship increase, Valentine said in San Joaquin County they expect an increase of 20% to 25% because of the need in the region.

“I would hate to rush something when someone’s life is at risk — when their civil rights are at risk,” Valentine said. “I want to make sure in San Joaquin County we are very strategic in how we put this into place.”

She called the law another “tool” in their toolkit to help deal with the state’s mental health challenges, particularly among its homeless population. The passage of SB 43 follows the state’s implementation of the CARE Act, which established specialized courts (called CARE Courts) in each county. County mental health providers, first responders, family members and others can petition the court to give individuals with mental illness voluntary services and treatment.

New psychiatric facility planned

Stanislaus County is part of a seven-country pilot program that launched its CARE Court this October. The rest of the state has until December 2024 to finalize the new courts.

While the two laws are not related, they both represent significant changes to how the state handles those with severe mental health disorders in an effort to address California’s ongoing homeless crisis.

To implement SB 43, San Joaquin County officials plan to build a new from-the-ground-up psychiatric facility across from the existing county general hospital. If approved and funded, the up to 90-bed facility would begin construction this coming summer.

In Stanislaus County, supervisors have asked Vartan to return to the board in January to give a more detailed timeline, and possibly earlier deadline, for SB 43’s implementation.

“I look at this as a godsend,” said Supervisor Terry Withrow during last week’s board meeting. “We’re talking about saving lives…I can’t think of a better way for us to spend our time and resources than to try to get this thing up and running as quickly as possible.”

The governor has also been vocal in his displeasure in what he called the “slow-walking” of the new conservatorship criteria. Most counties have opted to delay implementation, which was allowed in the act, with San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties the only ones so far indicating they’d be ready for the changes by Jan. 1.

“We can’t afford to wait,” Newsom told reporters last week. “The state has done its job; it’s time for the counties to do their job. … They have to understand people are dying on their watch.”

Full Article & Source:
New California law addressing mental illness, addiction among homeless delayed by Valley counties. Here's why

33-year-old Albright man accused of stealing from elderly woman

KINGWOOD, W.Va. (WV News) — A 33-year-old Albright man is facing 33 felony charges accusing him of stealing about $2,270 from an 87-year-old female.

Tfc. L.S. Hall charged Corey Jackson Uphold with 32 counts of access device fraud and one count of financial exploitation of an elderly person.

Between Aug. 24, 2022, and Nov. 22, 2022, Uphold unlawfully uploaded funds from the female’s bank account using CashApp, Hall alleged.

Uphold withdrew money 25 times and attempted another seven withdrawals, according to the complaint.

Preston Magistrate Patricia Grimm set a $25,000 cash or surety bond.

Full Article & Source:
33-year-old Albright man accused of stealing from elderly woman

McMinnville woman charged with stealing from vulnerable adult


An investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Medicaid Fraud Control Division has resulted in the arrest of a McMinnville woman, charged with theft and financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

As the result of a referral from Adult Protective Services, TBI agents, working with the Murfreesboro Police Department, began investigating an allegation of theft from a home care patient by a paid caregiver in Murfreesboro. During the course of the investigation, agents developed information that Tashius Pleasant, who was employed by a home healthcare company, used the victim’s funds to make personal purchases totaling more than $20,000 during a period from 2022 to 2023.

On Nov. 9, the Rutherford County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Tashius Tarese Pleasant (DOB 02/11/1975) with one count of Financial Exploitation of an Elderly/ Vulnerable Adult and one count of Theft over $10,000. Pleasant was booked at the Rutherford County Jail, on a bond of $52,000.

NOTE: The TBI’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $7,051,938.75 for federal Fiscal Year 2022-2023. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $2,350,646.25 for Fiscal Year 2022-2023, is funded by the State of Tennessee.

Full Article & Source:
McMinnville woman charged with stealing from vulnerable adult

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Strengthening Protections: Pennsylvania Updates Guardianship Laws with Senate Bill 506

Pennsylvania has recently enacted a significant update to its guardianship laws, aimed at strengthening the protection of the state’s most vulnerable residents. The new legislation, known as Senate Bill 506, was signed into law on December 14th.

This updated law marks a notable shift in Pennsylvania’s approach to guardianship proceedings. Previously, Pennsylvania was among a minority of states that did not mandate the appointment of counsel in these cases. The revision of the law introduces mandatory legal representation for individuals deemed incapacitated, ensuring they have adequate legal support during guardianship proceedings.

The primary objective of Senate Bill 506 is to safeguard individuals who are unable to make decisions for themselves. It aims to prevent unnecessary guardianships and to address potential abuses within the guardianship system. This is a response to concerns about cases where guardians, lacking proper training or oversight, have committed fraud or not acted in the best interests of the individuals they were appointed to protect.

