Cleveland, Ohio June 29, 2011
Images from a hidden video camera helped the son of a 78-year-old woman convince authorities that his mother was being brutally and repeatedly assaulted by nursing home staff.
The Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care, run by the MetroHealth health care system, initially ignored complaints by Esther Piskor's son, and then denied there was any problem. However, according to the New York Daily News, investigations by Cleveland's WKYC television and the state Department of Health led to investigation by police.
Two nurses aides were fired and a third staff member was charged with felony assault.
Joe Piskor hid the video camera in a fan on his mother's dresser after he saw marks on his mother's face and noticed that she began to raise her hands in fear whenever he visited. However when he brought his concerns to MetroHealth they said he was "taking things out of context".
"They made me out to be the trouble maker, the complainer, the bad guy," he said.
However, the video images were impossible for others to ignore. Staff are shown "jerking the helpless granny out of her wheelchair and tossing her on the bed like a rag doll", punching her in the face, and pushing her face into a wall.
Dr. James Campbell, the chief of geriatric care at MetroHealth, says he's "incredibly sorry". However he denies that Joe Piskor's complaints were ignored, and claims the hospital and the health department "investigated the claims but didn't find anything."
Joe Piskor said the administrator of the Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care told him, "...accidents happen".
You can judge for yourself by watching the videos whether the actions of the nursing home were self-serving efforts to cover-up brutal abuse by trained caregivers, or simply incompetence and ignorance.
Full Story and Videos HERE
BY ROB WIPOND July/August 2011 FOCUS Magazine
There’s much to learn about BC’s laws and eldercare system from the last years of Kathleen Palamarek’s life in a local nursing home—especially from the battles that were fought in her name between her children, care providers and the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
It was a small but important epitaph for a much-loved woman. NDP West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy spoke in the provincial legislature in June in support of a public inquiry into the recent “suspicious death” of Kathleen Palamarek, an 88-year-old resident of Broadmead Lodge in Saanich.
During Lois Sampson née Palamarek’s five-year struggle to help get her mother out of the nursing home, Kathleen became an icon to local seniors advocates. That’s why the Saanich Peninsula Health Association, Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils, Old Age Pensioners Organization local, and others have been blitzing politicians, media and public agencies with requests for an inquiry.
“[T]he suspected abuse was due to overmedication, and the family needs answers,” said Conroy.
Yet the story involves much more than possible improper medicating; I’ve been following it since 2006. Kathleen’s life, and now death, is a tragic…
Read More at: http://www.focusonline.ca/?q=node/249
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Across North America, each American state and Canadian province maintains their own adult guardianship legislation. While there are differences, much of the legislation is similar in nature. Adult guardianship laws are powerful tools which can be misused by authorities and individuals. There is a growing trend across all North American jurisdictions to "harmonize" laws to enable authorities to strip seniors' legal and human rights, their freedom and their assets.
The following submission was made by an elder advocate to the Attorney General of British Columbia, Canada regarding proposed changes to adult guardianship legislation and regulations. It articulates serious and alarming flaws in adult guardianship legislation that affect us all. No changes have been made to address the flaws identified in this submission. Perhaps the message needs to be repeated, over and over, in jurisdiction after jurisdiction, until changes are made.
- There appears to be no legal or procedural mechanism in the province of British Columbia (BC) to review a doctor’s opinion when a finding of incapability is questioned. Nor does there appear to be any such mechanism to review the determination of incapability made by any designated health care professional, even when there is credible and concrete evidence of error and harm to the person, and opposing medical opinions.There is no means for resolving a dispute between health care professionals, even when there is evidence of impropriety on the part of the person making the finding of incapability. There is no recourse provided in BC legislation to hold health care practitioners accountable for their opinions; the only alternative is to sue the health care practitioners, and that is not a meaningful or achievable avenue for many, many people, especially seniors.It is unreasonable to assume that there is no possibility that a medical doctor or any other designated health care professional would never, or could never, make an error in rendering their opinions. There are many, many examples across Canada of medical practitioners who have been found to have committed errors and/or abused their positions of authority on a routine basis without any meaningful oversight, and sometimes with the complicit knowledge of superiors. To cite just a few in the past year:
- The doctors and health authorities in Newfoundland & Labrador, and in New Brunswick who willfully neglected to provide cancer patients with appropriate tests, results notification, and/or treatment,
- The children’s coroner in Ontario who, for several decades, made erroneous judgments regarding the deaths of children which ensured many innocent people, mostly parents, were charged and imprisoned when they should not have been, and
- The 10 doctors in BC last year who were found by the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons to have committed acts of sexual assault on their patients.
Appealing to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, or the colleges of any of the other designated health care professionals is not, in any way, a part of the Guardianship Act. As such, this represents a major flaw in the Guardianship Act, and it leaves seniors vulnerable to error and abuse, and without adequate protection.
