Government Sanctioned Elder Abuse

Two horrifying examples of government agency tyrannycal policies that abuse and exploit the elderly. 

One case, uncovered by the Connecticut Watchdog newspaper involves Canadian elder abuse.

"Police in Saanich, British Columbia, are investigating a narcotic poisoning incident involving an 88-year-old resident of an elder care facility that may provide a classic example of how the elderly in Canada and the United States often have little protection by legislation or organizations that are charged with their safety."

Kathleen Palamarek was forcibly abducted by police and ambulance attendants from the home of her dauthter and son-in-law in the presence of a registered nurse, and involuntary returned to a nursing home where she was prescribed massive doses of narcotics.

"That “involuntary apprehension” occurred on the afternoon of October 31, 2008, as Lois, Gil, Mrs. Palamarek and a family friend who also is a registered nurse and advocate for the elderly, waited in Lois’s home for other family members to arrive for a scheduled visit. However, a knock at the door revealed instead a squad of police and ambulance attendants who seized Mrs. Palamarek, hustled her into a waiting ambulance, and returned her to forced confinement.

The B. C. Mental Health Act allows medical personnel and police officers to apprehend, detain and treat a person against their will if they believe the individual’s physical or mental condition “may” deteriorate – based solely on their own observations or on “information received” from any other person. No evidence or substantiation is required." 

An independent toxicologist said Mrs. Palamarek is lucky to be alive after the drugging.

The second case, reported by The New York Times, involves the US Veterans Affairs trustee program. This program disenfranchises elderly veterans and their families / legal guardians with VA-appointed trustees.

"Families of veterans like Mr. Brown, 80, and William E. Freeman, whose sister was denied the ability to manage his benefits, and beneficiaries like Dennis Keyser, whose appointed trustee turned out to be a felon, say the system is badly flawed."

  "The department says it has appointed people to manage 111,407 accounts with a cumulative value of more than $3.2 billion. They earn up to 4 percent commission on the money under their care."

"The department’s inspector general has warned, however, that the department does not do enough to protect its veterans from the risks of faithless fiduciaries. A report last year said that the program was not “effectively protecting the V.A.-derived income and estates of incompetent beneficiaries” or providing “effective oversight.”"

"Richard Wortham, Mr. Brown’s son, gained power of attorney for his father four years before the department stepped in, and found out about his father’s new financial minder only when he tried to withdraw money from the bank. “They said we no longer had access to his money — we could only get it from the fiduciary,” Mr. Wortham said."

  The VA insists that the VA’s decision are "not subject to judicial review."

"When families have sued, the government generally responds with briefs stating that the decision to appoint a fiduciary is solely within the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs and not subject to judicial review. The government’s strategy in state cases is to say that only the federal court system established for veterans’ cases can review the claims — but the government has also told the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that those decisions “are entirely discretionary” under the veterans affairs secretary and so “the court has no jurisdiction” over appointment protests."

These examples of gross bureaucratic abuse of the elderly make a strong argument FOR a government shut- down. That is, if the policies that resulted in the abuse would be lifted!

 

Vera Hassner Sharav

http://ctwatchdog.com/

Granny Snatching: Narcotic Poisoning – A Bitter Pill

By Ron Winter | Mar 30, 2011

Police in Saanich, British Columbia, are investigating a narcotic poisoning incident involving an 88-year-old resident of an elder care facility that may provide a classic example of how the elderly in Canada and the United States often have little protection by legislation or organizations that are charged with their safety.

Records show that Kathleen Palamarek, a resident of The Lodge At Broadmead in Greater Victoria, British Columbia was removed from her room by ambulance attendants on the morning of February, 24, 2011 and taken to a local emergency room after a 911 call from her daughter Lois Sampson. Mrs. Palamarek was diagnosed as suffering from narcotic poisoning after being prescribed a morphine opiate. People familiar with her case say she is fortunate to have survived.

Kathleen Palamarek

I met Mrs. Palamarek last year during a visit to British Columbia to speak about elder care issues and during that visit made numerous contacts among Canadian elder care advocates. Those contacts have proved invaluable in gathering information on Mrs. Palamarek’s case, because her daughter and son-in-law are awaiting a legal ruling on their efforts to release her from Broadmead and decline to speak about it.

However, others close to Mrs. Palamarek say that Mrs. Sampson, accompanied by her husband Gil and a registered nurse, found her mother – who the Sampsons maintain has no major medical issues and normally is alert and mobile – in a nearly comatose state on the morning of Feb. 24, 2011. An intravenous medication was being applied through a medical device known as a PICC, or Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter.

