The Silver Standard News
"Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊                                ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊
I am not old, she said
I am rare
I am the standing ovation
at the end of the play
I am the retrospective
of my life
as art
I am the hours
connected like dots
into good sense
I am the fullness
of existing
you think I am waiting to die
but I am waiting to be found
I am a treasure
I am a map
these wrinkles are imprints
of my journey
ask me
anything.
Samantha Reynolds
 

Elaine Renoire,
Founding Director,
National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse

A NOTE FROM NASGA

By Marcia Southwick

You've worked your whole adult life to save for retirement. Finally, you're ready for the golden years! Your house is paid for, and you've built a nice nest egg, which you've protected with estate planning—a trust fund for the kids and all of your health and durable power of attorney forms taped to the refrigerator door. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You assume you have it made!

But do you?

The longstanding National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) and the newly established Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (the EARN Project) have similar missions—to stop the exploitation of elders. NASGA focuses on aiding individuals who have been put into guardianship. The EARN Project focuses on the financial abuse of elders. Note, however, the projects' important overlap: the great majority of involuntary guardianship victims have been put under guardianship to enable the abuser to take over the victim's assets.

The truth is, elders are being exploited at an alarming rate. Organizations like NASGA and the EARN Project are here to inform the public, as well as to encourage legislation that will stop the abuse of our growing elder population.

Too many elders find themselves in poverty at the end of their lives, even though they've spent a lifetime accumulating assets. Too many elders and persons with disabilities are alone, isolated, and defenseless against predators. The goal of both organizations is to speak for the voiceless.

Many people assume that family members are the main perpetrators of financial abuse of the elderly, but a 2011 Met Life/Virginia Tech study of newsfeeds shows that, in terms of dollars stolen, professionals steal far more than family members.

NASGA daily receives nightmare stories from families with loved ones trapped in guardianships. Guardianship is a court-imposed restriction of rights that can be applied if a person is deemed "incapacitated." A family member or a professional is then given the right to handle all decision making and asset management. The problem is that guardianships are not properly monitored by the courts—and when professionals, especially, are given power over money on the honor system, the system itself fails those it was intended to protect. Some professionals in the guardianship arena are cold-hearted exploiters; so, sadly, are some family members. Not everyone involved with guardianship is a predator, of course, but without oversight, crimes of opportunity are occurring. Guardians, as court appointees, have the additional protection of immunity so long as their actions fall within the parameters of their job. Basically, "immunity" means they can commit egregious ethical breaches, such as charging outrageous fees (think $350 an hour for mundane tasks like opening a ward's mail!), without the court's blinking an eye. All too frequently, guardians are not asked to account for their expenditures.

If you are over 65 and you've amassed a comfortable nest egg, you can have your rights to your own assets taken away from you in a heartbeat. Most often, guardianship occurs when a member of a family in conflict over a parent goes to an elder attorney. The attorney then advises that a guardian would be an independent, objective third party who would protect and care for your parent. Guardianship can also occur by way of hospitals or nursing homes petitioning to take over an elderly patient to ensure that bills are paid. Professional guardians now troll hospital corridors following the tutelage of their instruction manual: "You must find your own clients."

Not many people realize that once the guardianship process is initiated and until the matter is decided by a court, you, as a person "under protection," lose fundamental rights, and so do your children. In fact, they will likely not be allowed to visit you without monitoring, and you will have no say over how your money is spent. If you believe you are safe from financial elder abuse, you need to understand that you are not. A recent New Yorker article (October 9, 2017) describes how easily a court-appointed guardian can take over your life and assets.

The question is, what can we do about it?

The more public the issue becomes, the uglier the system looks. As a result, reforms in guardianship and elder abuse protection are beginning to take place. As the voice of NASGA to Silver Standard readers, I'll explain more in future articles about what is happening on a national and state level—and, insofar as it's possible, how to protect yourself.

Marcia Southwick

Member, NASGA Board of Directors

With Great Gratitude
The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project
Acknowledges the Kind Support
of
Angela Biggs
and
Cheryl Cook
 

Welcome to the Silver Standard News

As a central element of the outreach work of the Elder Abuse Reform Now (EARN) Project, it is our goal to bring you the latest news on developments in the fight to end financial elder abuse, as well as a wide range of other information to assist senior citizens and their loved ones. From detailing the progress of legislation aimed at ending the practice of financial elder abuse in each of the 50 states to telling the stories of those who have suffered from the effects of this practice, the Silver Standard News is dedicated to making sure that no senior citizen in this country is denied the right to control the assets and property that are rightfully theirs.

To achieve this goal, we will be working on several different fronts; whether it be unraveling legal terminology for our readers or giving them a way to connect with each other, we will work to improve the lives of America's senior citizens by giving them a voice that reflects their concerns and ensures that they are part of a larger community that has their interests at heart.

We will shine a cold light into the darkness of financial elder abuse and the involuntary guardianship that is the favorite tool of the financial abuser. Scrutinize every state, every city, and every court to make sure the citizens of each state understand precisely where their state, and each legislator, stands on financial elder abuse, and how well existing laws protect their elders and punish the abusers.

We will remind every politician that senior citizens control the largest block of money and the largest block of votes. We will apply our motto, taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying." For we will be watching and reporting on the actions of those powerful Americans who, while enjoying the salaries and perks of office provided by the American tax payers, have failed the greatest generation and are now failing their baby boomer children.

In addition, we will give our readers. a look at the human faces behind every aspect of this struggle--not just victims but politicians, legislators, home care administrators, professional guardians, businesses. We will tell the personal stories of the people who have lost their money, homes and dignity due to unscrupulous individuals who are often allowed to act under the cloak of legality. But we will also tell the stories of those who have fought back, who have refused to take the existing state of affairs lying down, and who are winning their battles. We will tell you about those officeholders who are, and have been, their champions. Our aim is to empower our readers, to make them aware that they do not have to simply accept the way things are. Though they may be past the age of lying down on courthouse steps or participating in noisy demonstrations, we will encourage them to put their voice, their votes and their money to good use on the elder abuse front. Collectively, especially when joined by those who love them and younger people who don't want this evil to invade their "Golden Years"—they can create a mighty roar.

Though our principle focus is to inform and make elder abuse a sin of the past, we also hope we will amuse and entertain. Tell us what you want, what your concerns are, how you feel we can do a better job to make the Silver Standard News a vital source for all seniors and their adult children. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Contributors

