Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mental Hospital Being Investigated After Abuse Allegations Surface

Image Courtesy of Hans Eiskonen
Thirty-one staff members at Connecticut’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital, Whiting Forensic Division hospital in Middletown, have been suspended and nine have been arrested in connection with abuse allegations.  More arrests are expected to be made shortly as the facility continues to be investigated, according to police.  Whiting is part of Connecticut Valley Hospital, which is maintained by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.  There are 106 beds at the facility in the maximum-security area and an additional 141 beds in “enhanced security”.

“It’s really incomprehensible that this could happen in this day and age,” said Senator Heather Somers, a Republican. “It’s like something out of a Stephen King novel. I think it’s very important that we, as legislators, get to the bottom of this. If you are put in the state’s care, you should be cared for. You shouldn’t be tormented.”
Whiting Forensic Division hospital
Image Courtesy of NBC Connecticut
Alleged incidents include placing a diaper over a patient’s head, throwing food at him, placing a mop on his head and pouring water over him, adding salt in his coffee, and kicking him.  And, current and former staff members and patients’ relatives are coming forward with many other accounts.

Somers said some of their allegations include staff abusing patients, disobeying doctors’ orders and forging of doctors’ signatures.  The nine arrested were charged with cruelty to persons and disorderly conduct.  The other 31 suspended either took part in the abuse or knew about it and failed to report it.  They face the possibility of being terminated from their positions and losing their licenses.

The abuse came to the forefront after the state Department of Public Health found one of the residents, a 62-year-old male, to have been kicked, jabbed, poked at and taunted by staff members over a significant period of time.  The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asked that Whiting be investigated following a whistleblower complaint.  Some of the abuse was later found to have been recorded by surveillance cameras.
Mental Hospital Being Investigated After Abuse Allegations Surface
Image Courtesy of NBC Connecticut
The 62-year-old patient was committed to the hospital back in 1995 after being acquitted by reason of mental disease in the murder of his father, according to his court-appointed co-conservator, Karen Kangas. The man was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and autism spectrum disorder.  “He’s been traumatized,” Kangas said. “That’s not how we should be treated when we have cancer, and it should not be how we’re treated when we have mental illnesses. I just couldn’t imagine that this all went on.”

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services said it would “do whatever is necessary to prevent future incidents” in a statement.  District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, the Whiting’s workers’ labor union, released a statement of its own indicating patient abuse is unacceptable. The union is calling for new management, better training, and more staff as the hospital’s services continue to be investigated.

Brian Woolf, attorney for one of the staff members who was arrested, forensic head nurse Mark Cusson, said, “We have information from a variety of sources that this patient was an extremely difficult patient and some of the actions they took were justified.”  His client is shocked by his arrest and they plan to defend their position.

Full Article & Source:
Mental Hospital Being Investigated After Abuse Allegations Surface

Volunteer guardian for the elderly shares experiences

Sue Warren & Roger Harraman
MANSFIELD – “Pepsi?” asks 71-year-old Michael Beck when Roger Harraman walks in the room.

Harraman, who serves as Beck’s legal guardian, knows the Oak Grove Manor resident loves Pepsi, and even though he didn’t bring a bottle along this time, he promises he will for the next visit and instead presents Beck with several new T-shirts.

Harraman is one of 17 local volunteers through the Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo’s Adult Advocacy Services program. They provide legal guardianship services for those 55 and older suffering from dementia or other illnesses that limit their decision-making capacity. They also keep an eye out for those with no appropriate family to make decisions for their medical care and estate.

Essentially, a volunteer guardian’s role is to advocate for this person’s care. They become the voice for people who may have trouble sharing what they want or need. The guardians have no say over financial matters and instead are asked to focus the well-being of the people they serve.

A previous Richland Source story details why the program is important and how people can get involved.

The reasons that these elders need representation vary, but Sue Warren of Catholic Charities says, “too often” it’s a result of elder abuse, which can be in the form of intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to a vulnerable elder. Warren also serves as a volunteer guardian for several individuals.

An estimated 1 in 10 older Americans experience abuse. Locally, the Richland County Adult Protective Services, which investigates abuse, neglect and exploitation of people 60 and over, made 245 referrals between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, but elder abuse often goes unreported.

