"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
I am the hours
connected like dots
into good sense
I am the fullness
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Leah Grace Goodwin
“What day is it?” asked Pooh. “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh.” ― A.A. Milne
In previous columns, I’ve written about the crucial formative role you, as a senior adult, can play in the lives of children and teens—whether they are your own grandchildren or other kin, or a neighborhood youngster in need of a caring role model. Your senior status, and your accrued wisdom and knowledge, can change the course of a young person’s life.
This month, as autumn approaches and kids return to school, I want to focus on a game-changing gift you can give: optimism. Some fortunate folks are more innately inclined to be upbeat than others, but optimism is also a learned skill. How you, as a grown-up, engage life’s vicissitudes rubs off on the young people you spend time with—and even if you aren’t the chirpiest person, you can also consciously teach optimistic thinking and action techniques. It’s never too late to start, either, so (no surprise here!) don’t despair if a youngster in your charge seems hardwired toward the Eeyore end of the spectrum. With your help, time can yield positive change!
As it turns out, the glass-half-full mentality isn’t just pleasant for others to be around. Optimism offers long-term benefits for physical and mental quality of life. “Pooh-bear” optimists are far more likely to live into the triple digits!
All that said, you are in a unique position to open up the world of optimism for your young charge(s). Your relationship with a young person is most likely not that of a parent, even if you happen to be fulfilling some of the roles a parent might typically take. When it comes to instilling optimism—and resilience, that inimitable quality of emotional “bounceability”—you, the grandparent, great-aunt or great-uncle, or neighborhood elder, have the advantage of being just enough outside the daily round to make a startling impact. These six techniques can make a big difference in a kid’s outlook on life. Put these into practice as a mentor and watch a child’s soul light up. (Psst: you might find yours lighting up too!).
Ditch the complaining. Accentuate the positive and mitigate the negative. Find yourself worrying out loud or catastrophizing? Hear yourself complaining about inconveniences? Quit it. Your focus on negative things will teach the youngster in your life to do the same. Instead, try talking instead about what’s going right on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. One caregiver suggests playing a game called “Roses and Thorns”: take a few minutes each time you’re with a youngster and reveal the best and worst things that have happened lately—with a focus on the positive. Bonus round: share a hope for tomorrow!
Show faith in your young friend by having lofty expectations for them. Give the person(s) in your life a chance to shine by asking things of them. Of course, the key is to be clear about your expectations, and flexible and appreciative about the way in which they seek to fulfill them. Kids take pride in a job well done.
Encourage sensible risk-taking. No need to encourage a young person’s penchant for impulsivity, if that’s an issue (and it can be for kids, especially when they lack guidance in the rest of their lives). It’s totally natural to want to protect kids and teens from hurts and consequences—but discouraging adventurousness saps confidence and can even encourage pessimism. Letting the reins a bit loose (or even letting go, in appropriate ways relative to your caregiving situation) encourages hopefulness and pride.
Temper the temptation to react when something hurtful happens or a challenge pops up. Optimism flourishes when you teach kids to be their own advocate. Giving kids a chance to problem solve on their own imparts a sense of accomplishment, which feeds an upbeat sense of empowerment. Yes, it takes self-control to curb the protective instinct—but offering support for your youngster’s independence gives a gift that lasts a lot longer than a quick fix.
Embrace the struggle. When we grown-ups, and in particular worldly-wise seniors, get frustrated and walk away from a challenge, claiming inability, kids learn to draw quick conclusions about their own skills, too. “I’m bad at writing!” “Math isn’t for me!” “Basketball is too hard.” All these sorts of responses to challenge suggest that your youngster is developing a permanent sense of his or her shortcomings. You can counter that by helping the young person reframe the challenge positively: “It’s hard now, but you’ll learn!” And let them know they’re not alone: “That was hard for me, too, when I was your age” or “Lots of kids struggle with this at first, and that’s okay.” Help your charge stay hopeful by bringing up another skill that took time to master and noting how great they are at that thing now.
Stay realistic and honest. True optimism involves the ability to assess a situation frankly and power through the challenge anyway. Trying to pretend a tough situation is easy, or offering shallow reassurances, doesn’t convince kids of anything. Kids are smart, and they can see through disingenuity quick as a flash. Actually, reassuring your young friend that everything will be fine without acknowledging the difficulties they face can have the opposite effect. “Optimism actually requires thinking realistically more than positively,” notes one expert. “That way, your child is prepared for whatever he faces.”
Add these tactics to your time with a young person, and you will find that the brighter side of things starts emerging from the messiness of life. As Pooh opined, today will indeed be their—and your—favorite day, more and more often.
THOSE ARE OUR PARENTS YOU ARE IGNORING
The Systematic understaffing of America's nursing homes.
By Joan Hunt
Most Nursing Homes Have Overstated Staffing for Years
A recent analysis by the New York Times and Kaiser Health News confirms what many families of nursing home residents have long suspected—staffing is often inadequate to provide proper care for their loved ones. Records show the number of nursing aides fluctuates significantly from day to day, with particularly large deficits occurring on weekends. In fact, on the lowest-staffed days, personnel take care of twice as many residents as they do on the highest-staffed days.
