Tuesday, March 20, 2018

An interview with Laura Checkoway, director of the Oscar-nominated Edith+Eddie

The Kartemquin Films release profiles nonagenarian newlyweds who were torn apart. 
By J.R. Jones
Laura Checkoway
Nominated for an Oscar this year, Laura Checkoway's short documentary Edith+Eddie tells the story of two nonagenarians in Alexandria, Virginia—Edith Hill, a black woman, and Eddie Harrison, a white man—who married in June 2014 after ten years of companionship. The happy couple resided in Edith’s home of 44 years with her daughter Rebecca Wright but, as the film records, had to be forcibly separated after a court-appointed attorney ruled that Edith should be moved to Florida to live with her other daughter. Checkoway, a Michigan native now living in New York, is a protege of local documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), who served as executive producer on the short and hooked her up with documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films. Edith+Eddie opens Friday at Music Box as part of two programs collecting this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary shorts.

How did you first hear about this story?
A photo of the couple was circulating online. They had gotten married at age 95, 96, and they were being called America's oldest interracial newlyweds. A friend texted the picture to me, and I just kept looking at it. I wanted to know more about them and what it would be like to fall in love at that time in your life, so I connected the dots to the family and they invited me down to meet them. Within a few days I was on a bus from New York to Virginia, and actually the opening scene in the film, where we see them dancing together, was the first time we met.

When you learned about their relationship, did you feel it was different from people who were meeting earlier in life, a different set of stresses and circumstances that shaped their relationship?
I feel like they cherished each other even more because every day was something to hold dear. At the same time, that tenderness and excitement that you feel [when you're] young, to see that that doesn't change, whatever that feeling is that we get inside when we're fond of someone, that that remains true and possible throughout your whole life.

How did you first get involved with Kartemquin?
Steve James is a mentor of mine. I met him while I was making my first documentary, which is called Lucky. . . . He could really relate to a lot of what he heard I was going through with the making of that film. He suggested I see his film Stevie, which [also] follows a difficult person. . . . I don't know how Steve feels about me saying this, but he has been like an angel in my life.

What have you learned from him, either in your personal contact or through his films?
What he saw in Lucky, which he could relate to in Stevie, is not shying away from difficult people who don't have a story necessarily of overcoming or assimilating. It's just as important to pay attention to the kinds of people we wouldn’t usually see onscreen. [I've learned from] his integrity and his openness and willingness to deal with the messiness of life and all the complications that we, as people, go through. And even though Steve started with Hoop Dreams, which is a classic, I also see him continue to step his game up in different ways with every film. To see that level of not just consistency, but getting better with time is really inspiring.

I understand that producing this was more or less a one-woman operation. Can you describe the process of creating the film?
I wouldn't say a one-woman operation. I typically have one other collaborator, either a cameraman with me or Corwin [Lamm], who was a collaborator throughout, helped with the editing and coproducing as well. We would get there by any means possible when I felt it was important to be there, stay over at people's houses, sometimes drive back that very same night. I edited it on my laptop. So yeah, it was really bare-bones. There wouldn't have been any other way to make this film. I'm thankful that it was created in the way that it was, because it feels like the power of the story is what really shines through.

Edith was ruled legally incapacitated in 2011, which was a few years before the marriage, for reasons of dementia. In the time you spent with her, did she seem to be cognizant of what was going on? Did she forget things? What was your take on her mental sharpness?
She was really clear in some ways and, like many of us, not always so clear in others. It's a really nuanced spectrum, and what we've learned is that often, when somebody is deemed to be incapacitated or that box is checked that says you have dementia, there's no thought or recognition of what a broad spectrum that is. She was very lucid about wanting to be with Eddie, and her love for him, and she often spoke almost in prayer. She would recite poetry, she would sing to him over meals. It was really beautiful to get to know her.

How much time did you spend with her altogether during the shoot?
It was just under three months from the time that we met until the end of the film. We continued to film for another year and some change, following Rebecca's fight to bring her mom back home and also recognizing that this is a bigger issue that's happening to elders all over the country. I spoke with activists and advocates all over and families who have been affected by the legal guardianship system as well. Then the story hit a standstill, and when the ending that we were waiting for never came, I went to edit and chose to make it a shorter film.