Harraman advocates on behalf of three people through Catholic Charities: Michael Beck, Michael McMahon and Diane Pahlow. As far as he knows, they don’t have local family members to otherwise care for them.

“It’s rewarding, every visit. I probably get more out of it than they do,” he said. “I like getting to know them and joking around with them.”

Before meeting any of these individuals, Harraman represented another man who passed away about eight years ago. Harraman recalls that was a hard day, but the benefits of this job far outweigh the negatives. Though saddened, the retired educator decided to represent another elder, Beck, through the Catholic Charities’ program. That was more than seven years ago.

When Harraman came to visit him recently, Beck was watching “Gunsmoke.” But he seemed happy to take a break and chat. Beck informed Harraman that someone had promised him Pepsi and hadn’t brought it yet.

When Harraman later talked to the nursing home staff, he asked about Beck’s health, but he also mentioned the Pepsi situation and learned that the beverage would soon be delivered to Beck’s room.

Harraman began serving as legal guardian to Michael McMahon and Diane Pahlow this past summer when he heard that Catholic Charities knew of more people in need of representation. Harraman decided to take on the additional responsibility this past July.

So far, Harraman has only made three visits with these two, but he’s already made an noticeable impression with McMahon.

“Do you remember me?” Harraman asked this Oak Grove resident in August.

“Yes,” McMahon answered.

On this occasion, Harraman sat on the edge of the bed, listening as the 66-year-old man told a few stories. McMahon explained that he always enjoyed bowling, golf and watching Indians games.

After Harraman visited Beck and before he visited McMahon, he talked to a staff member in what’s called a “care conference.”

This is a formal process that doesn’t occur on every visit, but it keeps a guardian updated with the details of the nursing home resident’s condition. Harraman hears about McMahon and Beck’s care plan, discussing in detail everything from what they’ve been eating to if they need therapy.

Harraman is alerted more regularly via phone calls about changes in medication, health complications and other time-sensitive topics. As a guardian, he needs to be available 24/7 to respond to inquiries when needed from nursing home or medical staff. This means that even in the middle of the night, Harraman might have to take a phone call about one of the people he represents.

Both McMahon and Beck live at Oak Grove Manor, but once he’s done there, he drives down the road to another nursing home to visit Diane Pahlow, 59.

She had been sleeping when Harraman previously visited, but she still vaguely remembers him. Awake on this occasion, she asks him more about himself and his role as her guardian. He assures her that he’ll make sure she’s taken care of correctly.

In turn, Pahlow shares a little about herself. She likes singing, dancing and listening to music, especially gospel. The Iowa native moved to Mansfield where her husband lived.

"But now, I don't have family in Ohio anymore," Pahlow said.

Harraman and other Catholic Charities volunteers are appointed to be legal guardians by the probate court. And if an elder needs someone to speak on their behalf, the guardians step in and look out for the elder's best interest.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer guardian can learn more by calling 419-524-0733.

Full Article & Source:
Volunteer guardian for the elderly shares experiences

Bonnie Kraham: Guiding principles of an elder-law estate plan

There are many goals to consider in elder-law estate planning. They include transferring assets to beneficiaries on death with the least amount of costs, taxes and legal fees, while avoiding family conflicts and possible legal battles. Another possible concern is keeping assets in your own bloodline, protected from children’s divorces, lawsuits and creditors. Planning also allows people you choose to be in charge of your affairs if you’re incapacitated, avoids a costly guardianship proceeding that allows a judge to appoint a legal guardian for you, and protects assets from nursing home costs.

Trusts are often preferable to wills to avoid a court proceeding on death called probate, save time and money and reduce the chance of family conflict over the inheritance. Wills are used in probate court.

Basic principles guide the process of creating an elder-law estate plan.

First, understanding family dynamics is key. Standard questions reveal necessary information. How old are you? How is your health? How many children do you have? Are you married? If you are not married and have no children, are your parents alive, or do you have any siblings, nieces or nephews?

Who will receive the inheritance and how? Do you have disabled beneficiaries on government benefits? Are you disinheriting anyone? Do you want to leave outright distributions of assets to your beneficiaries, or do you want them to receive assets over time?

Second, a review of current estate-planning documents reveals whether your current goals are being met. Maybe your current plan is adequate, or maybe it needs to be tweaked, or maybe it would be better to start anew. Are you expecting to receive an inheritance that would change your goals or create estate tax issues? Do you have long-term care insurance, and if so, what are the details of your benefits? If you don’t have long-term care insurance, a Medicaid asset protection trust may be needed to protect assets from nursing home costs after five years.

