Sunday, August 20, 2017

Nursing home residents make meals for needy

Residents of Vienna Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
At least 30 residents at the Vienna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center got up early Thursday morning to prepare a lunch to serve to the 40 people involved with he Women Helping Women group at the Salvation Army.

Residents at the facility gathered in the dining hall and eagerly chopped vegetables and meats for chef salads. Other residents prepared rolls and baked cookies to go with the meal.

“I’m doing an important thing — people need to be fed,” 93-year-old Shirley Graese said as she stuck wedges of butter in the rolls.

“They need good, healthy food. We have it here and they are getting ready to put it on the plate. It’s really a privilege and helpful and we like it. As long as we’re going to be here, we might as well be productive if we can do it.”

Lillian Granger, 93, who also prepared rolls, said she has been helping people all her life, so this was nothing new.

Gwen Showalter, 74, cut up chunks of turkey to go in the chef’s salads. She said she was glad that she was given this opportunity because she enjoys helping people.

Jonathan Ibarra said in the past he has worked with the Salvation Army and it’s nice to help some of the people he met in the past.

Shirley Klinker, 86, prepared the cookies for dessert. With six children, she describes herself as sort of a pro at baking cookies.

“I baked a lot of cookies. Chocolate chip was their favorite and they would tolerate oatmeal,” she said.

After the food was prepped and ready to go, seven residents were chosen to go serve the meal at the Salvation Army. Transportation was provided by the city’s Dial A Ride program.

According to Jamie Vilinskas, Vienna’s marketing director, in an effort to give back to the community the center started the Serving Smiles program. Once a month the residents prepare and serve a meal to the Women Helping Women group at the Salvation Army.

“We’ve been trying to find something where the residents can give back to the community and have a role and a responsibility,” Vilinskas said.

She said they were inspired by a documentary about a similar program called Heart to Serve and decided to start their own program.

“You might have tremors, you might not be able to use one arm, you might have dementia or something, but if your heart still wants to give back, you should still be able to have that opportunity to give back,” Vilinskas said.

According to Vilinskas, many residents at Vienna have been caring for others and feeding people most of their lives. The program gives residents a chance to reconnect with their former identity of being a provider and caregiver, and really makes a difference in the lives of others.

Families of Salvation Army benefit not only with the meals, but Vilinskas said it also provides them an opportunity to connect with seniors in the community and share genuine, intimate moments of bonding.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home residents make meals for needy

Cornell woman charged with stealing from disabled relative

Cindy L. Dicus
Cindy L. Dicus didn’t waste time.

At about 9:30 a.m. April 25, she attended a hearing before Judge James Isaacson where she was removed as a guardian of the estate of one of her relatives. The hearing ended about 10 a.m.
Prosecutors said at 10:05 a.m. Dicus withdrew $995 from the relative’s account, leaving a balance of $5.36.

Dicus, 62, of Cornell is charged in Chippewa County Court with felony theft on April 5 and seven counts of misdemeanor theft on dates ranging from April 7 to May 15. The felony charge is from the city of Chippewa Falls, and the misdemeanor charges are from Chippewa Falls, Cornell and the town of Lake Holcombe.

Dicus is scheduled to appear before Judge Steven Gibbs at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22. She has signed a $1,000 signature bond.

According to a criminal complaint: A Chippewa County social worker contacted the Cornell Police Department on July 1 over a reported fraud case.

Police found Dicus had become guardian of a relative’s estate on Sept. 22, 2015 and was removed as guardian for not finishing required federal paperwork. Because of that, her relative lost his Medicaid benefits, including his living expenses at a nursing home.

Dicus was officially removed as guardian on April 25, 2017, and the county took over as the guardian for Dicus’ relative and the relatives’ bank records were turned over to the county.

It was found the relative was issued a back payment from Social Security of $19,180 on April 3, 2017, and the check was made out to the payee, “Cindy Dicus for (the relative’s initials).” Dicus then opened an account for the relative at a financial institution in Chippewa Falls on April 5, where she deposited $10,180. “A transaction slip showed defendant Dicus had taken $8,000 in cash,” the complaint said.

A bank account statement dated May 30 showed 69 transactions from the account, but none were for the care of Dicus’ relative. Among the transactions were $1,435 to Xcel Energy, $217 for Charter cable, $766 for Larson’s Auto in Cornell, $303 for the Holiday store in Cornell and $60 to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to reinstate a driver’s license.

A check dated May 3 for $1,009 from the U.S. Treasury was deposited into the account of Dicus’ relative about a week after Dicus was removed as the relative’s guardian. Several transactions were made using the funds. When the bank account was closed May 30, a total of $8.37 was left in the checking and savings accounts.

The nursing home where the relative is staying reported on June 1 no financial transactions or money from the relative’s Social Security proceeds was turned over by Dicus for the relative’s care.

Full Article & Source:
Cornell woman charged with stealing from disabled relative

T. S. Radio Shut Down While Discussing Grazzini-Rucki Case








Journalist and author, Michael Volpe says,
Broadcast was hacked twenty minutes in. Someone must not like what I’m saying about this case.


***********************************

Listen Here: TS Radio:Mike Volpe & Sandra Grazzini..Minnesota, Dakota County battle continues

Hosted by Marti Oakley:
"Join us this evening as Mike Volpe and Sandra Grazzini talk about the latest developments in what has to be THE divorce case of the century here in Minnesota. Dakota County, notoriously infamous for its blatant corruption continues its aggression against the defendant. Tune in for the latest in this extremely strange case. Just goes to show you….money talks and can buy you all sorts of things in the right places!"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Families fear death for patients told to ship out from SF hospital

Leneta Anderson,
For more than a year, 77-year-old Leneta Anderson has taken both the bus and train from her home in Silver Terrace to visit her husband at a hospital in the Mission District.

Richard Anderson, 82, was hooked up to a breathing tube at St. Luke’s hospital in March 2016 after a medical procedure went wrong and landed him in the emergency room, nearing death.

Leneta Anderson spends hours at the hospital keeping her husband company, often staying until Family Feud comes on the television in the evening. She plays her husband music from the 1950s. She spoon feeds him and rubs his back.

But Lenata Anderson fears their time together could be cut short in October, when Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center is slated to close the skilled nursing facility and subacute unit at St. Luke’s, relocating the patients outside of The City.

The skilled nursing facility is the last in San Francisco to provide long-term subacute care for patients with tracheostomies who are on ventilators and use feeding tubes. The patients are just a step away from being in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, city health officials say there are a limited number of subacute units in the Bay Area and all of them are running at or near capacity. Richard Anderson could be moved as far away as Los Angeles.

“It will, I would say, kill my husband if they take him out of San Francisco and I can’t get to him,” Leneta said. “And I’m not just talking about Walnut Creek or San Mateo, they’re talking about Los Angeles … I would have to fly there.”

