Saw a great comment today by a lawyer who is struggling hard to solve a very difficult (and, now, expensive) estate administration problem involving title to real property. The problem was created by the now-deceased parents of his clients; those parents probably saved all of a few hundred bucks on lawyer fees by doing their own estate planning. The lawyer's comment: "You don't always get what you pay for, but you seldom get what you don't pay for."
Today we are happy to announce that Oregon has added another option for reporting suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults. All our regular local hotline and reporting numbers will continue to take reports as usual, but we have added a single statewide number that provides another way to make these important reports. Oregon's abuse reporting hotline for children and adults, (855) 503-SAFE [855-503-7233], is up and running, and it provides callers with the ability to report suspected child abuse, elder abuse, abuse of people with physical or developmental disabilities, and abuse of people with mental illness or those experiencing a mental health crisis.
Callers will be directed that if the report is an emergency requiring immediate attention, to hang up and dial 911. If it is not an emergency, then callers will work through a simple phone tree to ensure their report gets to the right place for response, based on zip code and characteristics of the person they are calling about. Calls can be answered in English or Spanish. Once the calls are routed through the phone tree, they will be directed to local DHS or county offices for Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services, County Developmental Disability Programs (CDDP) or County Mental Health Programs (CMHP) for response. Not all areas of the state will have a live person to take reports after hours, and some locations will provide voicemail reporting options.
All local hotline and reporting numbers will continue to take reports as usual, and the new line adds a single call option for those who want to use it. Oregon's abuse reporting hotline for children and adults is the result of two legislative workgroups, one on child welfare and one on elder abuse, which recommended a single hotline option to simplify reporting for Oregonians who are not familiar with the abuse reporting process. Mandatory reporters are often well aware of local reporting and hotlines and are responsible for most of the reports we receive. Citizens who may only make one or two calls in their lifetimes can be overwhelmed by the seeming complexity of agencies and numbers from which to choose.
(855) 503-SAFE [855-503-7233] will solve that problem by providing a single phone number anyone can call from any community in Oregon!
I just had a call from a very nice person who needs caregivers around-the-clock, 365 days a year. One of these caregivers recently stole money from from my friend. My friend said it happened about six weeks ago, and that the person was no longer serving as a caregiver, so she was just going to let it go. I had to explain to her why it was so important that she call the police: Because other people looking to hire caregivers are going to look at the home-care workers' registry and look at the results of the criminal background checks, and if she doesn't file a police report about the theft, this caregiver will appear to have both a lot of experience and no problems in her background. My friend felt uncomfortable; the caregiver is young, and my friend doesn't see herself as vindictive. Basically, she does not want to get the other person in trouble. But of course, it's not my friend who is responsible for the trouble — the thief did that. My friend needs to report to protect others from this person and ultimately to protect herself by making sure that the system for background checks is reliable and complete. Someone who will steal from a disabled person getting 24 hour care is not someone who should be able to find work as a caregiver for other vulnerable people. So you're not being kind by overlooking abuse or thefts like this. Consider what you're doing to the person's next victim. My friend was also concerned that, because it would be her word against the caregiver's, she would not be able to prove that the theft occurred. I made two points about that:
one, it's not her problem to prove the case. That is a job of the police and the district attorney, not the crime victim.
Second, it turns out that the circumstances of the theft and what was stolen means that it is highly likely that the stolen property was fenced nearby, and it will be very memorable to whomever ended up with it -- meaning that it won't be that hard to prove that it was the stolen property in question.
Besides, punishing the thief isn't the issue here, or is at least not the main issue. The main issue is making sure that a person who preys on vulnerable people can't do so invisibly. The situation is the same with nonprofits. Many times when nonprofits are ripped off, the tendency among the members as to keep it quiet and not make a big fuss about it. It's also very appealing for the board to say that they were partially at fault for allowing the thief to rip them off, and therefore they don't want the bad publicity to their organization etc. etc. The big problem with this logic is the same as in my friend's case: when crime victims don't report crimes, the criminals are allowed to find new victims and victimize them, because they have no reason to know about the person's past. So, uncomfortable as it is, if someone rips you off, don't make it your job to help them cover it up. If someone abuses you or steals from you, whether you are an individual or as part of an organization, call the police. Let the police and the court system make the decisions on prosecution and any punishment that might occur if warranted. Bottom line: don't help criminals victimize other people by failing to report past crimes. UPDATE: A helpful assistant attorney general points out: "Great points, John. You might also tell your friend and others that they can call the Medicaid Fraud Unit at the Oregon Department of Justice if the care occurs at home and the provider is paid by the State, or if the theft or financial exploitation occurred in a Medicaid-funded facility [note that nearly all nursing homes and assisted living facilities accept Medicaid funding - JMG] whether or not the victim is a Medicaid recipient."
Thanks, AAG! You can reach the Medicaid Fraud Unit (MFU) at 971-673-1971.
