Increasing Acceptance of "Granny Cams"

Most of us have heard of nanny cams. Now, the tiny hidden cameras, used for parents who are suspicious of their nannies, are gaining greater acceptance as a way to stop elder abuse or nursing home abuse.

A video still shows a nursing home aide stuffing latex gloves into Eryetha Mayberry’s mouth

A video still shows a nursing home aide stuffing latex gloves into Eryetha Mayberry’s mouth

According to the NY Times’ Well blog, Doris Racher decided to use a granny cam to catch a petty thief who was stealing from her mother, a 96-year-old dementia nursing home patient.

Instead of catching the thief, Doris found an aide stuffing latex gloves into her mother’s mouth, while another taunted her, tapping her on the head, laughing.

Despite concerns about privacy, some state attorney generals have used hidden cameras to go after some suspected of nursing home patient abuse and neglect.

In June, Mike DeWine, the Ohio state attorney general, announced that his office, with permission from families, had placed cameras in residents’ rooms in an unspecified number of state facilities. Mr. DeWine has moved to shut down at least one facility, in Zanesville, where, he said, cameras caught actions like an aide’s repeatedly leaving a stroke patient’s food by his incapacitated side.

As for the Mayberry story, there is now a new Oklahoma law that allows cameras in residents’ rooms if consent forms are filed to notify the facility, according to prior coverage by News9. The law gives the family exclusive rights to the recording and allows it to be used in court.


WA Attorney General & AARP Tackle ID Theft with "Scam Jam"

We have talked about identity theft before in previous blog posts. The problem continues to grow by the minute.

In Washington State, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and AARP are joining forces to warn and educate the public about sharing information.

Almost 400 seniors attended the September 2013 Scam Jam in Burien

Almost 400 seniors attended the September 2013 Scam Jam in Burien

Last week , there was a  “Scam Jam” at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Doug Shadel, director of AARP Washington, was among the experts who talked about the trends in identity theft and other scams. Says Shadel:

“We have, for a long time, known that there will never be enough law enforcement people or social service agencies, really, to protect everyone from this crime, which is growing… So, we’re enlisting the support of the citizens themselves, to protect each other.”

The Scam Jam last week was packed house. The one last month at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien was well attended with over 400 senior citizens in the audience.  Additional seminars will appear on the calendar soon in Seattle, Spokane, and Kennewick.

At the September Scam Jam, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkin presented a section on “Skimming and Internet Fraud.”  She warned about “skimming,” which involves stealing bank card numbers and PINs from unsuspecting consumers. Theft can occur when a scammer installs scanners and small cameras on ATM machines. Ms. Durkin urged consumers to take a few simple steps to avoid getting snared including:

  1. Wiggle the card reader: This is often where scammers will install devices to read your card and capture your information.
  2. Look for suspicious holes: Scammers may install small cameras that peer through pinholes in the ATM machine.
  3. Cover the keypad: Cover the keypad when entering your PIN. Also look around and make sure no one is watching over your shoulder or standing above or around you where they can see what your PIN is.
  4. Check your accounts: Check your accounts on a regular basis to make sure no one has made charges on your account or withdrawn your funds.

At the October Scam Jam, Mr. Shadel explained that the first event was the start of a yearlong, statewide effort to create a Fraud Watch Network. People who are interested can call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center at 800-646-2283.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said some elders in Washington are easy prey for scammers. Too often, they readily offer personal information. A caller may claim that the elder’s grandchild is stuck overseas. Other scams include developing a relationship with the elder online. Once trust is established, the scammer then asks the elder to transfer funds.

Mr. Ferguson advises that adult children should raise their elderly parents’ awareness about the multiplying types of online/phone scams.

“That conversation can be done in a way that is sensitive to the situation and explains these scams do take unusual courses of action by using technology. Never send a check, never send credit card information, never wire money until you’ve absolutely made sure it’s a legitimate business, or a legitimate person calling you up.”