On Tuesday, the Health Commission delayed voting on a resolution on whether the planned closure of the skilled nursing facility at St. Luke’s will have a detrimental impact on health care services San Francisco.

San Francisco is projecting a shortage of skilled nursing facility beds as the population ages and hospitals in The City and across the nation continue to remove the beds, resulting in what some are calling a health crisis.

San Francisco has lost 30 percent of the beds since 2003, according to according to city health officials.

The Health Commission does not have the authority to overturn the decision but can put pressure on hospitals that are cutting health services under 1988’s Proposition Q, which requires private hospitals to give public notice.

Sutter Health notified city officials in June that it would remove all 79 skilled nursing beds, including 40 for patients that need subacute care. The company is planning to open two hospitals in San Francisco, but neither will include skilled nursing beds under a development agreement with city officials from 2013.

CPMC CEO Dr. Warren Browner told the Health Commission that the company has recognized since 2011 the need for skilled nursing beds in San Francisco.

“We are disappointed that that agreement was changed in the process of the negotiations,” Browner said. “There’s a lot of blame to go around. We accept some. I think The City should accept some.”

Richard Anderson is one of two dozen patients remaining on the subacute floor.

His daughter, Laurie Anderson, has had trouble finding subacute care for him. Laurie Anderson said she has been turned away from six nursing homes, including one as far away as San Jose.

“If they move him to Los Angeles or something like that, what does that mean,” she said. “I can’t even think about that.”

“It would just kill her and him,” she said of her parents.

Browner said the hospital will provide treatment for the patients until they are moved to another facility.

“We will of course work with any of our patients who remain at St. Luke’s after Oct. 31 and their families to find the very best fit,” Browner said.

Raquel Rivera, whose sister is mentally disabled and a patient in the subacute unit, disputed whether the hospital is working with families to relocate patients as it claims.

“You need to have a dead heart to move these patients away from their families,” Rivera said Tuesday at a news conference outside City Hall.

CPMC is building two new hospitals in San Francisco, with a Mission Bernal Campus replacing St. Luke’s in June 2018 and another on Van Ness Avenue set to open in early 2019.

At the Health Commission, Vice President David Pating asked Browner to consider delaying the closure beyond October.

“It concerns me that we don’t have a plan in The City about how to replace the beds,” Pating said. “We’re a sinking ship without a lifeboat.”

Browner said that CPMC has “to prepare for the transition to new facilities.”

“We can’t keep pushing everything back and do everything at the last minute,” Browner said. “It would not be a responsible solution.”

The Health Commission resolution on whether the closure will have a detrimental impact on San Francisco will be heard again Sept. 5.

Full Article & Source:
Families fear death for patients told to ship out from SF hospital

CA: Judicial Watchdog Issues 'Severe Public Censure' Against Judge Kreep, Who Remains on Bench

The state judicial discipline agency issued a “severe public censure” against San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep on Thursday, stopping just short of removing him from the bench.

The punishment is the second most-serious that the Commission on Judicial Performance can assess against a judge. Kreep came close to losing his seat on the bench, with four of the 10 commissioners — including all three active judges who are part of the commission — voting for removal.

The commission leveled 29 charges of misconduct against Kreep, most of which related to his judicial campaign and his first year on the bench in the downtown San Diego Superior Court. Lawyers for the commission had argued he should be removed from office because the misconduct was so serious.

Despite the large number of violations the commissioners did not kick him off the bench, because it said in its decision that most of the violations occurred during his 2012 campaign for the seat and in his first year or so as a judge.

Full Article and Source:
Judicial Watchdog Issues 'Severe Public Censure' Against Judge Kreep, Who Remains on Bench

Casey tackles aging issues

WILKES-BARRE — Staffers who work with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on the Senate aging committee have a joke about the scope of their work.

“As soon as you’re born,” he said, “you’re aging.”

Advocating for that all-encompassing constituency includes an obligation to protect programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, said Casey, the committee’s ranking Democrat, on Monday at a conference on aging at Wilkes University.

The next fight on that front will come with the federal government’s 2018 budget, the Scranton resident said. The plan from the U.S. House of Representatives includes cuts to Medicare over the next 10 years, as well as cuts to discretionary spending that Casey said could eventually affect other programs seniors care about.

For example, a cut in discretionary funding could affect how much money is available for Community Development Block Grants, a Department of Housing and Urban Development fund that supports a variety of local programs. With the federal government distributing less funding, states and local organizations have less money for initiatives like Meals on Wheels or heating assistance programs.

“We have a lot of fights ahead of us. We have to fight against those kinds of cuts,” Casey said.

Seniors are a major part of Casey’s constituency, and they account for a major part of federal spending. The 2010 budget allocated 20.4 percent of federal spending for Social Security and 13.1 percent of federal spending for Medicare, according to FactCheck.org.

Among the issues addressed at the conference was the threat of seniors being targeted by scams intended to rob them of their savings.

Scammers might pretend to be IRS agents claiming they’re owed money and threatening arrest, or lottery officials promising a bogus windfall.

The best course of action if someone threatens punishment for nonpayment is to hang up, said Tim Camus, an inspector with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The IRS won’t contact anyone first by telephone, and it also won’t threaten arrest or a lawsuit, he said.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne spoke about drug abuse. Even though they’re not often the face of the opioid crisis, older Americans are not immune from the problems caused by the drugs, which have led to an increase in overdose deaths in recent years.

“We really have to elbow our way into the discussion about the opioid crisis,” she said.

Senior citizens can be addicted themselves or face having to care for a family member who is addicted or left vulnerable because of someone else’s addiction, Osborne said.

Conference panelists also addressed funding of programs that affect seniors.

Mary Roselle, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging for Luzerne and Wyoming Counties; Tim Camus, a deputy inspector general for the U.S. Treasury Department; and Gail Roddie-Hamlin, president and CEO of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, all had a simple answer when asked what they wanted Casey to know: They could use more funding for their missions.

That’s the central challenge of government, Casey said, citing research into Alzheimer’s disease as an example.

Because of investments in research, Pennsylvania has the potential to be the place where there’s a major breakthrough on a cure for Alzheimer’s, he said.

“But we can’t continue that research on Alzheimer’s or anything else unless we continue to pound the table” for funding, he said.

Full Article & Source:
Casey tackles aging issues

Friday, August 18, 2017

Conditions at state institutions unacceptable

It’s a track record that can’t be tolerated.

Data compiled from 2016 inspections of Washington’s four state-run residential habilitation centers (RHCs)--including Rainier School in Buckley--detail shocking accounts of abuse and neglect toward developmentally disabled residents.