The emergency room diagnosis revealed that Mrs. Palamarek was prescribed hydromorphone, a powerful morphine derivative supposedly because she was deemed “palliative.” Palliative care is defined as providing medical or comfort care for people with intractable pain due to incurable diseases. Those familiar with Mrs. Palamarek say she does not have any terminal illness, nor does she have intractable pain.

You may be asking what this has to do with elder care issues in the United States in general or Connecticut in particular. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first I’ll give you a rundown on the case in British Columbia.

According to case records, the Sampsons have waged a costly and frustrating three-year legal battle to win the release of Mrs. Palamarek from Broadmead Lodge into their care. The records and interviews with principals in the case show that Mrs. Palamarek originally entered the facility in 2007 after she was hospitalized for an internal hemorrhage caused by the improper prescribing of two drugs.

In 2008 Mrs. Palamarek met with a lawyer, who assessed her to be capable of legal instruction. After several meetings, she appointed her daughter Lois Sampson as her legal representative so she could move out of Broadmead. She moved in with her daughter briefly, but was forced by Canadian authorities to return to Broadmead.

That “involuntary apprehension” occurred on the afternoon of October 31, 2008, as Lois, Gil, Mrs. Palamarek and a family friend who also is a registered nurse and advocate for the elderly, waited in Lois’s home for other family members to arrive for a scheduled visit. However, a knock at the door revealed instead a squad of police and ambulance attendants who seized Mrs. Palamarek, hustled her into a waiting ambulance, and returned her to forced confinement.

The B. C. Mental Health Act allows medical personnel and police officers to apprehend, detain and treat a person against their will if they believe the individual’s physical or mental condition “may” deteriorate – based solely on their own observations or on “information received” from any other person. No evidence or substantiation is required.

This forms the basis for my concerns about the laws in Canada. Even though the US does not have uniform laws to protect the elderly, groups in both countries are working to “harmonize” existing laws so they would be the same in Canada and the US. Considering how the Canadian authorities terrorized an elderly widow and her family, we should all be concerned about efforts to duplicate those laws here.

Unfortunately, cases similar to Mrs. Palamarek’s are not rare in Canada or the US.

Ron Winter

After Mrs. Palamarek’s apprehension and confinement, the Sampsons immediately initiated a series of legal actions with the goal of returning her to their care. The case went to trial late last year. Final summations were delivered on Feb 18, 2011, but to date no decision has been released by the presiding judge.

There is a history of complaints concerning the medications that have been prescribed to Mrs. Palamarek at Broadmead, so the Sampsons hired a toxicologist, Ron Tisdell, who owns Toxicology Litigation Consultants, Inc., in Texas, and is an expert witness in cases involving drugs. Tisdell also is a licensed pharmacist in Canada and performed an extensive review of Mrs. Palamarek’s prescribed medications, resulting in a scathing report.

The drugs originally prescribed for Mrs. Palamarek included Fentanyl patches, another powerful opiate that is reserved for patients who are in intractable pain that cannot be managed by regular analgesics such as Tylenol or codeine. Tisdell’s analysis stated that sometimes the patches were defective or leaking, and at other times, although the medication was prescribed it wasn’t administered or went missing.

“I found it appalling that Mrs. Palamarek was not in pain, yet she was prescribed Fentanyl patches,” he said. Nonetheless, it was barely a week after the trial concluded that Mrs. Palamarek was again administered powerful narcotic medications.

David Cheperdak, CEO of the Broadmead Care Society, which operates The Lodge at Broadmead, said today that “Privacy laws and respect for the confidentiality of our residents prevent me from commenting on the specifics of this, or any other person in our care. Additionally, I cannot comment on an ongoing police investigation. What I can tell you is that the health, safety and well being of people in our care is always our number one priority.

“It’s important to note that while I can’t speak to specifics, Mrs Palamarek’s entire family (save one) have expressed for the last 3-4 years that they are very pleased and satisfied with the excellent care that their mom has received while at The Lodge at Broadmead.”

Nonetheless, regarding the Feb. 24, 2011 hospitalization of Mrs. Palamarek, Tisdell remarked, “That lady is lucky to be alive.”

After removing her from Broadmead the ambulance medics treated Mrs. Palamarek with narcotic overdose medication, and upon arrival at the hospital emergency room the treatment was administered again. Mrs. Palamarek responded positively and soon was able to sit up, converse, eat and drink.

However, according to records filed with the police, the emergency room physician was prevented by lawyers representing the Vancouver Island Health Authority from performing any further tests on Mrs. Palamarek, even a routine blood test. She was ordered returned to Broadmead over the Sampsons’ strenuous objections.

