Australian woman’s death reveals horrors of elder abuse

Tuesday October 22nd 2013
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Click here to read this important story by the Associated Press as published in USA Today.

Montco conference studies elder abuse

Monday October 21st 2013
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CONSHOHOCKEN It’s a frigid January day when a neighbor calls police after seeing an 82-year-old friend outside without a coat. Officers help the elderly woman back into her home, where they find bone-thin cats amid scatterings of kitty litter, garbage, and piles of paper. No relatives can be located to come and support their kin.

What would you do?

That was one of the case studies based on real incidents presented to panelists Friday at a conference looking at ways to prevent elderly abuse.

The conference was organized by the Montgomery County Elder Access to Justice Roundtable, which meets monthly so representatives from government and community organizations can swap information and ideas. About 130 professionals who work with the county’s elderly population signed up for the daylong gathering at the county’s fire academy in Conshohocken. The conference was a first, and organizers hope to hold it again. “One of the biggest things we noticed was there was a need to get the word out to people who work with the elderly” about how to identify and respond to such abuse, said conference coordinator Betty-Ann Izenman. Read more »

Choosing Home for Someone Else: Guardian Decisions on Long-Term Services and Supports

Friday October 18th 2013
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On October 16, the AARP Public Policy Institute released a report presenting findings from an in-depth study of how professional guardians make decisions about where incapacitated adults live.

The report, entitled Choosing Home for Someone Else: Guardian Decisions on Long-Term Services and Supports (Karp, N. & Wood, E.), includes original research on where people under guardianship live, how guardians make residential decisions, and how they seek to balance independence and perceived risk, often in the face of restricted options.  The report includes recommendations bearing on effective, person-centered guardian residential decisions.

Guardians are responsible for society’s most vulnerable at-risk adults.  One of their most important decisions is where the incapacitated person will live: in a personal residence, the community or a nursing facility.  Their choices are limited by the options available particularly as budget cutbacks have impacted home and community based services. At the same time, guardians’ consent may be necessary to make long-term services and supports function as they should.

Access the full report here through the AARP Website.

Caretaker pleads no contest in Pa. dementia death

Tuesday October 15th 2013
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HUNTINGDON – The caretaker of a Huntingdon County personal care home on Thursday entered a no-contest plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the death of a 70-year-old resident who drowned nearly a year ago.

Huntingdon District Attorney George Zanic said Connie Ann Souders, 63, could be sentenced to a short jail term, noting the charge of involuntary manslaughter is a misdemeanor. “The guidelines call for a jail ,” Zanic said. But, Zanic said the important thing to law enforcement – the underlying message – is that those who are operating personal care homes should make sure they have the facility and the staff to care for their residents.

The woman who died, Sally Jean Fultz, 70, was blind and suffering from dementia while living at the Sleepy Hollow Personal Care Center in Tell Township. Fultz, who had fallen into a creek about 100 yards from the home and drowned, was found by a neighbor.The incident occurred Oct. 24, 2012.

Zanic said that Souders did nothing in an intentional manner that led to Fultz’s death, but negligence was a factor. The plea that was presented to Judge Stewart Kurtz did not specify what Souders’ sentence would be. She entered what is called an “open plea” and will appear Dec. 5 before Kurtz for sentencing.

The Huntingdon District Attorney said that the personal care home accepted Fultz as a resident after another home didn’t believe it could care for her. He said also that the home was not supposed to be accepting new residents because of violations.

This article was written by Phil Ray for the Altoona Mirror.

Daughter admits letting mother die; sentenced to 6-12 years in prison on third-degree murder charge

Monday October 14th 2013
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Daughter admits letting mother die; sentenced to 6-12 years in prison on third-degree murder charge

Janice Harmes told a county judge her crime was her desire to fulfill her mother’s final request.

“I should have gone against my mother’s wishes,” Harmes said last week in Lancaster County Court.

Instead, according to testimony, Harmes took Janet Bastendorf’s cellphone — the bedridden 88-year-old woman’s lifeline. And then left her to die. After 10 days without food, water, a bath or change of clothes, Bastendorf died Jan. 6 of an infection.

Harmes, who pleaded no contest Thursday to third-degree murder, said that’s what her mother, who lived in East Lampeter Township, wanted — to die in her own house, not a hospital. “Mom and I had an understanding,” Harmes, 67, said. “I made a mistake and listened to her.”