Kevin Badu will be keeping us current on all legal changes throughout the country as well as at the Federal level. He will also help us understand how well our local politicians are doing in keeping the senior citizens of their state safe from financial elder abuse and involuntary guardianship. Kevin earned his Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School and is currently working on an MBA in Finance at the University of Connecticut UConn School of Business. He has worked for law firms and legal organizations in Michigan and New York and has taught as a College professor in China. Presently, Kevin is preparing for the New York State Bar Admission examinations.
Leah Grace Goodwin will be writing on those things that are important to our collective American conscience. Leah received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and her master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. An ordained Protestant minister, her clergy work focuses on bereavement, hospice, and the elderly. She takes great joy in counseling, liturgy, writing, and public speaking.
David Holmberg is a former reporter for New York Newsday, senior editor of The Village Voice and has taught journalism at New York University. His play, “I’m Dying Now And I Did Not Kill Emmett Till,’ has been produced twice off-off Broadway and his new play, “A Cop Shot My Son!” will be staged in New York in March.
Joan Hunt is a former journalist, columnist and community news editor, who retired three years ago from the Hartford Courant. She lives in Wethersfield, CT, where she freelances and enjoys a large and active family.
Jeanne Roberts will be helping readers maintain lovely, healthy gardens and property, large or small. Jeanne is a former California reporter who, for the last 10 years, has been an environmental, political, and social justice editor and blogger. Her work at The Panelist resulted in their first POP!TECH “Envision Scarcity and Abundance” award. Her book on alternative energy sources, sustainable home building, and environmental initiatives for homeowners can be found on Amazon
Joe Roubicek will give us the point of view from a man who is the economic crimes investigator for the State Attorney’s Office 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida—Spent 20 years with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department—Investigated over a thousand exploitations of the elderly crimes—Testified before the Florida House and Senate to improve laws designed to protect the elderly—Contributed to the writing of Florida Statute 825.103: Exploitation of an Elderly Person or Disabled Adult, testified as an expert in both criminal and civil courts—Assisted in training law enforcement officers and APS investigators and whose 2008 book, “Financial Abuse of the Elderly; A Detective’s Case Files of Exploitation Crimes,” serves as an educational tool for the public and class textbook for university criminal justice courses throughout the country.
Elizabeth Sinclair will be peeking into all corners of the earth to help our readers who would like to spend their leisure time in an invigorating and comfortable style. Liz is a writer, traveler, social media manager and digital nomad who makes her home on 2 continents and an island chain. She writes about travel, health and social issues. Her ultimate dream is to have a tiny house in the country.
Marcia Southwick joined the Board of Directors of The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) in 2015. She will be sending a letter from NAGSA each month to keep us informed about Guardian Abuse and up to date with changes in the laws. Marcia is a retired creative writing professor, and creator and administrator of Boomers Against Elder Abuse, a Facebook page with 160,000 followers. She lives in Santa Fe, NM.
Michael Volpe. A guest writer this month, Michael, after spending a decade in finance, switched professions and became a freelance investigative journalist published locally in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Crusader, Chicago Heights Patch, and New City as well as a number of national publications. His most recent book, Sandra Grazzini Rucki and the World’s Last Custody Trial, was released in October 2016.
Mary West is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a broad spectrum of publications. A lifelong avid reader, she takes keen delight in the written word.
Bill Wine was film critic for WTXF-TV in Philadelphia for 12 years and, since 2001, has served as the film critic for CBS’s KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia. He has taught undergraduate film courses at La Salle University as a tenured Associate Professor of Communication. Bill is the winner of three Emmy awards.

 

David Really Can Slay Goliath

But First He Must Show Up

by Michael Volpe

A hospital visit turned into a close brush with guardianship for Chicago native Janet and her elderly mother.

Guardianship is a court-created power that deprives senior citizens of their right to make decisions concerning their own healthcare and finances if a court has determined they are incapable of making those decisions for themselves. It has become one of the favorite weapons of the financial abuser. All too often, these proceedings lack oversight and are held behind closed doors without appropriate representation for the senior citizens, and their families prohibited from participation.

Like most Americans, until she ran in to it face-to-face, Janet knew little to nothing about guardianship. She quickly discovered that the lack of oversight and secrecy in these procedures has, for many American families, resulted in abuse of their loved ones and heartbreak for them as they stand by powerless to protect the very parent who had loved and protected them. This new-found understanding of the guardianship system drove Janet to become a crusader for the rights of America's senior citizens and demonstrates how a single individual, willing to make the effort, can affect change.

Janet took her story to Illinois Senator Steve Stadelman who, recognizing the need for legislation to protect senior in his state, introduced SB 1051 Amendment 1 on Mary 7, 2014. He then partnered with State Representative David Harris who was already engaged in such an effort. Conferring with Director Sylvia Rudek of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA), they introduced and ultimately passed, Senate Bill 1051 which amended the Illinois Probation Act of 1975 by emphasizing that judges consider the welfare of the dependent adult when appointing a guardian.

In an August 22, 2014 press release accompanying the bill, Senator Stadelman said, "The legislation now specifically states 'best interest and well-being' of the dependent adult shall be the court's main concern in selection of the guardian… The goal is to help prevent guardianship from being used in a convenience or retaliatory manner."

He said that SB 1051 was just the beginning of the process: "I look at this as the first attempt to address concerns of guardianship abuse. This bill contains common sense measures that begin to deal with the issue."

Representative Harris said "As the House sponsor of Senate Bill 1051, I was delighted to see that the Governor signed the bill into law. I was glad to work with State Senator Stadelman to get this legislation enacted, and I compliment him on his advocacy on the issue."

Rep. Harris had previously introduced HB 5573 in February of 2014, which provides that guardianship of a disabled adult may not be used in a retaliatory manner or as a convenience for a health care provider or family member. It goes on to say that a petition for guardianship may not seek relief that is in conflict with any properly, previously executed:

*will,

*trust,

*power of attorney,

*durable power of attorney,

*health care directive,

*advance directive,

or other directive unless undue influence in the creation of the document is proven, by clear and convincing evidence, at a hearing conducted under the rules of civil procedure of the State of Illinois.

Rep. Harris said the bill started in the Rules Committee but was never moved out after, "The folks from Cook County didn't want the bill." He said he had been contacted by the Cook County Public Guardian's Office to say they believed it would be better if the bill stayed in the Rules Committee. That office, Harris said, wields a lot of power on the issue in Springfield.

An email sent to the Cook County Public Guardian's Office by this investigator was unanswered.

Rep. Harris said his effort was only the beginning and he hopes to reissue a bill in the upcoming legislative session. "My bill was the first one to really address the issue (of guardianship)," he said.

"It is important to keep promoting bills that protect against guardianship abuse. I expect to introduce several pieces of legislation on the issue of guardianship abuse when the General Assembly begins its new session in January of next year."

He and Ms. Rudek, who is his constituent, will meet on January 9th, 2015, to look at options, including reissuing a form of HB5573.

Janet could have walked away and chosen not to look back at how close she came to losing her mother to guardianship. Instead, she chose to channel her distress into positive action. She joined NASGA, became a Legislative Liaison, and continues to work with Senator Steve Stadelman on legislation so others will not suffer needlessly.

While Janet's struggle to reform guardianship is just beginning, Elaine Renoire, president of NASGA, said "I am proud of her ability to turn a negative into a positive."

With Great Gratitude
The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project
Acknowledges the Kind Support
of
Kathleen Dunn
and
Lark Kirkwood
 

A Trial in Vegas

By David Holmberg

Her name is April Parks. She was a court-appointed guardian for the elderly in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was also a criminal, prosecutors say.

They portray her as a villainous poster child for the calculated abuse of the elderly by a guardianship system rife with the ruthless greediness of guardians who turned their clients' lives into a nightmare of upheaval, uncertainty, and financial depletion.

In Las Vegas, there is the disturbing story of Rudy and Rennie North. It's not, unfortunately, a unique one in this maze of opportunistic criminality.

A recent article in the New Yorker focused on Parks and the Norths, a couple in their late 70s who had some health problems but were comfortable in their home in an adult community with a view of a golf course. They'd been married for 57 years.

Then, in 2013, Parks barged into their lives. She had them declared incompetent, moved them into an assisted living facility not nearly as desirable as the home they'd enjoyed, and took over management of their assets as a profit-making legal maneuver—a typical strategy employed by guardians like Parks.

After a prolonged struggle with her and the system, the Norths eventually wound up living in cramped quarters with their daughter, who had fought their maltreatment vigorously. Parks spent all their money (the precise amount is not known), leaving the Norths totally dependent on their child.

It took years and a concentrated reform effort by state and local government officials, politicians, lawyers, and journalists to curtail the devious and profitable use of the system by Parks and others.