The administration of the palliative morphine “placed Mrs. Palamarek in great jeopardy,” Tisdell said.

The Sampsons discovered that the morphine scrip was written only days after the court proceedings concluded. Others who are monitoring the legal proceedings say that had Mrs. Palamarek died before the judge’s decision has been rendered, all of the matters before the court would have been declared “moot.”

The Sampsons and the registered nurse who was present when the paramedics were called reported the poisoning incident to the Saanich Police Department. Asked for an update on the case, department Public Information Officer Dean Jantzen, wrote, “I have spoken to Kathleen Murphy (the detective assigned to the case.) This is an active investigation that she is currently working on. At this point it would be premature to speak about this until she concludes her inquiries.”

A letter expressing grave concerns regarding Mrs. Palamarek’s safety was also sent to the health authority but no response has been received thus far.

Concerns about Mrs. Palamarek’s medication have been raised since before she was forcibly returned to Broadmead. In July 2008 the Sampsons filed a formal request with the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT), the state agency that oversees the guardianship of British Columbia’s elderly, seeking an independent medical assessment of her health and drug regimen. That request was denied outright.

Canada’s actual treatment of some of its elderly citizens does not appear to jibe with the international view of that country as a benign human-friendly sanctuary. Reviewing the case of Kathleen Palamarek and others reported in the media shows that in Canada, growing old may result in facing unexpected and potentially lethal issues.

It is said that the wheels of justice grind slow, but in the case of Kathleen Palamarek there is a legitimate question of whether they are moving at all. The police are investigating, but a decision on the court case has been pending for more than a month.

The Sampsons have had further issues with Mrs. Palamarek’s treatment in Broadmead since the Feb. 24 narcotic poisoning incident, and meanwhile Kathleen Palamarek spends much of her time in her room, reading books, and waiting ….

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The New York Times

Instead of Helping, Trustee Program Is Hurting Veterans, Families Say

By JOHN SCHWARTZ

Published: April 7, 2011

LANCASTER, Tex. — During the Korean War, Billy Brown faced enemy bullets, starvation and bitter cold. Now the benefits that he earned for his sacrifice have been tied up by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which in 2009 diverted his payments to trustees who have taken control not only of those funds, but of his life savings of some $100,000 as well.

Richard Wortham and his father, Billy Brown, 80, a Korean War veteran with multiple  ailments.Mr. Wortham found out that a trustee had been named to handle his father’s affairs when he tried to make a bank withdrawal. 

Richard Wortham, Mr. Brown’s son, gained power of attorney for his father four years before the department stepped in, and found out about his father’s new financial minder only when he tried to withdraw money from the bank. “They said we no longer had access to his money — we could only get it from the fiduciary,” Mr. Wortham said.

What began as a broad effort to safeguard ailing veterans and their families from financial loss and abuse has turned into what lawyers and veterans’ advocates call a mismanaged and poorly regulated bureaucracy that not only fails to respond to veterans’ needs but in some cases creates new problems.

Families of veterans like Mr. Brown, 80, and William E. Freeman, whose sister was denied the ability to manage his benefits, and beneficiaries like Dennis Keyser, whose appointed trustee turned out to be a felon, say the system is badly flawed.

The person the department appointed to handle Mr. Brown’s affairs, Marcus Brown (no relation), listed his occupation as a “cabinet specialist” and has a high school education; the family said he informed them that they would have to petition him for purchases. While the family has not accused Marcus Brown of abusing the funds — and his lawyer, Logan Odeneal, notes that his client has served as a manager of benefits for some 80 veterans and “his accountings always balance to the penny” — the family found him unresponsive and chafed at what they saw as an unnecessary imposition.

When Mr. Wortham fought the appointment in court, the department argued that such decisions were theirs alone to make and beyond appeal or judicial review.

“The process the V.A. has, it’s not working,” Mr. Wortham said, sitting at the foot of his father’s bed in a nursing home here. “It’s not working for Dad, and it’s not working for other veterans.”

The department says it has appointed people to manage 111,407 accounts with a cumulative value of more than $3.2 billion. They earn up to 4 percent commission on the money under their care. The department, in a statement, said that beneficiaries had access to due process before a final decision was reached about appointing a beneficiary, and that the financial managers were carefully vetted. Once appointed, they “may also be required to prepare annual accountings.” In making the choice, the agency said, “priority is given to a family member if qualified and willing to serve.”