The effects of an error or abuse of authority on a person whose rights have been removed by any health care professional are enormous and devastating.
- The draft legislation gives too much discretion to, and provides no oversight of, the health care professional(s) who conduct assessments and make decisions regarding incapability. It is folly to rely on professional bodies to regulate themselves, especially in regard to their performance in enacting a legal statute. Health care professionals do not have legal credentials.Moreover the notion of “self-regulating professionals” is rapidly becoming an oxymoron; even so-called “regulated professionals” such as those in the financial industry are hard pressed to ensure proper oversight. Surely, in a matter so profoundly fundamental to the well-being of a person as the declaration of incapacity, it is incumbent upon us to ensure vulnerable individuals are protected from errors and abuse. At very least, there should be two separate declarations of incompetence required, independent of one another, rather than coupled, as specified in section 6. (1) (b). Independence is a critical factor in the medical arena, where “group think” often results in mis-diagnoses, errors and omissions. A fresh, challenging perspective is essential to ensure that a person is not inadvertently mis-diagnosed.Health care professionals, particularly in long-term care settings, often prefer to deal with only one member of a patient’s family, and preferably a compliant one. There are numerous studies and evidence to attest to this phenomenon. This will only increase as the cost of, and demand for, long-term care increases. A facility’s costs are reduced when its clientele (and their family) are subdued and acquiescent. This is a common scenario, and one that can easily result in a health care provider “taking sides” in favour of compliant family members, often to the detriment of the patient.
In addition, there is no requirement for health care professionals (including medical practitioners) to provide evidence of and justification for their opinions. The “opinions” of medical doctors or psychiatrists are usually comprised of nothing more than vague phrases, and pronouncements of diseases or “disorders” which are simply theories for which there is no scientific proof. Despite the appearance of validity by virtue of the DSM, there is often a marked confusion or contradiction of terminology used by doctors when decreeing a person to be incapable. In fact, the DSM is routinely debunked, and even privately mocked in medical and other circles. In short, there are no objective means used in BC to determine whether a person is incapable; the doctor’s opinions are entirely subjective. As such, they are wide open to error and abuse.
More Can Be Done to Protect Residents from Abuse
Allegations of physical and sexual abuse of nursing home residents frequently are not reported promptly. Local law enforcement officials indicated that they are seldom summoned to nursing homes to immediately investigate allegations of physical or sexual abuse. Some of these officials indicated that they often receive such reports after evidence has been compromised. Although abuse allegations should be reported to state survey agencies immediately, they often are not. For example, our review of state survey agencies’ physical and sexual abuse case files indicated that about 50 percent of the notifications from nursing homes were submitted 2 or more days after the nursing homes learned of the alleged abuse. These delays compromise the quality of available evidence and hinder investigations. In addition, some residents or family members may be reluctant to report abuse for fear of retribution while others may be uncertain about where to report abuse. Although state survey agencies in the three states we visited had designated telephone numbers for reporting abuse, we found it difficult to identify these numbers in the government and consumer pages of local telephone books for some of the major and mid-size cities in these states. However, we did find a wide variety of other organizations that, by their name, appeared to be able to address abuse complaints, but, in fact, had no authority to do so. Although CMS requires nursing homes to post these numbers, it is not clear that this ensures that residents and family members have access to this information when it is needed. In recognition of the need to better inform residents and family members about abuse reporting, the agency initiated an educational campaign in 1998. The campaign included development of a new poster with removable information cards containing appropriate numbers for reporting abuse. Although a pilot test was conducted, the poster has not been approved for distribution nationwide.
Few allegations of abuse are ultimately prosecuted. The state survey agencies we visited followed different policies when determining whether to refer allegations of abuse to law enforcement. As a result, law enforcement agencies were sometimes either not apprised of incidents or received referrals only after long delays. When referrals were made, criminal investigations and, thus, prosecutions were sometimes hampered because witnesses to the alleged abuse were unable or unwilling to testify. Delays in investigations, as well as in trials, reduced the likelihood of successful prosecutions because the memory of witnesses often deteriorated.
