From dignity to death

Thursday December 4th 2014

HOW Prane Paciunas must have suffered in the last months of her life.

Not just from the pain of deep, maggot-infested bedsores. Not just from the agony of starvation. But from the absolute betrayal of Jean Marie Dombrowski, 48, the woman she’d trusted to care for her.

The more I learn about the simple, gracious and dignified life of Paciunas, 89, the more her death breaks my heart. At least she did not succumb in squalor, ignored by the human animals who walked around her as she rotted on a filthy mattress on her living-room floor. At least she succumbed in a warm, clean bed in the ICU of Aria Health’s Frankford hospital, tended by staff who cared.

I hope some part of her was aware enough to know that she’d been rescued, even if she could not be saved. I hope that gave her peace.

Read more »

Authorities investigate E. Frankford case of elder abuse

Tuesday November 25th 2014

PHILADELPHIA – The live-in caregiver of an elderly East Frankford woman was being held on assault charges after the woman in her care was found starving, covered in filth, and suffering from festering, maggot-infested sores.

She later died in what city prosecutors Monday called one of the most horrific cases of elder abuse their office has ever seen, and prosecutors are now weighing a murder charge.  Plane Paciunas, 89, died Nov. 15, about a week after she was found “barely alive” in her living room, wrapped in a quilt on a bed covered with trash bags, prosecutors said in an interview Monday.  A medic and police officers responding to the scene at first believed she was dead. She had open wounds, one so severe that a bone showed. One person at the scene compared her appearance to that of a “mummy.”

Police say her caregiver, Jean Dombrowski, 48, told detectives she hadn’t been providing for her charge’s basic needs – and she knew that was why Paciunas’ health was failing.  “The facts are truly sickening,” said Jennifer Selber, who heads the district attorney’s Homicide Unit. “This poor woman clearly suffered for a very long time under unspeakable conditions.”

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Police: Man bilked mom

Tuesday November 25th 2014

DANVILLE – A borough man charged with stealing his mother’s Social Security and forging her life insurance policy totaling nearly $14,000 will face Montour County court action.   Stanley R. Phleger, Jr. waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge Marvin Shrawder.

Mahoning Township police charged him with forgery, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, theft by deception, theft and misapplying entrusted government property from Grandview Health Homes.  Police said the Social Security payments totaled $10,299 and the life insurance policy amounted to $3,560.

When Phleger’s mother. Bonnie Phleger, 74, was admitted to Grandview, her son assumed financial responsibility for her because she and her hudnabd were estranged, Cpl. Chad Thomas said. Stanley Jr. signed a financial responsibility form agreeing to direct her income, mainly from Social Security, to the nursing home for her care.  Thomas said Lacey Temple, of the Columbia-Montour Aging Office, told him Mrs. Phleger, who was admitted on Jan 16, 2013, has Alzheimer’s disease.  According to the charges, Stanley Jr. failed to complete necessary paperwork to be submitted to medical assistance and Grandview.  Grandview contacted him several times but he failed to comply. Read more »

Erie-area man convicted of stealing from elderly woman

Monday November 24th 2014

A 91-year-old woman’s dementia is so severe that she could not testify at the trial of a Wesleyville man accused of stealing $15,000 from her in 2012 and 2013.

The defendant, David Burrows, testified the woman knew what she was doing when she gave him power of attorney over her finances.

The jurors rejected Burrows’ argument. With the woman’s mental state as the main evidence, they convicted him Friday of six charges, including four counts of theft and a count of misapplication of entrusted property. The jury deliberated 90 minutes to end the three-day trial in Erie County Court. Burrows’ first trial ended in a mistrial in September in a dispute over evidence.

Burrows, 54, has a prior record for elder abuse. His past could come up at his sentencing, which Judge John Garhart set for Jan. 29. Burrows was sentenced in 2005 to six months to three years in state prison and two years of probation for neglecting an 85-year-old man he was supposed to have cared for, using $2,500 a month from the man. Authorities found the man emaciated and caked in his own waste while living in Burrows’ basement.

In the latest case, Assistant District Attorney Michael Burns argued that the woman, who turns 92 on Sunday and lives in a nursing home, lacked the mental capacity to give Burrows valid written power of attorney. A psychologist testified the woman suffers from delirium and dementia. And even had the power of attorney been valid, Burns said, Burrows improperly spent what was entrusted to him. “This defendant took advantage of a woman who was weak and vulnerable,” Burns said. He said he will ask that Burrows pay $15,000 in restitution. Read more »

Fighting for Lancaster County’s most “vulnerable” victims — the elderly and disabled

Monday November 24th 2014

The elderly.
Adults and children with disabilities.
“I’m driven to protect the most vulnerable,” the 44-year-old mother of three said last week.
Often times, they are elderly widows or widowers duped of savings by a trusted confidant.
Or a mentally- or physically-disabled person victimized by someone close to them.
About 100 such cases have come into King’s office since she took over the county’s elder/care-dependent abuse unit last year.
And that number is expected to keep climbing as more seniors are living here and statewide.
“It’s an attractive county for them to retire to,” she said from her office at the county courthouse on North Duke Street. “We have such a growing population of elderly. We see more and more of these cases.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging estimates that 3.3 million seniors — roughly a quarter of the population — will be living in the state by 2020.
Logic, King said, points to a correlating increase in instances of abuse. Read more »

Supreme Court announces new measures to combat elder abuse

Thursday November 20th 2014

Pennsylvania has the fourth largest population of senior citizens in the country – and that number is growing.