Parks had about 400 "wards" like the Norths in her twelve years as a guardian, apparently making money on most or all of them. Incidentally, the insensitive term "wards" has been replaced in legal documents by "the proposed protected person," according to Las Vegas attorney Christine Miller, who works at the Legal Aid Center for Southern Nevada. She said the linguistic alteration is part of a "more person-centered, rights-centered system."

Translation: in Nevada, guardians like Parks are no longer in control.

On May 7, in Clark County Family Court in Las Vegas, Parks will go to trial along with three other defendants, including her husband, Gary Neal Taylor. The 123-page indictment in the case was termed "the most significant guardianship indictment in Nevada history" by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who said it should "send a message" to the state's court-appointed guardians. The indictment includes 270 criminal counts and 150 victims who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It's a depressing compendium of elder abuse with an intriguing primary charge: racketeering. People familiar with the Parks case said racketeering was an unusual charge to bring in such indictments but asserted that it was fully justified given the notorious lead defendant.

The defendants were also charged with theft, exploitation of an older person/vulnerable person, offering a false instrument for filing or recording, and perjury. In the indictment's language, Parks and her partners "used their position to steal funds belonging to elderly and disabled persons—over whom they had guardianship authority—through the use of a series of fraudulent billing practices."

The names of victims and what they lost are all there: Dorothy Trumbich, $167,204.49; John and Sally Denton, $25,278.57; Baxter Burns, $32,006.72; William Flewellen, $4,807.61; Audrey Weber, $3,819.60. And on and on.

A crusading Las Vegas editor named Rana Goodman told the Silver Standard that with "so much money and so many people" involved in the indictment, the racketeering charge was not unexpected.

Goodman, 76, is political editor of the Vegas Voice, a newspaper for senior communities. During the intense effort to combat guardianship abuse, she termed Parks' conduct a "(legal) elder abuse racket." She also circulated a reform petition to the state legislature that garnered 3,000 signatures.

Not surprisingly, Goodman endorsed the racketeering charge in the Parks case, saying that Parks "tried to take every penny possible" from her clients and "used every dirty trick in the book" to squeeze them.

The prosecution, she said, "wants to throw away the key on this woman."

**

The Parks case has been a major catalyst for reform of the guardianship system in Nevada. Miller and another Las Vegas attorney spoke in interviews with the Silver Standard recently about those changes, contained in a new law passed by the state legislature.

Improved oversight of the system is the law's key component, and that includes two important stipulations for the vulnerable elderly: they now have the power to choose their guardian if they should require one, and they're entitled to immediate legal representation.

Miller said the elderly should be encouraged to file estate-planning documents before any mental and physical deterioration sets in, and in doing so should name a potential guardian. Such a document could ultimately be used to fend off predatory guardians who fixate on someone's visible decline.

Elizabeth Brookfield, a 20-year veteran of guardianship law in Las Vegas, touted the many changes in "the way things get done" under the new law. But, she said, the biggest change is that "everyone now (considered for guardianship) must have a lawyer."

Nevada, of course, is by no means the only state coping with guardianship abuse, or widespread abuse of the elderly in general. In fact, the New Yorker article speculated that "approximately ten per cent of people older than 65 are thought to be victims of 'elder abuse'—a construct that has yet to enter public consciousness as child abuse has."

But there have been many egregious cases documented in recent years, before the flurry of publicity in Nevada and the exposure of people like Parks. Two of the worst-case examples: in New York in 2008, an attorney appointed as a guardian for an 82-year-old Alzheimer's patient misappropriated approximately $327,000 for himself, family, and friends. He used some of the money for home improvement, mortgage payments, and other expenses. His law license was suspended, and the court ordered him to pay $403,149 to the estate. In Colorado in 2005, a guardian who was an accountant stole $2 million from a 101-year-old Alzheimer's patient and used $1 million for his company and personal purchases. He also loaned $1 million to his family and friends. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of over $2.5 million.

And recent statistics suggest that elder abuse may soon achieve a dubious parity with child abuse. It may be another "construct" that can and should preoccupy us as a society.

Said a New York Times story last July: "The National Center for State Courts, a nonprofit think tank, estimates that guardians across the country supervise 1.3 million adults and an aggregate of $50 billion of their assets. Brenda K. Uekert, the center's principal court research consultant, said that with the 'aging of the Baby Boomers and the onset of dementia, we expect those numbers to go up.'"

The General Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, re-examining the state-based guardianship system, has identified hundreds of cases of physical and financial abuse, as well as negligence, throughout the country. According to the Times, "in November, 2016, the GAO reported that in eight cases it examined in six states, guardians were found to have stolen more than $600,000 from their elderly wards." And a 2010 GAO report reinforced the grim reality that guardianship abuse is not a new phenomenon; April Parks, as accused, is not a new variety of criminal abuser. From 1990 to 2010, the report found, guardians in 20 cases stole $5.4 million.

 

When your grandchildren are ready to graduate from high school, they are poised on a precipice. A step in the wrong direction can have serious consequences. At this pivotal point in their lives, the decisions they make about their postsecondary education can profoundly affect their future in more ways than one. Part I of this article will discuss the financial considerations involved in choosing between a trade school and a four-year college. While the university route is not the best option for everyone, those who desire this type of education should select their institution of higher learning wisely. Part II will discuss how the wrong college could destroy your grandchildren's moral compass and leave them ill equipped to function as mature adults.

Part I – How Practical Is Your Grandchildren's Education?

Two major factors shape today's workforce economy: the explosion of senior citizens via the Baby Boomer generation, and the emergence of a significant number of unemployed Millennial grandchildren. The latter group's increasing economic woes is visible, in part, in the large number of elder-abuse scams perpetrated by Millennials. The problem begs the question: Why are so many of them unemployed?

Some unemployed Millennials have college degrees—attainments traditionally considered a ticket to financial security. While graduating from a four-year college program may lead to a fulfilling and prosperous career, it by no means guarantees such benefits. Sadly, students can graduate from college with a mountain of debt and be faced with the startling reality that the world is not their oyster.

Their lack of job-finding success can stem from several factors. They could have a degree in an unmarketable field, such as anthropology, which has a high unemployment rate and a very low median salary. Secondly, a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field may also result in disappointing job searches, as the United States currently has a STEM glut rather than a STEM shortage. Thirdly, some degree programs are filled with frivolous courses instead of substantial areas of study that would open doors of opportunity.

Could a two-year vocational or trade school education be a wiser option for some students? A recent editorial in The Sentinel interviewed West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine, who said the obsession with four-year college program has not served our youth well. Paine cited research on Colorado, Texas, and Maryland showing that graduates from two-year programs are garnering higher salaries than graduates of four-year programs. As the article intimated, the world may not need more archeologists, but it can always use more plumbers.

What kind of job market can skilled laborers expect in the coming years? The New Hampshire Business Review reported that the United States has a well-documented labor shortage in skilled trades such as electrical work, plumbing, HVAC, and general construction. The labor shortage exists for the following reasons:

• Older Baby Boomers in these jobs are retiring faster than they can be replaced.

• The 2008 recession forced many contractors out of business, which caused large numbers of skilled workers to leave the field.

• Students have been counseled that going to college is the only way to become successful.

An evaluation of the cost versus expected income of selected skill-trade educational programs can show favorable results. CNBC reported that a two-year certification for plumbing costs $17,000 at HoHoKus School of Trade & Technical Sciences in Paterson, New Jersey. The average plumber income of $51,450 cited by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a good return on this investment.

