Stories of Abuse

!assisted-suicideAttorneys such as Margaret Dore in Seattle assert that Washington and Oregon laws that allow assisted suicide is a factor for increasing elder abuse. Ms. Dore explains that the Oregon and Washington assisted suicide acts have a formal application process. The acts allow an heir, who will benefit from the patient’s death, to play a large role in this process.

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, no mechanism for oversight exists. That means that no one needs to witness the death. Without disinterested witnesses, Ms. Dore asserts, “[T]he opportunity is created for an heir, or for another person who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. One method would be by injection when the patient is sleeping. The drugs used in Oregon and Washington are water soluble and therefore injectable. If the patient woke up and struggled, who would know?”

In Washington and Oregon, the state health departments are required to collect some basic information for its annual reports. According to these reports, users of assisted-suicide are for the vast majority white and well-educated. Many have private insurance. Most are age 65 and older. People that fall into this demographic are seniors with money, which we have seen are commonly targeted and at a higher risk of financial abuse.

The forms used to collect the statistical information do not ask about abuse. Moreover, not even law enforcement is allowed to access information about a particular case. Alicia Parkman a mortality research analyst at the Center for Health Statistics, Oregon Health Authority, wrote to Ms. Dore: “We have been contacted by law enforcement and legal representatives in the past, but have not provided identifying information of any type.“

Consumer Reports warns about financial elder abuse

KOMO News reported on the growing trend of financial elder abuse with focus on Consumer Reports recent investigations.

The message to the elderly: Even those you might trust the most–your family and friends–are the ones who are in the best position to drain bank accounts and take over real estate of vulnerable senior citizens.

Sadly, these are the types of crimes most difficult to spot, as it seems from most distant observers that someone’s family or caregiver is working in the best interest of the vulnerable elder.

Financial elder abuse is on the rise per Consumer Reports’ investigation..

Nevertheless, senior citizens are the most vulnerable for scams. From forging to pleas for a loan to abuses of power of attorney.  When someone has power of attorney, they have unfettered access to your accounts. Someone who misuses those powers can decimate financial accounts, leaving them with virtually nothing.

To help prevent elder abuse:

  • Have bank and investment statements sent to a person you trust to monitor accounts.
  • Arrange for direct deposit and automatic bill pay.
  • Consult a reputable elder law attorney for advice on wills and limiting power of attorney.

Consumer Reports says there are good places to get help if you or an elderly relative is concerned about financial abuse, including the National Center on Elder Abuse, which has links to help and hotlines.

You can also get help for elders dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease or other memory loss issues, from the local Alzheimer’s Association.

West Seattle brothers allow father to rot to death

Every once in a while, I come across a story that is almost impossible for me to read because of the horrific details. This is one of those stories. which I came across in the Seattle P-I.

Sadly, the story is about a pair of local men, both in their 50’s, who lived rent-free in their father’s Alki/West Seattle home. All the while, Keith and Kenneth Shaw allowed their 86 year old father, Kyle Shaw, Jr. to waste away malnourished, dehydrated, and caked in filth.

King County prosecutors allege that the Shaw brothers refused to provide proper care to their father, so that they could inherit all of their parents savings.

Back in November 2010, another relative had called the paramedics to the Shaw house. The paramedics found Kyle Shaw in only a T-shirt and socks. The sock had grown into his feet, according to charging documents, as the elderly Shaw had been wearing the bloodied, feces-covered socks for at least a year.  At Swedish Medical Center, a doctor found  Mr. Shaw’s feet were rotting, along with suffering an array of life-threatening ailments.

A social service worker visited the Shaws, responding to a troublesome report from the Nov. 2010 hospital visit. Despite the fact that Kyle Shaw and his wife had large savings, enough to pay for Kyle’s care, the Shaw brothers balked at the idea. One of them said that doing so would force the other brother (who didn’t have a job) to “… end up homeless, living under the viaduct.”

Both men have been charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment. Neither has entered a plea yet.

State Run Group Homes Skate On Thin Ice

Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has given notice to King County SOLA (State Operated Living Alternatives). At present, the SOLA homes are now operating under what is called a “provisional certification.” In other words, administrators must prove that they are able to keep 50 vulnerable adults in these SOLAs healthy and safe. Otherwise, the program may shutdown.

An investigation that Susannah Frame of KING5 conducted (see below clip. “Repeat violations threaten shutdown of 13 state-run group homes”) reveal some cringe worthy details about a number of state run group homes in the Puget Sound and beyond.
According to KING5, 38 SOLA homes in Washington care for about 130 clients. These homes are in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, and Bremerton. The provisional certification was imposed in late July 2012, as the result of homes repeated violations and for citations of “serious deficiencies determined to jeopardize client’s health, safety and/or welfare.”  These serious deficiencies included instances of assault, neglect, and sexual assault.

There are 38 SOLA homes in the state which care for 130 clients. The homes are located in Tacoma, Bremerton, Yakima, Spokane and Seattle. They are unique in that they aren’t simply licensed by the state to operate as a group home; they are managed and run by state employees. The provisional certification only applies to the King County program.

County’s Worst Case of Theft: Caregiver Steals $1 Million

John Friedlund was a Washington State caregiver, who received a 10-year prison sentence earlier this month for stealing $1 million from a 107 year old woman, Frances Swan, 107. She was found living in feces and utter squalor, as her supposed caregiver had spent her funds to purchase tractors, horse trailers and over 300 guns.

John Herbert Friedlund gets 10 yr prison sentence for elder abuse/theft.

