Articles on this Page
- 05/21/17--23:00: _Column: A great nee...
- 05/22/17--22:00: _Could brain scans s...
- 05/22/17--22:30: _Records: Elders fal...
- 05/22/17--23:00: _Plaintiff in guardi...
- 05/23/17--22:00: _Checking in on the ...
- 05/23/17--22:30: _Troubled Pensacola ...
- 05/23/17--23:00: _Editorial: Guardia...
- 05/23/17--23:30: _Commission: guardia...
- 05/24/17--21:30: _Fiduciary Rule Set ...
- 05/24/17--22:00: _Conflicting Data Re...
- 05/24/17--22:30: _Three more state wo...
- 05/24/17--23:00: _Nursing home fines ...
- 05/24/17--23:30: _New Mexico Conserva...
- 05/25/17--22:00: _Medical staff membe...
- 05/25/17--22:30: _Ohio Supreme Court ...
- 05/25/17--23:00: _Michigan: Probate ...
- 05/25/17--23:30: _Judge’s wife seeks ...
- 05/26/17--22:00: _Former nursing home...
- 05/26/17--22:30: _Arkansas Woman Dies...
- 05/26/17--23:00: _Maine Woman Admits ...
- 05/21/17--23:00: Column: A great need for more reform in guardianship
- 05/22/17--22:30: Records: Elders fall victim to financial exploitation
- 05/22/17--23:00: Plaintiff in guardianship case wants the judge to step aside
- 05/23/17--22:00: Checking in on the elderly to prevent abuse
- 05/23/17--22:30: Troubled Pensacola assisted care facility forced to close
- 05/23/17--23:00: Editorial: Guardianship Secrecy in New Mexico is Ripe for Reform
- 05/23/17--23:30: Commission: guardianship dockets to be posted online
- 05/24/17--21:30: Fiduciary Rule Set to Come into Effect in June
- 05/24/17--23:00: Nursing home fines skyrocket in 2017 after crackdown
- 05/24/17--23:30: New Mexico Conservator Darryl Millet Disputes Claims in Darnell Case
- 05/25/17--22:00: Medical staff member charged with abusing a disabled adult
- 05/25/17--22:30: Ohio Supreme Court yanks law license of ‘Ethics Monster’
- 05/26/17--23:00: Maine Woman Admits to Stealing $91,000 From Her Mother
Hamilton County Probate Court under Judge Ralph Winkler as superior guardian desperately needs better laws to ensure the ward is pre-eminent before the court, that lawyers and guardians reflect that priority. The ward’s wishes and best interest should be paramount. Sadly, that is not the case.
As the ward’s daughter, I compiled a list of complaints with substantiations about the conduct of the guardian and lawyer in a letter presented to them. Their response letter pointed out one area I was wrong about, the other issues were not satisfactorily addressed or completely ignored including three medical issues. Contained within was an offer to resign with stipulations added.
Naively, I forwarded the situation to Judge Winkler, thinking the court would be appalled also. I expected my efforts to warrant internal quality assessment at minimum. What occurred was a hearing; still thinking the court would protect our mother, my brother and I went pro se.
Response filings by the lawyer for the guardian and lawyer further shocked us. One purposefully omitted information that would have conveyed a completely opposite conclusion. Another further stipulated “the guardian is willing to resign without litigating the propriety of removal.” The audacity to withhold the truth and tell the court not to apply the law seemed to bolster our point.
The court denied removal of the guardian and lawyer saying no evidence was adduced.
The magistrate was given the evidence and laws my brother and I felt were violated, however, we found out later, it was not specifically presented as exhibit “A,” etc... nor given at the hearing to the other side, therefore, not adduced. In addition to the burden of providing evidence, researching appropriate law violations, we were expected to know how to properly adduce and find replacements for the guardian and lawyer. A policy brochure for guardianship families outlining the handling of grievance procedure would have been invaluable in our quest on our mother’s behalf.
Instead of the court acknowledging that confidence, trust, competence and effectiveness are totally lacking in this situation, they have done a huge disservice at the literal expense of their incompetent ward. The law has to contain enough discretion to rule favorably for their ward.
None of the above reflects person centered care, best interest or wishes of the ward. The National Guardianship Association has done a tremendous job formulating standards, a coordinating checklist, a code of ethics – it is remarkably well done. Precedence in court is already set using this fantastic tool. Again, this was given to the magistrate. It is time to hold this inadequate, misaligned court system liable.
Full Article & Source:
Column: A great need for more reform in guardianship
Experts think it may now be possible to identify vulnerable people who are most susceptible to being exploited by unscrupulous relatives and conmen so they can be better protected.
Researchers have discovered the brains of older people who have lost large amounts of money in financial scams have distinct differences in two key parts of their brains.
These brain regions are used to help us spot suspicious situations and untrustworthy people, but they were smaller and did not function properly in elderly people who had been exploited.
This may explain why some old people who appear to otherwise have their wits about them can unexpectedly fall victim to those looking to rip them off.
Dr Nathan Spreng, a cognitive scientist at Cornell University in Ithica, New York who led the study, said his team are now developing an assessment tool to identify people at risk of fraud.
He said: ‘Eventually we hope to develop a behavioural assessment tool that could be included as part of standard geriatric testing.
‘The goal would be to be able to identify people at risk and put the necessary financial protections in place before an older adult gets exploited.’
Up to half of over 65-year-olds in the UK have been targeted by fraudsters, according to a recent survey by Age UK and they estimate up to half a million older people have lost money in this way.
They warn that recent changes to pensions that allow retirees to withdraw their money as a lump sum makes this sort of crime an even greater risk.
Other academic studies have suggested up to one in 20 elderly people can be expected to suffer some sort of financial exploitation.
It has raised calls for better protections to be put in place to help older people, but identifying those most at risk has proved difficult.