What did this project teach you about elder-care law? Do you think it should be reformed?
Absolutely. I wasn't aware of the legal guardianship system when I entered into this. It's alarming to learn that what happens with Edith and Eddie is happening to elders all over the country, and that it's often experienced in isolation, so families don't know what hit them. I have heard horror stories from all over, and there's a through line even though everyone's family and situation is unique. It's a system that was implemented with intentions of protecting elders and now has become a feeding ground. The people who are appointed to protect are exploiting and taking advantage of those very same people . . . There's no federal oversight—guardianship is a state-by-state system—so there's no statistics on it at all, and that's what allows this sort of situation to fester. It's estimated that there are between 1.5 and three million people in this country under court-appointed guardianship. That's a really big range, right? So there's not even the basic numbers here, let alone people watching over what's happening.

Full Article & Source:
An interview with Laura Checkoway, director of the Oscar-nominated Edith+Eddie

Fort Collins couple indicted in SD elder financial abuse case

PIERRE, S.D. — A grand jury in South Dakota has indicted a Colorado couple on charges of financial elder abuse.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said Tuesday that 62-year-old Sandra Lee Pazen and 63-year-old Paul Damon Pazen, both of Fort Collins, were indicted by a Butte County grand jury.

Sandra Pazen faces one felony count of theft by exploitation with a value of between $5,000 and $100,000. Paul Pazen faces one felony count of receiving stolen property with a value of between $5,000 and $100,000, and two felony counts of grand theft.

The charge against Sandra Pazen alleges she took funds from an elderly relative in an amount within the statutory limits. Paul Pazen is accused of receiving and taking funds from an individual within the statutory limits.

Both are due in court March 16.

Full Article & Source:
Fort Collins couple indicted in SD elder financial abuse case

Editorial: It’s a scary time for seniors in nursing homes

Disgraceful is the word that sums up the number of violations that nursing homes in Connecticut are racking up — and troublesome is the White House’s effort to hide those violations under a new set of policies.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the nursing home industry, recently issued new guidelines that ease what the industry viewed as “overreaching, burdensome and punitive,” but advocates see as “dismantling the enforcement system and making it more difficult and less likely for any enforcement against facilities with serious deficiencies.”

Advocates have good reason to be concerned.

Connecticut issued 73 citations against nursing homes last year, with fines ranging up to $3,000, according to the Department of Public Health. To be fair, that is down from 96 the previous year.
But it is a persistent problem.

The federal government processed some hefty fines for 128 Connecticut nursing homes over the past three years, according to the CMS website, with Apple Rehab Rocky Hill being smacked with fines reaching more than $160,000; Advanced Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Haven shelling out more than $75,000; and Orchard Grove Specialty Care Center in Uncasville fined nearly $50,000.

Nursing homes in Cheshire, East Haven, Hamden, Shelton, Torrington, also have been fined for violations due to lapses of care.

The violations have caused serious — and painful — injuries such as broken and fractured bones. Other violations include abuse and abusive behavior by staff toward patients; medication mix-ups and patients going up to six days without prescribed medications.

We believe these lapses in care highlight the need for more oversight — and we’re not sure how the industry thinks easing regulations is going to lead to less errors.

Those are not the kind of stats that leave seniors or their loved ones feeling confident about the safety and well-being of patients in these facilities.

And it is certainly something to think about in a state where seniors are a burgeoning population and turning 100 is becoming commonplace.

Connecticut has its own nursing home laws and regulations, and assesses fines against facilities that violate them. Under legislation passed in 2017, the limit for fines for each violation quadrupled to $20,000.

We do think that nursing homes have the intention to provide the best service possible for their patients — but we also believe they must pick up their game and do a better job.

Many seniors will have to go into nursing homes as their lives near the end.

They deserve to know they are going into a caring facility, not be in fear of entering one fraught with human error that is costing lives, serious injuries — and fueling fear among seniors.

Matthew Barrett, CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, which represents more than 150 of the 224 skilled nursing facilities in the state, says the easing of regulations will allow the industry to deliver better services.