Third comes a review of the assets. The asset list includes each asset you own, how each asset is titled and its value. Possible asset categories include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement funds, other investments, life insurance, annuities, business interests and anything else of value.

Fourth is the development of the elder-law estate plan. Who will make medical decisions for you in case of incapacity? Who will be your trustee, executor and power of attorney? Who will serve as backups in these different roles in case the first choices are unavailable? You choose people you trust who will make a smooth transition on disability or death.

Fifth, review the plan at least every three years to see if changes in the law or your life mean the plan needs adjusting. You want the plan to work not only when you create it but years later when you need it.

Bonnie Kraham is an attorney practicing elder law estate planning with Ettinger Law Firm, 75 Crystal Run Road in the Town of Wallkill. She can be reached at 845-692-8700, ext. 119 or This column is intended to provide general information, not legal advice.

Full Article & Source:
Bonnie Kraham: Guiding principles of an elder-law estate plan

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Horrors of Court-Appointed Guardianship – Gretchen’s Shortened Life

Someone I loved very deeply was the victim of abuse by the Probate Court, which destroyed her whole life and precipitated her premature death.

The judge has sole control of guardianship. Guardianship is a dictatorship.

I met Gretchen in the mid 1980s. We started dating in 1998. Around 2000 she developed Parkinson’s disease. By the end of 2008 she also had dementia. I took care of her at home so she would not have to go into a nursing home.

I filed a petition for guardianship in 2011. Since it was a contested case, the court appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and temporary professional guardian as “disinterested” parties.

My first attorney negotiated a temporary agreement signed by all parties under which I would continue to manage Gretchen’s daily care and finances.

All of Gretchen’s doctors said she should stay at home under my care. In July 2012 the guardian put Gretchen into a nursing home while I was away on vacation, without prior notice.

I should explain: I was planning on going to dance camp with Gretchen as we had done every year for many years. The professional guardian refused to allow Gretchen to go, on the grounds that it would not be safe because of her Parkinson’s and the rustic nature of the camp. She demanded that I go by myself. I have a letter from the camp manager saying that the camp is handicapped accessible. People no longer able to dance are welcome to come to be with their long-time friends.

Gretchen’s daughter had wanted to put Gretchen into a nursing home so she could live in her house. That was what triggered the petition for guardianship. Gretchen did not have a lawyer at the time.

Gretchen’s son did not want her in a nursing home. However, he supported the plan to put Gretchen into a nursing home “temporarily” so I could be removed from Gretchen’s house with a restraining order. That’s what happended while I was away. Then the guardian double crossed Gretchen’s son by keeping her in the nursing home permanently.

When I returned from vacation, the GAL and professional guardian got a restraining order preventing me from visiting Gretchen in the nursing home. Without court authority, the guardian removed Gretchen from my care.

At the hearing on the restraining order I testified that none of the complaints in the affidavit for the restraining order were correct. The judge allowed the restraining order that was based entirely on hearsay and double hearsay.

In the nursing home Gretchen was required to sit in a chair all day. This went directly against the advice of Gretchen’s neurologists who said she needed to stay as physically and socially active as possible or she would go downhill.

Despite her Parkinson’s, Gretchen was very physically active. She loved all kinds of dancing. The picture on page one is from a vintage dance.

We went ballroom dancing a few nights a week. Gretchen went for daily walks (weather permitting), especially around the lake near her house. She went to the movies, visited with friends and relatives, worked out at the health club, went to dance events and dance camps. Her doctors said her condition was approximately stable.

Within weeks after being placed in the nursing home, Gretchen had lost the ability to walk on her own. Gretchen’s son and his wife filed strong complaints with the guardian regarding Gretchen’s inactivity and rapid decline. The guardian hired an attorney (paid for out of Gretchen’s estate) and instructed them not to communicate with her except through her attorney.

My first attorney was being treated for cancer and unable to continue on the case. I hired a high-level Elder Law attorney. I asked him to file a complaint with the court regarding Gretchen’s lack of proper care. He told me we had to work through the GAL and the temporary professional guardian. The guardian ignored the complaints by my attorney.