Lancaster County Judge James Cullen, however, wasn’t buying it. “This may be a lot of things,” Cullen said, while ordering a 6- to 12-year state prison sentence, “but a mistake is not one of them. “You don’t leave another human being to die in these circumstances, then try to say that’s what she wanted.” Cullen scolded Harmes, Bastendorf’s primary caregiver, for not taking the woman to a hospital or a hospice. “It’s inexcusable and reprehensible,” the judge said while numerous relatives listened from the courtroom gallery. Cullen said he accepted the plea agreement only to spare the grieving family from sitting through a trial. Read more »

Wesleyville man charged with stealing from elderly woman

Monday October 14th 2013
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Investigators said an elderly woman lost thousands of dollars and her car in a series of thefts that they say a Wesleyville man committed over a nine-month period. David A. Burrows, 52, is accused of stealing a total of $25,235.66 from the 90-year-old woman and of taking and selling her 1990 Toyota Camry for $2,500 between Oct. 10 and July 25, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday by Erie County Detective Jon Reddinger.  Burrows is not related to the woman, investigators said Wednesday.

Investigators charged that Burrows took a $9,334.61 check from the woman after she closed her bank account in October 2012, deposited the check in his bank account and wrote checks to himself and to his business, according to the affidavit of probable cause that was filed with the charges. A report about the matter was reported to the Greater Erie Community Action Committee’s Adult Protective Services later that month, according to the affidavit. Read more »

There’s help for seniors being abused

Monday October 14th 2013
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MERCER COUNTY — An elderly woman is dropped off at a senior center in a horrible state – starving and emaciated. Her grandson said she ran out of money and he couldn’t pay the rent. Turns out he spent $86,000 of her money on drugs and other amenities for himself.

“This is not an untypical case for us,” Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems said. It was just one example Kochems used Monday to illustrate the horrors of elder abuse in the county. “She said it was OK because he takes care of her,” Kochems said.

Through a state grant, AWARE Inc. of Mercer County was able to team up with the district attorney’s office and the Area Agency on Aging for the past three years to fight elder abuse. The agencies’ mission is to create awareness with the public, and help seniors in need. Read more »

Elderly Victims of Fraud Scam Get Money Back

Friday September 27th 2013
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After falling prey to a scam, San Diego resident Jessie Penner never thought she would get her money back. But now, the 91-year-old former school teacher is cashing a check for $23,827.73.
“It’s just wonderful because I didn’t expect to get anything back,” said Penner.
Penner and her husband gave scammer Michael Woodward more than $100,000 for home health care and assisted living insurance. But investigators say Woodward and his wife, Melissa Woodward, were selling phony insurance plans.
“He had charisma,” said Deputy District Attorney Michael Zachry. “And charisma will get you far in whatever profession you have, particularly as a con man.”
Zachry says Woodward took money from 279 people in San Diego County and even more across the state. Now, the District Attorney’s office is trying to return some of that stolen money to victims of the fraud scam through restitution checks.
“I’m hoping that by the end of both disbursements, every victim in the state will receive at least 50 percent of their loss,” said Zachry. Read more »

Two plead guilty to stealing $2 million from elderly woman’s estate

Wednesday September 25th 2013
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A disbarred California attorney and a registered nurse pleaded guilty to federal charges that they befriended an aging woman to swindle more than $2 million from her estate, authorities said Monday.

Philip Eric Myers, 61, of Santa Barbara and Brian Ben-Israel, 53, face maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for mail and wire fraud allegations, according to documents filed in the federal court’s District of Alaska. Ben-Israel was also accused of filing a false tax return.

The woman, Juanita Gielarowski, was forced to move from her longtime home into an Alaska state elder care facility, where she died in July 2010, as a result of the crimes, prosecutors said. Read more »

Banks can help spot elder financial exploitation and abuse

Tuesday September 24th 2013
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An older Oklahoma resident began receiving sweepstakes offers in the mail after her 90-year-old husband moved into a nursing home. Just send $50, $100, $2000, even $5000 to claim your prize, they promised. When she asked a bank employee to help her send a large amount of cash in the mail, the bank investigated. It turned out the older customer had been writing as many as 90 checks a month to collect promised prizes that never materialized. The bank contacted the Postal Inspection Service to investigate and the authorities intervened.

A 98-year-old lawyer was scammed by a purported friend who loaned him office space and then accessed financial records stored there. When the older man was hospitalized for hip surgery, the 76-year-old friend drained $330,000 from bank accounts and used the money to pay for a trip to Puerto Rico and purchases at a variety of stores. Ultimately, the victim’s banks alerted authorities because of concerns about unusual activity on the accounts.

As we travel the country, we hear more stories of banks, credit unions, money transmitters, and other financial services providers spotting financial abuse targeted at older adults. Some of these are success stories like the ones we just shared: the financial institution makes a timely report, and authorities can prevent the theft, prosecute the perpetrator and help the victim.

But sometimes financial institution personnel are confused. They want to help protect the consumer, but are unsure whether privacy laws allow them to share a consumer’s personal information with law enforcement and other authorities that can take action.

That’s why today, along with seven other federal agencies, we (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) released guidance on this issue for financial institutions. The guidance clarifies for banks and other financial services providers that reporting suspected elder financial exploitation to appropriate authorities does not generally violate the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a federal law. Read more »

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