Among the skilled trades, manufacturing might be a sweet spot. In 2014, the BLS reported that industry experts say a need exists for skilled workers in manufacturing. These include machinists, welders, and maintenance technicians, along with workers outside of production such as truck drivers and dispatchers. In 2013, the median annual income of all manufacturing workers was $37,690, which is higher than the median annual income of $35,080 for all workers. Certain manufacturing occupations like general maintenance and repair workers had a median income of $42,080. Some manufacturers hire trade school graduates, but others provide on-the-job training that can range from one month to 12 or more months.

Education experts do not agree on the college-versus-trade-school question. While many specialists advocate a greater emphasis on vocational training in U.S. high schools, some still contend that college is the best route to life success. High school graduates should carefully consider their options before deciding on post–secondary school education. While it is advisable to pursue a career that ignites one's passions and interests, it is also wise to explore that career's practicality in terms of expected income and job openings.

Part II – Will Your Grandchildren's Education Undermine Their Moral Compass?

Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is the author of Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth. He warns that colleges have abandoned objective fact in favor of political correctness and the promotion of opinions; this educational approach, he argues, has been disastrous for our youth. Below is a discussion of the problem informed by, though not necessarily completely adherent to, his work.

Because what is taught in our schools ends up in our culture, several decades' worth of an "idea clearinghouse" educational agenda has created a society shaped by moral relativism, in which everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes. But when bad behavior is enabled and wrong thinking is not confronted, values are not developed. Piper argues that too many professors seek to avoid making our youth uncomfortable; as a result, students are emotionally coddled, which leads to the entrenchment of selfishness.

Some parents may believe that because their children possess strong religious faith or ethical standards, they can withstand college-era assaults on what they have been taught all their lives. Unfortunately, according to one study, 70 percent of kids who are sent to institutions that challenge their values of upbringing will depart from their convictions before they become juniors. Your children and grandchildren would do well to consider these odds and their ramifications carefully. After you and your grandchildren's parents have invested 18 years in raising those kids according to a particular set of values, it is a significant act to entrust them to an institution that will question their embedded values and ask them to think critically and dispassionately about the teachings of their religious leaders. Your family may be willing to take that chance; on the other hand, your family may not.

Recognize that you and your family are consumers buying a product. Ask your children if they have spoken with the presidents or deans of the colleges or universities your grandchild is considering. Do your grandchild's parents have a grasp of the school's general philosophy? If that philosophy centers on the idea that truth is nothing but a collection of opinions, you may or may not ultimately decide that that school is a good choice.

The bottom line, according to Piper, is to choose a school that will promote your family's understanding of good character—for example, encouraging forgiveness over revenge and interpersonal reconciliation over conflict, and being willing to respect others' opinions even in the face of disagreement.

Although the abandonment of truth may seem rampant in colleges across America, a few institutions continue to serve as bastions of integrity and traditional American values. Such a school may be more expensive than a less optimal institution. Piper's response is, "What are your child's heart, mind, and soul worth in terms of cost?"

 

 

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

• William Henry Ernest, from "Invictus"

Magical Thinking

By Leah Grace Goodwin

The history of magical thinking—the idea that one event happens because of another event, sans plausible causality—is as long as that of the human race.

And for good reason. Magical thinking’s potency stems the bitter tide of doubt, speculation, and fear. Superstition, itself a form of magical thinking, declaws random chance via causal agency. “If I touch this rabbit foot,” we think, “this eye exam will show no macular degeneration. If I carry this shiny stone in my pocket, nothing bad will happen to my loved ones. If I knock wood, I won’t jinx the good luck I just mentioned” (that last example is an instance of doubled magical thinking!). Magical thinking proffers power over the “fell clutch of circumstance,” cushioning us against the bludgeoning’s of chance with a phantasmagorical eiderdown to which we cling like a favorite blanky.

There is absolutely no shame in magical thinking: the human brain likes to weave meaning wherever it can. Magical thinking is a profoundly human trait.

I was four or five when magical thinking hit me like a lightning bolt.

I have always had what I semi-jokingly call “my totally useless psychic streak”: I think about a long-lost friend (or foe!) all day long; I resignedly suspect that something is going to go wrong with a load of laundry for no reason I can surmise; I just know that today is the day my car will have an issue; and so on.

Then, it seems, the thing I thought triflingly about comes true. The friend or foe calls, or dies, or has a personal crisis. The washer throws a ball bearing. I drive past a construction zone and pick up a nail.

These useless premonitions always flow in one spiritual ear and out the other; I don’t think twice about them. But—here’s what I began to connect sometime around kindergarten—if I interrupt that idle thought by saying, “That won’t happen,” the event in question never occurs. To my recollection, the technique never fails. As a small child, apparently, I discovered a secret to controlling the future. 

But, of course, I discovered no such thing. Any number of possible explanations could exist for all of the above phenomena. And yet, to this day, if I find myself idly thinking of a potential negative event, I interrupt the thought by repeating clearly in my head, “That won’t happen.” Might as well hedge my bets, right?

This pattern, or the perception of a pattern (an important distinction), emerged early and obviously for me, and I have confirmed its “effectiveness” throughout my life. That said, I have obviously spent my life noticing only the thoughts I notice and observing only the outcomes I consciously observe. No cause-and-effect pattern emerges systematically. No data exists to suggest that I have either a psychic streak or the power to control outcomes. Magical thinking is, as my mother puts it, bunkum.

But whether magical thinking works or not isn’t the point. We humans are pattern makers, significance architects, and magical thinkers to some degree, thanks to our upbringing, circumstances, and temperament. Why? Because life throws curve balls that no one can catch. The question is not whether we can foresee life’s vicissitudes clearly; it is how we respond. We may have to fumble before we can throw the ball back home. The ball may even roll right between our feet (sorry, Bill Buckner) before we grab it. It’s entirely possible that we may never catch hold of it at all; some “bludgeoning’s of chance” leave our heads both bloodied and bowed. We do not always prevail in the face of life’s surprises, especially the momentous or sorrowful ones.

This reality—that sometimes we drop the existential ball, big time—aggravates us. Most of us would prefer, given the option, to try to control, or at least prepare for, the future by any proactive means necessary. To be utterly at the whim of the “fell clutch of circumstance”—not at all a friendly thought, since it makes fate the hawk and us the mouse—stops most of us in our tracks. (If you are a very laidback person, an accomplished transcendental meditator, or a practicing Buddhist, this last statement may not apply to you.)

And preparatory work with the potential future in view is right and good. It is pragmatic and considerate, not to mention comforting, to take some measures to ready ourselves for upcoming potentialities, whether by completing important paperwork or making key choices or coming to peace with our view of the world. Preparation aside, it is also natural to feel horror at realizing the razor’s edge upon which life, as we have organized and know it, teeters. It is reasonable to want to exercise some degree of sculptor’s power over the artwork of our lives. No one wants to end up in a Bosch hell painting when life could have been a Monet.

Still, life happens. Most of us look at our lives and find it becoming more of a mixed-genre work than anything else. Pastoral though the landscape may be, a scorpion or two probably lurks behind the picturesque willow tree to the center left. Political pundit Charles Krauthammer, reflecting upon his own life, notes that the “quite fantastic twists and turns” of his existence “have given [him] a rather skeptical view about how much one really is master of one’s fate,” not to mention a keen sense of “the imperfectability of man, the fallibility of institutions, and the tragic—rather than redemptive—nature of history.” I’m not inclined to disagree with him.