In the latest study, which is published in the Journals of Gerontology, Dr Spreng and his colleagues examined the brains of 26 people over the age of 60 years old.
Half of them had suffered financial exploitation, including one whose son’s girlfriend borrowed £3,100 and never paid it back.
Another participant’s daughter had charged £1,550 to her account without permission while a third had money stolen by her grandson, who continued even after she confronted him.
Dr Spring and his team found the cortex in two brain regions - the anterior insula and the superior temporal sulcus - were thinner in those who had been scammed.
The neurological connections within the two regions was also greatly reduced, suggesting the communication needed to draw accurate conclusions about trustworthiness was impeded.
The anterior insular is involved in detecting meaningful information in the environment around us, including identifying potential threats.
The superior temporal region of the brain is involved in interpreting information from social interactions, such as facial expressions and tone of voice.
Dr Spreng said it was still unclear why only some people seemed to suffer these brain changes while others did not.
He said: ‘We are unable to determine whether these results are attributable to brain changes that occur as part of the wide variability in normal aging or are attributable to specific life events.’
But he said the research could also help to reduce the stigma and embarrassment that victims of such crimes often feel.
He said: ‘Often people feel embarrassed to report that they have been exploited.
‘If our findings are replicated in larger studies, it would provide important evidence to demonstrate that financial exploitation is not the result of being careless or gullible.
‘Rather, it may be attributable to specific brain changes that occur as part of the normal aging process. We need to start treating this as a medical problem and not a societal one.’
Mervyn Kohler, a special adviser at Age UK, said: ‘The idea that anyone would deliberately target an older person for the purpose of fraud is so abhorrent that most of us prefer never to think about it.
‘Worryingly, there is every reason to suppose the threat to older people is increasing.
‘This research will be very interesting and timely as it will help to identify those most and risk so that appropriate support is in place should the situation arise.
‘As well as the obvious financial impact of fraud on older people, the psychological impact can be debilitating and long lasting leading to stress, anxiety and depression.’
Full Article & Source:
Could brain scans spot elderly people at risk of fraud before they are even targeted by conmen?
"If you know your loved one is approaching an age where they are not able to make their own decisions, get together with family to discuss who is better person of contact who's the one who's going to do finances,” says Selah Hospice Care Director of Nursing Frank Lugo.
Crucial decisions can help avoid an elderly person falling victim to financial crimes and exploitation.
Those in the business of taking care of the elderly say that often those closest to the person are who commit the crime.
Recently, McAllen police arrested a home health nurse and her husband accused of stealing more than $450,000 from an elderly couple.
A nurse identified as Elizabeth Leal befriended an elderly couple, somehow got power of attorney and allegedly started stealing large amounts of money, as high as$28,000, according to a criminal complaint.
“If someone has dual power of attorney for example, they make decisions on best interest of family their loved one," said Valley Grande Manor Director of Nursing Joe Longoria. "If it’s financial, make sure bank records are scrutinized and looked at carefully-- make sure that all the financial transactions are in order.”
Leal and her husband now face first-degree felony charges due to the amount of money involved, which is over $450,000.
Longoria said one way of stopping elderly financial abuse from happening is by educating family and staff.
The National Adult Protective Services Association reports that one in 20 adults report some form of perceived financial mistreatment.
Full Article & Source:
Records: Elders fall victim to financial exploitation
|Judge Alan Malott|
Attorneys for Leonie Rosenstiel are asking District Judge Alan Malott to recuse himself from presiding over her lawsuit against Decades LLC in part because of his participation on a panel whose explicit purpose “was to address newspaper articles about matters that included the Defendants’ (Decades LLC) performance as a guardian or conservator,” according to a motion filed May 15.
The panel discussion was titled “The Truth Underlying the Reporting on Guardianships/Conservatorships in New Mexico.”
The panel’s membership included Gregory MacKenzie, one of the lawyers who has been representing Decades in the pending lawsuit filed by Rosenstiel in 2013. Rosenstiel’s lawsuit contends that Decades and its CEO, Nancy Oriola, were negligent in handling her mother’s assets and in administering her guardianship and conservatorship.
Decades served as Annette Rosenstiel’s court-appointed guardian and conservator from 2003 until her death at the age of 100 – according to court records – in 2012. She had previously been deemed mentally incapacitated by a judge and in need of a guardian and conservator.
The Journal published a series late last fall titled “Who Guards the Guardians?” but didn’t mention Rosenstiel’s mother’s case by name.
Decades and MacKenzie were mentioned in the series because they were involved in another controversial guardian/conservator case.
Malott has set a June 26 hearing on the matter and “all parties will have an opportunity to be heard,” said court executive officer James Noel on Friday. “Subsequently, the Court will make its ruling.”
The Code of Judicial Conduct encourages judges in New Mexico to “engage in appropriate extrajudicial activities” to the “extent that time permits, and judicial independence and impartiality are not compromised.”
The recusal motion filed on May 15 contends that Malott’s “participation in the April 5 panel would cause a reasonable person to question the Judge’s impartiality” and that rules governing judges require him to step aside if that’s the case.
Malott appeared at the lunch meeting panel discussion of the Albuquerque Lawyers Club, a group of attorneys that has informal discussions about legal matters. Other panelists were MacKenzie; Mary Galvez, a professional guardian who is also frequently appointed by judges as a court visitor to advise whether guardianships are needed; and an elder law attorney, Ellen Leitzer.
Panelists, including Malott, were critical of the Journal series.
Leitzer and Galvez have both worked with MacKenzie and Decades’ CEO Oriola “to lobby on behalf of the elements of the commercial guardianship industry in, among other matters, vigorously resisting even modest efforts to improve transparency in guardianship proceedings,” Rosenstiel’s motion contends.