According to a new report just released by the Center for Investigative Reporting and reported by KQED, the failure of California regulators to adequately investigate and pursue claims of abuse and misconduct by nursing assistants and health aids is “putting the elderly, sick, and disabled at risk.” In fact, the regulators that are charged with protecting vulnerable patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are either conducting “cursory and indifferent” investigations, or simply closing cases without taking any action at all. The report underscores how critically important it is for people to have the ability to sue when loved ones are harmed by nursing home neglect—or worse.
Take Elsie Fossum. One morning in July 2006, the 95-year-old was found lying in a pool of blood, her arm broken and her face described by the registered nurse in charge at the nursing home as “beaten to a pulp.” Within a few weeks, Elsie died as a result of the wounds she’d suffered. A nurse suspected one of the nursing assistants, and a report was filed with the Department of Health. But according to KQED, the agency shelved the case for 6 ½ years and finally closed it without any investigation.
The CIR report paints a grim picture. There are approximately 160,000 nursing assistants and in-home health aids working at hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health facilities throughout California. As of 2009, the backlog of reported abuse and theft cases was so high that is was deemed a “crisis.” But rather than prioritize investigating, according to the report, “the state Department of Public Health quietly ordered investigators to dismiss 1,000 pending cases … often without a single phone call.” While the number of cases closed without action is on the rise, the main tool by which the agency is supposed to protect patients from abuse—revoking the licenses of nursing home employees—has plummeted in recent years. In other words, the abusers are permitted to continue working at their jobs, where they can continue to commit more horrific abuse. It’s gotten so bad that even a former Public Health director warns Californians: “do not count on the government taking care of you.”
Fortunately, we have the civil justice system, and anyone whose loved one is abused in a nursing home can file a lawsuit – right? Think again. As the Wall Street Journal reported, nursing homes—like pretty much all other businesses—are increasingly jumping on the forced arbitration bandwagon. That is, they’re requiring everyone who checks in to sign a contract forfeiting their constitutional right to sue. Instead, per the fine print, any claims against the home or its employees must be brought in private arbitration, in a secret proceeding before a hired gun chosen by the nursing home. But of course, the last thing on your mind when you’re in the painful process of admitting an elderly parent to a home is the fine print of the nursing home’s multi-page contract. The nursing home, of course, knows exactly what it’s doing: a study done by the nursing home industry itself found that as arbitration has increasingly replaced court as the forum for dispute resolution, the amount of money recovered by abuse victims and their families has decreased—even as complaints about poor treatment have risen.
If the government agencies charged with protecting our loved ones aren’t up to the task, then the only way to prevent more horrific abuses like that of Elsie Fossum is through private litigation. But the nursing homes know this, and they’re doing everything they can to use forced arbitration to exempt themselves from lawsuits. It’s time to fight back.
DHS has a new, free handbook you can download HERE (pdf). If you are an elder thinking about having a family member provide your care, or if you're a family member who is or may someday be asked to provide care for a family elder or other family member with a disability, this is a worthwhile resource.
"[R]everse mortgages allow individuals 62 and over to receive money from a bank [now] in return for their home upon their death. . . . Reverse mortgage rules are going to change, which could mean less available funds for borrowers. The changes can also lower the program's high default rate.
[New] rules are expected to go into effect as early as October 1. The changes will reduce the number of homeowners that will qualify for reverse mortgages and the maximum amount will be reduced as well.
People who apply before October 1 will qualify for the amounts under the rules now. Folks that are considering a reverse mortgage should act quickly if they want the current laws to apply."
The second Oregon edition of Preparing for Departure ® will be offered this coming fall 2013, in conjunction with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem.
We are busy updating our material and revising the Oregon-specific provisions we added to the course outline last year with our first Oregon edition.
If you want to participate in this limited offering event and to be placed on the mailing list for updates and enrollment information about this powerful, one-of-a-kind course, complete the survey at this link and provide your contact information there: (Survey Link coming soon).
John Gear Law Office LLC and Salem Consumer Law; John@JohnGearLaw.com and SalemConsumerLaw.com. My office is in the Security Building in downtown Salem at 161 High St. SE, across from the Elsinore Theater, a half-block south of Marion County Courthouse, just south of State Street. I'm in Suite 208B. There is abundant, free, on-street parking throughout downtown. I am only licensed to practice law in Oregon. This site may be considered advertising under Oregon State Bar rules.------ I don't give legal advice on this site. I'm not your attorney unless we have met in person and you have hired me by entering into a representation agreement with me. While I do want you to consider me when you seek an attorney, you should not hire any attorney based on brochures, websites, advertising, or other promotional materials. All original content on this site is Copyright John Gear, 2010-2014.
John Gear Law Office LLC; 503-339-7787; John@JohnGearLaw.com. My office is in Suite 208B of the Security Building in downtown Salem. That's at 161 High St. SE, across from the Elsinore Theatre, just a block south of Marion County Courthouse. There is abundant, free, 2-hour on-street parking throughout downtown. #### #### #### Lawyerly fine print: Licensed in Oregon. This site may be considered advertising under Oregon State Bar rules. There is no legal advice given or intended on my site. I'm not your attorney unless we have met in person and entered into a representation agreement; while I hope you will consider me when you seek an attorney, you should not hire any attorney based on brochures, websites, advertising, or other promotional materials.