An AARP survey found more than 80 percent of people who fell for lottery or investment fraud schemes are age 55 or older.

Shame, Embarrassment and Privacy Laws Shouldn’t Allow Financial Elder Abuse

One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial abuse.

For example, a family member or someone who has developed trust with an elder systematically takes funds from the vulnerable adult’s accounts. Look at the epic tale of Ms. Huguette Clark, where court documents point to years of an organization’s financial exploitation of a wealthy senior.

Earlier this year, articles emerged about the questions swirling around Ms. Clark’s large gifts to Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. An article in NY Times explains that Beth Israel “went after her [Ms. Clark] in an all-out fund-raising campaign,” within months after Ms. Clark arrived at the hospital as a patient. Records from court filings reveal that BI’s then chief executive, Dr. Newman, was involved in the coercion of gifts. Dr. Newman even watched the Smurfs with Huguette, while discussing the “joys of making a will.”

Huguette Clark, wealthy copper heiress, stayed for decades at Beth Israel and donated millions of dollars. - Image credit: AP

Huguette Clark, wealthy copper heiress, stayed for decades at Beth Israel and donated millions of dollars. – Image credit: AP

The respected non-profit hospital convinced Huguette to stay there for years, despite the fact that she did not require constant medical monitoring or care. As part of its elaborate efforts to siphon off some of Ms. Clark’s fortune, she was admitted in 1991 and remained there until she died.

By 1998, she was paying more than $1,200/day to reside at the hospital. All the while, Huguette “donated” $4 million, not including the millions of dollars that she paid to reside at Beth Israel nor the $1 million bequest to the hospital that appears in her contested will.

While most seniors are not nearly as wealthy as Ms. Clark was, financial abuse is growing as a major issue among this large segment of our population. A Metlife study estimated the loss at more than $2.9 billion in 2010. The General Accounting Office (GAO) reported recently, “As the U.S. population ages, growing numbers of older adults could be at risk of financial exploitation, so its potential impact on society is likely to increase.”

On several levels, we need to find a better way to address this serious problem. Individual family members need not feel ashamed or too embarrassed to report financial abuse of a senior. On a large scale level, eight federal regulatory agencies have issued a joint document that clarifies privacy rights and responsibilities for employees of financial institutions.

This guidance is important because so many companies have expressed concern that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, aka the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, gives privacy greater priority than fraud prevention. Now, a teller or credit union member may no longer feel that her hands are tied, even when they have strong evidence of fraud perpetrated against an elderly customer. As one of the first people to defend a senior against fraud, a bank/credit union employee may file a report when there are suspicions arising from a huge withdrawal or large, repeated “payments”.


WA State Has a Problem with Caring for Some of its Most Vulnerable Citizens

Two July 31st Washington state audits reveal some significant issues with how our developmentally disabled citizens are inadequately served. Audit findings include:

Washington’s challenge is to make more equitable services available  to all the eligible people who are asking for them.

Washington’s challenge is to make more equitable services available
to all the eligible people who are asking for them.

  • 23 criminally disqualified caregivers were hired. This number is based on a sample pool of 1,400 supported-living workers (out of 40,000 statewide).
  • 12% of caregivers lack safety training certifications. Note that the numbers may actually be much higher, but the state is too understaffed to investigate or cross-check records.
  • There were roughly $500,000 in overpayments. These overpayments were due primarily to errors manually transferring rates into spreadsheets, and then manually transferring again into the payment system.
  • There were about $11.3 million in questionable payments and $5.5 million in unauthorized payments. Mismanagement of funds focused on paying roughly 3,700 individual citizens, while  ~15,000 people eligible for such services as housing, medical care and job planning languish on a waiting list.

The Seattle Times ran a blistering editorial enumerating Washington state’s problems with caring for some of its most vulnerable citizens, calling on lawmakers to do something.

Indeed, what do we need to do to open the eyes to our legislature to address the serious problems that the auditor’s reports call out?!2nd Auditor Rept

As one of the auditor’s reports points out, Washington serves fewer people compared to other states.