The membership of that panel “was slanted in favor of the commercial guardianship industry,” Rosenstiel’s motion states. Malott’s “mere participation” with attorney MacKenzie “conveys the impression that the Defendants are in a position to influence the Judge.”
The motion also cites statements Malott made as a panelist during a public town hall on guardianships held March 22 and sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal and KANW-FM. Malott appeared as the court’s representative.
That panel’s membership was more diverse than the attorneys’ club panel, Rosenstiel’s motion states, but Malott told the audience that although state law requires all records in guardian/conservator cases to be kept secret, he personally believed only medical and financial information should be sequestered. That “directly relates to confidentiality issues pending before the Court in this (Rosenstiel’s civil case against Decades),” the recusal motion states.
The motion also notes that an attorney for Decades sent Malott a letter about the case in 2014 without notifying Rosenstiel or her attorney. The judge later noted in an order that the defendants sought no special consideration from him and none was given, stated that all communications with him should be filed motions or related to scheduling matters.
Malott hasn’t yet ruled on the Albuquerque Journal’s motion to open the 20-some sealed filings in Rosenstiel’s lawsuit against Decades – a request echoed by Rosenstiel and her attorneys. Malott recently permitted public inspection of portions of Decades’ response to the Journal motion for unsealing, which was filed in late March. He redacted other portions.
Decades contends that the records in the case should be kept confidential to protect the privacy of Annette Rosenstiel, even after her death. Rosenstiel, who published various articles and books, was married to a New York financial heavyweight, Raymond S. Rosenstiel.
Decades added that they welcomed a public trial on Rosenstiel’s lawsuit, but could not get one if the Journal is allowed to report on the court filings prior to trial.
The Journal and Leonie Rosenstiel argue that the case is a straightforward malpractice civil lawsuit and is improperly sealed. The only privacy interest being protected, they say, is Decades’.
Full Article & Source:
Plaintiff in guardianship case wants the judge to step aside
WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Brunswick Gatorettes brought some special cheers to an event Thursday to raise awareness about elder abuse, which is recognized between Mother's and Father's Day.
People gathered at the Brunswick County Government Complex walking trail as the adult services team took part in the Walk, Roll and Stroll event.
Elder abuse can range from self-neglect to financial exploitation and is typically under-reported.
"I'm 73 years old and I just hate the thought someone my age being abused like this. It's just not fair," Gatorette captain Judy Allen said. "They've had a hard life, a lot of them, and they don't deserve this."
Everyone is encouraged to check in on older individuals on a regular basis.
"If we don't try to look out for them, who's going to do it?" Allen questioned.
If you have any concerns, notify the Department of Social Services immediately. Even if you don't have much information, officials at DSS will investigate your suspicions.
Full Article & Source:
Checking in on the elderly to prevent abuse
Little Friends Learning Center, which conducts business as Alpine Adult Care Center, will be out of operation by the end of the month following a settlement agreement between the company and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
On March 9, the AHCA issued an emergency moratorium on admissions to the center after a weeklong investigation into the 14-bed facility on Louisiana Drive. The case concluded May 8 when the AHCA issued a final order to revoke the center's assisted care license.
The facility was fined $50,000, though $47,000 of that will be stayed as long as the facility doesn't again operate under an assisted care license.
The order states the center can operate through May 31, but only to collect and distribute patient records and safely remove existing patients from the facility.
The settlement agreement states the facility and its director, Sue Ann Thompson, cannot apply for an assisted care license in the future. It also states that by May 31, both must surrender their licenses and show documentation that each of Alpine's patients has been relocated to another licensed facility.
Thompson and her attorney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The AHCA's original investigation unearthed the use of expired or improper medications, inadequate record-keeping that resulted in staff not knowing patients' end-of-life wishes and staff who had not been properly trained, according to the moratorium documents.
One patient whose case was highlighted in the documents died last year after what the AHCA suggested was negligence. The patient was in hospice-level care and was under a doctor's orders to take breathing medication four times a day, as well as an inhaler daily to help with symptoms.
The AHCA report suggests Alpine Adult Care Center staff were habitually lax with those medication requirements, and six hours before the patient's death, staff didn't administer the scheduled early-morning dosage. The patient was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor on Nov. 14, but wasn't resuscitated. Emergency responders pronounced the patient dead soon after. Three of the four Alpine staff members who responded to that patient weren't trained in resuscitation, the documents state.
The AHCA's complaint against Alpine, included with the final order, states six patients' cases were reviewed, and each one received inadequate care, largely surrounding issues of improper medication dosages or administering.
In some cases, the staff interviewed by the AHCA said they administered dosages of some medications, but didn't keep records.
Full Article & Source:
Troubled Pensacola assisted care facility forced to close
So critics can take some comfort in the fact that a commission appointed by the state Supreme Court to review the system and recommend changes has honed in on the lack of transparency as one of the key issues.
Retired state District Judge Wendy York, who was appointed to chair the commission, says it is one of the recurrent themes presented during the commission’s first two public meetings. “We are hearing about notice of court hearings, involvement of family members and what is the appropriate line to draw between complete access to information and privacy.”
And it isn’t just aggrieved family members who have complained they are shut out of the information loop at the whim of for-profit, court-appointed guardians and conservators who take control of their loved one and his or her assets. Attorney Brian Vogler told the commission during its May 13 meeting that the secrecy of the process raises “due process concerns.” Vogler says his client needed to get some information from his guardian but the guardian declined to provide it. “It seems there needs to be a window in to see how the court is proceeding,” he said. After the meeting he said his inability to see how judges behave or have behaved in the past prevented him from learning information he needed and he wanted to speak to the commission to provide a perspective that the secrecy “doesn’t just impact families.”
And that secrecy is a thick blanket, with family members and others saying that in addition to difficulty getting information, they have been threatened with fines and penalties for revealing matters they learned in their own cases.