Gretchen’s daughter-in-law (Reference 1) says Gretchen was being drugged in the nursing home. This was unnecessary, harmful, and can be fatal. Gretchen’s condition continued to deteriorate. In December 2012, Gretchen’s son and his wife filed a blistering complaint with the court asking for the removal of the guardian. The judge did nothing.

In late December 2012 Gretchen suffered an unexplained incident in the nursing home. Her left wrist and left angle were swollen. Gretchen’s doctor at Lahey Clinic recommended physical therapy for her ankle. The guardian denied treatment, citing the DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] and other statements in Gretchen’s HCP [Health Care Proxy].

The swelling in her wrist healed fairly quickly. The ankle never healed. Gretchen spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. The total lack of activity accelerated her decline.

By the time of the trial in February 2013, Gretchen was terminal. At a special session during the trial I testified that there was no valid evidence in the affidavit for the restraining order. The GAL and guardian offered no evidence to support the restraining order. The judge ordered the records of the restraining order sealed to protect my reputation.

The judge did nothing about the misconduct by the GAL and professional guardian. The guardian put Gretchen on hospice care about a week after the trial without notice to the parties. Gretchen died a few months after the trial.

I requested recordings of all the hearings in order to file a complaint. My testimony regarding the false restraining order and misconduct by the GAL and guardian was missing. According to the Office of the Chief Justice of the Probate Court, there is no evidence this testimony was ever given.

Reference 1.


The Office of the Chief Justice told me there is a bill (S.1177/H.3027) before the Massachusetts Legislature proposed by advocates for the elderly. The purpose of the bill is to provide guardianship services to “unbefriended” people.

Unbefriended people are very vulnerable. They have no one to complain to if they are subjected to abuse. Any system for providing guardianship services to the unbefriended needs to have ironclad protections against abuse.

This bill gives immunity to guardians. Guardians are already given immunity by judges of the Probate Court. Regardless of the intent of immunity, the result has been to create a system of legalized crime where guardians commit crimes with impunity.

Other health care providers have to carry liability insurance. Conservators have to be bonded. Guardians should have liability insurance, not immunity.

A careful reading of the bill shows that the Executive Director of the Office of the Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services is the only entity given any authority. It is a dictatorship.

 I have attempted to rewrite the bill in a way that makes maximum use of the principles of democracy such as separation of powers (no one has sole control), checks and balances, accountability (no immunity), avoiding conflict of interest by putting authority in the hands of disinterested parties, etc., to prevent the abuse of power (Reference 2).

Reference 2.


by Patti Burke Plante

Gretchen was definitely drugged at the nursing home immediately.

This experience was terrible and made our family lose trust in the system. It was unbelievable what the courts get away with. They make you feel guilty for fighting for your loved one’s care.

They “say” they are here to help, but feed on the family that are not getting along and pit family members against each other.

The guardian in our case was terrible and there was no recourse. When we complained or brought up concerns about Gretchen’s care, she got her own lawyer (paid for by Gretchen’s estate) and we could only communicate with the guardian through her lawyer.

This was a long battle and at the last day of court we were told that it was not about Gretchen’s best interest, it was about the law.

 I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that this system is definitely broken and something needs to be done.

A bill or act to give these people more power is just ridiculous!

Full Article & Source:
The Horrors of Court-Appointed Guardianship – Gretchen’s Shortened Life

Chief judge names acting public guardian for Cook County

A longtime attorney with the Cook County public guardian's office will take over as acting public guardian, Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Wednesday.

Charles Golbert has been an attorney for the public guardian's office for nearly 26 years and succeeds Robert Harris, who is stepping down after his appointment to a Circuit Court judgeship by the Illinois Supreme Court. Harris is to be sworn in as a judge Friday.

Harris started his career as a staff attorney with the office and took the public guardian's job in 2004. He has been an outspoken critic of shortfalls in Illinois' state child welfare agency and in the juvenile court system.

Golbert will oversee the office's 206 employees and a $21.9 million annual budget. The office acts as attorney and guardian for about 6,000 state wards in abuse and neglect proceedings as well as custody and divorce proceedings.

The public guardian also acts as the court-appointed guardian of adults with disabilities or their estates. The division manages about $100 million in estate assets and recovers stolen assets for clients.