The 2016 reports read like documents from the 19th century when people with Down syndrome, autism, or other disabilities were isolated in asylums and often neglected.

The state’s own surveyors reported 257 allegations of injuries with origins unknown, 25 accident allegations, and 16 reports on the misuse of seclusion and restraints both physical and chemical.

In November of 2016, a staff member at the Rainier School sexually assaulted a female resident. An investigation revealed later that several other residents had allegedly been raped by the same staff member. The accused awaits trial in the Pierce County jail.

Employees at Rainier School said training on how to identify sexual trauma in nonverbal adults was never administered.

At that same institution, in the span of less than two years, two residents choked to death, and a man nearly drowned during a lake trip. A staff member left him alone on a dock strapped into his wheelchair. When he fell into the water, he was unable to free himself.

The report also detailed how staff at the Lakeland Village facility near Spokane withheld food to “manage” behavior. The plan called for staff to “only provide diet supplements” if they saw the resident come out of his room.

Nurses at other facilities worked with expired licenses.

In 2015 and 2016, federal experts found so many violations, ones that included leaving residents strapped to toilets or exploiting them financially, they froze federal funding for new admissions. The Developmental Disabilities Administration, which oversees operations, is given 11 months to get back into compliance.

Washington is one of only 13 states still operating large institutions for people with developmental disabilities. Oversight authority lies with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Surveys are conducted every 15 months; when an infraction occurs, the facility in question responds with a “Plan of Correction,” an inadequate method of accountability considering the ongoing problems with safety and substandard therapeutic conditions.

Don Clintsman, a top DSHS official charged with overseeing the state RHCs, said corrections have been implemented. He also mentioned the facilities are crumbling. “Some of the buildings are 50, 60 and 70 years old.” He’d like to see real investment coming from the state Legislature.

Disability Rights Washington is entreating the public for help, calling for a panel, one that includes both state officials and concerned citizens.

Reisha Abolofia, author of No Excuses: shining a light on abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities in Washington institutions, says lawmakers and public officials are aware of the report’s findings. To her knowledge, no special investigations have been assigned.

“People with disabilities are viewed as less than human,” says Abolofia. It’s the only answer she can give for why state officials have not done more.

Sue Elliott, executive director of the Arc of Washington says, “Washington ranks 42nd in the nation for how we treat our DD (developmentally disabled) residents.”

This kind of treatment wasn’t acceptable in the 19th century, and it isn’t acceptable now.

But until Governor Inslee and the state Legislature take concerted action, more than 800 of our most vulnerable citizens remain at risk.

Full Article & Source:
Conditions at state institutions unacceptable

DA To Review Metro Audit Of Autumn Hills

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Davidson County District Attorney has been asked to review a recent Metro audit into the city-owned home for seniors.

The audit found there was no documentation for more than a million dollars in spending at the Bordeaux home and that the former managers had raided the residents' Trust Funds and spent more than $125,000 of their personal money.

Metro councilman Jim Shulman called for the audit a year ago after NewsChannel 5 Investigates exposed financial problems at Autumn Hills last year. The audit found Autumn Hills still owes nearly a quarter of a million dollars to creditors.

Earlier this year, after the problems came to light, the city cuts ties with the management company that it had hired to run Autumn Hills.

A new interim company was brought in to run the place which is now using its former name, the Knowles Home.

Full Article & Source:
DA To Review Metro Audit Of Autumn Hills

NYC court worker calls reporter, admits he 'barely shows up' for $166K job

A longtime spokesman for the state court system accidentally butt-dialed a Post reporter — yukking it up about how “I barely show up to work” while pocketing a $166,000-plus salary and boosting his taxpayer-funded pension.

After speaking by cellphone with the reporter about a planned exposé on his cushy schedule, David Bookstaver butt-dialed back, and unwittingly left a four-minute voicemail while chatting with at least two other people.

On the voicemail, Bookstaver admitted lying to The Post about how he spent his weekdays and confirmed the accounts of court-system sources who said he’s been working as few as two days a week.

“I spoke to [the reporter] on the record for awhile. I said, ‘I’m in a much less visible position; that doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything,’ ” Bookstaver said.

“But, frankly, look, the bottom line: the story’s true. I’m not doing anything. I barely show up to work and I’ve been caught.”

The remark promoted laughter, after which Bookstaver explained that he didn’t need to show up “because they took away all my responsibilities and left my pay.”

At one point, he lamented over having bragged about his ability to play hooky. “They left me alone and look, I have a big mouth. I told people I’m not doing much. I do take a lot of time off,” he said.
“I kind of asked for it. You know, if you have a big mouth, you know it catches up with you.”

Bookstaver, who’s planning to retire Oct. 1, also raised the possibility he could get fired “because of a story in The Post,” but said it “would probably affect my pension check by $6 a month.”

“Look, the bottom line is, I’ll suffer through a terribly embarrassing story and then go get my f–king pension and retire,” he said.

Full Article & Source:
NYC court worker calls reporter, admits he 'barely shows up' for $166K job

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Entertainment Mogul Walt Disney’s Grandson Denied Access to Family Trust Funds

Bradford D. Lund, a grandson of Walt Disney, on Friday failed in his bid in the Fourth District Court of Appeal to gain a reversal of a judgment denying a petition for an order to Wells Fargo, trustee of the family trust, to distribute to him his share of the res.

Div. Three, in an opinion by Justice Raymond Ikola, said that even though the trust is administered in California, deference must be given the decision of an Arizona court that distribution to Lund be deferred until after resolution of a conservatorship proceeding. Lund is said to be mentally impaired.

He is the son of the Disney’s adopted daughter, Sharon Disney, who died in 1993, and developer William Lund.

Sharon Disney was one of two daughters of Walt and Lillian Disney. Under the terms of the trust, the res is to be distributed in equal shares to the grandchildren upon the death of whichever daughter survived the other.

That event occurred in 2013 when Diane Disney Miller, a biological daughter, died at the age of 79.

Any grandchild over the age of 30—which included Brad Lund—was to take his or her share outright. The trust was estimated in 2014 at $400 million.

In seeking to circumvent the Arizona order, Brad Lund invoked Probate Code §17000(a), which provides:

“The superior court having jurisdiction over the trust pursuant to this part has exclusive jurisdiction of proceedings concerning the internal affairs of trusts.”

He also cited the a provision of the Arizona constitution that: Brad then cites article 6, section 14, of the Arizona Constitution which states, “The superior court shall have original jurisdiction of: 1. Cases and proceedings in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested by law in another court.”

—AP
Walt Disney, who died in 1966, is seen in a photo with daughters Sharon and Diane.

Exclusive jurisdiction, he argued, is in Orange County, California, where the trust is administered.

Ikola responded:

“While Brad’s argument has facial appeal, it relies on a misinterpretation of the term ‘jurisdiction’ as used in section 17000.”

