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December 11, 2013

Protecting Older Citizens From Scammers This Holiday Season



Abuse of our older citizens in the United States comes in many forms, but one of the most insidious practices is through financial abuse. Elder financial abuse is the misuse, mismanagement, or misappropriation, of an older person's property or equity without their informed consent. An example of such a malicious act is when a grandchild for instance, takes their grandmother's social security check out of her mailbox without her knowledge or consent, and then cashes it. A 2009, study from MetLife, found that elder financial abuse is booming, with an estimated costs for older Americans ranging in the billions, some estimating the effect as great as $2.6 billion per year. While all older Americans are potential targets, the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) states that the "typical" victim of elder financial abuse is between the ages of 70 and 89, tend to be Caucasian, female, with a potential health or cognitive impairment. While most older Americans do not report elder abuse based upon fear of retaliation, fear of loss of personal freedoms, or fear of a change in their current living situations, over 90 percent of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person's own family members. Most frequently their adult children, grandchildren, extended family and lastly a caregiver are often to blame for their deceptive motives. Similar methods can be used to determine whether one's loved one is being taken advantage of by a pop up charity, or telemarketers, as with unscrupulous family members who may not think twice about taking advantage of the older Americans in your life.

Financial exploitation can be conducted in numerous ways but the overarching themes are giving strangers your private information without first vetting them, believing that you can get something for nothing, and playing to a person's goodhearted nature. Suspicious spending is always a trigger for financial abuse. If your loved one who has been diligent about money all their lives suddenly begins making unusual purchases outside of their character, probe to see if they have shared their social security number or credit card information with anyone recently, be it over the phone, or in person, for any reason. If any checks bounce that normally are well within your older citizen's monthly budget, this could be a red flag that someone has been tampering with his or her finances. Particularly going into the holiday season or after tragedy strikes, pop up charities with detailed but bogus websites are ready to take an unsuspecting person's credit card information. Charity websites should end with .org not the typical .com if it is a reputable site, but that nugget of wisdom alone cannot keep you from being scammed. Especially hurtful with these type of scams, is that the person donating thinks they are doing a good deed, when in actuality they have just given their personal information to a scammer who later intends to use the donator's information for the purpose of identity theft.

The Internet is ripe with scams, particularly enticing to older Americans is the one that promises generic or lower costing medications all for a low monthly fee. When you take into account that one of the costliest parts of an older citizens monthly budget is their health insurance and prescription plans it is understandable as to why older Americans are preyed upon. Once you sign up the scammers now have access to your name, address, and credit card information. Even more unsettling is that older Americans who sign up are often being sent placebos or pills that exacerbate their prior medical conditions. Lastly this holiday season by implementing a quick screening of potential scammers you can avoid the "grandparent scam". The grandparent scam goes something like this; a grandparent picks up a call from a frantic voice. The voice on the other end of the phone says, "Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?" Once the unsuspecting grandparent gives a name, the scammer goes into a tearjerker of a story as to why they quickly need them to wire them money, be it payment for a car repair, overdue rent, or hospitalization. Most importantly is that the scammer will implore the grandparent to not tell their parents as it will get them into hot water. In order to ensure that your loved ones do not fall for the "grandparent scam" make it a policy to not answer an open ended question with the correct grandchild's name, and see if the scammer continues with their scripted response. Give the name of a pet or best friend, something easy to remember when you are being pressured to answer quickly. A great way for your parents or loved one to not be bombarded by such phone calls is to put them on the "Do Not Call" list by visiting www.donotcall.gov and to be suspicious of anyone that calls in a panic with a pressure sale.

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November 19, 2013

Domestic Violence in Later Life


On Wednesday, November 13, a domestic violence incident was reported that both stuck out in my mind, and remained there over the weekend, as it pertained to domestic violence in couples over the age of 80. The article, "Husband Charged With Fatally Stabbing His Wife In Cinnaminson" as reported by CBS news, detailed how 83-year-old William Coggins had been formerly charged with murder in the violent death of his 81-year-old wife, Laura Coggins. According to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, Cinnaminson Police were called to the 55-and-over community on the morning of November 4th, after the husband's brother discovered the lifeless body of Laura Coggins fully clothed in her bathroom with multiple knife wounds. An autopsy later performed confirmed that Laura Coggins' death was a homicide and a result of the multiple stab and slash wounds she sustained. William Coggins, whose bail has been set at $500,000, with a court ordered psychiatric evaluation as a condition of his bail, was taken to a local area hospital for treatment before being taken into police custody. Mr. Coggins was treated for self-inflicted wounds, which were deemed as a result of an apparent suicide attempt. Two of Coggins' neighbors in the 55-and-over community, days after news broke of the homicide were shocked. They described Laura Coggins as "one of the nicest people you would ever meet." Further stating that Laura lived in the home with her husband and that the couple were "very private."