In 2012, Washington served 12,722 people with ICF/ID or HCBS services. Based on 2012
population estimates, this is about 186.6 individuals per 100,000 in the general population,
which is still below the 2010 national average.

Frontline’s/ProPublica’s Life and Death in Assisted Living

Toward the end of July, Frontline in partnership with ProPublica began airing a series, Life & Death in Assisted Living; its full transcript is now available via ebook. With the increasing numbers of seniors who reside in assisted living facilities, an alarming number of stories of neglect and abuse have surfaced. Frontline investigators delved into case studies, offering insights about problems with this loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.

Frontline's series "Life & Death in Assisted Facilities" is running on PBS and also available as an ebook.

Frontline’s series “Life & Death in Assisted Living” is running on PBS and a full transcript is also available as an ebook. assisted living facilities, Frontline/ProPublica (PP) investigated this loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.

The series began with a focus on the tragic story of Joan Boice, which I blogged about earlier this spring. Frontline compared and contrasted the Seattle based assisted living facility’s marketing pitch with reality.

For example, “specially trained” staffers weren’t really trained to  care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, a violation of California law. At its best, there was only one nurse to track all of the residents’ health. The turnover of medical professionals was high. In fact, one of them who left wrote Emeritus’ senior executives about the facility’s “ huge shortage of staff” and that the facility was mired in “total dysfunction.”

emerald hills brochure


Apparently, there were months when a full-time nurse was not even on the facility’s payroll. Residents with incontinence issues were allowed to urinate repeatedly in the same spot in a hallway repeatedly.

But Ms. Boice’s husband and two sons saw only the facility as it was presented, as a respite for their aging mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. They agreed to pay over $4,625 a month for Joan to receive care as a resident at the Emerald Hills facility and another $2,500/month for her husband.

Less than two weeks after Joan moved in, an ambulance crew found her face-down on the carpet. She had struck her head on the floor with such force that she had bruises on her forehead and cheeks. No one at Emerald Hills, however, knew how Joan had fallen or how long she had been laying on the floor. She had defecated and urinated on herself.

Although Myron, Joan’s husband, was also a resident at the facility, no one informed him about this startling event as Joan was transported to the hospital without any facility employee to accompany her. Joan’s son, Eric, got the call from the hospital later that night.

California law requires assisted living companies to conduct a “pre-admission appraisal” of prospective residents, to ensure they are appropriate candidates for assisted living. However, the assisted living facility never conducted the appraisal of Joan. They failed to consider Joan’s family’s warnings before her move in: They had warned Emerald Hills that Joan shouldn’t sit in a chair without supervision, given her history of losing her balance whenever she would get up. But despite this warning, Joan’s daughter-in-law would visit Joan to find her sitting by herself in a chair without anybody else in the room.

The Frontline investigation exposes the gaps in the law that have allowed assisted living and nursing home facilities like Emeritus’ Emerald Hills to endanger and kill senior citizens like Mrs Boice.


Nursing Home Statistics

I was ran across this info at the American Association for Justice website, and thought it was worth republishing here.

Nursing Homes by the Numbers

Scope of Abuse and Neglect
Percentage of U.S. nursing homes with staffing levels too low to provide adequate care. 90%
Profit Motives and Care
Suspicious accounting transactions identified by U.S. News & World Report in 2000. $3.4 billion
Drop in nurse assistants’ hours per resident per day. 16%
1.4 million  —  Current number of people who are living in U.S. nursing homes,1
20,673  —  Complaints of abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation on behalf of nursing home and “board and care” residents in 2003. 1 in 14  —  Number of incidents of elder abuse reported to authorities. 3

90%  —   Percentage of U.S. nursing homes with staffing levels too low to provide adequate care. 4
PROFIT MOTIVES AND CARE IN THE NURSING HOME INDUSTRY$75 billion  —   State and federal financing of nursing home industry in 2006. 5

$34 billion  —   Contribution of nursing home residents and their families in 2001. 6

$3.4 billion  —   Suspicious accounting transactions identified by U.S. News & World Report in 2000. 