What it means, he said, is that probate departments have exclusive jurisdiction within a superior court over probate matters.

“Accordingly, section 17000 was not intended to confer exclusive fundamental jurisdiction to any particular court, but, rather, was simply intended to streamline the process of adjudicating trusts by ensuring parties would not bounce back and forth between different courts depending on the type of relief sought,” Ikola wrote, adding:

“Since section 17000 does not deprive Arizona of jurisdiction, principles of comity counsel in favor of avoiding an order contradicting the Arizona court’s order. Moreover, the Arizona court’s order was merely a temporary order. If Brad is found to be competent, the Arizona court may well dissolve the temporary order without making any further orders concerning the trust. In that respect, it would be premature for us to address the broader question of where any remaining issues concerning trust distributions ought to be decided.”

The case is Lund v. Wells Fargo Bank, G052717.

Bohm Wildish, James G. Bohm, Matthew Troncali, Klaus Heinze and Heather Cote were Lund’s attorneys on the appeal. Don Fisher and Erin K. Oyama of Palmieri, Tyler, Wiener, Wilhelm & Waldron acted for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Brian M. Daucher, Adrienne W. Lee and Abby H. Meyer of Sheppard Mullin represented the plaintiff’s twin sister, Michelle A. Lund, and two half-sisters, Kristen Lund Olson and Karne Lund Page.

Sheppard Mullin’s clients, along with aunt, instituted the involuntary conservatorship proceedings in Arizona in 2009.

Full Article & Source:
Entertainment Mogul Walt Disney’s Grandson Denied Access to Family Trust Funds

Ethics Court Urged To Put Pa. Judge On Hook For Retaliation

Law360, Philadelphia (August 15, 2017, 4:59 PM EDT) -- For the first time since a sweeping new set of judicial ethics rules went into effect three years ago, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline is being urged by an ethics watchdog to find an ex-Northampton County judge liable for retaliating against staffers who complained about his purportedly abusive conduct.

The state’s Judicial Conduct Board argued in a filing on Friday that it had presented ample evidence of ex-Magisterial District Judge David Tidd’s alleged retaliatory conduct during a formal ethics trial in May, including testimony that he’d specifically requested to have two staffers transferred after coming to suspect that they’d filed a complaint against him.

“The charge of retaliation by a judge is an issue of first impression before this court,” the board said. “The board proved by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Tidd knew that retaliatory conduct was prohibited, yet he directly retaliated against his court clerks because of their cooperation with the board’s investigation.”

Tidd, who served on the bench for six years before his resignation in July 2016, was slapped with a string of ethics charges last August covering a host of alleged violations, including his refusal to issue warrants against a friend and legal colleague over his unpaid parking citations, and his failure to recuse himself in cases where he had a potential conflict. The complaint also accused him of failing to recuse himself from a case involving a citation that the landlord of his district court building received after a May 2013 traffic accident.

As Tidd faced investigation, the complaint said that he badgered and berated his court staff about any involvement they may have had in tipping off the JCB to his conduct. This, the board has argued, violates a provision of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct that became effective in July 2014 barring retaliation “directly or indirectly against a person known or suspected to have assisted or cooperated with an investigation of a judge or a lawyer.”

A trial in the case was held over the course of several days in January, May and June, according to court records.

In proposed finding of fact and conclusions of law filed with the CJD on Friday, the board pointed to an email that Tidd sent to a deputy court administrator in Northampton County requesting the “immediate removal” of two staffers who he said he’d learned had taken part in filing a complaint against him.

Tidd later told a third staffer that he “couldn’t even look at” one of the transferred employees without feeling sick.

After learning that the third staffer had also participated in the board’s investigation, the filing on Friday said, Tidd also requested her transfer.

“This makes contact with her intolerable,” Tidd wrote in an email to the deputy court administrator cited by the board in its filing.

Tidd, meanwhile, has pushed to have the entire case thrown out on grounds that it was improperly based on allegedly selectively edited audio and video recordings he said were submitted to the board to highlight his allegedly improper behavior.

“This selective copying of the videos was very unfair since Mr. Tidd was prevented from preserving all the tapes which would have demonstrated a very fair jurist,” the ex-judge argued in his own proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law last month.

An attorney for Tidd did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

Tidd is represented by Samuel Stretton.

The board is represented by Chief Counsel Robert Graci and Deputy Counsel Elizabeth Flaherty.

The case is In Re: David W. Tidd etc., case number 3 JD 2016, before the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline.

Full Article & Source:
Ethics Court Urged To Put Pa. Judge On Hook For Retaliation

The Biggest Estate Planning Mistake People Make

If you are like most people, when you hear the words “estate planning,” you probably think of writing a will, to explain who will get what you own when you die. The problem is, a will has little or nothing to do with you. It’s all about planning for someone else. In reality, estate planning is about much more than writing a will; it’s also about taking care of you while you are alive, should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.

Credit: Shutterstock

What follows is a rundown of the key disability documents to complete as part of your estate planning, even before writing a will. Although their names vary from state-to-state, the following are essential “me first” documents.


An Advanced Health Care Directive, sometimes called a Medical Power of Attorney  This document lets you choose who will make decisions about your health care if you become too ill or injured to make them yourself. This person is referred to as your health care agent.

A Living Will  A living will spells out the kinds of medical care and treatment you do and don’t want to receive if you are close to death and there is no hope of your recovery. Your health care agent will have the power to make sure your wishes are complied with. In some states, a living will is part of an Advanced Health Care Directive; in others, they are two separate documents.

A living will also spares your family members from having to second guess your desires and can help avoid emotionally difficult fights among your loved ones over what to do (or not do). Worst case scenario: Without a living will (and a Medical Power of Attorney), decisions about your end-of-life care could end up in the hands of a judge who knows nothing about you, and your loved ones could be completely shut out of the judge’s deliberations.

A Durable Power of Attorney If you become incapacitated, your bills still must be paid, your investments managed and so on. A Durable Power of Attorney helps ensure that during your incapacitation there will be someone to manage your finances. This individual, your agent, will be able to write checks, deposit and withdraw money from your accounts on your behalf and speak with your financial advisers, among other things. Be sure to pick as your financial agent someone you trust and who will act in your best financial interest.

Don’t confuse a Durable Power of Attorney with a Power of Attorney. The latter ceases to be legally valid as soon as you become incapacitated. You need a Durable Power of Attorney

A caveat: Despite the importance of a Durable Power of Attorney, many financial institutions and real estate title companies don’t like them. They worry the document may have been revoked by its creator and replaced with a different one and that the individual claiming to be your financial agent may be trying to steal money from you. So it may be difficult for your financial agent to use your Durable Power of Attorney.