"The public guardian and the attorneys in the office play a very important role for some of our most vulnerable residents — adults with disabilities and abused or neglected children," Evans said in a statement Wednesday. "They speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and they are dedicated advocates in the justice system."

Starting Monday, Evans will begin accepting applications for a permanent replacement for the position.

"While I will seek a permanent leader for the office, I am pleased to name Charles Golbert as the acting public guardian," Evans said. "I also want to thank Robert Harris for his service. I certainly welcome Robert to the judicial ranks, but his leadership and advocacy will be missed."

Full Article & Source:
Chief judge names acting public guardian for Cook County

How to avoid and detect Elder Fraud: A guide for older people, carers and relatives

Elder abuse is a problem in western cultures world-wide. There are many forms of abuse ranging from neglect to physical abuse, and within that range is financial fraud. Elder fraud can take many forms and we’ll focus on the type of fraud that primarily uses the internet in this article.

Seniors are disproportionately targeted as victims for fraud. The AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired People) found that while only 35 percent of the American population is over 50 years old, fraud victims over 50 accounted for 57 percent of all fraud. 

It’s difficult to obtain numbers on how large a problem elder fraud is world-wide. Different organizations calculate numbers in different ways and also define fraud differently. All we can be sure of is that billions of dollars are lost each year to criminals preying on elder citizens.

Fraud and the internet: a backgrounder

Fraudsters play a numbers game. They know that most of their attempts to con people won’t work, but they also know that some will. To succeed, the con-man has to make as many tries as possible. Going door-to-door attempting to scam people has low odds because it takes a long time and it’s only possible to hit so many doors in a day. Also, once a scam succeeds, the con-man has to high-tail it out of town before getting caught. Then, find another town and start all over.

The internet removed all those problems for fraudsters. They can now sit in the comfort of their own home, possibly countries away, and through the use of spam email attempt to con thousands of people per day, every day.

Elder fraud is a specific type of fraud aimed at seniors. The most common way that seniors are targeted over the internet is through email. General phishing techniques are used against a large number of email addresses with content aimed at seniors. Content aimed at seniors usually falls into these categories:
  1. Medication
  2. Financial support with regards to home equity or retirement savings
  3. Friendship or camaraderie
From responses to that general attack, more targeted spear phishing can take place in an attempt to defraud specific individuals.

Why are elders targeted?

The problems that plague humanity are fairly steady throughout life. We all want to be safe, warm, fed, loved, and financially secure. Very few people have all of those things all the time, and in our elder years the absence of some of those things can converge into a pattern.

It’s easier to phish people if you know what their problems are. A general phishing attack may use low mortgage rates, as an example. At any given time there are millions of people looking for mortgages but there are billions who are not and don’t care about the mortgage email. Seniors, on the other hand, tend to have a smaller pool of things that are of greater concern. As a population, things like medication costs, proper health care coverage, financial security as retirement funds run out, and providing for loved ones left behind tend to get more attention. It’s therefore easier to craft phishing emails about a small number of subjects that a large percentage of a population is likely to be interested in.

Other reasons may include the fact that many seniors are isolated and therefore have nobody they can trust to run ideas by. Email did not become widely affordable to households until the 1990s in Canada and wasn’t a daily communications mechanism until after that. Anyone over about 30 today has memories of a world without internet and our seniors would have spent most of their lives without it. That can lead to confusion over how reliable email is, and how much trust to assign it.

It’s also not uncommon to experience some level of diminished mental capacity as we age. That can tax our decision-making abilities to the limit and lead to bad decisions.

Common types of elder fraud

A surprisingly sad statistic is that a good chunk of elder fraud is committed by family members or caregivers. The North American Securities Administrators Association reports that 23% of elder fraud causes in 2015 were committed by family members, trustees, or people with powers of attorney.
Generally, those types of fraud are not committed over the internet since the parties are already known to each other. However, that doesn’t mean other types of fraud don’t exist – this body shop owner has been charged with defrauding elderly clients for car restoration jobs. Some of the more common internet scams take the following forms:

Monetary scams

Monetary scams aimed at elders are attractive to criminals for two diametrically opposed reasons. On one hand, many seniors are living on fixed and inadequate incomes and could use more money to live on. On the other hand, many seniors have sizable nest eggs and large amounts of equity in their houses so they can get their hands on a lot of money. The most insidious scams play both angles.