Elder domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economics, and culture. Isolation in particular can become the breeding ground for abuse in older couples. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, somewhere between 1 and 2 million residents in the United States aged 65 and older have been abused, neglected, or exploited by a person with whom they depend on for care or protection. Even with such a staggering number of instances of abuse in older Americans, reports to police and other social services remains minimal. The largest cited reason to not report is the coupled fear that 1) financially the older American cannot sustain their quality of life on their own, and 2) that by the victim reporting the abuse, they believe it will lead to them no longer being able to live in their own home, further stripping them of their freedoms that they currently enjoy.

Another added wrinkle to elder domestic violence is that typically loved ones are the perpetrators. Nine out of ten of the substantiated incidents reported to Adult Protective Services, were caused by family members. In the instances of abuse reported to Adult Protective Services, the perpetrators were spouses or former spouses, domestic partners, adult children, and extended family, with just a slim margin being committed by hired caregivers. Typically domestic violence studies stop short of including couples who are over the age of forty-five, which makes getting a clear picture of the problem all that more difficult. A 2007 study by the American Bar Association entitled "Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence in Later Life," found that elder abuse statistics are alarming. The study held that 84 percent of elder abuse cases are never reported, and as many as 5 million older Americans are abused each year in the United States. Without a legislative push for change in elder abuse laws, the number of older Americans suffering abuse at the hand of a loved one, is set to steadily rise. By the year 2050, a historic change will occur when for the first time in history there will be a greater number of older people on earth than children.

The Philadelphia based law firm of Rosenbaum and Associates works closely with victims of nursing home abuse in order to help residents regain their quality of life and restitution for their injuries. However, not all-elder abuse occurs in a nursing home or long-term facility. The National Institute of Justice, in their June 2013 research brief, found that the vast majority of older Americans choose to reside in their domestic settings, with only about 3 percent residing in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Accordingly, 89 percent of elder abuse reported to Adult Protective Services occurs in domestic settings. Elder abuse can go undetected for longer periods of time as protective social networks; such as school or work, is no longer part of an older American's everyday life. Much like law can help shape society, so to can society help shape the law.

It speaks volumes the fact that it is incredibly difficult to track down an accurate and updated statistic involving domestic violence in later life, yet it takes less than a minute to find statistics on child or domestic violence rates on both a state and federal level in the United States. Elder abuse lacks a national data collection system and reporting requirements, much like it lacks a definitive definition, and agreed upon statistics. Elder domestic violence is routinely seen as an "invisible" problem, often falling short of the "moral panic" with regard to the broader approach to combating family violence. With out a demand for change little can be done to help curb the systematic abuse of our older Americans. Some believe that apathy and negative attitudes towards "cotton tops" are simply the byproduct of societal and media enforced ageism. Regardless of the root of the cause, we all age, and we all deserve protection.

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October 16, 2013

Elder Justice is a Necessity in Pennsylvania


Picture for a moment the life you built, saved, and diligently worked for, being stripped away from you at a time when you are unable to fight for yourself. That is what is occurring to millions of older Americans every year. Statistics vary from one in ten older Americans a year being abused, approximately a little over 4 million, to almost 11 percent or 5.7 million. Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as, self neglect, and financial exploitation. Often times these patterns of abuse are at the hand of a relative, loved one, or a trusted caregiver or institution. As was true for the actor Mikey Rooney an outspoken advocate of senior rights. On March 2, 2011, Mikey Rooney appeared before a special U.S. Senate committee considering legislation to curb elder abuse. Before the panel, then 90 year old Mikey Rooney claimed he had suffered elder abuse when he was denied basic necessities such as food and medicine, and was financially, verbally, emotionally, and psychologically, tormented at the hands of a stepson and his wife. As ominous as it may sound, everyone must protect themselves and their loved ones from people who prey on our older Americans.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the nation's older population is growing and is only projected to further expand as "baby boomers" begin to reach the age of older adults. Pennsylvania has the fourth largest population of older citizens comprising approximately 21.4 percent of the population, or about 2.7 million individuals over the age of 60, with another 2.4 percent over the age of 85. The Pennsylvania State Plan on Aging ("The Report"), is a report released every four years as dictated by federal and state law in order for the commonwealth to receive federal funding under the Older American Act of 1965. The Report estimates that a rapid growth in Pennsylvania's older adult population is slated to reach an epic high by 2030. At which time, another 22.2 percent of the state's population approximately 2.8 million people, who currently fall into the age bracket of 45 to 59 will become incorporated in the older population increase.