Senator Lisa Baker, the bill’s sponsor, emphasized the importance of guardianship as a means to assist individuals who are no longer capable of managing their own financial, legal, and health-related matters. However, she acknowledged the reported instances of victimization by guardians and stressed that such fraud is intolerable.

One of the significant changes brought by the new law is the requirement for courts to consider alternatives to full guardianship. This approach is intended to allow for lesser degrees of control to be surrendered when appropriate, tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

Under the updated law, when a person is deemed incapacitated, a guardian may be appointed to make decisions on their behalf, encompassing financial, medical, and personal matters. The legislation also includes provisions for the certification of professional guardians to ensure a higher standard of care and accountability.

Furthermore, the law introduces a process for reviewing cases where the incapacity might be temporary. In such scenarios, a hearing will be conducted to assess if continued guardianship is necessary. This assessment will consider various factors, such as the potential for managing the incapacity through medication, rehabilitation, or other means, the possibility of the individual regaining capacity, and expert opinions.

Senator Baker highlighted the personal nature of guardianship reform, citing communications received from family members and friends of those under guardianship. For these individuals, the reform represents a deeply personal and significant issue.

Full Article & Source:
Strengthening Protections: Pennsylvania Updates Guardianship Laws with Senate Bill 506

Louisiana grandmother goes to hospital with headache, wakes up with no memory of past 30 years — and thinks she was teen still in ‘80s

By Social Links for Nicholas McEntyre


A Louisiana grandmother who went to the hospital with a headache claimed she cannot remember her memories from the past 30 years, believing she was a teenager in the 1980s when she woke up in a wild extensive amnesia case.

Kim Denicola was 56 years old when she developed an intense headache and blurry vision while at a bible study group in Baton Rogue, La. in Oct. 2018.

When she awoke in the hospital emergency room, Denicola had no recollection that she was married and had two children.

“I’ve lost a lot of Christmases, so it’s a big deal,” Denicola, now 60, told WAFB.

“It’s unbelievable to me as it probably is to other people,” Denicola added.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I get up and go to bible study and think I’m going to wake up in the hospital and I’m going to be 60 years old.”

Denicola was unaware that computers existed and that the country’s leaders had changed hands several times when she woke up. 


“‘Do you know what today is, what year are you in?” Denicola recalled a nurse asking.

“I said, ‘Yeah, 1980.’ And she said, ‘Can you tell me who the president is?’ I said, ‘Yes, Ronald Regan.’ And she stopped.”

“TVs are now smart. The TV I remember was a box that sat against a wall that we had to get up and go change the channel,” she told the outlet two months after her medical scare.

Denicola was diagnosed with extensive amnesia, officially transient global amnesia or TGA, but doctors still can not determine the exact cause even after extensive tests and scans, according to the outlet.

Kim Denicola and her husband sit as they look through old family photos, two months after she lost her memory in 2018Denicola sits besides her husband as they look through old family photos, two months after she lost her memory in 2018. WAFB/YouTube

Five years after she suffered the migraine that changed her life, the nearly 60-year-old grandmother has still not recovered memories.

Doctors are afraid she will never get her memory back.

“They told me, if by now I haven’t gotten it, then I probably won’t,” she told outlet.

TGA is a “temporary, anterograde amnesia with an acute onset” that mostly affects individuals middle-aged and older, according to the National Library of Medicine, with 5.2-10 people of 10,000 suffering annually with the number rising to 23.5-32/100,000 individuals over the age of 50.

Kim DenicolaEven though she lost her years of memories, Denicola looks forward to each Christmas so she can make new ones with her family. WAFB/YouTube

It often occurs during periods of “particularly strenuous activity, high-stress events, or coitus, but it can be seen with migraines.”

The memory condition is often a temporary event and can reoccur, but death is very rare.

Denicola has been reading journal entries in a bid to remember her life but says it feels like reading about someone else.

Denicola has rekindled her love for her husband and watched her children grow up through her stories and pictures.

Denicola has been reading journal entries in a bid to remember her life but says it feels like reading about someone else.
Denicola has been reading journal entries in a bid to remember her life but says it feels like reading about someone else. WAFB/YouTube

While it seems she lost 30 years of her life, Denicola is still living each year the best she could.

“I may have lost my memories, but guess what? We can make new ones,” she told WAFB.

Full Article & Source:
Louisiana grandmother goes to hospital with headache, wakes up with no memory of past 30 years — and thinks she was teen still in ‘80s

Monday, December 25, 2023

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How we investigated Maine’s probate courts

By Samantha Hogan

The Maine Monitor spent a year reporting about the state’s probate court system. Here’s why and how we did so.