The industry has what it wants now, so there should be no excuses. Injuries should drop and better services should be provided. That is what the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities promises that less oversight will allow its members to do.

We’ll be watching — because right now, it’s a scary time for seniors in nursing homes.

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: It’s a scary time for seniors in nursing homes

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Abolishing Probate: Minnesota, a Dangerous Place to Grow Old

5:00 pm PST…6:00 pm MST…7:00 pm CST…8:00 pm EST

Note: If you or a loved one was a victim of one of these uninvestigated claims of abuse here in Minnesota, please contact us at tsrad67@gmail.com
The recent revelations regarding the uninvestigated claims of nursing home abuses numbering more than 21,000 in 2016 alone, has resulted in the resignation of the head of Minnesota Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, effective immediately back on December 12, 2017. The number of investigations was reduced even further when the facility’s were allowed to “self-report” resulting in only 1% of those allegations prompting an on-site inspection.

No mention was made, however, of how many of these abused residents were under involuntary guardianships to facilitate the theft of their estates, or who might have died as a result of medical kidnap and Hospice “hastening the end of life” practices. Since these residents are immediately isolated from family, friends and others as a result of predatory guardianships, we have no way of knowing how many might have died as a result of these particular kinds of activities.

These “revelations” were greeted with the usual “shock and awe” behavior by various members of the Minnesota legislature. Gee…What a surprise! Who knew! Well many of us out here did and had tried repeatedly to get the attention of our politicians, only to be greeted with the usual “zipping” (you are not in our district) so I can’t discuss this with you, and the stock answers….”I never heard of this before! It must be an isolated incidence” “I’ll get right on this! This is very concerning…I’ll get right on this”. Of course they never did anything until the Star Tribune published a scathing article detailing the dismal state of affairs in Minnesota nursing homes.

A Special Report by Star Tribune
“Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans are beaten, sexually assaulted or robbed in senior care homes. Their cases are seldom investigated, leaving families in the dark.”

Now all kinds of new legislation is supposedly coming out to combat the abuse of seniors. We’ll be watching that closely! Of most concern is the newly created Palliative Care Advisory Committee (stealth euthanasia via terminal sedation). I can hardly wait to see what the plan is there.

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Court documents: Sacramento County deputy sent woman, 75, to Philippines

A petition for conservatorship of a woman alleged to have been the victim of elder abuse by two Sacramento County sheriff's deputies says the 75-year-old suffers from dementia and did not remember why she was sent to the Philippines.

The petition, filed March 8 by Rosalie Achiu's nephew in Washington, said the woman "suffers from dementia" and is "unable to resist fraud or undue influence and lacks the capacity to provide informed consent and make medical decisions on her own behalf."

The documents describe the relationship between Achiu, Deputy Stephanie Angel, a 14-year veteran of the department, and Angel's partner, a six-year veteran of the department.

It says Angel and Achiu met in mid-January.

A commendation from the sheriff's department given to Angel for her help with Achiu states the two met Jan. 14. She would return a day later to check on her again, according to the commendation.

The petition goes on to allege that Achiu was "taken away from her own residence" and moved into one of the deputies' homes.

Angel was that deputy.

"She asked and pleaded to stay with me," Angel told KCRA 3 Thursday.

The records state that over the next few weeks, multiple withdrawals were made from Achiu's bank accounts and her home was listed for sale.

Angel and her attorney told KCRA 3 Thursday that Rosalie was intent on doing something with her home, whether that involved a sale, turning it into a rental or renovations.

"When it came to Rosalie's house, she basically just wanted what was most efficient to bring in the most amount of money. I mean, obviously. So, I consulted a Realtor that I knew and asked her opinion," she explained. "This Realtor said, 'I think you should do this. This will get you the most money. This is probably what you should do.' So, that's what I was trying to do -- what's best for her."

Next, the documents allege one of the deputies opened a joint bank account with Achiu. Then on Jan. 29, according to the records, the deputies took Achiu to the bank and "had the bank drill out the locks" to her safe deposit box.

"Rosalie needed items out of her safety deposit box to go with her to the Philippines. So, it was her request that we go to her safety deposit box and get those out," Angel said. "While we were there, Rosalie asked that she take all the items out and store them with her other belongings in the event she didn't want to come back from the Philippines."