Fraudulent investment or insurance schemes seek to bilk money out of people with the promise of some greater reward down the road. While it can be grisly to consider at the time, it is always important to think of how much time is left for an investment to mature. By and large, elder people would be looking at short-term investments and there are very few legitimate lucrative short-term investments. The insurance scam plays the other angle – there is no concept of pulling any money out of the insurance policy. Rather, heart strings are played upon to invest money for those left behind.

In some cases, the insurance agent actually is a legitimately licensed insurance agent, but is still trying to commit fraud against the elderly. David Pickett, as US-based insurance agent, has been arrested 3 times for fraud.

A sub-class of this type of fraud involves offers to lend money that seem too good to be true. These types of scams are usually complicated to figure out because it’s hard to believe someone can fraudulently give someone else money. A complex example of this is the reverse mortgage system that exists in some countries. In a reverse mortgage situation, elder homeowners with significant equity in their property can opt to take a chunk of money for the estimated value of their house at the time they pass on or willingly move. At that time, the lender takes possession of the house and the debt is paid. The danger lies in that the principal plus the interest over time can end up being more than the house is worth.

In some countries, such as Canada, only 55 percent of the value of the property can be reversed mortgaged. That is to hedge against the possibility of the loan exceeding the value of the property when the debt is repaid. Some mortgage bloggers state that the value of the loan is not allowed to exceed the value of the property, but neither the government of Canada site, nor the single authorized reverse mortgage lender in the country (HomEquity Bank) confirm that. It’s harder to find concrete information on reverse mortgages in other countries. In the U.S., for example, the borrower’s estate generally does not have to pay any excess of the balance over the property value, but legislation enforcing that isn’t readily available. Reverse mortgages are not inherently fraudulent, but if the industry is not tightly controlled in your country, be sure to obtain sound third-party financial and legal advice beforehand.

Lottery scams are targeted at people of all ages and elder people are no exception. The basic framework of a lottery or sweepstakes scam is to tell the victim they’ve won a large prize of some kind, but some smaller amount of money has to be paid in order to claim the prize. The money to be paid is usually attributed to non-existent things like “international transfer fees” or something equally silly. It is safe to say that if you’ve never entered a lottery, you can’t win it, so claims like this out of the blue are a red flag. Legitimate lotteries are tightly regulated to ensure there is no fraud. It is extremely unlikely that a real lottery organization would contact the winner by email to begin with.  (Click to Continue

Full Article & Source:
How to avoid and detect Elder Fraud: A guide for older people, carers and relatives

Thursday, September 21, 2017

News 2 I-Team: Court controls hundreds of peoples’ money

A Lowcountry family called the I-Team furious because their bank account was drained and they were informed they had to ask for permission to spend any money.

When the courts take control of your finances it's called a conservatorship. Courts often intervene when a judge deems a person incapacitated.

The Case of Benjamin Bennett
Benjamin Bennett’s money was placed in a conservatorship last November after his doctor referred him to the Mt. Pleasant Police Department Senior Advocate. That Senior Advcate referred the Bennetts to Probate Court for the court to start a conservatorship. Bennett says now he can't tithe, take a vacation, or fix his roof without permission from the court.

“It's my money I worked my whole life for,” Bennett told the I-Team.

His daughter, Melissa, called the I-Team saying the problem started after her father’s doctor recommended the conservatorship to protect Mr. Bennett. Bennett recently sold land for a large sum of money. According to the doctor's report, Bennett showed signs of dementia and had voiced concerns about having so much money in the bank.

“They pay like six people to take care of you, but you don't even know the six people,” Melissa Bennett explained. “They are strangers.”

Melissa says with eight other siblings, the family is equipped the handle her parents' affairs. According to court and police reports on the case, there had been no signs of mistreatment or mismanagement of the Bennett’s money. Mr. Bennett's wife of 60 years, Ida, is his court appointed guardian, but even she can't access their retirement.

“I've never been through nothing like this in my whole life,” Mrs. Bennett said.

Court Appointed Control
The court appointed Iris Albright's team at Family Services to oversee the finances.

“The role of the conservator is to protect the assets of the individual,” Albright explained.

She says her team invests the money and sets a budget for the person they are appointed to help. Albright says conservatorships are designed to intervene in cases where family members can't agree on spending or when there isn't anyone else to help.