The more recent the power of attorney, the more likely it will be honored, but this varies from state-to-state. Also, financial institutions and title companies have their own criteria for when they will accept a Power of Attorney document.

Before you prepare yours, find out the criteria of your financial institutions and real estate title companies. Also, check with the companies that hold your retirement accounts to see if they have their own Power of Attorney forms; aif they do, use theirs.

A Revocable Living Trust To avoid problems with Powers of Attorney, some people set up a revocable living trust, which essentially acts like a super power of attorney. Financial institutions are legally obligated to comply with their terms. Generally,a revocable living trust is most appropriate for estates worth more than $1 million.

When you set up a revocable living trust, you transfer your assets to the trust and designate yourself as trustee. This way, you can continue to manage and benefit from those assets as you did before they were in the trust. If you can no longer act as the trustee because you become incapacitated, the individual you designated as your successor trustee manages the trust. Most people choose their spouse or partner, a close relative or a trusted friend.

A living trust doesn’t eliminate the need for a Durable Power of Attorney, however. You’ll still need that document to identify the person you want to manage your retirement accounts, like your 401(k) and your IRAs, because these kinds of accounts cannot be transferred into a living trust.

A HIPAA Release HIPAA is the acronym for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Among other things, this law prohibits your doctors from discussing your medical condition and treatment with anyone — including family members and close friends — other than those individuals you specifically list on your HIPAA form. Only those people will have full access to your medical team.

An Organ Donation Authorization You may want to donate your organs when you die so someone can benefit from them. If so, make your wishes known on your driver’s license or register with an organ bank or with your hospital. Be sure to make your family and your health care agent aware of your wishes.

Full Article & Source:
The Biggest Estate Planning Mistake People Make

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Holocaust-era survivor chafes under Ayudando guardianship

Peter Grotte-Higley
Peter Grotte-Higley was 3 years old in 1939 and living in what was then Czechoslovakia when the Nazis sent his Jewish father to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

As World War II came to a close, the invading Russian army forced 10-year-old Peter and his mother into a “collection” camp, where he recalls hearing people being beaten at night.

Grotte-Higley survived to tell the story of his eventual freedom, his success in the British advertising world and his retirement at age 58 with a healthy savings account and pension.

But at the age of 81, Grotte-Higley is trapped again – this time placed by a private guardianship company in a boarding house where he gets three meals a day and shares a room with another man. He isn’t free to come and go, as he wishes. And he wants out.

“It isn’t a very clean place. My health is getting worse. The food is not adequate for somebody that’s got bad kidneys. I’m not getting the care I need,” he told two Journal reporters.

Over the course of 70-plus years, Grotte-Higley has gone from being a prisoner in a Russian “collection” camp to being a “protected person under the law” in New Mexico. He says he has no access to any money and no way to find out his status as a court-assigned ward of Ayudando Guardians Inc., which last month was indicted along with its two top principals for alleged embezzlement of client funds.

The home where he has been placed isn’t licensed or inspected by the state. A manager could not be reached for comment.

When two Journal reporters on Tuesday attempted to take Grotte-Higley to Ayudando’s offices in Albuquerque at his request, a caretaker at the home barred him from leaving. A reporter who went inside to help Grotte-Higley gather up his documents and photos then was asked to leave the premises.

“Call the police,” an indignant Grotte-Higley told the reporter. “I am not a prisoner here.”

But under the state’s guardianship system, those like Grotte-Higley typically have no freedom to come and go, or to have visitors of their choosing. Their life decisions are dictated by a guardian or conservator appointed by a judge. They are at the mercy of the courts to find out where their life savings went. If they ever find out.

Without children or close family, Grotte-Higley on Jan. 28, 2016, was deemed mentally incapacitated in Bernalillo County District Court. Unable to handle his living and financial affairs, he was suffering from a number of medical issues. Six months earlier, his wife of 17 years, Nancy, died in her sleep.

An employee of the Jewish Care Program of Albuquerque is listed as the petitioner who asked the court to approve a guardianship/conservatorship for Grotte-Higley, who still tries to attend synagogue on Saturdays at Congregation Albert if he can find a ride or get a cab.

Wants accounting

The circumstances of his guardianship are unclear because state law requires so much confidentiality, ostensibly to protect the incapacitated person’s privacy.

A court docket sheet, the only public record available, shows state District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd of Albuquerque appointed Ayudando as Grotte-Higley’s guardian and conservator in February 2016. Why he needed a guardianship/conservatorship isn’t specified – although he had been suffering from health problems and recalls signing papers agreeing to the guardianship.

The medical reports that gave the rationale for him being deemed mentally incapacitated aren’t public. The docket sheet says four annual account/reports were filed between August 2016 and April 28 of this year.

The reports, also confidential, are required by state law to inform the judge about the incapacitated person’s well-being and finances and whether a guardianship/conservatorship is still needed.

Grotte-Higley recalled receiving a conservator report “just one time” that didn’t detail his finances.

He recalled the judge in the case ordering Ayudando “to give a detailed report on my spending (and income) but they never did.”

Judges in New Mexico are bound by a judicial code of ethics to refrain from discussing pending cases in their courts.

Ayudando troubles

Guardianships and conservatorships, whether via a family member or professional firm, are supposed to be a last resort for people who can’t manage their affairs, many of whom have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

New Mexico’s system is under review by a special state Supreme Court task force set to propose reforms and ways courts can maintain better oversight of clients they place under guardianships.

The federal indictment of the 11-year-nonprofit Ayudando Guardians shocked many in the guardianship and legal community because Ayudando specialized in caring for the elderly and mentally or physically incapacitated. A federal indictment unsealed July 19 alleges the firm’s two principals and their families used client funds, including their monthly benefit payments, to support a lavish personal lifestyle.

Company credit cards were used to purchase up to $4 million in goods and services over the past three years that didn’t appear related to client needs, federal documents allege.

One federal agent in a search warrant affidavit described Ayudando as a company “permeated by crime.” Grotte-Higley said he knew nothing about what he called the Ayudando “scandal” until alerted by the Journal.

‘Typical Bohunk’

Grotte-Higley agreed to be interviewed by the Journal reporters last Saturday at a Northeast Heights restaurant. In recent months, his health had recovered to where he went to social events, including the monthly meeting of Albuquerque Recorder Society, a musical club that he had attended several years earlier but stopped.

He has relied on taxis to get to and from the meetings, but recently made the acquaintance of Journal reporter Olivier Uyttebrouck, who also plays the recorder.

In the past, Grotte-Higley has been allowed to leave the boarding house if accompanied by a “responsible person” or if transported by taxi, he said.

During the near three-hour interview with Uyttebrouck and reporter Colleen Heild on Saturday, Grotte-Higley recounted his life, promising to be as “objective as I can.” He maintained a sense of humor throughout, reminding the reporters he was born in what was then Bohemia. “I’m a typical Bohunk,” he added.

