Regional news in review – January 2011

  Dog guide found after night away A blind St. Paul man whose dog guide ran away during the December […]

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Dog guide found after night away

A blind St. Paul man whose dog guide ran away during the December 12 blizzard was relieved to find the dog safe at a neighbor’s house the next day. Justin McDevitt’s dog Spaulding, a 22-month-old golden retriever, ran away while McDevitt was shoveling snow behind his home in St. Paul’s Merriam Park neighborhood. The dog had a collar but no tags.

The hunt for the dog involved the city’s Animal Humane Society and Animal Control, as well as neighbors and friends. Twin Cities news media ran reports asking for people to look out for the dog and family members searched the neighborhood.

Neighbor Connie Murphy found the dog outside. She put him on a leash and walked him around the neighborhood to find his owner before allowing him to sleep overnight in her home. After learning of Spaulding’s disappearance from news reports Murphy returned the dog to McDevitt. McDevitt has only had Spaulding for a short time. [Source: Pioneer Press]


Help available to find family members

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office is offering a new service to Anoka County residents: transmitting bracelets for any person with cognitive impairments who has a tendency to get lost.

“It’s not for moms who are just worried their child will wander off; this is not a babysitting tool,” said Christine Platz, a spokeswoman for Project Lifesaver International, which makes the bracelets.

Project Lifesaver International is a nonprofit organization that works with public safety agencies to help find missing children and adults with Alzheimer’s, autism or dementia.

Participants in the program are fitted with transmitting bracelets on their wrists or ankles. If a client wanders off, the Sheriff’s Office is notified by a friend or family member and sends a response team with specialized equipment to locate the missing person. The bracelet uses a radio frequency.

The last time a person went missing in Anoka County was a year ago, when an elderly woman suffering from dementia wandered from home with her dog. It took the Sheriff’s Office two days to find her, said Sheriff’s Office Lt. Shelly Orlando. [Source: Star Tribune]


Final sentencing in nursing home case

The final defendant in the Albert Lea, Good Samaritan nursing home abuse case was sentenced to 180 days in jail. Ashton Larson, 20, of Albert Lea, was the second of two former aides sentenced for abusing residents of the nursing home.

The sentencing brings to an end the criminal proceedings in an abuse case that shocked and angered people around the region. Larson, Brianna Broitzman and four other nursing home workers were accused of taunting, spitting on, hitting and committing other forms of physical and mental abuse on the elderly nursing home residents.

Broitzman was sentenced in October to a sentence similar to Larson’s, according to the Albert Lea Tribune. Larson’s attorney asked if her sentence could begin after Christmas. But Judge Steven Schwab sent her to jail immediately.

Larson will serve 60 days now and two more 60-day stints in 2011. But she can petition the court to waive the second two terms. In court, Larson apologized to victims’ families and said her actions were “extremely harmful and dumb.”

Families of several victims plan a civil lawsuit in connection with the case. They contend that the nursing home should have known about the abuse and should have done more to prevent it. [Source: Albert Lea Tribune]


Hastings Veterans Home makes changes

The two top administrators at Hastings Veterans Home are out of their jobs after state investigators concluded that director of nursing Connie Ball mistreated workers by creating a “fearful environment,” and that the administrator failed to intervene.

“Staff members appeared to be sincerely afraid of Ball,[describing] behaviors such as raising her voice at staff members, screaming, ripping paper, openly belittling staff, swearing, name-calling, slamming her hand on the table … and displaying an overall negative attitude,” said the report, by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates the home. However the investigation found that allegations of retaliation against some of the 171 residents were “unsubstantiated.”

Ball and administrator Charles Cox both of Hastings, disputed the findings. Ball, 62, retired on Dec. 6 and Cox, 55, resigned Dec. 9.

The department is continuing to investigate whether a third employee, an unidentified administrative assistant to Cox, was operating outside the scope of her job description, officials said. “We have zero tolerance for the type of behavior our investigation found,” said Gil Acevedo, state veterans affairs deputy commissioner. He oversees the state’s five veterans homes. The Hastings home offers board and lodging care for veterans who have chronic physical and emotional conditions but do not need nursing home care.

Cox took the helm of the homes after allegations of poor care at the Minneapolis Veterans Home surfaced. Those problems later led Gov. Tim Pawlenty to move governance from an appointed board to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Federal officials also looked into issues at the home last summer but state officials have been unable to get results of that report, much to their frustration. [Source: Star Tribune]


Grant will expand services to elderly

The Amherst M. Wilder Foundation has received a $2.2 million grant that will be used to “support and develop critical services for older adults and their caregivers.” The money comes from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation. Schulze is the founder of Best Buy.

Wilder is a St. Paul-based social services provider. The agency is currently preparing to open its new Community Center for Aging, which will consolidate most of the Wilder Foundation’s services for older adults. This new center will serve as a center point for Wilder resources and programs, including caregiver support and services for senior citizens with an array of disabilities and other issues. While the newly awarded grant will not be used to operate the center, it will be tied to programs provided at the site.

The center will open in January in St. Paul. Wilder has spent several months consolidating programs and shutting down some of its longtime service locations.

The grant itself will be used to provide community leadership, model best practices in aging services and design new caregiver models of support. The grant will be used over a fiveyear period. [Source: Wilder Foundation]

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