We cannot control what we encounter. We cannot master our fate in that sense. We can, however, master our fate by being captains of our souls—by realizing that, come what may, we have response options. We can incline to love or to loathing, to patience or to rage, to self-destruction or to reaching out for help. Whatever life brings our way, none of us is ever truly and completely alone, however isolated we may feel or actually be. Our circumstances are entwined, our fates communal.

When life’s warp and weft fall off the loom and turn to shreds in our hands, or when all seems firmly and beautifully woven—somewhere, in all of it, is at least one pair of choices (probably more than one). How we choose to move forward, even when the pickings are slim, is what keeps us steering our soul ships through the straits of fate. That sense of choice is powerful and humanizing—the most magical thinking of all.

With Great Gratitude
The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project
Acknowledges the Kind Support
of
Brenda Pinkerton
and
Elaine Renoire
 

The View
From my    
Vantage   
Point 

Exploitation of the Elderly

by Joe Roubicek

In this, my first column, I would like to address financial exploitation of the elderly. It is an ever-growing crime, taking advantage of senior citizens for financial gain. This is not an “economic crime” in the general sense of the word. Indeed, it is much, much more— incorporating emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect into the process. For me, the most painful loss to victims is not measured by assets but by the theft of dignity.  

I have investigated more of these cases than I can count. The following are a few discussed in my book, Financial Abuse of The Elderly: A Detective’s Case Files of Exploitation Crimes (Ruby House, 2008).

Police broke open the door of a Fort Lauderdale residence to find an elderly woman, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, abandoned on her living room floor covered with ants. She was dehydrated, and had broken ribs, and brain atrophy. All of her assets, including her home, had recently been signed over to a local “Good Samaritan.” He had befriended her and become her caretaker, saying he loved her like a mother. Then he stole her dignity and left her to die.   

After a two-week hospital stay, a wheelchair-bound, elderly Pompano Beach man returned home to find his phone lines ripped out of the wall and $20,000 withdrawn from his bank account, by a predatory nurse using checks she had stolen while he was away. When the checks ran out, she paid him a very nasty visit, leaving him prostate on his kitchen floor, severely battered and covered with pepper spray.

A prominent local pastor—who was in reality a multimillionaire who regularly exploited his elderly parishioners—romanced a bedridden elderly woman into making him gifts that totaled every penny she had. When she realized that she was flat broke, she asked him for a few thousand dollars back. He refused, saying there was nothing she could do about it.  The devastation led her to attempt suicide—probably not because of the loss of the money, but rather because of her stolen dignity.

Fraud vs. Exploitation

Reports on financial elder abuse usually conflate two types of crime: fraud and exploitation. When referring to the theft of physical property, fraud is usually defined as “the false and deceptive statement of fact intended to induce another person to give up a valuable item he or she owns.” “Scams,” “confidence games,” “rackets,” “hoaxes,” and “shakedowns” are terms commonly used to describe the misrepresentations and trickery employed by con artists to entice their targets into making bad decisions.

In the case of fraud, “choice” is involved; state laws “assume” that victims have the capacity to weigh information and make decisions based on that information. But what if the victim lacks this capacity? What if, as often happens, the language used to provide the information was framed to mislead? We need laws that precisely define what constitutes deception.

This would be the living definition of a crime of exploitation; it involves the taking advantage of a person’s advanced age or disability, which can often result in an inability to make a reasoned financial decision. The dictionary defines exploitation as “selfish or unfair use of someone or something for one's own advantage; taking advantage of another person in an organized or systematic way.”  

Today, Florida defines an exploited elder as “a person 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging as manifested by advanced age or organic brain damage, or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunction, to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for the person's own care or protection is impaired.”
By definition, then, an exploitation crime occurs when someone takes advantage of the vulnerability or dependent condition of a disabled elderly person in order to deprive that person of his assets.

So, while elderly fraud victims are independent persons with the capacity to give consent, exploitation victims are in some manner disabled. In other words, their disabilities allow for their victimization.

Victim Characteristics

There are two common characteristics among victims of exploitation crimes: short-term memory loss or other mental infirmities, and living alone. These persons can be timid, trusting, and anxious. They are almost always unaware that they have been victimized. They can become embarrassed when confronted with the issue of their memory loss, try to hide it, or make excuses and rationalizations. They generally do not want to prosecute and often feel as if it is they who have done something wrong. These are the perfect victims; the easiest people to exploit.

Victims who are mentally capable but suffer physical disabilities can be quite different: they know that their trust was violated. They desire prosecution, sometimes passionately, usually make reliable witnesses, and often show resolve to see the matter through the legal system. Still, many of those with infirmities don’t live long enough for their cases to reach the courts—if they go to court.

Who Are the Exploiters?

In many cases individuals who are employed to provide professionals services to the elderly, neighbors, family members, or simply unscrupulous opportunists. They may know their victims intimately or be complete strangers. I have investigated attorneys, religious leaders, fellow police officers, guardians, geriatric case managers, and even other senior citizens for the crime of exploiting the elderly.

Frequently, the predator takes on an altruistic role—a rationalizer and manipulator who plays the part of a do-gooder. His most obvious trait is that he keeps taking and taking, all the while claiming to be giving, loving and sacrificing. He usually comes into the victim’s life to assist in some way. He often contradicts himself: he claims that the victim is competent, but then, once the victim lodges a complaint or makes an accusation, he suddenly insists that the victim is incompetent or “confused.” He claims the stolen assets were “gifts,” “loans,” or “payment for services rendered.” He isolates the victim while claiming that he is protecting him or her. He is very effective, ruthless and without conscience.

Crimes against the elderly, even when properly reported to authorities, often fall through the cracks.  Even worse, the lack of reporting and oversight emboldens the smooth swindlers to escalate their deeds unabated. They target the elderly because there is little risk that they will be made to suffer the consequences.

Awareness

Awareness of this crime is crucial in order for all of us to be able to deal with it effectively. Together, we can get state laws passed which specifically address protection of the elderly. Together, we can insist that law enforcement responsibly respond to exploitation complaints and give prosecutors the tools they need to prosecute the offenders.  Together, we can bring about an effective relationship, when it comes to the necessary criminal investigations, between civil probate courts and law enforcement agencies. Together, we can give the elderly population the representation they deserve.

After all, we’re all in the same boat, all destined to be potential victims. Right now, it’s the Baby Boomers who, at a rate of 10,000 people every day, celebrate their sixty fifth birthday and so enter the abuser’s target zone.

I ended my book with a quote from the 16th century poet, John Donne: “I am involved in mankind; and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Donne means that whatever affects one of us affects us all. And the way that we deal with elderly crimes today reflects on the type of people we are now. It will also have a direct bearing on our own personal safety tomorrow. 

In subsequent articles, Joe Roubicek  will discuss problems, preventions and solutions.