Grotte-Higley said he agreed to be placed in a guardianship at a time when he was more severely ill than he is today. Before Ayudando was appointed, Grotte-Higley had a quadruple bypass, high blood pressure and at least one stroke, he said. He also recalled a series of falls.

Grotte-Higley did not know the U.S. Marshals Service had a court order to oversee Ayudando’s operations until a reporter told him. He wondered why he hadn’t seen an Ayudando representative in weeks. But he wanted to call the telephone number set up by federal authorities for clients and their families to call if they had questions.

He got a recorded message asking him to leave his contact information.

“How the heck do I get out of that place?” a frustrated Grotte-Higley said of his living arrangement, pounding his fists on the table.

Holocaust survivor program

Grotte-Higley had already been involved with the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.

Grotte-Higley said a social worker with the Jewish Care Program of the Federation has been trying to help him move to new lodging. She didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.

Grotte-Higley on Tuesday planned to visit the Ayudando office on Central Avenue SE to speak with the U.S. Marshals Service about his case.

But a woman who identified herself as Deborah Brem, a manager for Malama Enterprises that manages the boarding house on Tennessee NE where he lives, told Journal reporter Uyttebrouck that he could not take Grotte-Higley to Ayudando’s office.

“I can’t let this happen,” Brem said. “There is nobody that he can speak with right now.” Grotte-Higley would need permission from Ayudando Guardians to leave the property, she said. “At this point, Ayudando is still in place.”

The reporter told Brem that Ayudando Guardians and its two principals are under federal indictment for looting client accounts and money laundering, and that Grotte-Higley wants to speak with someone about the consequences of the indictment for his finances and well-being.

“I’m very well aware of the situation there,” Brem responded.

When reporters called Grotte-Higley later Tuesday on his cellphone, he said he could not talk freely because his caretaker was there with him. The Journal tried three times to reach Grotte-Higley at the same number on Wednesday, but he didn’t answer. The calls went straight to a voice mail – that had not yet been set up.

Struggle for dignity and self-respect

Through the help of the Red Cross and the Czech “underground,” as he called it, Peter Grotte-Higley and his mother escaped from the Russian collection camp. They had to cross the Ore Mountains, winter was approaching and “we were still wearing summer clothes.”

“It was an awful Nazi nest,” he recalled of the war years.

But when the Russians arrived, “we lost everything. They were worse than the Nazis. You know they were beating people during the night, waterboarding them I think. I saw them march up a group of people and the next thing we heard was gunshots.”

Grotte-Higley reunited with his father in England. But he doesn’t know whatever happened to his mother, who stayed in Czechoslovakia to help her parents after their escape from the camp.

Grotte-Higley says he managed to start a business in England that extended “all over” Europe. When he retired at the age of 58, he said he had a savings of well over $250,000 in U.S. dollars.

His retirement in America brought him to the Albuquerque area, where the woman who became his second wife lived.

He said he has two monthly pensions, including one from the United Kingdom that provides about $1,400 a month, and a second pension from a German insurance company for which he once worked.

Over the past year Grotte-Higley relied on a series of Ayudando Guardian representatives for transportation, trips to the doctor and for a $100-a-month debit card for his incidental expenses.

But at least twice when he tried to use the card to pay for purchases, he was told there were no funds on the card.

“I was at Walmart,” he recalled. “It’s highly embarrassing. How can they embarrass me like that?”

Grotte-Higley often expresses frustration about his lack of independence, saying he is unable to leave the house to walk for exercise. A sociable man, he complains that he has little social stimulation in the home.

He also does not know what became of money he had saved or the two pension payments he once received.

“The judge told them (Ayudando) to give a detailed report on my spending and finances,” he told the Journal. “They never did.” Or at least, Grotte-Higley said, he never saw it.

“Look, I have no money whatsoever,” he said. “I need a little bit of money to maintain my self-respect.”

Full Article & Source:
Holocaust-era survivor chafes under Ayudando guardianship

Let's end ageism

It's not the passage of time that makes it so hard to get older. It's ageism, a prejudice that pits us against our future selves -- and each other. Ashton Applewhite urges us to dismantle the dread and mobilize against the last socially acceptable prejudice. "Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured," she says. "It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all."

Source:
Let's end ageism

Third of dementia cases ‘entirely preventable’

A third of dementia cases could be prevented by making environmental and life-style changes starting in childhood, scientists have claimed.

The panel of 24 international experts identified a range of modifiable risk factors they believe to be responsible for around 35% of all instances of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

Different risk factors were said to make an impact at different stages in life, having an accumulating effect.

Better education in early life and addressing hearing loss, high blood pressure and obesity in mid-life could reduce the incidence of dementia by up to 20%, the research suggests.

In later life, stopping smoking, treating depression, increasing physical activity, managing diabetes and enhancing social contact could reduce dementia rates a further 15%, according to the findings.

Professor Lon Schneider, a member of the team from the University of Southern California in the US, said: “There’s been a great deal of focus on developing medicines to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

“But we can’t lose sight of the real major advances we’ve already made in treating dementia, including preventive approaches.

“The potential magnitude of the effect on dementia of reducing these risk factors is larger than we could ever imagine the effect that current, experimental medications could have.

“Mitigating risk factors provides us a powerful way to reduce the global burden of dementia.”

The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care brought the experts together to review a wealth of existing research and data and make evidence-based recommendations.

Their conclusions are published in The Lancet journal and were also presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

Around 47 million people have dementia worldwide. That number is expected to climb as high as 66 million by 2030 and 115 million by 2050.

In the UK an estimated 850,000 people are living with dementia, most of whom have Alzheimer’s.
The Lancet commission also looked at the effectiveness of non-medical treatments for people with dementia.

The experts found that psychological and social interventions were better than anti-psychotic drugs for treating dementia-related agitation and aggression.

Some forms of non-medical therapy such as group cognitive stimulation and exercise led to improvements in mental ability.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the charity Alzheimer’s Society, said: “The revelation that over a third of dementia cases worldwide are, in theory, entirely preventable is cause for celebration.

“But to achieve even close to this kind of reduction in cases we need to consider two important challenges – firstly how risk factors like education, obesity and depression apply not just at a population level, but to individual people who all have their own unique genetic risk profiles, and secondly how we can motivate people in mid to late life to change their behaviour and adopt healthier lifestyle choices.

“Not all of the nine risk factors identified are easily modifiable, factors like poor education and social isolation are incredibly challenging to address.

“But there are easier wins, particularly cardiovascular factors like lowering blood pressure and smoking cessation.”