Stevens County Deputy Prosecutor Leah Radzimski described John Herbert Friedlund’s acts as “…the worst instance of theft and abuse we’ve had in the county. Six officers said the home was the worst they’d ever seen.”

Friedlund, 79, was sentenced by Stevens County Superior Court Judge Al Nielson, a day after jurors convicted him of first-degree theft.

He had resided at a ranch near Kettle Falls, roughly 210 miles northeast of Seattle. For four years, he was given the responsibility as caregiver to Ms. Swan. During those four years, he stole money from her retirement account, according to Radzimski.He spent the $1 million on 300 to 400 guns and other items such as tractors and horse trailers, Radzimski said.

Ms. Swan was bedridden in a back room of her feces strewn Kettle Falls home. Deputies discovered her in May 2011. She begged them for food.  The only food found at her place was rotten, and the garbage had stacked so high with filth that it reached the ceiling.

She now lives in a nursing home.

In early October 2012, a jury convicted Friedlund of theft with two aggravating circumstances – violation of the victim because of her vulnerability and his position of fiduciary responsibility over her.

As unbelievable as stories like these are, we are finding them more common. If you believe that someone you love is the victim of elder abuse, contact an attorney. Kevin Coluccio has represented numerous elder abuse victims and their family members, finding justice against those negligent in their care of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Resident’s Death Shuts Down Northwest Nursing Home

Doris Dorsey, a resident of John Day Nursing Home (near Portland, OR) died in October 2011. Family of Ms. Dorsey believe that the death is the result of two caregiver’s abuse and neglect, claiming that Tom Houpt and Vanessa Holmstrom withheld food from Doris and tortured her.

Two Caregivers at Portland Nursing Home Charged with Manslaughter & Criminal Treatment

These two caregivers of Ms. Dorsey now face charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. In the meantime, Oregon’s Department of Human Services is shutting down John Day, helping relocate its residents.

Apparently, the State had received other complaints about John Day.

According to the State, the facility failed to comply with state requirements that called for the facility registered nurse to attend training, to have at least two caregivers on duty for each shift and to meet other standards. Their failure to comply “placed residents at harm and risk for serious harm,” the Aug. 30 letter states.


Woman Allegedly Stole $1 Million from Elderly

Earlier this week, the Seattle Times reported another story about elder financial abuse. Brenda Nichols was charged in King County for allegedly stealing more than $1 million from an elderly Seattle woman. Nichols was charged along with two co-defendants.

She was under community supervision by the state Department of Corrections for a grand-theft conviction in California. She is also wanted in New York for an outstanding warrant for 2nd degree burglary.

Unfortunately, this is just another story of many more to come. Abuse against the elderly, by duping seniors out of their money is an ever increasing problem that we need to tackle.


Seattle Police Say Elder Abuse a Serious Issue in Washington

In a news story broken by King5 earlier this week, another story of elder abuse reminds us that this problem is not going away anytime soon.

Cotie Pifher, 25 years old, and Melissa Flores, 26 years old, lived together and treated Flores’ 63 year old aunt with cruelty and callousness befitting a war criminal. The story includes an account of Pifher beating Flores’ aunt with a wooden spoon, throwing her in a scalding shower, and pushing her outdoors with no clothes. Apparently, they had left her at a hospital with bruises and broken bones. Hospital staff and a relative requested a welfare check.

Seattle police say they have seen numerous cases of elder abuse in Western Washington. Adult Protective Services‘s most recent statistics indicate that there were at least 14,577 reported cases of abuse. These cases include physical, emotional, and financial abuse in Washington State (based on info compiled in 2009). Sadly, the perpetrators are most tpyically family members.

Presently, King and Pierce Counties have a billboard campaign to raise awareness about elder abuse. If you suspect elder abuse, please call 1 (800) 222-TIPS. Also, check out the below websites that offer information:

Settlement Finally Reached for Estate of Prominent Elder, Brooke Astor

The story of Brooke Astor is perhaps one of the more amazing stories of financial elder abuse. Brooke Astor.jpgMs. Astor, a prominent figures in the New York social scene, was known for her wealth, style and philanthropy. Initially revealed in 2006, Brooke Astor’s only child, Anthony (“Tony”) Marshall was indicted on criminal charges that included grand larceny, possession of stolen property, forgery and conspiracy.

Convicted in 2009 on charges such as grand larceny and falsifying business reports, Marshall had abused his power of attorney to his mother’s estate by selling it and forging her signature in the third codicil of his will with Astor’s former lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey. Their amendment would have left the entire estate to Marshall. This directly contradicted Ms. Astor’s previously articulated intent and desire to give a large portion of her estate to charity.

Last Wednesday, a settlement was finally reached that would cut Tony Marshall’s share to $14.5 million. $12.3 million will be paid out of the estate to the Manhattan D.A.’s office for the prosecution of Mr. Marshall.

Of the proceeds, some $20 million will go to the Metropoliation Museum of Art. $15 million will go to the New York Public Library. A $30 million fund will also be established to improve education in New York.

Over 50% of Elder Financial Abuse Cases Involve Own Family Member

In today’s MarketWatch Reality Q&A, the sad but true fact is underscored: Over half of thisElder Financial Abuse.jpg country’s elder abuse cases involve a family member, not shady “mortgage professionals.” The column indicates that sons are most likely to scam their parents or grandparents, more so than a fraudulent contractor/handyman or paramour.

This doesn’t mean that senior citizens should trust all lenders suddenly. Make sure that the senior that you’re concerned about understands the terms of the loan and the pros/cons of going through with the loan before s/he signs on the dotted line. Reverse mortgages rank as the 8th most prevalent scam targeting the elderly.

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.