Come January they will have an office within the state court system dedicating to improving the response of the judiciary and government agencies to elder abuse and neglect.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said today it wil open an Office of Elder Justice in the Courts, which is one of 130 recommendations made by the court’s Elder Abuse Task Force.

In its 284-page report, the 38-member panel detailed a slew of recommendations to tackle issues in the courts and other government agencies involving guardianship, elder abuse and neglect and overall access to justice.  (Access report here)

“If societies are judged on how they help their most vulnerable, then now is the time to craft solutions as older Pennsylvanians increasingly face life-altering, physical, emotional and financial abuses by those who take advantage of our elders,” said Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.

Task force chair Justice Debra Todd said it was imperative the state make changes to address the rapidly aging population.

“The increasing population of elders anticipated during the next 20 years is likely to result in a substantial increase in court cases regarding the protection of vulnerable elderly persons, including guardianship, elder abuse proceedings and other types of cases. This report is a blueprint on how the courts and others can tackle that challenge.”

There are nearly 2.7 million people (21.4 percent) of the population age 60 and older and by 2020 about 3.3 million residents are expected to be over 60.

Research suggests that one out of every 10 people 60 years and older who lives at home suffers abuse, neglect or exploitation and that 44 percent of nursing home residents report abuse or neglect,

Also approved was the creation of an Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, to serve as a liaison to the executive and legislative branches and to advise the Supreme Court.

Other recommendations include:

Distributing a “Bill of Rights of an Alleged Incapacitated Person” to inform alleged incapacitated persons, interested family members, concerned parties and guardians when a person is served with a petition for guardianship and at the time the person is adjudicated incapacitated.

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Man faces up to 62 years in prison for bilking woman

Friday November 14th 2014

With his response becoming quieter and quieter as he pleaded guilty in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to each of eight charges, an elderly Meadville woman’s former financial adviser now faces more than six decades in prison.

When he is sentenced in January, David E.A. Seagren, 69, of Bradford could be sentenced to up to 62 years in prison, receive $140,000 in fines and have to pay nearly $190,000 in restitution.

Seagren pleaded guilty Thursday before President Judge Anthony J. Vardaro to a total of six counts of theft by deception and two counts of forgery filed by Meadville Police Department for taking thousands of dollars from a 97-year-old woman’s bank accounts and using the money himself. Read more »

Attorney General Kane announces arrest of Philadelphia man for Medicaid fraud

Friday November 7th 2014

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Kane today announced Medicaid fraud and other charges against a Philadelphia man for defrauding more than $82,000 by claiming to care for his brother when he was being cared for by a hospital, and after he died.

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Section presented evidence to a statewide investigating Grand Jury, which recommended charges against Terrance Jenkins, 61, 535 Mckinley St., Philadelphia.

According to the Grand Jury, Jenkins was responsible for providing care for his brother and was reimbursed through the Department of Public Welfare’s Independence Waiver Program. Read more »

York County forms task force to combat elder abuse

Wednesday November 5th 2014

A new task force will aim to combat an increasing problem in York County: Elder abuse.

The new initiative will see members of the private sector team up with local law enforcement and county officials to identify needs of the county’s older adults in order to better protect them from abuse.

Dianna Benaknin, director of the county’s Area Agency on Aging, said her office receives 60 reports of abuse a month. But there could be even more that are never reported to officials.

“We worry about the cases of abuse that (are reported), that we see, but there are many that we don’t know about,” Benaknin said.

Task force: The task force, one of many already up and running in counties across the state, is a collaboration with the Pennsylvania Institute on Protective Services at Temple University and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. Read more »

My child, my abuser

Wednesday November 5th 2014

(SINGAPORE) An elderly widow entrusted the sale of her Housing Board flat to her only child, only to have her daughter pocket the proceeds, dump her mother in hospital and disappear.

Three years on, the daughter is still missing. The mother is still alive, with dementia and in a nursing home.

Around a third of close to 100 victims of elder abuse were cheated of their savings or property or harassed for money by family members, according to a new study by Trans Safe Centre, a voluntary welfare agency which specialises in the issue.

More than half of the victims were physically abused – beaten up, punched, pushed or scratched – and seven in 10 reported being psychologically abused, facing threats, taunts and insults.  Eight in 10 victims were women, usually mothers, while half of the abusers were sons, and a fifth of them, daughters.

The study by social workers Odelia Chan, Ho Gang Hiang and Tan Ching Yee looked only at “substantiated” cases of abuse, where there was physical evidence of wrongdoing or where the abuse had been witnessed by a third party. The victims were aged 60 and above.  While there were fewer cases of financial exploitation than verbal or physical abuse, the numbers may well rise with the increase in the number of better-off older people, said Ms Chan, the main author of the Trans Safe report.

“It’s happened in countries like the United States. More cases may well happen here,” she said. Read more »

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