That same day, documents say, Angel and her partner obtained a rush passport from rushmypassport.com.

The following day, Angel obtained power of attorney over Achiu from a Roseville attorney, documents allege.

"He evaluated her. When you get evaluated for power of attorney, they obviously evaluate your mental competency and ability to make sure people aren't taking advantage of you," Angel said. "So, the lawyer spoke with her and did not see anything wrong."

The records go on to say that on Feb. 1, the deputies took Achiu to Sacramento International Airport, where she left for the Philippines on a one-way ticket.

Angel said Achiu wanted to go to the Philippines. In preparation for the trip, Angel said she mailed a letter to Achiu's family in the Philippines to explain how she'd been helping Achiu. She said she got Achiu's hair and nails done and prepared her personal belongings, including medications.

Thirteen days later, federal agents located Achiu in the Philippines and said she couldn't remember why she was there and wanted to return to the United States.

The records show she is now in an area hospital until a conservator can be chosen and an assisted living facility can be found.

Sheriff's department investigates

The sheriff's department received a complaint in January from someone concerned for the welfare of Achiu, who lived in North Highlands, officials said.

The complainant alleged that two deputies took advantage of the elderly woman, who possibly suffers from a diminished mental capacity and who had not been seen in several days, according to investigators.

The sheriff's department consulted with the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Marshals Service after the woman's whereabouts were unknown for several days.

During the investigation, detectives discovered that the woman was put on an airplane and sent to the Philippines to stay with extended family, sheriff's officials said.

At the request of the woman's family, officers went to the Philippines and found the woman, interviewed her and brought her safely home.

Angel: The investigation is retaliation

Angel believes the investigation by the sheriff's department comes in the wake of complaints she said she's made within the department pertaining to sexual harassment and the falsification of training records.

"There was the additional sexual text messages, innuendos, inappropriate touching," she said. "And I complained to five different supervisors over the last several months."

Angel said her partner, who is also being investigated, pleaded with a lieutenant three weeks before the investigation for the harassment to stop or they would consider filing suit against the county.

"We told them that, not only would we complain about the harassment retaliation, but the department is having us forge training records," Angel said. "And we told them that we would come out about that."

Sheriff's Sgt. Shaun Hampton issued this statement in response to Angel's allegations:
"If Ms. Angel alleged that she filed any sort of complaint last year alleging she was the victim of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, there is no record of any such complaint ever being filed.
"As to her remarks in defense of her conduct in the instant matter, unfortunately the investigations are still ongoing and no further information can be provided at this time."
The district attorney's office could not comment while the matter is still being investigated.

Full Article & Source:
Court documents: Sacramento County deputy sent woman, 75, to Philippines

Clark County DA Steve Wolfson kept quiet about aide’s theft

A longtime aide to District Attorney Steve Wolfson stole nearly $42,000 from his campaign four years ago to cover a gambling habit, but was allowed to pay back the money and avoid being charged, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation has found.

Audrie Locke, 45, the district attorney’s community liaison and spokeswoman, admitted in an interview that she took the campaign’s checkbook from Wolfson’s office without his knowledge and wrote a series of checks to herself in 2014. She blamed the theft on money troubles tied to her video poker addiction and fragile emotional state at the time over the deaths of her mother, three close friends and two dogs.

“I have a gambling problem … So there’s a lot of money issues that come with that, and that’s what happened,” she said. “The gambling spiraled. And if you talk to anybody who’s ever had a gambling problem, the first challenge that they have is recovering financially.”

The checks were written between February and August 2014 during Wolfson’s election run and about half of the money was stolen between July and August, a knowledgeable source said.

Wolfson’s failure to pursue potential felony criminal charges against Locke has raised concerns about whether she received favorable treatment because of her close personal relationship with the district attorney. Wolfson is running unopposed for reelection this year, and the candidate filing period ends Friday.

Locke said she had gambled away her paychecks and needed the cash to pay her bills, but dipped further into the campaign account during those two months hoping to win enough money playing video poker to pay back the $42,000.