In theory, only a docket sheet in a guardianship case is considered a public record. But many clerks don’t know the law. The docket sheets have not been posted online, as they are supposed to be, and in a recent case a printed copy of a docket sheet obtained by the Journal had a questionable redaction by district court personnel – the name of a paid medical professional.
Editorial: Guardianship Secrecy in New Mexico is Ripe for Reform>/a>
Dockets, which provide basic information about guardianship cases, filed in state court are scheduled to appear on the court’s official website, www.nmcourts.com, starting May 23 under on ongoing court effort to streamline online case files.
The New Mexico Adult Guardianship Study Commission on Friday voted to have its chairwoman, former District Judge Wendy York, write a letter to the court asking that the records access changes be made a priority if the implementation doesn’t happen as scheduled.
Most records, reports and evidence are confidential under state law in cases where a petition is filed with the court seeking guardianship for an allegedly incapacitated person.
But certain records are supposed to be public under state law, including the docket sheet, the person’s name and the duration of the guardianship, according to state law.
York said some court clerks have withheld that information. Posting the information online will help ensure that people throughout the state can learn basic information about a guardianship petition, including the name of the presiding judge.
Full Article & Source:
Commission: guardianship dockets to be posted online
The so-called Fiduciary Rule is set to move forward in June, the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, announced in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Full Article and Source:
Fiduciary Rule Set to Come in Effect in June
Scoring below average
The report comes from the Scripps Gerontology Center at Ohio’s Miami University. It shows in 2013, the quality of the state’s 962 nursing homes was lower than the national average on 10 key measures. Those include the percentage of patients suffering from falls, pain, weight loss and mental-health related issues.
Peter Van Runkle speaks for the Ohio Health Care Association, the lobbying group for Ohio’s nursing homes.
“They were using 2013 data. And when you look at the 2017 data, the current data, there’s a different story on a number of those measures we are now above the national average. These measures tend to move around some,” Van Runkle says.
The year 2013 was three years after John Kasich was elected governor and made a widely reported comment about special interest groups – including the nursing home lobby – that he repeated again in 2011:
“You get on the bus or we’re going to run you over. Now they think they’re going to stop me, some of them. They think they’re going to be able to carve out their little piece of pork. They think they’re going to keep their snouts in that trough. If they do, you lose,” Kasich said then.
Different statistics, different stories
Now there are 930 nursing homes in Ohio. And Kasich’s office still has concerns backed up by a release of data showing big problems continue with them, especially larger facilities and those that operate for-profit.
The spreadsheet from the Office of Health Transformation shows smaller facilities get higher ratings, and most of those top ratings are in the 64 percent of facilities that are non-profit. Greg Moody is the director of the Office of Health Transformation, and says there’s a way to improve those stats.
“Our objective is always to reward the facilities that are providing the best quality. Unfortunately, the way our current reimbursement system is set up in statute, we pay the same price for the facilities that go the extra distance and provide really good quality, we pay the same price for those that have lower quality, too,” said Moody.
But Van Runkle disputes that.
“The notion that all facilities are paid the same regardless of how they perform on quality metrics is just inaccurate. In fact, there are in statutes five specific quality measures that we have to meet.”
Lobbying for managed care
Van Runkle is especially concerned about what the Kasich administration wants to do, namely moving to private-sector managed-care plans for Medicaid patients instead of what it calls a “one-size-fits-all reimbursement."
“We find it really ironic that the same administration that is pressing this message that we’re not up to snuff is at the same time wanting to cut us and put us in managed care – which, of course, managed-care plans have a financial incentive to pay us less. Because the less that they pay providers, the more that goes to their bottom line,” says Van Runkle.
But Moody said more than 20 states are trying this approach. He linked it to the state’s five-year pilot called MyCare Ohio, a managed-care program which covers about 100,000 Medicaid and Medicare recipients.
“We have seen evidence that managed care works through our own MyCare project here in Ohio. So the evidence is pretty clear that, in fact, managed long term services and supports does improve clinical outcomes for patients,” said Moody. “And it saves, ultimately, taxpayers, because we’re talking about the Medicaid program here.”
The Kasich administration’s plan was cut from the budget the House has passed, but the Office of Health Transformation is hoping to lobby the Senate to bring it back. The House also added $100 million to nursing homes, but Van Runkle says there are still $135 million in cuts that weren’t restored.
Full Article & Source:
Conflicting Data Revives the Battle Over How to Fund Ohio's Nursing Homes
Three more workers at Iowa institutions for people with severe intellectual disabilities have been fired or resigned over allegations they mistreated residents or failed to report such abuse, state officials confirmed this week.
Two workers were recently fired from the Glenwood Resource Center and another resigned after being suspended at the Woodward Resource Center.
The ouster of three more workers comes in the wake of 13 resignations or firings at the Glenwood institution late last year for physical abuse and verbal humiliation of residents with severe autism or other disabilities.
The new allegations at the Glenwood facility surfaced this month in an inspectors’ report. The inspectors wrote that a staff member used a spoon to smear food on a resident’s face. Another worker told the staff member to “knock it off.” The second worker wiped off the resident’s face, and tried to comfort the person by holding hands and saying “it would be OK,” the inspectors wrote. However, the second staff member did not immediately report the abuse to supervisors, as required by the institution’s policy and by state law, the report says.
The second staff member later told inspectors that she saw her colleague smear food across the faces of two residents, but she didn’t immediately report the abuse because it was her first day working in that area of the institution, “and she was afraid she was overreacting.”
A worker at the Woodward institution has resigned amid an investigation into allegations that he verbally and sexually abused a resident and verbally abused two others, state records show. After being suspended in January, the worker accused a colleague of striking a resident with a helmet, kicking the resident in the leg, pinning the resident on a sofa and spitting in the person’s face, state records show. The department couldn’t substantiate those allegations, but it did substantiate allegations of mistreatment of residents by the first worker. That worker resigned March 5, Department of Human Services administrators wrote in their response to a citation from the Department of Inspections and Appeals.
