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Michigan nursing home sued for imprisoning and ransoming woman

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This article first appeared on Daily Koz

Mimi Brun and her mother, Virginia Wahab. Brun filed a lawsuit alleging a nursing home abused its guardianship of her mother due to an unpaid debt.

Mimi Brun and her mother, Virginia Wahab

A number of studies have found that the greatest fear expressed by senior citizens, a demographic that’s exponentially growing in number in this country, is not death but the eradication of their independence if they are forced to live in a nursing facility. According to a lawsuit filed on May 8, that fear became reality for a vital and healthy Detroit-area woman, Virginia “Jean” Wahab, who spent two years falsely imprisoned in a Waterford, Michigan, nursing home owned by Lourdes, Inc., and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace religious order. The home demanded payment of what amounted to a ransom of $25,000 to release Wahab from the facility.

“Mom was a fearless, independent woman before Lourdes took control of her,” Wahab’s daughter and caregiver Mimi Brun said. “When I finally got her out of there, it took me a long time to wean her off all the unnecessary anti-psychotic and anti-depressive drugs they had been giving her.”

Brun is the plaintiff in the lawsuit, which claims her mother was subject to false imprisonment, negligence, breach of contract, malicious prosecution, abuse of court process, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Filed in the Oakland County Circuit Court, the complaint is a first for Michigan and comes on the heels of Attorney General Dana Nessel’s creation of an Elder Abuse Task Force.

Brun said that although her mother had been living alone before her ordeal began in 2016, by the time she was able to secure Wahab’s release after a protracted legal battle, “She couldn’t stand up. She was terrified of being locked in a room and of someone coming to take her back to Lourdes.”

Before Wahab passed away at the end of April, mother and daughter were finally able to spend a precious few months together after having been kept apart by a court order obtained by Lourdes that severed Brun’s visitation rights.

Short-term rehab to long-term guardianship

According to the complaint, the family’s problems began in February 2016, when Wahab was admitted to Lourdes Senior Community, a $21 million nonprofit organization housing 250 residents at four facilities, for short-term rehabilitation following a recommendation from her doctor. By April 2016, Wahab’s insurance company, Health Alliance Plan, had terminated Wahab’s Medicare benefits at Lourdes, stating that she needed no further services or medication and was “medically stable for discharge.”

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Margarita Zelada on the Monterey County Public Guardian

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Published on Nov 10, 2013 

Monterey County Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis alleged that Patricia Conklin financially abused her mother, Margarita Zelada.  Margarita clearly stated that Patricia did not abuse her in any way.  No financial abuse charges were filed.  However, the Public Guardian refused to terminate the conservatorship of Margarita’s estate.

The public guardian entered Margarita Zelada’s home with police officers who had their guns drawn, to forcibly and involuntarily remove Margarita from her home.

The estate is valued at about $1.5M  The Public Guardian keeps Margarita confined and isolated at Senior Paradise in Del Rey Oaks, California.  Margarita has been allowed to see Patricia only twice since March 2013.

(editor’s Note:  What is the estate worth now that the public guardian has had total control and access to the estate assets?)

California passed AB 937 to clarify that conservatees retain the right to have visitors, phone calls, and personal mail.  Isolation and false imprisonment constitute criminal elder abuse under Penal Code 368.

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