At the time, Locke, who was using her maiden name Audrie Dodge , was on Wolfson’s campaign payroll performing a variety of duties, including for helping to maintain the campaign’s books and filing contribution and expense reports with the state. She also was earning about $80,000 a year in her high-profile job at the district attorney’s office.

Wolfson said in an interview that Locke has been a “trusted employee” for 14 years dating to his days as a Las Vegas councilman, and he still trusts her.

“She’s been the best employee I’ve ever had in 37 years, times 10,” he said. “If I could have a hundred Audries, I would love to have a hundred Audries.”

Wolfson defended his decision not to report the campaign theft to Las Vegas police, saying he was using his “discretion” as the victim to decline to pursue criminal charges.

“I believe that this is an aberration,” he said. “I believe she had an illness, and I believe that it’s the illness that caused her to do this … I decided to give her a second chance to prove to me that she would get treatment for her addiction.”

Locke repaid the $42,000 with the help of her family within two weeks after Wolfson discovered the theft in early August 2014, Locke and Wolfson said.

She also resigned from the office amid the hushed-up scandal on Aug. 25, 2014, and entered an intensive, six-week gambling addiction program before being hired back two months later.

Wolfson kept the reason for Locke’s sudden departure quiet, telling other staff that her resignation was for health reasons, current and former employees of the district attorney’s office said.

Decision criticized

His decision not to seek criminal charges has attracted criticism.

“I don’t know if he affords that same opportunity to other individuals that he prosecutes,” said Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who was present when the commission appointed Wolfson to the district attorney’s job in 2012.

Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, said the decision creates a perception problem for the district attorney.

“It looks bad,” he said. “I can’t speak to the legalities, but the real question is would someone else under similar circumstances have gotten the same treatment?”

Kathleen Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor in Las Vegas, agreed.

“He clearly showed mercy for a friend,” Bliss said. “I hope that he exercises his discretion to similarly show mercy for those who may have troubling situations like this woman, but who may not have the same kind of access to him as she obviously does.”

Added Robert Fellner, executive director of transparency for the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute: “The obvious conflict of interest in him determining not to prosecute her but to continue to employ her in the district attorney’s office is incomprehensible. It’s just mind-blowing to me.”

Wolfson said his office has occasionally abided by the wishes of victims of crimes and not prosecuted cases. He also said his decisions involving Locke were made after discussions with several people, including Greg Smith, the district attorney’s human resources director.

Smith said all office employees with addictions are treated in the same manner.

“She’s not the first and she wouldn’t be the last,” he said. “It’s just easier for our office to be consistent in our practices.”

Wolfson said he also spoke to his chief civil lawyer Mary-Anne Miller and then-Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller.

“I don’t think he cut her inappropriate slack,” Mary-Anne Miller said. “He was genuinely seeking direction from the people he reached out to.”

Wolfson also consulted with Dave Thomas, one of his campaign managers.

“I think he was very conscientious in analyzing the situation and trying to do the right thing,” Thomas said. “The root of (her conduct) is a mental illness, not a desire to do criminal activity … I give her money all the time, and I’m not concerned about it.”

Still handling money

Locke continued to be paid by Wolfson’s campaign — she got more than $1,000 — during her two-month absence, records show. When she returned to her job in the office on Oct. 20, she stepped up her duties as the district attorney’s spokeswoman and took on fundraising efforts for office social events and benefits for ailing employees.

Locke, who said that she has not gambled since the thefts were discovered, confirmed in an interview with the Review-Journal that she now handles money within the district attorney’s office.

Wolfson confronted Locke and informed her that he intended to report the embezzlement to his human resources director in an Aug. 5, 2014 personal email exchange obtained by the Review-Journal.

“I want to know all of my options as district attorney,” Wolfson wrote. “Therefore, tomorrow I plan to sit down with him to inform him of your acts of theft, forgery and whatever else is appropriate. As you know, you handled monies, whether in the form of cash, checks, etc. and he needs to be made aware of what has happened.”

Locke admitted the theft in an emotional email response that evening to Wolfson.

“I can’t emphasize enough the shame and regret I feel,” she wrote. “More than once I planned to come in and talk to you about the situation but never got the nerve. It is, and was always, my intention to return the money. I know that is a hollow statement at this point.