Details about the various allegations were included in inspection reports since February that carried a total of $11,000 in proposed fines against the two institutions. None of the workers or residents are named in the reports.
Rick Shults, a Department of Human Services administrator who oversees the state institutions, said Tuesday that the inspection reports show the facilities’ leaders are serious about fixing problems. “We are absolutely determined to continue quality improvement,” he said in an interview. He said many problems raised by inspectors were immediately fixed, and staff members didn’t try to hide anything.
“We are very transparent in what we report. We want DIA to know everything,” he said.
Shults said the fines likely will be reduced because his agency isn’t contesting them.
The inspectors identified other problems at Glenwood besides the food-smearing incident. Those included insufficient fire drills and lack of timely investigation and reporting of unexplained bruises and scrapes of residents. The inspectors also cited the Glenwood facility for a March incident in which a disabled resident was seriously injured because staff members used the wrong type of shower chair. The resident needed 18 stitches to close facial cuts after falling out of the chair, the inspectors wrote.
Shults, one of the Department of Human Services' top leaders, is directly overseeing the Glenwood institution while his department seeks a replacement for Superintendent Gary Anders, who retired in February. The two institutions have a total of about 360 residents and about 1,300 workers.
Seven of the 13 former workers at the Glenwood institution who were fired or quit late last year face criminal charges for allegedly mistreating residents there. Shults said it would be up to law enforcement officials to decide whether to charge any of the three former workers cited in the more recent inspections. Woodward Police Chief Joseph Cox said no charges have been filed against the worker who recently resigned there after being accused of sexual abuse. Mills County Attorney Naeda Elliott said no charges have been filed yet against the two recently fired workers at Glenwood.
His department has said it has increased supervision of front-line workers and improved staff training in response to the alleged mistreatment uncovered at Glenwood last year. Supporters of the institutions, including several parents' of residents, have emphasized that most of the staff are dedicated, caring workers.
Full Article & Source:
Three more state workers ousted amid allegations disabled residents were abused
This year's four-month total for fines was $796,750, compared with $639,500 for the three years ending Dec. 31, state Health Department records show. The totals do not include federal fines that are recommended by the state and are typically much larger.
State surveyors sanctioned 86 facilities so far this year, including three in the Lehigh Valley region, compared with 72 in all of last year and 47 in 2014 and 2015 combined.
The state Health Department said it was responding to an auditor general report issued last summer.
"When the auditor general looked at our oversight of nursing homes, one of the key recommendations was to be more aggressive in our oversight and we are," the department said this week in a statement.
As to whether the tactic is improving care at the state's 700 nursing homes, state regulators said "it is too early to tell the impact this is having."
An industry spokesman said the impact was clear: The heavier sanctions are a financial strain on operators and are not likely to produce better outcomes for residents.
"Any time a dollar leaves the bedside that didn't have to leave the bedside, that's an opportunity lost to enhance the care provided," said Russ McDaid, president of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association and the Center for Assisted Living Management, both trade groups in Harrisburg.
But an advocate for the elderly, who helped spur tougher oversight of nursing homes with a 2015 report that criticized the Health Department for dismissing 92 percent of the complaints against Philadelphia nursing homes, welcomed the change.
"This jump in fines sends a clear message to nursing home operators that the days of lax oversight are over," said Sam Brooks, an attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
"For years, nursing homes were allowed to provide inadequate care that resulted in widespread harm to nursing home residents across Pennsylvania. Easily preventable deaths and injuries became common, as nursing homes did not fear any penalty," Brooks said.
Secretary of Health Karen Murphy announced in October that the department would start using more discretion in deciding how much it would fine facilities, taking into account the level of harm, how long it takes for a problem to be fixed, the facility's track record of compliance and other factors.
Old Orchard Health Care Center in Bethlehem Township was fined $1,500 in January for violations discovered during an inspection in September. According to that inspection report, a resident with a history of falling fell off a bed while a nurse aide was helping her dress. She fractured a hip and required surgery.
Old Orchard Health Care Center did not comment Thursday. The state report says the home disciplined the employee and changed procedures so the resident and others in similar conditions would not be dressed while sitting on the edge of their beds.
Kirkland Village in Bethlehem was fined $2,000 in February for violations discovered during an inspection in December. The Morning Call previously reported about that incident. A resident fell and fractured a hip after being left alone in a restroom despite instructions that she was not to be left unattended.
Kirkland Village did not return a call Thursday. It previously told The Morning Call it has policies and training to prevent such incidents, but the employee did not follow the policy and no longer works there.
An East Stroudsburg nursing home was fined $15,750 in January for violations discovered during an inspection in September.
The inspection found several violations including a resident who fell in a restroom and broke his thigh and a "pink slime-like film" in an ice machine, according to the report. Routine fire drills weren't done, two residents didn't receive adequate care plans for bladder problems and two residents weren't timely seen by a physician.
The home immediately cleaned the ice machine and submitted plans to correct other issues, according to the report.
The home, now known as The Meadows at Stroud for Nursing and Rehabilitation, was fined under its previous owner and operator, Golden Living Center-Stroud, according to Jeff Deutsch, vice president for business development at Priority Healthcare Group, which took over management in February.
Deutsch said he could not comment on the inspection and fine because they occurred under the facility's previous owner.
Golden Living, which is based in Texas, had the most fines from the Pennsylvania Health Department since 2014, a total of $165,150. It sold the operating licenses to its 36 facilities in Pennsylvania in October and February, the Health Department said.
