Can a State employee waive a citizen’s constitutional right to a jury trial when acting as a legal guardian?   Arkansas says no.

Johnathan Mitchell, an agent of the state’s adult protective services program, gained emergency custody of Maylissia Holliman in 2010.   After becoming Holliman’s custodian, Mitchell admitted her to Courtyard Gardens Health and Rehabilitation and signed the facility’s admission paperwork and arbitration agreement.

The facility was subsequently sued by Patricia Ann Sheffield on behalf of the Estate of Holliman , who claimed the facility’s neglect, negligence, and inadequate staffing levels led to Holliman’s injuries and death. Holliman died at Courtyard in 2014.

The facility filed a joint motion to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration. That motion was dismissed by a trial court, which ruled that Mitchell didn’t have the authority to sign Holliman’s arbitration agreement.

In its Order the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with the lower court, stating that “if an agent is merely the guardian of the person, he has no authority to bind the ward’s property.”

“The Legislature intended for custodians to play a more limited role than guardians,” wrote Judge Rhonda Wood, an associate justice of the court. “The main purpose of a custodian is to ensure that the ward is safe and cared for appropriately and that the ward’s assets are secure.”

Wood ruled that Mitchell lacked the authority needed to make decisions concerning Holliman’s estate and could not bind her to arbitration, rendering the arbitration agreement with Courtyard invalid.

McKnight’s reported the disturbing story of  Jennifer Pizzuti, a certified nursing assistant arrested for allegedly forging a certification that would allow her to work in New Jersey long-term care facilities.  Pizzuti was told in 2015 that her 2-year Nurse Aide Certification had expired. She couldn’t renew the certification until she “cleared up some outstanding issues” that disqualified her from renewal, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Pizzuti then decided  to forge her certification and giving it to her employer, R.J. Healthcare Services, a medical staffing agency. She was given work placements at two nursing homes and one assisted living facility before the forgery was finally discovered last June.

Pizzuti was taken into custody this week after a grand jury indicted her on charges of making a false government document, forgery, uttering a forged writing, uttering a false government document and falsifying or tampering with record. The charges carry a range of possible prison sentences of 18 months to 10 years, and between $10,000 and $150,000 in criminal fines.

“The insurance companies that provide coverage for elderly patients in long-term care facilities expect that patients are being provided quality care by qualified professionals who meet the standards set by the state,” said Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy in a statement. “Anyone who attempts to falsify their work credentials to circumvent those standards will be dealt with harshly.”

Bloom at Belfair, a nursing home located in Bluffton, S.C., will pay $40,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.

EEOC filed suit in 2015 alleging that Bloomfield Senior Living of Bluffton, LLC, operating as Bloom at Belfair, discriminated against Michelle Billups Tensley, an African-American employee, because of her race when it fired her in September 2014. Tensley was the activities director at the Bloom at Belfair facility. She was terminated after she missed a single day of work because of a family medical issue, an absence she had announced openly in advance. Bloomfield said that Tensley did not personally speak to her supervisor the day of her absence; however, EEOC said that the supervisor was either unavailable or refused to accept Tensley’s phone call. EEOC charged that Tensley’s firing followed the termination of other black managers at the same facility, and was part of a plan to eliminate African-Americans from management.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Beaufort Division (Civil Action No. 9:15-cv-04047-CWH-BM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief for Tensley, the consent decree settling the lawsuit includes provisions for equal employment opportunity training by the company, reporting by the company to EEOC, and the posting of a notice about the lawsuit to the company’s employees.

“Plain and simple, employers cannot fire employees because of their race,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Company rules must be enforced fairly and without regard to anyone’s race.”

Lynette Barnes, acting regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office, added, “It is important for workers to know that they will be treated fairly in the workplace, without regard to race.”

EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

While many senior citizens sleep less than younger adults, they actually need the same amount of sleep in order to stay healthy. Continue reading to learn more about seniors and sleep.

Studies have shown that 13% of men and 36% of women who are age 65 or older require at least 30 minutes to fall asleep. This inability to fall asleep quickly (if at all) is often coupled with frequent waking throughout the night. While it is true that sleeping patterns change as we age, it is important that senior citizens get the amount of sleep they need to stay healthy.

How Much Sleep Do Senior Citizens Need?

The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night to perform at their best. Though many senior citizens get less sleep than the recommended amount, they actually still need these critical hours of rest.

While the specific amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, it does not change as we age. In other words, if you required 7 hours of sleep in your mid-twenties, you will likely need a similar amount of rest for the remainder of your life. So, while many senior citizens may seem spry, despite rising before dawn, there may be a plethora of underlying issues. Read More →

Last week, Joe Wilson (R-SC), Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), along with Senators Durbin (D-IL), Leahy (D-VT) and Franken (D-MN), and Congressman Cicilline (D-RI), along with Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and Walter Jones (R-NC), introduced S.3402/H.R. 5426, the “Justice for Service Members Act.”