The department’s inspector general has warned, however, that the department does not do enough to protect its veterans from the risks of faithless fiduciaries. A report last year said that the program was not “effectively protecting the V.A.-derived income and estates of incompetent beneficiaries” or providing “effective oversight.”

The report stated that 315 fraud investigations from October 1998 to March 2010 had “resulted in 132 arrests and monetary recoveries of $7.4 million in restitution, fines, penalties and administrative judgments.”

Thomas J. Pamperin, deputy under secretary for disability assistance at the department’s Veterans Benefits Administration, declined to discuss individual cases, except to say “there are always two sides to a story.” He said if family members felt an appointment was inappropriate, they could ask the department to review the decision, and the “the program office would consider that,” he said.

He stressed that the number of court cases concerning such matters was small, and that while some family members might feel otherwise, “we are extremely cognizant of the need to look out for the veterans’ best interest, and not to be capricious and arbitrary in our actions.”

Douglas J. Rosinski, a lawyer in Columbia, S.C., who represents Mr. Brown’s family and three other families with complaints about the system, disagreed. “There are many hundreds, if not thousands of potential cases” around the country, he said, and called abuses of the system “a hidden tragedy of the most defenseless of our veterans.”

Jim Strickland, who runs the Web site VAwatchdogtoday.org, said that cases like those of Mr. Brown, Mr. Freeman and Mr. Keyser were “happening all over the country.”

“The law says veterans have the right to due process,” he said, but “when the fiduciary process is initiated, that all goes out the window.”

Mr. Keyser, 40, got a double shock concerning the manager of his benefits. Because he has cerebral palsy, Mr. Keyser had been receiving his late father’s benefits for several years. But last summer, the telephone line for the department’s appointee, James M. Hammonds, was disconnected. Mr. Keyser’s caretaker, Bob Albertson, did some digging and discovered that Mr. Hammonds had been convicted of tax fraud. Then he dug a bit further and discovered that Mr. Hammonds had died in May.

Another veteran in the Dallas area, Mr. Freeman, 56 and schizophrenic, had moved in with his sister, Debora Allen. Ms. Allen, who also takes care of her father, obtained veterans benefits for her older brother and expected to be named his benefits manager since she had obtained power of attorney.

But she said the department had deemed her ineligible because she was unemployed — which she needs to be, she said, so she can care full-time for her family. “They said: ‘This is what we decided. It’s better if we handle it. We have the right people,’ ” she recalled. When she asked the department for some of her brother’s money for a car so she could drive him to doctors’ appointments, she was turned down. “It’s his money!” she said.

When families have sued, the government generally responds with briefs stating that the decision to appoint a fiduciary is solely within the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs and not subject to judicial review. The government’s strategy in state cases is to say that only the federal court system established for veterans’ cases can review the claims — but the government has also told the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that those decisions “are entirely discretionary” under the veterans affairs secretary and so “the court has no jurisdiction” over appointment protests.

Katrina Eagle, a veterans advocate in California, filed a brief in the Freeman case recently, decrying what she called a “cynical litigation strategy” that deprives veterans of due process rights under the Fifth Amendment. “Like many other veterans with V.A.-appointed fiduciaries, Mr. Freeman has been trapped in a legal quagmire because the secretary asserts that whatever tribunal is hearing a challenge does not have jurisdiction to hear that challenge,” Ms. Eagle said.

Mr. Rosinski, Billy Brown’s lawyer, said, “You have more process with a traffic ticket than you do with this.”

The path of Mr. Brown’s case has been particularly tortuous. In January, after a hearing in a Texas court in which a judge stated that he was inclined to assert jurisdiction in the matter, Mr. Wortham received a letter from the veterans department announcing that it had appointed a new manager for his father’s benefits.

A local lawyer for Mr. Brown’s family, Don Uloth, persuaded a judge to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting any of Mr. Brown’s funds from being transferred or sent to anyone but Mr. Wortham or Mr. Brown.

But the day after receiving the department’s letter, and a day before the judge’s action, the department closed all of Mr. Brown’s bank accounts and sent all of his funds to the new manager of benefits. Then last month, the government got the case transferred to federal court — a move that Mr. Rosinski suggests was intended only to delay matters and to avoid, at least temporarily, an unfriendly decision. Since then, the department has frozen payments of Mr. Brown’s allowance, a move that Mr. Rosinski characterized as retribution.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brown’s life continues to ebb. He suffers from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and diabetes, and has had at least one stroke.

“There’s nobody beyond the law,” Mr. Wortham said in promising to continue to fight to get his father’s money back under his family’s control. “I’ll be here to my last dying breath, fighting for my dad.”