“The worst part is betraying your trust. I know I’ll never get that back, and that is unimaginable to me.”

Wolfson was appointed district attorney in 2012 and first elected in 2014 to an office the county website says has a $65 million budget and more than 700 employees.

So far, he has raised more than $615,000 mostly from casino, business and legal interests, his latest campaign contribution report shows.

Debt troubles

Locke’s financial problems had threatened to erupt over the years. The home she owned with her husband, John M. Locke, was on the brink of being sold at a trustee auction several times. In October 2009, the IRS filed a $78,298 lien on the property for unpaid taxes, county records show. The IRS lifted the lien in March 2013 after the couple sold the modest two-story home, according to the records.

Locke said she and her husband did not make any money on the sale.

That same month, a friend of Locke’s filed a complaint in Justice Court to recover a $5,000 loan he made to her in May 2009. David Koeb said in the complaint that Locke told him she needed the money to stop the foreclosure of her ailing mother’s house.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett-Haron signed a default judgment against Locke in April 2013, ordering her to pay Koeb $6,900, which included interest and court costs. Her wages at the district attorney’s office were garnished, and by the end of October 2013 she had paid back $5,211. Koeb did not return calls for comment, and Locke would not discuss the matter other than to say she paid back all that she owed.

In October 2010, payday loan giant Rapid Cash threatened to repossess Locke’s 2005 Dodge Magnum, which she had posted as collateral for more than $9,000 in loans she received from the company. Rapid Cash later filed court complaints to recover money but never pursued the cases.

When Locke returned to the district attorney’s office in October 2014, she started using her married name for the first time since her 1999 marriage, records and interviews show.

Eventually, Locke started handling money within the district attorney’s office as a fundraiser and social coordinator, according to emails obtained by the Review-Journal.

She was part of an office social committee, earning a reputation as the “cruise director” and “party planner.” She promoted bake sales, golf tournaments, weight-loss competitions and hot dog eating contests to raise money for office social events and ailing employees who were unable to work.

In one contest, staffers were asked to make donations for the right to guess the number of Starburst jellybeans in a large jar filled with the colorful candy. Whoever came the closest was to get half the donations with the rest going to the social committee for office events like the annual holiday party.

By the end of October, emails show, Locke boasted that the office had raised more than $10,000 for the victims of the Mandalay Bay shooting, primarily by raffling employee-donated gift baskets and selling VegasStrong T-shirts and hoodies.

She raised additional money for other office projects through the sale of tumblers, polo shirts, hats and sports bottles bearing the district attorney’s office logo, emails show. Sometimes, she would direct the staff to buy raffle tickets from her or to order merchandise through her.

Amid the office fundraising, Locke started her own graphics company in April 2015, allowing her to obtain more money from Wolfson’s campaign. She filed papers with the Nevada secretary of state’s office incorporating the company called Gemini Graphics, which printed logos on T-shirts. She listed herself as the resident agent and lone officer.

The secretary of state revoked the company’s license on April 30, 2016 for failing to provide an updated list of officers, but records show the company continued to receive money from Wolfson’s campaign.

Locke has personally received more than $25,500 under both of her last names for working on Wolfson’s campaigns dating to 2011 when he was a city councilman, according to figures compiled by the secretary of state’s office. Gemini Graphics has earned nearly $5,000 since 2015.

Most recently, Locke formed a new graphics company in August called Karmic Thread. She said in an interview that she has used the company to produce T-shirts and hoodies that were sold to office staff for various charities, including funds to help victims of the Oct. 1 shooting.

She said the district attorney’s office has reimbursed her expenses. She has made no profit for her work, she said.

Full Article & Source:
Clark County DA Steve Wolfson kept quiet about aide’s theft

Pa. citing more Philly-area nursing homes for lack of nursing care

Belle Haven Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
After receiving criticism as being lax, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has increased the number of citations given for inadequate staffing in Philadelphia-area nursing homes over the last two years.

The agency cited facilities 12 times last year for violations of staffing rules, up from six in 2016 and no more than two in any of the previous eight years.