 

 

Movie Review: The Post

By Bill Wine

It's Spielberg, Streep, and Hanks—with icons like these, first names are hardly necessary—all in, all together.
And not only are Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks making a movie, they're also making a statement about the Trump administration's recent attack on the press. While they're at it, they're making a bit of noise during the current awards season, with Streep Oscar-nominated as Best Actress and the film itself one of nine candidates nominated for Best Picture.
The Post—as in the Washington Post—is a historical biodrama and newspaper melodrama that finds master director Spielberg addressing the newspaper's 1971 role in exposing the Pentagon Papers. His latest film immediately takes its place among such restrained cinematic classics about journalism as All the President's Men and Spotlight, offering yet another resonant reminder of the importance of freedom of the press.
The focus is on Post publisher Katharine Graham (who was, by the way, the first female newspaper publisher), played by Streep, and Hanks' executive editor Ben Bradlee, the two of whom decided to go ahead and publish the Pentagon Papers. It was a daring move, given that a federal judge had already short-circuited similar efforts on the part of the New York Times, which was challenging the federal government on the issue of their right to publish, since they were exploring a cover-up spanning four United States Presidents.
Period piece though The Post is, don't think for a second that the extremity of today's political climate—and all the parallels that the very existence of this project suggests with respect to the adversarial relationship between the Trump administration and the press—is lost on screenwriters Josh Singer and Liz Hannah or on the film's three primary movers and shakers. File this flick under Movies That Matter.
The script (which draws upon Graham's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1997 memoir, Personal History) concentrates on the risky road traveled by Graham and Bradlee, sets itself up as a Watergate precursor, dramatizes the transformation of the titular newspaper from a regional publication into a national one, and ends up representing itself as a virtual prequel to All the President's Men.
So, yes, it's a love letter to principled print journalism. And why shouldn't it be?
For Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E. T. the Extraterrestrial, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Lincoln, Saving Private Ryan, et al.) it's yet another keeper—par for the course, really. But you can't fault the man for making fantastic movies, and the film's convictions reverberate in every frame.
The Pentagon Papers comprised a secret study, initiated by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), that chronicled the United States' involvement in Vietnamese politics from the 1950s on. The study made it obvious that a succession of political administrations from both parties, going all the way back to the Truman administration, had lied about the progress being made in the conflict and the prospects for any kind of real American victory.
That information was what Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a contributor to the report who had been a State Department analyst and then worked for the Rand Corporation, initially leaked to the New York Times. The evidence clearly demonstrated that the conflict in Vietnam was unwinnable, and yet the war effort continued. But the Nixon administration's blocking of any further publication by the Times left it up to the Post to carry the banner,and Ellsberg agreed to leak the papers to assistant managing editor Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk).
Storyteller Spielberg is his usual deft overseer self; he conjures considerable suspense out of the historical record, compelling and inspiring us even though we know the outcome in advance. But the emotional narrative spine is delivered by Streep's Graham, who had unexpectedly taken over management of the paper after her husband's suicide. It is she who finds her voice along the way, in a narrative turn that resounds deafeningly during this particular women's moment. The courageous Graham–Bradlee decision to publish the Pentagon Papers not only threatened the Post's very existence but also could have meant a prison term for the two of them.
And while Hanks provides an effective alternative portrayal of gritty crusader Bradlee, so memorably delivered by Oscar winner Jason Robards in All the President's Men, Streep is her usual magnificently-nuanced-and-yet-underplaying self, essaying a character who comes into her own in a beautifully calibrated performance that suggests an alternative title: Some of the President's Men—and a Woman.
As for maestro Spielberg, he pretty much ignores technical flourishes—certainly an appropriate approach—and lets the loaded subject matter speak for itself, which it does by delving into moral, ethical, and legal nooks and crannies.
Ultimately, The Post is, among other things, a political rejoinder by a supremely talented triumvirate. It's as robust and splendid as it is timely. 

 

 

I Was Just Thinking...

by Joan Hunt

A Sense of Place

Have you ever gotten a whiff of a certain smell that immediately transports you to another time and place? I remember reading once that we keep special places in our memory, and that chance occurrences can bring them back to us in vivid detail. Immediately, a picture of my grandmother's house comes to mind.

Grandma's place was a constant in my life, although many life-altering experiences took place there. By real estate and interior design standards, I don't suppose it was very valuable, but each room of that house, together with the porch and the backyard, hold numerous treasures for my memory.

My Great-Uncle George's beloved wife succumbed to cancer in the front bedroom. I remember Grandma talking about how young and brave she had been and how utterly devastated the loss left Uncle George. Although he was a tad bit gruff and lived to be almost 90 without ever remarrying, for me there was always a halo of romance around him because of that story.

That was the same bedroom I was staying in when I had my first nightmare—huge gray rabbits hopping on the walls. And it is where my mother banished me when, as a toddler, I got into the porcelain candy dish and ate a handful of homemade fudge before anybody caught me.

Grandma's bedroom was a haven of cherry wood and lace curtains rustling in the breeze. She had a sleigh bed covered in a wine-colored silk down comforter and numerous pillows, and sleeping in it made you feel like you were just this side of heaven. The adjoining bathroom always smelled of lemon soap— the kind you could only buy from the Avon people. (Grandma sold Avon. It was the only job she ever had.)

Thinking of the kitchen sparks memories of homemade fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies, coffee cake, and the afternoon that Cousin Johnny told Grandma (who was urging him to eat his spinach because it was loaded with iron) that if he wanted iron in his blood he'd swallow a couple of nails. I don't know whether it was how he said it or the way Grandma threw back her head and laughed that makes the memory so funny.

Speaking of Cousin Johnny, it was on Grandma's front porch that he and I discovered we couldn't fly. Frankly, I think he'd known it all along, because the "pixie dust" he sprinkled on my head most likely came from Grandma's garden. But the two of us, hand in hand, jumped off the banister over the rosebushes and nose-dived into the grass beneath—eliciting a few scrapes and much scolding from my mother.

Remembering Grandma's place also conjures up pictures of sheet tents stretched across her clotheslines, gathering peonies from her garden to take to the cemetery for Decoration Day, endless games of badminton, catching fireflies in old fruit jars, and Kool-Aid.

Grandma had a big living room with a royal blue wool carpet, a deep claret-colored sofa, and a huge, old-fashioned record player that played records the size of dinner platters. It was there that I learned to play the piano (not particularly well) and draw (somewhat better). In that room, our whole family watched President Kennedy's assassination, and then the hit on Oswald, and then the funeral—over and over again—on Grandma's console television set. I remember staying up with her on several New Year's Eves to watch the Lawrence Welk Show. And I remember being in that room the morning we took her to the hospital because she just wasn't feeling right. I could tell she was scared, and I think we both knew somehow that she wasn't coming back.

But wonderfully, I can close my eyes and be transported to that marvelous place where Grandma Minnie bustled around kneading dough, pushing clothes through the wringer on her washing machine, sewing housedresses on her treadle-operated Singer sewing machine, and giving me what I needed more than anything: a sense of place.

With Great Gratitude
The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project
Acknowledges the Kind Support
of
Sylvia Rudek
and
Lynn Sayler
 

The Unique Pleasures of Glamping

By Elizabeth Sinclair

Donna Hull, 66, who writes a travel blog for baby boomers, My Itchy Travel Feet, says that what she likes about “glamping” is the “heady mix of luxury and adventure. I find nature to be inspiring, but even more so when there’s a luxurious lodge with a gourmet dinner and wine waiting for me at the end of the day.” She likes to challenge herself and push her limits with new activities, but takes comfort in knowing that she can look forward to a “safety net waiting at the end of the adventure.”

Glamping, as the name implies, is a cross between “camping” and “glamor.” Though glamping is not new, the phenomenon has exploded in popularity in recent years. What glamping sites have in common is a sense of luxury in the wild. The inside of a glamping tent (or yurt or geodesic dome or wood cabin or pod) looks somewhat like a posh hotel room, with feather beds, hot tubs and lounging areas. Some sites offer full meals, butler service, and tents restored to pristine condition while guests hike trails or bushwalk. The prices can be similar to five-star hotels.

Glamping travelers can choose from a variety of options: a yurt in Mongolia, safari tents in South Africa, an arboreal rainforest house, gypsy caravans, rustic wood cabins, futuristic pods, lodges, tipis, treehouses.