31%  —  Extent to which deficiencies in care in for-profit nursing homes was higher than in non-profit nursing homes in 2006. 8

16%  —  Drop in nurse assistants’ hours per resident day. 

$1.2 million  —  Amount Veena Ahjua, operator of a 314-bed New York nursing home, paid herself in 2000. 10

1 million  —  2006 Salary of Genesis HealthCare Corporation CEO, George V. Hager, Jr. 11

$23,193  —  Median annual salary of a Certified Nurse Assistant 2008. 12

4.55  —  Recommended minimum hours of direct nursing care per resident per day. 13

3.7  —  Actual hours of direct nursing care per resident per day. 14


  1. National Center for Health Statistics  Health, United States, 2007, Table 117
  2. National Center on Elder Abuse http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/pdf/publication/FinalStatistics050331.pdf
  3. Karl Pillemer and David Finkelhor (1988), The Prevalence of Elder Abuse: A Random Sample Survey, The Gerontologist, 28: 51-57.
  4. Correspondence from Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Henry Waxman to Mr. Thomas Scully, http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20040830113115-11866.pdf (visited Feb. 3, 2005); citing U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Appropriateness of Minimum Nurse Staffing Ratios in Nursing Homes, 2001.
  5. “At Many Homes, More Profit and Less Nursing” Charles Duhigg, New York Times, September 23, 2007.
  6. Id
  7. Id. In the article, a former fraud investigator said, “You never have anything show up as profit… They show these really skinny operating margins, so they can always plead poverty.”
  8. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Nursing Home Data Compendium 2007
  9. Christopher H. Schmitt, The New Math of Old Age, U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 30, 2002. quoting University of California researcher Charlene Harrington.
  10. Id
  11. Genesis HealthCare Proxy Statement http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1236736/000110465907017133/a07-4061_1defm14a.htm
  12. Salarywizard.com  Certified Nursing Assistant – Nursing Home 2008 data http://swz.salary.com/salarywizard/layouthtmls/                                                                                            swzl_compresult_national_HC07000412.html
  13. Charlene Harrington et al., Nursing Facilities, Staffing, Residents, and Facility Deficiencies, 1998 Through 2004, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, August, 2005, http://www.pascenter.org/documents/OSCAR2005.pdf (visited Sept. 21, 2006).
  14. Id.

Robocall Scam Targets Senior Citizens in WA State and Beyond

Local TV news journalist, Jesse Jones, recently ran a story about a new scam that targets the elderly. According to the Washington State Attorney General’s office, a new robocall scam offers “free” emergency alert devices to senior citizens.

Victims of the scam include Kyle Davis and his brother. They realized that they couldn’t always be available for their parents, so they signed on for this service. What they hadn’t realized that

Kyle Davis and his brothers know they can’t be there to help their parents all the time.  So they signed them up for a type of medical alert pendant in case of emergency.

The scam confuses the recipient of the robocalls, asking if the person wants to opt out.  To opt out, the victim is asked to press a specific number. But that number actually is an acceptance of an offer for a roughly $40 medical alert device. Kyle Davis’ mother, Dixie Davis, thought she was opting out per the robocall instructions, but instead found charges on her Amex bill twice for the same device that she later received in the mail.

“This is a company that’s supposed to be helping out seniors and yet they are kind of scamming seniors, it appears,” explained Kyle to Jesse James.

Apparently, this scam is widespread beyond the Northwest.  The first call is a robocall offering a free alert device that a third party marketer is calling, targeting the elderly.

As the AG’s office reminds, “free” isn’t usually truly free.

Now, if you really need a medical alert device, please get a recommendation from your physician and completely disregard any telemarketing offers.

Spotting Signs of Elder Abuse

You are probably reading this blog because you want to learn more about elder abuse and how to prevent it. A good online resource is the website of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). The site offers resources and information for those researching topics on elder abuse, neglect, and related policies.