This bipartisan bill would make forced arbitration clauses involving USERRA-related protections unenforceable against service members.  The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was enacted by Congress to protect servicemembers from employment discrimination when they leave civilian jobs for military service.  USERRA assures our military men and women can perform their military duties with the knowledge that they have the right to return to their jobs with the same pay, benefits, and status they would have attained had they not been away on duty.  The bill gives servicemembers the ability to pursue their case in court while preserving the option to enter into an arbitration agreement after a dispute arises.

This is a step forward to end forced arbitration in all consumer and employment disputes.  We need efforts to stamp out the practice of forced arbitration through a variety of avenues including continued support of the proposed rules at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education, the long term care rulemaking at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Arbitration Fairness Act and any other avenue that presents itself.

AAJ’s statement on the bill’s introduction is here.

 

 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is today and meant as a reminder to individuals and society at large to stay alert for the signs of neglectful and abusive treatment of older people who rely on others for care.  Abuse and neglect of elderly vulnerable Americans is widespread and often goes unnoticed or unreported. As the population ages with more and more Baby Boomers entering their elder years, the problem is likely to become worse – unless friends and family members stand up for the safety of their elderly loved ones.

About 10 percent of Americans over age 60 have suffered elder abuse.
– Only about 1 out of every 14 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities.
– Victims of elder abuse face a 300% greater likelihood of death.
– Nearly a third of nursing homes were cited for violations of federal standards during a three-year period.
– In a survey of residents, 44% said they had been a victim of abuse, and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident suffer neglect.

Millions of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Once a year on June 15, communities and municipalities around the world plan activities and programs to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). It’s an opportunity to share information and spread awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation in later life. Everyone can make a difference, but together, we can unite as one nation. Take a stand against elder abuse!

 

The Southeast Texas Record reported that the infamous national for-profit nursing home chain SavaSeniorCare has been accused of ripping off their nursing employees.  What a surprise.

Nurse Praxedes Wara alleges she was not paid overtime wages while working for an assisted living facility owned and operated by Sava.  Wara filed a complaint against SavaSeniorCare LLC, citing violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

 The plaintiff contends that between 2008 and January 2015, she worked for more than 40 hours per work week but was not paid any overtime wage. The plaintiff holds SavaSeniorCare LLC responsible because the defendant allegedly failed to pay overtime wages owed to plaintiff in the appropriate rate as defined by the FLSA.

The plaintiff seeks actual damages, unpaid overtime compensation, liquidated damages equal to the unpaid overtime compensation, interest, all legal fees and any other relief as this court deems just. She is represented by Douglas B. Welmaker of Dunham & Jones PC in Austin.

 

The News Observer reported that Judge Sarah Singleton issued an order denying motions to dismiss from lawyers for Texas-based Preferred Care Partners Management Group, one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains.  The frivolous motion was an attempt to quash serious allegations of neglect, fraud, and understaffing causing harm to vulnerable adults.

“Many vulnerable New Mexicans suffered horrifically, some even losing their lives,” Attorney General Hector Balderas  said. “Our office will continue to fight for better care for New Mexicans and against corporations who place profits over people.”

The state initially sued in December 2014, alleging that the business’ low staffing made it impossible to provide the care paid for by Medicare.  New Mexico alleged residents were not getting the care they needed, and the state and federal government were being improperly billed.  The lawsuit used a novel approach to outline its claims, relying on the amount of time it takes to complete basic tasks safely, from helping residents to the bathroom to feeding and bathing them.

The suit targeted several nursing homes run by Preferred Care Partners Management Group, a privately held company with operations in at least 10 states: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

 

RightWingNews reported the disturbing story (and disgusting photos) of a nursing home resident.  The sickening story of neglect was reported about a woman in the care of Landsdowne Care Home.   Anahita Behrooz discovered that her 91-year-old mother, Mahbubeh Ghadimabadian, was being terribly mistreated.

The daughter explained how the staff didn’t turn her mother over nearly enough, and this did end up causing terrible and painful bedsores. The most disgusting part of this case of neglect is that the poor old woman’s foot was literally rotting away and definitely did not receive the proper medical attention.  Hit the above link to see video and photo.

The Oklahoman reported the 20 year prison sentence given to Amy Gustina Klimkowski, the business manager of Windsor Hills Nursing Center, for exploiting elderly residents.  Klimkowski has admitted to a gambling addiction after being accused last year of stealing more than $130,000 from three residents for her personal use.

Evidence showed a large portion of the stolen funds were spent for gambling purposes, spokesman Lincoln Ferguson said. Klimkowski pleaded guilty in March to three felony counts of financial exploitation of an elderly adult, eight felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and two misdemeanor counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.

In her plea paperwork, Klimkowski wrote she is receiving counseling for “compulsive gambling disorder.”  Prosecutors say Klimkowski began stealing residents’ funds as early as July 2010.

The judge ordered her to pay $124,111 in restitution as well as serve time in prison.

She reportedly stole $131,283 from the three residents and another $10,708 from a resident trust account.