Ron Barth, CEO of LeadingAge PA, a trade group for nonprofit long-term care providers, acknowledged there are horror stories in nursing homes and bad facilities, which the department rarely shuts down. Instead, he said the department seems to have decided that it will "fine all facilities into compliance."
One reason for higher fines is a new approach to citing nursing homes for "immediate jeopardy," which is defined by federal regulators as "a situation in which the facility's noncompliance with one or more requirements of participation has caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident."
Brooks, the Community Legal Services attorney, said an example of immediate jeopardy is when residents who are not supposed to eat solid food are left alone during a meal. That is a dangerous situation that can and has led to choking deaths.
Last year, the state had 39 immediate jeopardy citations, up from 12 in 2015 and 11 in 2014. The state said a major reason for the increase was the decision to allow anonymous complaints in 2015. "Each time there is a complaint, our surveyors investigate, and by being on site more frequently they identified more immediate jeopardy cases. When there is an immediate jeopardy case, the issue must be corrected before the surveyor leaves to ensure the safety of the patients," the department said.
In a case that has baffled those in the industry, a surveyor cited a facility near Harrisburg for immediate jeopardy in March because the hot water available from a water purifier outside the CEO's office and near the activity room was too hot and residents could have been hurt if they pressed and held two red buttons to dispense hot water. In the past, the surveyor probably would have pointed out the potential problem and suggested that management fix it, Barth said. Now, the nursing home will be fined and its rating on Nursing Home Compare will plummet, he said.
"In the meantime, there are bad facilities out there that the department still allows to operate," Barth said.
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Nursing home fines skyrocket in 2017 after crackdown
The conservator in a controversial court case involving the matriarch of a well-known Albuquerque family is defending his actions, challenging complaints made by family members and others in a Journal series late last year on adult guardianships involving private professionals.
The Darnell guardian/conservator case was prominently featured in the Journal series by journalist Diane Dimond, who reported family complaints that the estate dissipated from about $5 million to about $750,000.
In addition to challenging the initial value, Millet also cited “expensive” costs to the estate of $14,000-$16,000 a month to provide professional care for Blair Darnell during her six-year guardianship. Some family members attribute the high costs to the court’s appointment of for-profit professionals rather than allowing them to care for Blair Darnell, who remained in her own home.
But Millet wrote an eight-page letter to the Journal, dated April 9, 2017, in which he said he was now able to offer previously confidential information for two reasons:
First, he said members of the Darnell family and the Journal “have destroyed any privacy” a sequestration order in the case might have provided to the late Blair Darnell. And, he wrote, he could now speak because the rules of professional conduct governing lawyers allow attorneys “to reveal confidential information to the extent necessary to refute allegations against themselves.”
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Darnell Conservator Disputes Claims
Who Guards the Guardians?
Families Say They Were Shut Out
Families Feel Steamrolled as Estates Disappear
Fixing a Well-Meaning but Flawed System
LUTZ, Fla. - A woman who suffers from a traumatic brain injury and relies on medical staff for her care, was abused by her personal caretaker, according to Florida's Attorney General.
Caretaker Erica R. Reid, 24, was an employee of NeuroRestorative Florida, a Medicaid-funded facility in Lutz, but is now charged with abusing a disabled adult.
According to Attorney General Pam Bondi's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Reid shoved the patient in the back, causing the victim to fall to the floor, and could have caused injury.
The Attorney General's Office says there is surveillance video of the incident, which shows the patient reaching for Reid's necklace before turning towards her room. Reid then pushed the patient from behind into her room, according to the arrest affidavit executed by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
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Medical staff member charged with abusing a disabled adult
The Ohio Supreme Court handed down the sanction against Kenneth Donchatz by a 4-3 vote, with the dissenting justices preferring a two-year suspension with six months stayed.
Donchatz, who once described himself as “The Ethics Monster,” formerly was an assistant disciplinary counsel with the court who pursued charges of professional misconduct against other lawyers.
The court majority said Donchatz forfeited his right to practice to law through “significant acts of dishonesty” and “false and contradictory statements” he made throughout his disciplinary proceedings.
One charge against Donchatz alleged he improperly obtained a $100,000 loan from a client in 2009 in a transaction that was not arms-length and only repaid $57,000. Donchatz told the justices that the rest was repaid with an antique desk, given to him by the same client, that was discovered by a certified appraiser to be worth more than $51,000 after it was refurbished. The statement left Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor incredulous.
He also was found to have filed court paperwork falsely claiming he fully repaid a $2,181 default judgment that a tree-trimming company won against him and filing a false statement. Donchatz also was discovered to have made an improper filing falsely claiming that a lawsuit had been settled.
The lawyer also was found to have misrepresented the statements of an assistant disciplinary counsel, and defaming her, while representing another lawyer accused of misconduct. The First Amendment does not protect lawyers from liability for making malicious statements against other lawyers in legal proceedings, the justices ruled.
The court found that Donchatz deliberately made false statements and disobeyed rules in four separate cases.
The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, which handled the case due to the lawyer’s former association with the disciplinary counsel, argued that Donchatz should receive an indefinite suspension. The Board of Professional Conduct had recommended the two-year suspension with six months stayed.
Given his earlier service to the state, his 16 years of teaching at Ohio State University and his coaching of the Westerville North High School mock-trial team for 20 years, Donchatz argued he deserved a stayed suspension.
Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Patrick F. Fischer and R. Patrick DeWine joined O’Connor in indefinitely suspending Donchatz. Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French and William M. O’Neill formed the minority.
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Ohio Supreme Court yanks law license of ‘Ethics Monster’
7 Investigator Heather Catallo has been showing you how several local families have been losing large parts of their inheritance to certain public officials and real estate brokers.