The impact of the recent economic recession has greatly affected the surge in reports of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitations of Pennsylvania's older population. Individuals in need of older adult protective services have grown exponentially. In 2011-2012 nearly 18,000 adults in Pennsylvania were in need of older adult protective services, that is a 17 percent increase from the previous year. Much like we check on our elderly neighbors when a heat wave strikes, so to should we speak up if we see any signs of elder abuse. If you believe there was an instance of elder abuse please at your earliest convenience contact the nursing home experts and personal injury attorneys at Rosenbaum and Associates for a free consultation. According to the SeniorLAW Center, victims of elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation, have three times the risk of dying prematurely. Typically the signs and symptoms may include, bruises or broken bones, dramatic weight loss, confusion due to malnutrition, medications, or an acute illness. Changes in the older adults behavior such as being withdrawn, signing over their house to a relative, or withdrawing large sums of money from a saving account, are all suspect. The Department of Aging's elder abuse hotline 1 (800) 490-8505, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for any person who believes that an older adult is being abused, neglected, exploited, or abandoned.


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May 6, 2013

Task Force Formed to Study Senior Abuse and Neglect


The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC ) announced the establishment of the Elder Law Task Force formed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to investigate the increasing troubles regarding abuse, neglect, guardianship and the access senior citizens have to justice. Justice Debra Todd is chairing the task force, which will recommend possible legislation, amended laws, training and best practices. The task force has one year to finalize their study.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille said that Pennsylvania's older population has significantly increased and as it grows, it is straining the ability of courts to provide services to protect elderly Pennsylvanians. He further stated that the requirements of the elderly will last for years, especially with regard to elder abuse, guardianships and their access to legal recourse. He said that it is time to guarantee that older Pennsylvania citizens will not suffer abuse or the loss of their savings.

Justice Todd has said that our society focuses on child abuse, but rarely addresses the abuse of the elderly. The force is hoping to put new laws into effect before the elderly population swells even more because with more elderly citizens comes more elderly abuse. Nowadays the number of people in the United States who are over 65 years old is greater numerically and proportionately than it has ever been, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Pennsylvania is only exceeded by three other states in terms of elderly population density.

The AOPC gave three instances of elder abuse that would be addressed by the task force. One example was a 64-year-old man from Lancaster who relied on his personal care aide to fix his meals, bathe and dress him because he only had one leg. The police said that the aide neglected the man so severely that the amputee developed skin ulcers that reached the entire way to the man's bone. Due to the extensive wounds, he lost his other leg.

Another example dealt with a Bucks County woman enlisted a neighbor to handle her personal finances since she was entering a nursing home. The neighbor squandered her savings on casino trips, jewelry, posh vacations and golf outings rather than paying her bills. The man has been charged with five felony theft charges.

The National Institute of Justice recently funded a study that reported that in 2009 eleven percent of folks over the age of 60 were the victims of senior abuse. Justice Todd said that at least the two previous cases had been reported. Todd said the U.S. Administration of Aging's National Center on Elder Abuse reported recently that for every one reported case, it's estimated that there are five unreported cases. Justice Todd called that statistic shameful and insisted that Pennsylvania can do a better job protecting seniors from abuse and neglect.

August 6, 2012

Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse News: "Houses of Horror" Are All Over California


As a lawyer who specializes in Philadelphia nursing home abuse and neglect, I am constantly astounded by the lack of government control and outrage. How is it possible that so many facilities, not just here in Pennsylvania, but throughout the United States, allow residents to live in unsanitary conditions, to be overmedicated with the drugs, to suffer bedsores, and to endure indignities like fraudulent billing, identity theft, sexual mistreatment, and so forth?

Unfortunately, since Rosenbaum & Associates is an advocacy firm for victims who've been damaged by Pennsylvania nursing home neglect and abuse, we are not an exactly an objective news source. Thus, when we sound the alarm bells, our claims might be dismissed as partisan.

That's why it's important to look to objective assessments, such as a recent series of 14 reports collected and analyzed by "Operation Guardian" out in California. From January 2010 through March of this year, California's Attorney General secretly sent investigators into nursing homes in Pasadena, Woodland Hills, and elsewhere in Southern California.