A black sign reading "Probate Office" is attached to the wall outside the doorway to the office.
Photo by Fred J. Field.

We spent a year reporting and writing “Maine’s Part-Time Court” to understand the lives and death of residents in probate court. 

Maine’s 16 independent, county-run probate courts are not a part of the state judicial branch. The probate courts are run by part-time, elected judges responsible for monitoring the well-being and financial futures of adults and children under guardianship and conservatorship, as well as the estates of the deceased.

Our interest in the probate courts stemmed from two observations. 

One, Maine voters passed a constitutional amendment 56 years ago that would make probate judges full time, but in the five decades since then, the legislature has not completed the steps necessary to implement the will of the voters. 

Two, we uncovered systemic problems with other aspects of the state’s courts and justice system, including the lack of a statewide public defenders office and the recording of nearly 1,000 confidential attorney-client phone calls in county jails. 

The probate courts are a corner of the state’s judicial system that has been long overlooked despite serving thousands of Mainers.

In April, we sent a survey with 18 questions about staffing levels, the number of guardianships being overseen by the probate court, and financial reviews of conservators to each probate court. The Maine Monitor received responses from 10 probate courts, including Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Washington and York counties.

The survey revealed that many probate courts do not know how many adults are under guardianship, or if those people are alive or dead. And many probate courts do not audit conservators or have a method to detect attempted theft.

We observed proceedings at the Cumberland County Probate Court in Portland and Kennebec County Probate Court in Augusta. We also traveled to Bangor and Brunswick to spend the day with two women who shared their stories about being under guardianship, and how the mandate for probate courts to consider a less restrictive alternative to guardianship known as “supported decision-making” affected their lives.

Our observations were supplemented with interviews with 60 people, including probate judges, registers of probate, guardians, adults under guardianship, lawyers, disability advocates, family members, state officials, legislators and a former state Supreme Court associate justice. We also spoke with fraud detection experts in Florida and Minnesota court systems. We made multiple requests to interview the leaders of Adult Protective Services in Maine and were denied each time.

A gold glass-stained door to a probate office.
The Maine Monitor’s reporting showed that the challenges facing those who require the services of Maine’s probate system are only getting worse, one advocate said. Photo by Fred J. Field.

To broaden our understanding of the probate courts, we reviewed hundreds of pages of online probate court records and dozens of attorney discipline decisions where the probate court was mentioned. We also read state studies about financial exploitation of adults, demographics and characteristics of adults who get exploited, and seven decades of government research on ways to overhaul the state’s probate court system. 

The Monitor also made public records requests to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for data about the causes and circumstances of all adults who died under the state’s care of a public guardian between 2018 and May 2023.

We received an anonymized dataset of more than 200 people. The vast majority of deaths were deemed natural or accidental. The data revealed, however, that medical examiners had rarely done examinations of the deaths of people under public guardianship prior to 2021. 

The attorney general’s office also inadvertently sent the Monitor a spreadsheet that contained the names of seven people the medical examiner’s office deemed to have died in “undetermined” ways and one death medical examiners labeled as a “homicide.”

We read 300 pages of probate court records about the eight individuals; tracked down living relatives for interviews; contacted assisted living facilities, veterans homes and private adult foster homes where the eight had died; asked police about their investigations of the deaths — often to be told there was none; and interviewed the leader of the attorney general’s Healthcare Crimes Unit.

Unlike many states, death certificates are confidential in Maine and can only be accessed by family members. The attorney general’s office asked the Monitor not to publish the eight names, but the Monitor decided to publish their full names and details about their deaths to bring public attention to the state’s secretive system responsible for the well-being of some of the state’s most vulnerable people.

In response to the Monitor’s reporting, state lawmakers held a 3½-hour public hearing on Oct. 25 about how the state’s guardianship system operates.

Officials from the probate courts, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, medical examiner’s office, attorney general’s office and Disability Rights Maine were asked to come and speak. The hearing concluded with calls from legislators for more oversight of guardians.

This series “Maine’s Part-Time Court” was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. The investigation was also made possible by support from Report For America and the Investigative Editing Corps, which allowed Alan Miller and Mike Wagner to join as project editors. Samantha Hogan has been a reporter with The Maine Monitor since June 2019.

Full Article & Source:
How we investigated Maine’s probate courts

See Also:
Probate courts ripe for reform

Against Their Will: Maine’s probate courts lack a method to detect fraud. Some other states have robust audit systems.

Eight deaths raise questions about oversight of Maine’s public guardianships