Here’s what’s been happening: Real Estate Broker Ralph Roberts has teamed up with some Attorney General-appointed lawyers called Public Administrators. The Public Administrators and Roberts’ company, Probate Asset Recovery, bill the estates for thousands of dollars, plus Roberts gets real estate commissions when they sell the homes that are at stake in the estates after someone dies. The Public Administrators then take legal fees from the estate.
“I find properties. I believe there’s a benefit, so I then tell a public administrator, here’s the benefit there,” said Roberts in November 2016.
“So you’re getting the real estate fees, and you’re getting the Probate Asset Recovery fees,” asked Catallo.
“If we’re successful, yes,” said Roberts.
On Thursday, St. Pierre officially resigned as a Public Administrator.
St. Pierre told the Attorney General that because of a “barrage of false allegations” he decided to step down.
The resignation came within hours of a Judge issuing an order for St. Pierre to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to show up for a Macomb County probate hearing this morning.
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Probate Public Administrator for Macomb County Resigns After 7 Action News Investigation
wife of a recently retired judge and tennis instructor who became a guardian for incapacitated seniors and other adults.
They objected in court to her taking of thousands of dollars in “retainers” without prior judicial approval.
They complained about her hiring a cavalcade of attorneys to fight her detractors in court, generating legal fees that came directly from the life savings of these seniors.
Others — including the former attorneys for one senior — railed against her refusal in court to say where she got the money to pay off a $308,000 foreclosure judgment on a Delray Beach home.
Such complaints litter her cases in the past two years. In October, Palm Beach County’s chief judge handed down sweeping rule changes, prohibiting retainers and addressing the credit-worthiness of guardians. Savitt points out she has never been removed from a case or sanctioned by a judge.
Her husband, former Circuit Judge Martin Colin, retired after The Palm Beach Post reported about his conflicts with his wife’s attorneys in the series Guardianships: A Broken Trust.
Savitt has also been accused in court documents of teaming up with other family members accused of taking advantage of the senior whose life — and life savings — she has vowed to protect.
And it has happened again.
Enter James Vassallo. When the Deerfield Beach handyman learned his brother and sister took about $180,000 from his father’s life savings, a lawyer told him to get a court-appointed professional guardian. In September 2014, he put his father into the hands of Elizabeth Savitt.
The siblings received demand letters initially from Savitt to pay back what they took. Then the guardian cut a deal with them. They didn’t have to pay it all back. They didn’t have to pay it back immediately. She even placed Vassallo’s father, Albert Sr., in the home of the daughter who had taken $130,000: Susan Mast.
The elder Vassallo died last November and now Savitt is serving as personal representative of his estate. Previously, she got James removed as a trustee to his father’s estate in an action that cost the senior Vassallo $22,000, the son says.
And now she has proposed a new deal to the family that would further benefit Mast from the father’s estimated $600,000 estate.
In an April 18 e-mail that was sent to five other siblings but not James, Savitt suggests they pony up out of their inheritance $54,000 for the care Mast claims she provided their father before the guardianship in 2014. Savitt provided no receipts, no proof of such care by Mast to the family.
“Savitt continues to engage in a pattern of behavior which tends to treat the person accused of harming the ward more favorably than other beneficiaries,” wrote Palm Beach Gardens attorney Thomas Dougherty, who represents James Vassallo, in an objection filed with the court.
The newest proposal comes nearly three years after Savitt negotiated the settlement with Mast and her brother, Albert Vassallo Jr., over the $180,000. Under the agreement, Mast would pay back about $62,000, while her brother would pay about $50,000.
Mast under the settlement didn’t have to account for missing assets in a savings deposit box or their father’s $13,000 Hyundai, which were listed in the demand letter. Mast never claimed during the settlement mediation that she was owed money for Albert Sr.’s care before guardianship.
Under Savitt’s newest proposal, Mast would have to pay back very little of her part of the $180,000 transferred from her dad’s account.
“Is this safeguarding my father’s money?” said James Vassallo, who didn’t agree to the settlement.
“Susan was the one who made me get Betsy involved in the first place in all of this by taking money from my father. Now they are working together like they are partners in this thing. It’s hard to believe.”
Mast declined to answer questions about Savitt’s newest proposal. “Why are you calling me?” she said. “I was the only one who took care of my father. You better hope your father doesn’t get ill.”
Her brother, Albert Vassallo Jr., who must pay back $48,000 under the settlement, called a reporter and left a curse-riddled message saying not to contact his sister again.
Savitt, when asked about the Vassallo case while in court on another matter late last month, said: “Get your facts straight. The heirs know the facts.”
The facts are that the senior Vassallo lived next to James for three years in Century Village in Deerfield Beach. James says he has documentation declaring him his father’s caregiver from the Veterans Administration during this period.
His attorney, Dougherty, has seen this before when he represented a son of Lorraine Hilton, who was in a guardianship under Savitt.
Court documents in the Hilton case outlined numerous actions by Savitt that financially benefited the other son who had been accused of physically abusing and stealing from his mother.
The family of Helen O’Grady, another senior in a Savitt guardianship, told The Post in 2015 that the judge’s wife seemed to cater to certain relatives in order to cause acrimony within the family to generate litigation that led to more fees. After O’Grady died, Savitt took $30,000 from the senior’s life savings without prior judicial approval but a judge made her return most of it.
World War III
Savitt in her April 18 e-mail to the Vassallo family said Mast and Vassallo Jr. met at her attorney’s Boca Raton office in mid-April:
“They brought up Susan being paid back $54,000 for the care of her dad she provided for her dad the previous three years before guardianship,” Savitt wrote. “Apparently, she says she spent $128,000 for taking care of her dad but will settle for the $54,000.”
Savitt then asks the siblings to agree to pay Mast $10,800 each out of their inheritance.
“The guardian/trustee Elizabeth Savitt has failed to investigate any such claims and has failed to protect the assets of the guardianship and trust,” Dougherty wrote in his objection.