Full Article & Source:
Third of dementia cases ‘entirely preventable’

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Massachusetts Legislature Poised to Give Immunity to “Guardians”

There is currently an act before the Massachusetts Legislature to establish the Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services. (S.1177/H3027). The purpose of the bill is to provide guardianship services to “unbefriended” people who are unable to manage their affairs.

These people are the most vulnerable in society. They have no one to complain if they are subjected to abuse by a guardian. They are the perfect victims. Any system for providing guardianship services to the “unbefriended” has to have iron clad protections against abuse.

On the contrary, this bill gives immunity to guardians. Guardians are already given immunity by judges of the Probate Court. Regardless of the intent of this immunity the result has been to create a system of legalized crime where guardians commit crimes with impunity. Other health care providers (doctors, nursing homes, etc. ) have to carry liability insurance. Conservators have to be bonded. Guardians should have liability insurance, not immunity.

Democracy was invented to prevent abuse of authority by government. The best way to stop abuse of guardianship is to use 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.

The current bill has none of these protections of democracy. The Governor’s Advisory Council has no authority.  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. The Office of Adult Guardianship has no authority as an entity. All its duties and powers are executed by the Executive Director.

I have attempted to rewrite the bill in a way that makes maximum use of the principles of democracy to prevent abuse of power.
All comments, corrections, suggestions, etc.  are welcome.

—————————
Thank you,
David Arnold
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Read these bills here:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 REVISED BILL WITH IMPORTANT CHANGES HERE:

“An Act to establish the office of adult guardianship and decisional support services.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Sections highlighted in red are to be inserted.

1 SECTION 1. The General Laws are hereby amended by inserting after Chapter 19D the
2 following chapter:.
3 CHAPTER 19E
4 OFFICE OF ADULT GUARDIANSHIP AND DECISIONAL SUPPORT SERVICES
5 Section 1. Definitions
6 As used in this chapter, the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires
7 otherwise, have the following meanings:.
8 “Act,” the Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Act.
9 “At Large Member,” a person with personal or professional experience with
10 guardianship, conservatorship or voluntary decisional support for elderly,
11 intellectually/developmentally disabled persons, and/or mentally ill persons. “At Large Members” shall be disinterested parties from all walks of life who do not derive income or other benefits from guardianship or conservatorship.
12 “Chief Justice,” the individual who is the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court
13 Department of the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
14 “Council,” the Governor’s Advisory Council for Adult Guardianship and Decisional
15 Support, as established and empowered herein.
16 “Decisional Support Services,” a range of informal and formal services to meet the needs
17 of persons with diminished decisional capacity.
18 “Executive Director,” the executive director of The Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional
19 Support Services, as appointed and empowered herein. The “Executive Director” shall be a disinterested party who does not derive income or other benefits from guardianship or conservatorship.
22 “Incapacitated person,” someone as defined in MGL Ch. 190B, Section 5-101 (9).
23 “Office,” the Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services, as
24 established and authorized herein.
25 “Public Guardian,” the entity designated as such under applicable provisions of the Act.
26 “Volunteer,” a person recruited, trained and supervised by the Public Guardian to assist
27 the Public Guardian in carrying out the duties of a guardian, conservator or other decisional
28 support person on behalf of the Public Guardian.
30 Section 2. Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services created; duties.
31 (a) The Governor shall create an Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional
32 Support Services and shall appoint
33 the executive director.
The appointment shall be confirmed by a 2/3 vote of the Council. The executive director shall be knowledgeable of (1) the clinical causes and (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Massachusetts Legislature Poised to Give Immunity to “Guardians”

Woman pleads guilty to bilking elderly Palatine man of almost $4.5 million

A woman pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of fraud for bilking an elderly Palatine man out of nearly $4.5 million over a six-year period through an elaborate lottery scam.

Corrine Dziesiuta, 39, who said she lived in Costa Rica before her arrest, faces up to 61/2 years in prison after admitting to a charge of knowingly devising and participating in a scheme to defraud the 87-year-old man. She persuaded him to wire funds from his U.S. bank accounts to banking institutions in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, authorities have said.

"I did make a mistake," Dziesiuta, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, told U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin. "And I am guilty."

Durkin scheduled sentencing for October. Dziesiuta has been in custody since her arrest last October.

According to a criminal complaint, Dziesiuta first contacted the man, identified only as Victim A, in 2010. Dziesiuta, who went by the alias "Lisa Conti," told him he'd won millions of dollars in prize money but needed to pay "various insurance, taxes and other fees" to protect the money because it was located in a foreign country.

To keep the scam going, Dziesiuta sent a letter to the man in January 2015 purporting to be from a U.S. senator who provided assurances that the government was working to protect his interests, authorities said. The letter also stated the man was required by law to pay $386,000 to "re-register" an insurance policy meant to protect his net worth of $600 million, according to the complaint.

The complaint did not make clear when or how the FBI became aware of the scam, but between May and late September 2016, agents recorded 27 phone calls between the man and Dziesiuta.

During one conversation, the man was instructed to tell Dziesiuta his bank would no longer allow him to wire funds, according to the complaint. Dziesiuta tried to persuade the man to switch banks or go through an attorney to send the money, authorities said.

At the direction of agents, the man was instructed to tell Dziesiuta he was only willing to give her the money in person, according to the complaint. After a few months, Dziesiuta made arrangements to fly the man to New York so he could deliver a cashier's check for more than $3.7 million.

Dziesiuta bought the victim an airline ticket and told him she was going to put him up at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan in October, according to the complaint. She went to meet the victim at LaGuardia Airport, telling him she would wear a peach-colored dress so he could easily recognize her, authorities said.

Dziesiuta didn't realize the victim had been cooperating with the FBI for months. When her phone rang as she stood in the baggage claim area, an FBI agent called out her alias, "Lisa." When she turned around, the agent arrested her.

Full Article & Source:
Woman pleads guilty to bilking elderly Palatine man of almost $4.5 million

Woman charged for exploiting incapacitated mother

MORGANTOWN — A woman faces a felony for exploitation of her incapacitated mother, according to court records.

The West Virginia State Police charged Linda Sue Jones, of Morgantown, with financial exploitation of an elderly person. She was arraigned in Monongalia County Magistrate Court and given a $25,000 personal recognizance bond.

According to her criminal complaint: In July, Trooper M. Mucciola spoke to a Department of Health and Human Services employee about the care of an elderly woman. She said the woman was living at a Grafton nursing home and Jones, her daughter, was named as her health-care surrogate.

Jones was named surrogate after the woman’s husband died. The worker said Jones did not work with the facility to make medical decisions and failed to provide banking information for the victim’s Medicaid review. As a result, Jones’ mother lost her benefits.

DHHR also learned that the victim signed power of attorney documents allowing Jones access to her bank account, after a physician deemed her incapacitated.