According to court records, there are 451 adults under a conservatorship in Charleston County. Court records show 37% of conservatorships are managed by a third-party versus a family member. A family member is always the first choice to handle a conservatorship, but there's a catch. They have to be backed with a bond or insurance. It can be very difficult to secure for family members without deep pockets.

Fewer than one percent of cases are dissolved by the court each year. The typical case is an accident case where the person is in intensive care then regains capacity. That means 99% of cases are dissolved only after a ward dies.

“Most individuals have some form of dementia and the person does not regain their capacity,” Probate Judge Irvin Condon explained via email. He's barred from speaking about any cases publicly, including the Bennett's case. He declined a taped interview on the topic of conservatorships.

Mounting Fees

The Bennett family fears several people including the courts, lawyers, doctors, and Family Services are making money off handling the Bennett's case.

Family Services is a non-profit organization, but doe collect a fee to manage money for wards.

Judge Condon sets the fees. He capped lawyer fees at $200 per hour. Doctors collect between $450 and $1,200 for exams. Social workers earn $275 to $300 for exams. Conservators collect roughly one percent of the money they manage each quarter. For the Bennett family, with roughly $500,000 in the account, that's $5,000 every three months.

Their case is expected to be back in court by the end of October to determine if the court needs to continue the conservatorship.

Planning for the future

To avoid the court interventions, Judge Condon recommends establishing a Last Will and Testament, a Declaration of Desire for Natural Death (otherwise known as a Living Will), a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and a Durable Power of Attorney for Business Affairs. Having the Durable Power of Attorney and the Health Care Power of Attorney would allow a family to bypass the Conservatorship/Guardianship procedures.

As a public service, Charleston County and Judge Condon provide the statutory Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney. If you need these documents contact the court here.

Full Article & Source:
News 2 I-Team: Court controls hundreds of peoples’ money

Seniors suffer the most after natural disasters

In times of disaster, there are consequences that are obvious, such as loss of property and dramatic loss of life. However, there are also unseen consequences that, if left untreated, can prove just as fatal. Unfortunately, the recent horrific Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have recently disrupted the lives of millions of people and our thoughts are with them as they cope with these devastating events.

It’s essential that we work to understand what people of all ages face following disaster, as well as the unique needs of more vulnerable populations.

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, the Senate Special Committee on Aging will conduct a hearing focusing on the impact of these disasters on older adults. One such impact is that older adults become more prone to clinical malnutrition and health complications when access to food, particularly special diets, is interrupted through evacuations — and these vulnerable seniors are supposed to bring weeks’ worth of food with them when they leave.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Because Florida is so prone to hurricanes, its Department of Health recommends that older adults living in the state pack a 30-day supply of medication and a two-week supply of special diet foods or supplements when a hurricane is expected.”

This important Senate hearing will be held during Malnutrition Awareness Week, sponsored by the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). The simple fact is, malnutrition among older adults is a growing threat to their quality and quantity of life, whether they are in a crisis or not. It is a problem that impacts both community-dwelling and hospitalized older adults.

It is estimated that up to one out of two older adults are at risk of malnutrition — and it’s estimated that disease-associated malnutrition in older adults costs $51 billion annually. Although strides have been made, critical gaps remain in diagnosing and treating the condition. ASPEN estimates that “10 hospitalized patients with malnutrition continue to go undiagnosed every 60 seconds.” We also know that malnutrition increases the length of hospital stays and increases the risk of falls, contributing to readmission.

The Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition and Avalere Health earlier this year released the National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults. It was referenced at another hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging focused on nutrition and older adults. It identifies the four steps which, if adopted, can help improve older adult malnutrition care:

 Screen all patients

 Assess nutritional status

 Diagnose malnutrition if present

 Intervene with appropriate nutrition care

One must take seriously the emerging threats to the well-being of older adults: hunger and food insecurity, chronic disease and disability, and social and mental health challenges, and that the results of these conditions can be malnutrition. There are solutions, both regulatory and legislative, which are being developed.

Through regulations, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should add malnutrition electronic clinical quality measures to the current quality measure set. These measures have been proposed and CMS has already acknowledged the need for these measures.

Through legislation, in addition to providing full funding for all federal programs providing food and nutrition education to older adults, we need to work to ensure the nutrient quality of food provided with federal funds and that national health surveys include malnutrition measures.