Savitt’s current attorney in the Vassallo case, Ellen Morris, wrote Dougherty an e-mail after he filed his objection stating that Mast was simply asking her siblings to “voluntarily contribute to her.”
“You incurred unnecessary fees for your client and turned this into WWIII for no reason,” the e-mail states.
Morris also took exception to Dougherty mentioning that the meeting took place at the attorney’s office — though he took that information from Savitt’s email to the family. “Neither Betsy nor I have anything to do with the payment,” she wrote.
She said Savitt didn’t send his client, James Vassallo, the proposal to pay Mast more money because the guardian knew he wouldn’t agree.
Currently, James and another brother, Ralph Vassallo, are trying to get answers from Savitt on the rest of their inheritance and $51,000 she apparently has carved out for fees.
“She is trying to put things up in the air. She is not being specific with what’s going on,” Ralph Vassallo said from his home Garden City on Long Island in New York. “I don’t understand why we just got a partial payment. She says maybe we will get the rest of the money in June. Why June?”
The brother says the worst part is that they have been so busy trying to get Savitt to release their inheritance that there hasn’t been time to grieve. “You can’t really heal,” Ralph said. “I feel like I’m being harassed by this woman. This should not be taking place.”
While she has released two-thirds of their father’s inheritance, James and Ralph Vassallo want Savitt to explain why she is holding on to two investment bonds worth $200,000.
Savitt told the family that if they cash in the bonds, they would incur a penalty. The Vassallos have reluctantly agreed to take the penalty in order to get their inheritance now but Savitt continues to hold onto the bond money.
James Vassallo has been one of Savitt’s foremost critics, discovering she doubled-billed her father in one instance and questioning in court the tens of thousands of dollars the guardian’s attorneys charged his father. He also brought up money to pay off her foreclosure in court, telling a judge he was worried Savitt was commingling personal and guardianship monies.
Savitt, after being questioned by The Post for more than a year on the foreclosure judgment, said she has shown the Clerk & Comptroller’s Office that the payment came from her personal account.
“She has a beef with me because I see everything she is doing,” James Vassallo said. “Nobody is helping me. No courts. No judge. Nobody. And she just keeps on going.”
James Vassallo said he didn’t learn of his father’s death from Savitt until the day of the funeral and is still trying to get answers on what he says are questionable expenditures during the guardianship.
James Vassallo said he has lost all faith in the court system because of his experience with Savitt and his father’s guardianship.
“I’m so disappointed with the courts that they allow this one guardian to do whatever she wants,” he said. “Why? Because she was married to a judge. … Common sense says something is going on here.”
The savings of incapacitated seniors flow into the household of former Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Martin Colin courtesy of Colin’s wife — professional guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt. Since The Palm Beach Post published its series Guardianship: A Broken Trust, Palm Beach County and the state have made major reforms in the guardianship system.
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Judge’s wife seeks to steer $54,000 to woman accused of taking from dad
Judge’s wife facing more complaints about guardianship fees
Attorney for judge’s wife tried to change new rules for guardians
Savitt under investigation by new state guardianship office
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Charles Kubicki sentenced Brian Frawley, 42, of Covington, Ky., to four years in prison.
Frawley, who was previously employed as the business office manager for Clifton Care Center, pleaded guilty in April to a charge of theft from a person in a protected class, a felony of the first degree.
Agents with the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit found that Frawley stole more than $173,000 from more than 150 elderly and/or disabled Clifton Care Center residents between December 1, 2008 and March 31, 2013. The investigation found that Frawley stole cash from resident trust fund accounts and made false entries in trust fund ledgers in an attempt to cover up the theft.
"The victims in this case trusted the defendant to manage their resident trust funds, but he abused that trust to fill his own pockets," DeWine said. "The money he stole should have been used toward the wellbeing of each resident, but the defendant instead spent it on himself."
Frawley was also ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution. The remaining losses were covered by insurance.
The case was prosecuted by attorneys with the office of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters.
Anyone who suspects Medicaid fraud or patient neglect, abuse, or exploitation should contact Attorney General DeWine's Office at 800-282-0515. The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit enforces Ohio's Patient Abuse and Neglect Law, which protects the mentally and physically disabled and the elderly from neglect, abuse, and exploitation in Ohio's long-term care facilities.
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Former nursing home business office manager sentenced to prison for theft from residents
|Caretaker Jennifer Lea Collins|
Jane Palmer Sandefur's body was riddled with injuries clearly inflicted by human teeth, with police records stating the 92-year-old had been "bitten on the face, hand, arm (and) leg and the nipple of the victim's left breast had been bitten off," KAIT reports.
Additionally, and perhaps most grisly of all, the search warrant to get blood samples from alleged assailant Jennifer Lea Collins noted, "The victim appeared to have part of her chin bitten off."
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Woman Dies After Getting Allegedly Knawed to Death by Caretaker
A woman from West Newfield, who pleaded guilty in a case of elder financial exploitation, was back in court Wednesday for a hearing to determine how much money she stole from her mother.
Donna Dell made nearly 600 transactions with her mother's money for her own personal use. Her mother, Geraldine Orser, had Alzheimer's disease and was unaware her life savings were being drained.
Dell twice tried to delay the court proceedings in her case by asking for a new attorney, then a continuance. After the judge denied both motions, Dell admitted the money she had stolen from her mother totaled more than $91,000.
"The fact that Ms. Orser had Alzheimer's makes this particularly egregious in my mind," said Asst. County Prosecutor Emily Conant. "She was a perfect victim, she had no idea this was going on."
"She provided herself with enough money to live the way that she wanted to live for the remainder of her life," Conant said, "and that was taken from her by her daughter and she was forced to live in a place she no longer called home."
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Maine Woman Admits to Stealing $91,000 From Her Mother