The citations are for not meeting the minimum of 2.7 hours per day of direct nursing care per patient, not having a registered nurse on duty when required, or more broadly not having enough staff to meet the needs of patients as defined in their care plans.

When facilities miss the 2.7-hours-per-day requirement — which advocates have long criticized as too low — they are typically in the 2.5- or 2.6-hours-per-day range.

“Facilities should budget higher, recognizing that their call-out rates are usually significant,” which will put them under the requirement, said David Hoffman, a nursing home expert and former federal prosecutor. “The facilities that budget at 2.7 should get slammed.”

Belle Haven Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Quakertown was cited in 2014, 2016, and 2017 for inadequate staffing. Officials with the facility’s owner, Guardian Elder Care of Brockway, Pa., did not respond to a request for comment.

Also cited for lack of staffing was St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation & Healthcare in Darby Borough, which had its license revoked after an inspection last year and now has a provisional license. The state later fined the facility $675,750 for a wide range of violations.

Russ McDaid, president of the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association, a nursing home trade group in Harrisburg, downplayed the increase. He cited the Health Department’s policy change in July 2015 to allow anonymous complaints after they were prohibited for three years.

“We know that that’s yielded a strong uptick in complaints in nursing facilities, and we know that virtually all of them are accompanied by a complaint visit of some type. Seeing it go from six to 12, year over year, across 189 facilities, I wouldn’t characterize as a significant uptick,” he said, referring to the number of nursing homes in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties and Philadelphia.

The mix of reasons for surveys that resulted in citations for inadequate nursing has not changed much over the years. It has been split pretty evenly between licensure or recertification surveys and surveys in response to complaints.

The Health Department did not respond to questions about what caused the increase in citations, which do not seem to have fines attached, according to a roster of penalties dating to early 2014. “Our priority is making sure that the deficiency is corrected. Civil penalties may be issued at a later time than the sanction,” department spokeswoman April Hutcheson said.

A 2016 Pennsylvania auditor general’s report criticized the department as not doing enough to ensure sufficient nursing staffing levels. That report mentioned a federal suggestion of a 4.1-hours-per-day minimum for nursing care and noted that Pennsylvania’s minimum was set in 1999.

At a Feb. 23 meeting in Germantown called by State Sen. Art Haywood (D., Phila.-Montgomery) on how the state handles care complaints, the state’s long-term-care ombudsman, Margaret Barajas, said her office received 1,724 complaints last year, with 574 of them related to staffing.

What she said she hears from nursing home residents: “It’s not the staff’s fault. There’s just not enough.”

Full Article & Source:
Pa. citing more Philly-area nursing homes for lack of nursing care

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lawsuits accuse staff at Whiting of psychological, physical torture

Attorney Antonio Ponvert III
The brother of the man repeatedly abused at the Whiting Forensic Division has filed two lawsuits on his behalf — one against the state and the other against 12 of the forensic nurses and treatment specialists who the suit charges carried out the abuse.

The lawsuits allege that the state employees responsible for the treatment and care of William Shehadi Jr., 59, “a profoundly mentally ill” man, subjected him to “daily mistreatment, degradation, physical assaults, ridicule and other forms of brutal and inhuman psychological, emotional and physical torture” at the maximum-security Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown.

At a press conference Thursday, Bridgeport attorney Antonio Ponvert III, of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, announced the suits with Shehadi’s brother and co-conservator, Albert Shehadi of Greenwich, and mental health advocate Karen Kangas, the other co-conservator, standing beside him.

“If the measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members, the mistreatment and abuse of Bill Shehadi inflicted over a period of months and years by the state employees responsible for his care ranks our state very low,” Ponvert said.

“(Shehadi’s) mental illness is severe and persistent, and it renders him profoundly vulnerable, incapable of protecting himself from harm or even attending to some of his most basic needs and tasks of human survival,” Ponvert said. “The United States Constitution and the Connecticut Bill of Rights require the state to provide to Bill Shehadi and to all other institutionalized individuals humane and dignified treatment, adequate medical and mental health care and freedom from harm.”

From Feb. 27 to March 22, 2017, Whiting forensic nurses and treatment specialists inflicted on Shehadi “unrelenting sadistic physical abuse, neglect, exploitation, humiliation and psychological torture,” the suits allege.