This method of comfortable travel allows boomers to go to more remote parts of the planet and off the beaten path. According to Glamping.com, a website devoted to glamping, “It’s a way to experience the untamed and completely unique parts of the world—without having to sacrifice creature comforts;” the chance to “commune with Nature while enjoying luxury.”

Baby boomers have generous budgets to spend on travel and they are seeking authentic wilderness experiences. According to a study released by George Washington School of Business and The Adventure Travel Trade Association, boomer travelers watch television programs like Survivor and The Amazing Race and 80 percent of them want to go somewhere they haven’t been before. Often, they have a “bucket list” (a list to check off before they “kick the bucket”) of experiences they want to have and places they want to go while they still can.

Yet, as boomers age, they tend to feel a certain need for comfort; for example, soft pillows or a glass of champagne. Glamping allows places like Machu Pichu and the Inca Trail to be accessible but still comfortable.

“One of my favourite travel experiences was watching a pride of lions waking up from an afternoon nap in South Africa’s Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. Later, when our safari vehicle pulled up to our accommodations at Ivory Lodge, the staff was waiting with specialty drinks and cold towels,” wrote Donna Hull on her blog.

Boomers are an “aging demographic [that] is not looking to simply relax during retirement. They are seeking instead new and exciting opportunities by way of adventure travel,” according to TrendHunter, a site that predicts future trends: “Rather than taking things easy, aging consumers are looking for ways to age gracefully by travelling … and pursuing other meaningful experiences in their senior years.”

Glamping takes its place alongside other tailored adventure trends emerging for older travelers, such as boomer-centric wilderness courses, e-biking tours and kayaking trips.

Glamping caters to people who are no longer spry and agile or who are long past the age of “roughing it.” Many sites provide wheelchair accessible tents or ground-level huts. Guests can choose to do their own cooking at some sites, or opt to have meals prepared for them at others, or both.

The Glamping movement is growing rapidly and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the entire market for boomer adventure travel is expanding. The United States has an increasing number of glamping destinations, so people who prefer to stay near home, or not travel overseas, can still share in this wild experience.

Travel writer Anna Reid describes her glamping experience in Colorado, near Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains, at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Ski Center, Cookhouse and Sleep Yurts. “In the winter,” she says in a blog post, “guests cross-country ski to upscale yurts nestled in the backcountry at 10,800 feet. In the warmer months, a short hike takes adventurers to the yurts situated steps away from the property’s four-course restaurant. High altitude and the gentle incline made the 1.4-mile hike challenging, but manageable.” She and her husband ate in a rustic log-cabin guest house on the property that served gourmet meals, including such delicacies as wild boar, elk, lamb, pheasant and rainbow trout. The highlight for her, she wrote, was walking back to the yurt after dinner “under the canopy of a starlit sky.”

Many sites offering information about glamping also serve as booking portals: check out GoGlamping.net or Glamping.com. Both sites are also packed full of tips, stories, article links and other resources for anyone considering a glamping trip.

 

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

S. P. Murray’s LOSING EVERYTHING is a heartbreaking account of the loss, little by little, of a parent and the loving daughter who was responsible for her.

Until the medical world discovers a way to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease, the only thing we, the children of aging parents, can do is to prepare ourselves should Alzheimer’s invade our family. If we clearly understand what to expect, we can make decisions in advance about how we intend to deal with each progressive step. It will never be easy but, if it is not a surprise, we will be better equipped to deal calmly and lovingly with this lost human being who is our parent and the stress it puts on the whole family.
Michael Hackard’s THE WOLF AT THE DOOR is a book that all adult children of aging parents should read. The book is a great eye-opener and Training Manual. It can help avoid the crisis of Financial Elder Abuse from invading your family or, if it already has, show you how to fight back.
Jarem Sawatsky’s DANCING WITH ELEPHANTS is truly a book of wonder and a very important read for adult children of aging or ill parents. It should also be considered a “must-read” for those of us who are closer to the infirmities of old age than we are to the invincibility of youth.
Barbara Cassidy’s DELIBERATE ACCIDENT, though certainly not written as a training manual, is a Training Manual.

Bette Davis was right when she said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” And, though most people deal pretty well with the creaking joints and minor infirmities that come as we age, after a lifetime of relevance, it is less easy to deal with feelings isolation, no longer being an integral part of your family, unneeded, and a person whose judgment and opinions are no longer valued. As we lose spouses and friends, a home that was once full of life can now leave an older person feel lonely and isolated—living among memories of, as the song says, The Way we Were.

Adult children and grandchildren can help to lessen the loneliness and feelings of lost worth but a flattering, attentive younger person can boost their self-esteem in a way that no adult child or grandchild can – they make them feel young and attractive again.

Adult children of a widowed parent should be very cleared-eyed as to where this is probably going. There is a very good chance that this delightful person is going to rip your family apart, destroy the final years of your mother or father’s life, leave them destitute, institutionalized, and cut off from you and your children.

Inform yourself - be prepared to recognize the symptoms and have a plan to deal with it should it happen. Read this book!

 

Downsizing your Garden

By Jeanne Roberts

In the United States and Canada, 75 percent of farms are larger than 600 acres. In fact, in 2016, very large farms each occupied about 2,650 acres.

These large-scale farms, profitable and able to feed thousands thanks to economies of scale, also use substantial amounts of chemical fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides – all of which contaminate both food and the environment.

For example, farmers use Roundup not merely to control weeds in crops, but to dry grain crops pre-harvest. This saturation, up to five times a growing season, is potentially the real reason behind gluten sensitivity, rather than the wheat itself.

Making a Difference

Like “tiny” homes, tiny gardens allow you to reduce your ecological footprint from disastrous to delicate by producing some of the food that you would otherwise buy from your local supermarket.

Small-space gardens do this by using less of specific resources like water and materials, but also by reducing or even eliminating chemicals. As worldwide food production becomes more massive and chemical-dependent, the incremental reductions of tiny gardens (and the increasing use of organic growing) may be the only way we can avoid poisoning ourselves and the planet.

Small-Space Gardens Defined

The winner among tiny gardens – at least in my opinion – is the pallet garden. Like all vertical gardens, the pallet eliminates the need to kneel, crawl on one’s knees, brace oneself on fragile wrists, and stretch beyond one’s “balance point.”

Pallet gardens, made from one or more double-sided platforms used to transport heavy merchandise, are typically created from garden cloth stapled between two adjacent boards, one on the back of the pallet and one on the front when the pallet is upright. This space is then filled with growing medium and planted.

I prefer a permeable cloth or one that allows water to drip from one layer of the pallet garden to the next. This not only provides water at all levels but prevents roots sitting in water. For even easier watering, incorporate drip irrigation or perforated soaker hoses, at each level.

Most important to those of us over 65, or with weak knees, bad backs and arthritic hands, is that the pallet needs to be assembled and filled only once. There is no yearly tilling of the soil to loosen it or tilling again to incorporate soil amendments like peat moss. Any soil additions needed can be easily done by hand, and primarily standing upright if the pallets are elevated or planted near (or above) waist-height.

For those who have chosen rustic as their second home, pallet gardens are the perfect complement to outdoor log furniture and beautifully aged cabins or silvery redwood siding.

If not, they can be stained or painted.

Other Types of Vertical Gardens

If you have the patience for macramé and a taste for Pepsi, Coke, or Mountain Dew, you can make a soda bottle planter.

Using empty soda bottles as pots, and macramé cord for the framework, you can create a vertical garden as high, wide or elaborate as your heart desires. And, because the bottles have leakproof caps – and you are cutting the plant opening in the side of the bottle – you can keep this vertical planter inside. Double the visual impact of colorful macramé cord by spray painting the bottles with colorful Krylon Fusion, Valspar, or Rustoleum for plastic surfaces!