Safeguards to protect residents from potentially abusive individuals are insufficient at both the federal and state level. There is no federal statute requiring criminal background checks of nursing home employees nor does CMS require them. Although the three states we visited required background checks to screen potential nursing home employees, they do not necessarily include all nursing home employees nor are they always completed before an individual begins working. They also focus on individuals’ criminal records within the state where they are seeking employment. Safeguards at the state level are also insufficient. While nursing homes are responsible for protecting residents from abuse, survey agencies in the states we visited rarely recommended that certain sanctions-such as civil monetary penalties or terminations from federal programs-be imposed. Twenty-six homes were cited for deficiencies related to abuse from the 158 case files we reviewed. The survey agencies recommended a civil monetary penalty for 1 home, while the remaining 25 nursing homes faced less punitive sanctions such as a requirement to develop corrective action plans. State survey agencies also play a role in preventing homes from hiring potentially abusive caregivers through the states’ nurse aide registries. These registries, among other things, identify aides that have previously abused residents. A finding of abuse should prevent a home from hiring an aide. However, delays in making these determinations can limit the usefulness of these registries as a protective safeguard. In addition, findings of abuse for several nurse aides could not be found in one state’s Web-based registry, compromising its protective value. As a result, aides who the state survey agency had already determined had abused residents could have been hired by unsuspecting nursing homes. Finally, none of the three states we visited had a safeguard in place-similar to a nurse aide registry-to professionally discipline those nursing home employees who do not need certifications or licenses to perform their duties, such as maintenance or housekeeping personnel.
Delays in Reporting Abuse Preclude Immediate Response by Law Enforcement or Survey Authorities
Most of the local police departments in the three states we visited told us that they were seldom summoned to a nursing home following an alleged instance of abuse. Several police officials indicated that, when they were called, it was sometimes after others had begun investigating, potentially hindering law enforcement’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation. Instead, state survey agencies were typically notified of allegations of abuse. However, these notifications were frequently delayed. Allegations of abuse may not be reported immediately for a variety of factors, including reluctance to report abuse on the part of residents, family members, nursing home employees, and administrators.
Target: Our State and National Legislators and Obama Administration
Sponsored by: Elder Abuse Victims Advocates – Houston, Texas
We are calling for national efforts to confront the abuse and financial exploitation of our elderly and vulnerable citizens and for real change to end the abuse and address problems in adult guardianships.
Elder abuse is on the rise and the guardianship systems in our state courts and protective agencies intended to protect the vulnerable, all too often, fail to do so. cases can ultimately cost a vulnerable person, and their family, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.
The opportunity to get rich quick is tempting for perpetrators who know how to play the game. Professionals and court petitioners who abuse the system give a bad name to those who are trying to do the right thing.
Strangers are often appointed to take over the person’s life and family members, who end up separated from their own loved ones, dare not speak out for fear of losing the right to even visit them at a time when they are most vulnerable.
In the meantime these dear citizens can lose all of their civil rights and could end up with fewer rights than a prisoner on death row. There is simply no excuse for the enormous cost and abuse that can be doled out (by perpetrators that include unethical attorneys, unprofessional guardians and uncaring judges in this dysfunctional system in our courts) to family members who truly care and are desperately trying to help someone dear to them who is in need.
We need a Family Member’s Bill of Rights so we can have a voice to help our loved ones when they get old and vulnerable! We need national oversight, legislation andchecks and balances that work! We need nation reform that ensures justice and reduces the cost of giving a helping hand!
We need change and together we can make it happen! Yes we can! Please sign our petition for change!
“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”Hubert H. Humphrey
Send a letter to your representatives at:www.change.org/actions/view/stop_elder_abuse_guardianship_system_abuse_-_petition_to_our_leaders
Due to complaints that this site in not properly allowing signatures, here is an Alternate Petition Site if your signature does not show up below:www.ipetitions.com/petition/STOPELDERABUSE
Interview with Alan Cassels on multiple drug use in the elderly
Drug policy researcher and author Alan Cassels in discussion with Jack Etkin of Face to Face about how the elderly in our society are being needlessly over-medicated in care facilities and at home. Even worse, the often unnecessarily prescribed drugs cause side effects that are then treated with even more drugs, causing more side effects and so on…
The Honourable Mr. Ron Stevens, QC
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Room # 208, Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6
Dear Mr. Minister:
Request for a Public Inquiry to Address the Following:
A physician, has a powerful quasi-judicial position in society by virtue of the reliance on his assessments by the judicial system, in that his assessment can lead to the detaining of lawful citizens behind locked doors, and removal of property and human rights.
The current standards required for a physician in the performance of his assessment are not well defined. We believe that if the judiciary is to rely on a physician’s assessment, specific standards and criteria must be developed for the exercise and documentation of a physician’s assessment. These should include cross examination of the physician or documentation/ affidavit testimony which outlines the process which was followed as well as practical avenues for the appeal and review of that assessment.
Many seniors are being abused through the process that declares them incompetent to look after their finances and personal decisions.
Therefore we ask your government to hold a Public Inquiry to:
- allow hearings across the province of persons who have been victimized by a process that has no safe, definitive guidelines to ensure a fair, ethical assessment. The hearings should include those Alberta citizens who are detained behind locked doors who wish to be heard
- establish legislated criteria and standards to govern the assessment protocol, that recognizes constitutional rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- establish practical avenues of accessible, appeal protocol.
- establish penalties for those who are in breach of legislation.
- a definitive time line in regard to these undertakings.
Elder Advocates of Alberta Society