The stark results were released in the middle of July. Inspectors found all sorts of ghastly violations of human dignity:

• Improperly treated bed sores;
• Patients being improperly medicated or being put on psychotropic drugs, needlessly;
• Patients left to sit in their own urine and feces for hours at the time;
• Nurse/patient ratios that were ridiculously inadequate;
• Fraudulent billing;
• Poor end of life care;
• Dehydration and malnutrition -- easily avoidable, too!;
• Inadequate fall prevention;
• And beyond.

The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) called the investigation "hair-raising" and said "the reports demonstrate that some nursing homes are houses of horror with life threatening filthy conditions, lack of staff to perform core functions, and poor management."

The California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF) tried to defend the industry as a whole, suggesting that the 14 facilities that proved dramatically noncompliant constituted a "small portion" of the facilities that care for 300,000 California patients annually. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform were not placated, however, and asked California's Attorney General to act on the information to make serious and robust changes: to prosecute managers, members, and owners of nursing homes with both civil and criminal charges.

From California to Pennsylvania: Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect Is A Nationwide Problem

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April 4, 2010

Technology for Incontinence Management Could Help Pennsylvania Nursing Home Patients


McKnight's Long Term Care News recently reported that Australian nursing homes have begun using a new tool that promises to significantly reduce staff time devoted to managing patient incontinence: electronic underpants. This technology, called the Smart Incontinence Management System, or SIMsystem, uses an electronic moisture sensor that detects when a patient has had an accident. Then, SIMsystem sends a text message or page to staff to let them know that the patient needs their assistance. SIMsystem can be used with disposable diapers, and the article suggests that it can cut staff time spent on incontinence significantly.

As a Philadelphia nursing home neglect lawyer, I was interested in this news because more attentive care for incontinent patients could also help prevent bedsores, a common problem for nursing home patients. Bedsores form when patients are left in the same position for too long, but excess moisture from incontinence is one typical way they are aggravated. However, an electronic system can't prevent bed sores all by itself, obviously. Nursing home staff members still need to tend to patients regularly and appropriately. And even with the aid of innovative technology in patient care, adequate staffing is necessary to make sure that patients' treatment plans are followed and that there are enough staff members to go around. As a Pennsylvania nursing home abuse attorney, I hope that nursing homes that outfit incontinent patients with the SIMsystem will not assume that this new technology means that they can get away with fewer staff members. Understaffing in nursing homes can lead to serious failures in patient care, including but certainly not limited to pressure sores. As a Philadelphia injury lawyer i believe that adequate staffing must be a top priority to make sure all the residents needs are met.

Patients in nursing homes have the right to expect that they will be well cared for, regardless of what kind of technology the nursing home employs. Paralyzed or otherwise immobile patients develop bedsores because they are unable to shift positions on their own. The Mayo Clinic's Web site points out that elderly patients have thinner skin than young people do, so they are more susceptible to bedsores. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's data show that 1 in 10 nursing home patients suffered from bedsores in 2004, showing just how common this injury is in nursing homes. The presence of severe bedsores can be evidence of nursing home negligence.

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February 25, 2010

Long-Delayed Federal Database of Dangerous Pennsylvania Caregivers to Be Released


As Philadelphia nursing home neglect attorneys, we are extremely interested in a database of caregivers that will be released March 1. McKnight's Long-Term Care News reported Feb. 17 that the database of caregiving workers deemed "dangerous" in some way has been delayed for 22 years -- since 1988. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to finally make it available next month. But McKnight's reported that an investigative report has already criticized the database as incomplete.

The criticism comes from a joint investigation between ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, and the Los Angeles Times. That report found that states don't communicate well with one another. This allows caregivers with records of violence, theft or incompetence to move to a new state after the first state revokes their professional credentials. The investigation compared the federal database to state records and discovered that many states simply hadn't reported cases, or all of the details of those cases, to the federal government. Many of them are among the most recent complaints.

One licensed nurse in the article had been accused of mistreating nursing home residents at three previous facilities before he was charged in Minnesota with assaulting a resident. His licenses in three other states are on probation or restricted and he had surrendered a Texas license -- but his California license is clear.

McKnight's said DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded to the report by asking state governors to fill in the missing information. As Pennsylvania nursing home abuse lawyers, we hope they respond quickly and decisively. Elderly, ill and disabled nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable people in our society. They deserve better.

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