Just be sure to incorporate a filter like activated charcoal, fine gravel, garden moss, or Perlite in the bottom 20% of the soda bottle so that roots aren’t sitting in water.

Upside-Down Gardens

You have seen tomato plants for sale on TV in pots which hang upside down. The cost? About $15.

You can do the same thing, once or a dozen times, using milk bottles or other large, plastic containers, and cut the cost by 90 percent. The same technique also works for cucumbers, dwarf muskmelon, or cucurbits – those small, decorative squashes used as centerpieces at Thanksgiving.

Confine yourself to smaller tomato species like cherry tomatoes or Italian Romas, and keep the plants pruned so that most of the weight is devoted to the fruit. Otherwise, you risk damaging the roof from which your plants are suspended. A full-sized tomato plant in a bucket-sized container can weigh 50 pounds!

For those who’s only growing space is a balcony or patio roof, upside-down tomatoes make perfect sense space-wise, and cooks can easily harvest by reaching up instead of kneeling down. Another advantage of this growing method? Plants do not need staking. A final advantage is that plants are not exposed to soil pests like cutworms, hornworms, or fungi like fusarium wilt.

Don’t Give Up …

Your love of gardening just because your living space is now smaller, or unfamiliar. You can adapt that space to grow many of the things you once did, though perhaps not in the same quantity.

If you have questions about small-space gardens, vertical gardens, or other types of gardens, let your fingers do the walking through online search engines, including 50,000 pages on Google alone!

 

On the EARN website under “State Info,” There is a drop-down list where you can find all the legal information about Financial Elder Abuse and involuntary Guardianship for your state.

As we researched each state, a question arose—though the public chooses those who will represent their interests and safety and, through one manner of taxation or another, pay the salaries of those representatives as well as Attorney Generals, Judges, and District Attorneys, why is there so little concern shown for the senior citizens of so many states? It is particularly perplexing given the fact that those very senior citizens are, more often than not, paying the largest share of the taxes and casting the largest share of the votes.

Over the next year, we will compare all 50 states to see...

WHO IS DOING THEIR JOB.

Financial Exploitation of Elders Comparison of State laws protecting Elders against Financial Exploitation
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado
Does the State define an elder? Yes. Person 60 years or older No. Vulnerable adult - 18yrs or older No. Vulnerable adult - 18yrs or older No. Impaired adult -18yrs or older. Yes. Person 65 years or older No. At-risk adult 70 yrs or older
State laws protect elders against financial exploitation? Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Are there penalties for financial exploitation of elders? Yes. Divided into Classes of Felony No Yes Yes. Divided into Classes of Felony Yes No
Is there a duty to report financial exploitation of elders Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Is there a penalty for failure to report? No Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Does the State law define financial exploitation? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Does the State law define the following:
a) Deception Yes Yes No No No No
b) Undue Influence Yes Yes No No No Yes
c) Intimidation Yes No No No No No
How does the State define
a) Financial Exploitation Financial Exploitation means the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly person's property with the intent to deprive the elderly person of his or her property or the breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person by the person's guardian, conservator, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of the elderly person's property Financial Exploitation means unjust or improper use of another person or another person's resources for one's own profit or advantage, with or without the person's consent. Financial Exploitation means the illegal or improper use of a vulnerable adult or his resources for another's profit or advantage. Financial Exploitation means the illegal or unauthorized use or management of an adult endangered person's or an adult impaired person's funds, assets, or property for the profit or advantage of the actor or another person Financial Exploitation means Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity does any of the following:

A) Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

B) Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

C) Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult
Financial Exploitation means “Exploitation” means an act or omission committed by a person who:

A) Uses deception, harassment, intimidation, or undue influence to permanently or temporarily deprive an at-risk person of the use, benefit, or possession of any thing of value;

B) Employs the services of a third party for the profit or advantage of the person or another person to the detriment of the at-risk person;

C) Forces, compels, coerces, or entices an at-risk person to perform services for the profit or advantage of the person or another person against the will of the at-risk person; or

D) Misuses the property of an at-risk person in a manner that adversely affects the at-risk person’s ability to receive health care or health care benefits or to pay bills for basic needs or obligation
b) Deception Deception occurs when a person knowingly:

A) Creates or confirms a false impression

B) Fails to correct a false impression the defendant created or confirmed;

C) Fails to correct a false impression when the defendant is under a duty to do so;

D) Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved;

E) Sells or otherwise transfers or encumbers property, fails to disclose a lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property.
Deception means creating, reinforcing, or failing to correct a false impression or preventing another person from acquiring information that would affect the person's judgment regarding a transaction None None None None
c) Intimidation Intimidation is a threat of physical or emotional harm to an elderly person, or the communication to an elderly person that he or she will be deprived of food and nutrition, shelter, property, prescribed medication, or medical care or treatment None None None None None
d) Undue Influence Undue Influence means domination, coercion, manipulation, or any other act exercised by another person to the extent that an elderly person is prevented from exercising free judgment and choice. Undue Influence occurs when a person uses his role, relationship, or authority to wrongfully exploit the trust, dependency, or fear of a vulnerable adult to gain control over the decision making of the vulnerable adult, including decision making related to finances, property, residence, and health care; None None None Undue influence means the use of influence to take advantage of an at-risk person's vulnerable state of mind, neediness, pain, or emotional distress.
 

In 2017, according to gunviolencearchive.org,

15,595 Americans were killed by guns and

31,185 were injured.

22,000 died from suicide.

In 2017, 1,500,000 adults were under the control of guardians.


This means one million five hundred thousand adults have been deprived of all their rights and choices.


Two hundred and seventy-three billion of their dollars have been put into someone else’s control to do with pretty much as they please…say holiday in Bermuda.


So, if they want a new mattress, because their old one is uncomfortable, they must ask their guardian and the guardian may say no. Even, as in one case we know of, where the woman had millions.


A study released by the American Bar Association in 2017 found


an unknown number of adults languish under guardianship


“...when they no longer need it, or never did…..” “guardianship is generally “permanent, leaving no way out—‘until death do us part.’ ”


You don’t want to have this happen to you or anyone you care for and it can be done more easily than you think


Support our friends at The National Association to Stop Guardian abuse. They are the hardest working people we know.

With Great Gratitude
The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project
Acknowledges the Kind Support
of
Marcia Southwick
and
Debby Valdez
 

Letters to the Editor

As this is our first issue, we have not yet received any letters. I certainly hope that you will write to us: tell us about your experience with Financial Elder Abuse or Involuntary Guardianship. We will also be looking for people to interview for our monthly video and lovely photographs for our cover.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving demonstrated how much change can be accomplished when we all speak as one and insist on change. Now, it is time for Americans to again speak as one—create a roar so loud we cannot be ignored--no longer tolerating the abuse of our senior citizens.

Join The EARN Project. The membership is free. It will provide you with notifications when your Senate or House have a Bill, concerning Financial Elder Abuse and Involuntary Guardianship, coming up. It will provide a contact to all pertinent officials, through the EARN Project for you to make sure your concerns are heard and addressed. It also gives you access to information on all the laws in your state and an emergency contact list for your state which, at this time, are open to all on our website but, will soon be for members only.

Earn has picked up the baton, won't you please join the chorus —without you there is no roar and no change.

 

Looking forward to seeing what you send us

Sharon de Lobo

 

please send your letters to: earnmail@nyc.rr.com