It says hours of abuse captured on videotape show hospital workers kicking, hitting and poking Shehadi as he cried and cowered on his bed or on the floor in his room.

The suits contain a litany of accusations of varying severity. In one example, they say Lance Camby, a treatment specialist who was arrested, threw food at Shehadi, spit food on his shirt, bed and pants, which Shehadi then ate, and that Mark Cusson, a Whiting forensic nurse, who also was arrested, repeatedly kicked Shehadi for two minutes, while he was laying on his bed.

In September and October 2017, ten staff members were arrested after a state police investigation. All 10 have since pleaded not guilty to various charges. A total of 37 staff members were placed on paid administrative leave. As of Wednesday, 36 of the 37 had “separated from state service,” according to the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which oversees Whiting.

During the press conference, Ponvert said evidence shows that Shehadi was abused for more than a decade. The suit describes letters Shehadi wrote to two Whiting doctors in 2006 and 2008 saying he was being abused.

The state lawsuit, which was served on the state attorney general’s office, names the state of Connecticut, the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, as well as DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, and 11 Whiting administrators and supervisory level employees. The suit seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said they were reviewing the filing but declined to comment further.

The second lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, sues the forensic nurses and treatment specialists accused of abuse or of not reporting it. That suit alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Patients’ Bill of Rights, and also asserts claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Cusson and Camby were named as defendants in the federal lawsuit, as were Michael Presnick, a forensic nurse; and Carl Benjamin, Willie Bethea, Clayton Davis, Greg Giantonio, Bruce Holt, Robert Larned, Robert Martineau, Patrick O’Brien and Seth Quider, all forensic treatment specialists. All were arrested except Martineau and O’Brien, according to state records. DHMAS said none of the defendants worked for the agency any more.

According to the federal suit, following the initial report of abuse and subsequent investigation, DMHAS determined that all of the defendants except O’Brien had violated “DMHAS General Work Rule 19,” which prohibits “physical violence, verbal abuse, inappropriate and indecent conduct and behavior that endangers the safety and welfare or persons or property.”

DMHAS found that O’Brien had violated “General Rule 21,” which says that employees must immediately report alleged violations of work rules, policies, procedures or regulations to a supervisor, according to the suit.

Shehadi was born on Aug. 22, 1958, in Bronxville, N.Y. Since early childhood, he has had a history of treatment and hospitalizations for psychiatric illnesses and behavioral problems, according to the lawsuit against the state.

In 1995, he was acquitted of criminal charges because of his severe mental illness after he killed his father. He has been involuntarily committed to state custody ever since, and is now at Connecticut Valley Hospital.

His symptoms continue to include psychosis, paranoid and delusional thinking, self-injurious behaviors, chronic anxiety, profound insomnia, and various repetitive behaviors, including pacing and tapping. His speech is difficult to understand because of dysarthria, a speech disorder caused by muscle weakness, according to the lawsuit.

He suffers from several medical conditions, including recurrent aspiration pneumonia, reflux disorder, anemia, chronic pancreatitis and seizures.

He needs assistance from caregivers with many activities, including eating, drinking showering, shaving, dressing and cleaning his laundry. For years, his treatment plan has required 24/7 supervision by two staff members to ensure his safety and wellbeing, the suit said.

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Lawsuits accuse staff at Whiting of psychological, physical torture

Abilene caretaker accused of stealing $6,000 from elderly patient

Kara Brooke Beaver
ABILENE, Texas — An Abilene woman was arrested Tuesday morning after police say she stole thousands of dollars from an elderly patient.

According to the arrest report, police executed a search warrant at a home in the 300 block of Glenhaven Drive.

Police say they discovered Kara Brooke Beaver, 30, stole more than $6,000 on Feb. 23 from an 84-year-old that hired her as a caretaker.

Beaver is charged with exploitation of the elderly, which is a third degree felony. Her bond was set at $10,000.

No other details about the case are available.

According to jail records, Beaver has two prior arrests for thefts. But both of those were misdemeanors.

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Abilene caretaker accused of stealing $6,000 from elderly patient