The investigation showed 11 withdrawals for about $19,000 between December 2016 and May 2017.

The victim also had an overdue account with the nursing facility of more than $12,000.

Jones told police that she did not know her mother was incapacitated when she signed the paperwork.

Full Article & Source:
Woman charged for exploiting incapacitated mother

Monday, August 14, 2017

A home for Amber

Amber Reynolds often gets a “new-to-her” lunch bag when she goes on shopping trips in Denton with her mother.

At Twice as Nice resale shop on Bell Avenue, Amber rifles through several lunch bags and settles on one decorated with rainbow-colored skulls. As other items in the store get her attention — a bin of body butter, a little bag of play money — she tucks them inside the lunch bag for safekeeping.

Her mother, Angela Biggs, knows her 26-year-old daughter well. Amber was born with a brain injury that profoundly affected how she grew and developed. Over the years, doctors diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed Amber before settling on severe mental retardation and severe bipolar disorder with psychosis.

Their lives are anything but settled, however. Biggs has battled the state over Amber's care at the Denton State Supported Living Center for more than a year. She wants to extract her daughter from the state school and find a group home in a neighborhood setting where Amber can live with other developmentally disabled people.

Angela Biggs keeps an eye on her daughter Amber Reynolds during a visit at the Good Samaritan Society. DRC
Angela Biggs keeps an eye on her daughter Amber Reynolds during a visit at the Good Samaritan Society. 
Her long-running battle with the state of Texas is playing out in Denton County Probate Court, and Biggs worries she is losing. Her case opens a window into the complicated relationship between the 447 people who live at the state school on State School Road in far south Denton and their families.
“It’s like living on an island, no matter which way you turn for help,” Biggs says.

When the two women step up to the checkout counter, Biggs reminds Amber that the clerk needs to scan the items zipped up in the bag.

Biggs shares a laugh with the clerk about the little bag of play money tucked inside the lunch bag.

“We need to pay for this [play] money,” Biggs says. The joke is lost on Amber.

The gauntlet


Amber is a happy and curious young woman. She can put together five or six words when she’s motivated to communicate. Most of the time, she speaks in simple two- and three-word declarative sentences and questions.

Angela Biggs, left, and her daughter Amber Reynolds go shopping for clothes at Twice as Nice Resale of Denton. DRC
Angela Biggs, left, and her daughter Amber Reynolds go
shopping for clothes at Twice as Nice Resale of Denton. 
“C’mere,” she says, holding a stranger’s arm to invite her to browse the resale shop, thumbing through wallets and picking up housewares.

Her mother helps her try on a big purple hat.

“How about this?” Biggs asks. “Purple hat lady.”

Amber tilts her head as if posing for the camera and grins a toothy smile, her eyes sparkling.

Occasionally, Amber can be aggressive. Biggs could manage her daughter’s outbursts when she was little. But as she grew, the aggression became harder to manage. At about age 10, Amber was big enough to really hurt her older sister, Jennifer, and younger brother, Taylor, when she lashed out. She scared Jennifer and Taylor.

 Biggs knew Amber needed help. Biggs and her now ex-husband, Tony Reynolds, agreed to share custody with the state to get funding for Amber's care.

When the state has custody, professional caregivers make hundreds of  daily decisions, big and small, that affect the person’s health and development. Parents and family members can visit, of course, and they also may retain some legal responsibility as a guardian.

A guardian is legally responsible for a person who is unable to manage his or her own affairs. For some people with a severe intellectual disability, the guardian may also guide medical and psychiatric care, not just the ward’s financial affairs.

Biggs has learned how fine a line guardians must walk. When Amber was still a teenager, she was mistreated at a large group home. So, Biggs and Amber's father fought successfully to regain custody. She lived with her father for a while and bounced through several other living arrangements for a decade. Then, in June 2013, Amber suffered a psychiatric breakdown and was admitted to Terrell State Hospital, which treats mental illness.

Amber Reynolds, left, sits next to her father, Tony Reynolds, as her mother, Angela Biggs, snaps a photo of them during a picnic at Buffalo Valley Event Center. DRC
Amber Reynolds, left, sits next to her father, Tony Reynolds,
as her mother, Angela Biggs, snaps a photo of them during a
picnic at Buffalo Valley Event Center. 
The hospital changed Amber's medication and gave her an antidepressant that triggered a manic episode, according to records Biggs obtained and shared with the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which operates the Terrell hospital and the state living centers, declined to comment on Amber's case, citing privacy laws.

Biggs questioned her daughter's treatment in Terrell, a small town in Kaufman County about 30 miles east of Dallas. Four months after the manic episode, the hospital deemed Amber stable enough to be discharged after putting her on a five-drug cocktail to manage her anxiety and manic episodes. But Amber was back in the hospital within a month and eventually was readmitted to Terrell.

Biggs continued to question her treatment. In February 2014, the state found a spot for Amber at the Denton State Supported Living Center.

Amber Reynolds, left, puts on shoes in her room as her mother, Angela Biggs, waits for her to get ready so they can leave for the park.DRC
Amber Reynolds, left, puts on shoes in her room as her mother,
Angela Biggs, waits for her to get ready so they can leave for the park.
Biggs advocated for her daughter during the crisis and lost trust in her caregivers at the Terrell hospital. The caregivers, in turn, said she undermined their decisions. By the time Amber arrived in Denton, a Collin County judge had blocked Biggs from making any more decisions about her daughter’s psychiatric care.

"It's like having one arm tied behind your back," Biggs says.

Despite the judge's decision, she remained Amber's guardian.

Beth Mitchell, an attorney with Disability Rights of Texas, which represents people like Amber, declined to comment on the case. But she said the purpose of guardianship is to be actively involved in the disabled person's life and not rubber-stamp the actions of state caregivers.

Some guardians are like Biggs. They know their wards, visit them regularly and participate in planning meetings. Many others, however, do not, Mitchell said.

"Maybe a few are actively involved and will challenge the recommendations," Mitchell said. "With the others who just go along with the staff, what's the point of being a guardian?"

Biggs communicates regularly with Amber's caregivers at the state living center in Denton. Over the past few years, the Denton staff has been tapering Amber off the drug regimen prescribed at the Terrell hospital. The Denton staff has had some success helping her with daily routines that keep her calm, allowing reductions in medications.

However, the psychiatrist overseeing her case also wrote that Amber likely needs powerful, psychotropic medicines to remain stable.

The medicines have had side effects. An endocrinologist and a cardiologist are monitoring Amber's health, Biggs said. She wants to trust the care her daughter is receiving, but she finds that hard with all that has gone wrong over the years.

“I put my trust in people and then step back,” Biggs says. “But I do have a responsibility, too.”

“I know I don’t have all the answers,” she adds.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
A home for Amber