One of my favorites sections of the site is its FAQs. Rather than provide that entire FAQ here, I’ll include an excerpt that focuses on spotting signs of elder abuse:

What are the warning signs of elder abuse?

While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some indicators that there could be a problem:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs. Read our section on Factsheets & Publications for more information about how caregivers can prevent elder abuse.

It’s important to remain alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in personality, behavior, or physical condition, you should start to question what is going on.

More Shelters at Nursing Homes for Abused Seniors

A recent U.S. News & World Reports article talks about a topic that The Elder Abuse Watchdog has covered before: nursing homes and retirement villages are offering refuge for the growing number of abused elderly.

The article cites an alarming statistic: one in 10 adults over the age of 60 is abused or neglected, according to a study by the Medical University of South Carolina. More surprising is that the elderly victims are most frequently abused by their own children or someone in their own family.

Photograph taken on the grounds of the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention

Photograph taken on the grounds of the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention

Like the Shalom Center that I wrote about earlier this year, a few more are popping around the country. The Hebrew Home began in 2005 with its Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention in New York.  About six other nursing homes followed suit.

According to the U.S News article, the Hebrew House is meeting with other nursing homes, so we will likely see more emerge in the coming years.

Tony Palumbo, county attorney for Anoka County (where Crest View is located) points out that a victim’s behavior will be sudden as opposed to slow and gradual.  Mr. Palumbo created the Stop Abuse and Financial Exploitation (SAFE) initiative. SAFE’s mission is to protect seniors from financial abuse, which is one of the most common forms of elder abuse.

Hospitals, police, and social services staff are those typically referring senior citizens who show signs of abuse to the Weinberg Center. The CEO of Crest View Senior Communities (who has replicated the Hebrew Home model for its shelter) in Minnesota, Shirley Barnes explains the importance of neighbors staying vigilant and watchful.

Seattle-Based Emeritus Walloped With $23 Million Verdict

The Sacramento Bee reported that just last week, a Sacramento jury found Emeritus Corp. guilty of wrongful death and elder abuse on Tuesday in relation to its care of a former resident who died shortly after leaving an Emeritus-run senior living community in California.

Emeritus, based in Seattle, Washington is the largest assisted living facility in the U.S.

Emeritus, largest US assisted living facility corp.

Emeritus, largest US provider of assisted living facilities

The Boice family brought a lawsuit against Emeritus for the abuse and death of Joan Boice, 82.  Ms. Boice, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had passed away three months after moving into a nursing home in 2008. She had resided at Emeritus at Emerald Hills in Auburn, CA.

Within months, she was found with at least four major pressure ulcers, which were believed to have been a significant factor in causing her death. By day 10 of her stay at the Emeritus facility, Joan had fallen down and was never able to get out of her wheelchair after her fall.

Late last year, Emeritus offered a $3.5 million settlement to the son and daughter of Ms. Boice. But Eric Boice wanted others to know his mother’s story of the elder abuse and neglect: so, the Boices went to trial.

The jury on the case voted unanimously against the company on 12 out of 15 questions on the two jury forms, including voting 12-0 that Emeritus employees failed to use reasonable care in providing for Boice’s hygienic, mental health, and safety needs.

The jurors also unanimously voted that this failure resulted in substantial harm to Boice, and that Emeritus’ officers and directors knew “about the unfitness of their employees and [acted] with conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others.”

Finally, the jurors voted 12-0 that Boices proved “that an employee, officer, director, or a managing agent acted with recklessness, malice, oppression, and fraud.”

Counsel for Emeritus vowed to appeal. This story tells us that no matter the size of the facility, if you have a loved one in assisted care, please remain vigilant.

See more:  Life and Death in Assisted Living

About Kevin

Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful elder abuse/neglect cases and has a stellar reputation for getting results for his injury clients in serious car crashes, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, maritime claims, and asbestos injury cases.