We can act in this session of Congress. The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization next year, and the Older Americans Act reauthorization from 2016 is still being implemented. These pieces of legislation contain almost all the nutrition programs that serve older adults. We should make sure they’re fully funded and helping older adults maintain the nutrients they need as well as identifying older adults at risk for malnutrition.

By observing and acting during Malnutrition Awareness Week, we help to reinforce the obvious point that good nutrition is essential to better health. Whether dealing with a natural disaster or not, maintaining older adults’ nutritional status should always be a top priority.

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Seniors suffer the most after natural disasters

Family: Veteran died from nursing home neglect

A Seymour family is demanding answers after they say their loved one died as a result of nursing home neglect.

Tim Johnson died in a Columbus hospital Oct. 11, 2014, at the age of 43 as a result of sepsis and cardiac arrest after spending four years at the Seymour Crossing nursing home.

“You put your loved one in there and you expect them to be taken care of,” said Rebekah Klaus, Johnson's sister.

State inspection reports and police records obtained by Call 6 Investigates raise questions about whether the nursing home adequately cared for Johnson.

Klaus tries to remember her brother, a Navy veteran, for how he lived, not how he died.

“He loved his daughter, he loved his family, he loved animals, he loved life in general,” said Klaus.

Tim Johnson battled rheumatoid arthritis and other health issues, and spent the last four years of his life in Seymour Crossing.

“He couldn’t walk, that’s the reason he was at the Crossing,” said Klaus. “His knees wouldn’t go.”

Following the death of Johnson, the Indiana State Department of Health/federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted an investigation and inspection at Seymour Crossing on November 3, 5 and 6, 2014.

The report shows on October 4, a staffer went to check on Johnson and found him lethargic, disoriented, whimpering and saying ‘please.’

Johnson ended up in the hospital with sores and wounds on his body.

The state/federal report said an Intensive Care Unit nurse at the hospital noted Johnson was unkempt, unclean and had a very strong smell.

“(The right arm dressing) was saturated and foul…smelled like it had been there a while and we were all wearing masks,” an ICU nurse told investigators.

Johnson’s family took pictures of the wounds, too graphic to show, including one on his right arm so deep it went down to the bone and muscle.

“I became infuriated,” said Johnson’s 15-year-old daughter, Sydney. “They didn’t care for him the way they should have.”

Johnson developed an infection complication known as sepsis, went into cardiac arrest, and was taken off life support at the age of 43.

“I have cried every single day for a year,” said Klaus. “I still look at those pictures. I still go out to that graveyard every day and it haunts me.”

Klaus and Sydney Johnson said they never noticed a wound on Tim’s arm because he was wearing a gown in his final weeks at the nursing home.

“He was constantly wearing a gown,” said Klaus. “I feel like there was more that I could do.”

Johnson’s family members said because they suspected he wasn’t getting adequate care, they tried to find another place to take him, but it was difficult to find another facility close by that accepted Medicaid.

State/federal records show the dressing on Johnson’s arm wound had not been changed since September 26, a week before he ended up in the hospital, on October 4.

Previously, the dressings were changed every Tuesday and Friday, records show.

According to the inspection report, the nursing home’s wound nurse was not following protocol, and ordered Johnson’s wound treatment to be discontinued.

“It’s abuse and neglect,” said Klaus.

The wound nurse is no longer with the facility, according to the Seymour Police Department report.

The Jackson County Prosecutor has decided not to file criminal charges in the death of Tim Johnson.

“We did receive an investigation from Seymour Police Department, as well as from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General,” said Amy Marie Travis, Jackson County Prosecutor, in an email to Call 6 Investigates. “Neither entity found evidence to support the filing of criminal charges in this matter and did not recommend charges. My office did an independent review of the matter and did not find probable cause to file criminal charges.”

Johnson’s family is disappointed.

“I won’t have someone to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, and I won’t have someone to look up to the rest of my life,” said Sydney Johnson, daughter of Tim Johnson. “It infuriates me that somebody did this to him and made us go through all this pain and suffering and they’re not going to be punished for it.”

The state/federal investigation found Seymour Crossing failed to provide necessary care and services, and noted a deficiency in “Provide Care/Services for Highest Well Being.”  (Continue Reading)

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Family: Veteran died from nursing home neglect