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Michigan nursing home sued for imprisoning and ransoming woman

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GretchRHammond

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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Guardians from Hell: Part 2 Update into Investigation of systemic guardianship abuse in Northern Michigan

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Gretchen Rachel Hammond
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“June 27 was petition day at the Oakland County Court. As soon as people saw my press badge, I was approached by at least 15-20 different families all begging me to write about their case. It was as if I had carried a loaf of bread into a village of starving people. Midway through the morning, I was escorted out of the building by at least a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies who were acting on orders of the courts judicial attorney Ryan Deel’s claims that I had not been given permission by the clerk of the court to be there.”
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After the above article was published detailing elder abuse by professional guardians in Northern Michigan, I visited the Oakland County Probate Court to watch a June 27 hearing on a petition for visitation brought by Mimi Brun who has not seen her mother Virginia Wahab for the two-years since Mimi’s power of attorney was tossed out Wahab had been assigned a professional guardian Jon Munger.What is happening in Oakland County is systemic and in literally hundreds of pages of documents I have already collected, I am seeing the same pattern in multiple cases involving at least six professional attorney/guardians there and three out of the four judges.

The guardians are alerted to a new admission by a nursing home with whom they have a downstream relationship. The nursing home then files a petition for guardianship which is granted by an Oakland County judge regardless of an existing power of attorney or whether or not the senior or his/her/their family is represented by counsel. The guardian then immediately halts visitation by the family members. In complete control of his ward’s medical and financial life, he proceeds to strip the estate, sell the house at far below market cost and bill the ward thousands. Within months, the ward has been declared both incapacitated and destitute. The guardian then applies for Medicaid benefits on behalf of the nursing home. Both the guardian and the nursing home make a tremendous profit while the ward is left to rot, often in a substandard facility.

In the Wahab case, detailed in the article, the reason that Munger had been assigned was stated as a past due-bill owed Lourdes and a need for the organization to apply for Medicaid benefits for Wahab. There is no Michigan statute that allows for a petition to be made or a guardian to be assigned because a nursing facility is owed money. 

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