The analysis is based on a newly implemented system of documenting staff numbers in nursing homes, which has been designed to provide greater accuracy. Thus, records for the first time reveal the extent and magnitude of personnel deficiencies in facilities across America. Approximately 70 percent of 14,000 nursing homes have lower staff numbers than the previous system reported. The average staffing decrease is 12 percent. Records also show that on weekends, 11 percent fewer nurses and 8 percent fewer aides are on duty.
Federal law doesn’t mandate a minimum staff-to-patient ratio. The only requirement is that a registered nurse be on site eight hours a day and that a licensed nurse be on site at all times in certified nursing homes. Data from the last quarter of 2017 disclose that one fourth of the facilities had no registered nurse at work.
Previous Nursing Home Rating System Misled Consumers
Since 2009, Medicare had used a nursing home rating system that assigned from one to five stars to each facility based largely on three criteria. Two of the criteria were derived from unverified self-reported data. Because no procedure was in place to validate the data, it could paint an inaccurate picture of staffing levels.
While the remaining criterion came from annual health inspections conducted by independent reviewers, this assessment could be manipulated. It was possible for nursing homes to anticipate the inspection and temporarily schedule more staff during that time, thus enabling them to inflate their staffing numbers. After the inspection was finished, the staffing would return to its inadequate level. Consequently, the ratings failed to reflect reality, and consumers were misled.
New Nursing Home Rating System Has Greater Accuracy
Now, due to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which has only recently been implemented, data on nursing home staffing is more accurate. Instead of coming from self-reports, it’s based on daily payroll records. The discrepancies between earlier staffing records and the new records provide evidence that staffing levels reported over the last ten years have been exaggerated. The data shows that even facilities with good Medicare ratings for staffing have shortages in nurses and aides on some days.
Despite the more reliable method of determining staff numbers, the new rating system still has some drawbacks. Medicare assigns stars to facilities by comparing one nursing home to another, which is, in effect, grading on a curve. Therefore, many facilities have kept their ratings, even though payroll records show they have lower staffing levels than previously reported. Although the ratings can be found on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website, they aren’t dependable indicators that a facility has enough staff to provide quality care.
Patient Advocacy Group Calls for Congressional Hearings
After the recent report in the New York Times, an advocacy group known as the Elder Justice Coalition (EJC) called for immediate congressional hearings on chronic nursing home staff shortages. Group members are specifically concerned that the shortages have gone unnoticed up until now.
“We’re asking Congress to take a good hard look at staff shortages,” said the coalition’s national coordinator, Bob Blancato, in an interview with the Silver Standard News. “The new system may not be living up to expectations. Perhaps after clarification there could be legislation that would come forward.
“Several things need to be considered: number, quality, and training of staff. If part of the problem in attracting and keeping staff is due to wages that aren’t competitive with other types of medical facilities, this needs to be addressed. There has to be an incentive for people to want to go to work. The lack of workforce required to care for the aging population is a crisis that will be in front of us for years.”
Consequences of Understaffing
Understaffing is one of the causes that underlie elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes: reports NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org. Research shows that when staff are overworked and stressed, patients have a higher risk of bedsores, dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, pneumonia, and infections. The exhaustion that accompanies working in short-staffed conditions can result in mistakes and failures to notice adverse changes in patients’ health. Moreover, frustration that comes from overwork can lead to intentional or unintentional mistreatment.
Tips for Choosing a Nursing Home
Because the current rating system doesn’t guarantee a nursing home is adequately staffed, families of the elderly should investigate candidate facilities thoroughly when the need for placement of a loved one becomes apparent. Assistive Living Today provides the following tips in choosing a home:
⋅ Instead of scheduling a visit, make a surprise visit to get an idea of cleanliness and quality of care. If the facility looks promising, make at least two additional trips to observe meals and activity sessions.
⋅ Check the public record for violations of state code. Note the type of complaints to see if they are related to serious issues.
⋅ Conduct research to see what licenses are required in your state, and ask the facility to show you its credentials.
⋅ Observe the residents to see if they appear happy, well-groomed, and actively engaged.
⋅ Pick a facility that doesn’t have a strong odor. Don’t be fooled by a strong deodorizer scent that may be masking the smell of urine and excrement.
⋅ Ask the facility if it has dieticians and if they can accommodate special dietary needs.
⋅ Since activities are important, inquire whether an activities director is on staff, and find out whether outdoor activities are included.
⋅ If your loved one has a condition requiring special care, such as Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes, ask if the staff has experience in these areas.
A LETTER FROM THE EARN PROJECT
We are happy to report things have progressed very well since we released The Unforgivable Truth.
Thousands of DVDs, and the accompanying state-specific brochures, have been given to people who wanted to do gatherings to show the documentary and discuss elder abuse, politicians, and individuals who are involved in fighting elder abuse and involuntary guardianship.
Volunteer Marcia Southwick (in grey blouse) at conference of Village to Village.
Many wonderful shopkeepers across the country put the EARN Project posters in their windows to draw attention to Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 (we published a few pictures of those in our last issue). They all gave out copies of the documentary—we received some heart-breaking correspondence in response.
We are beginning to get a good response from women’s political organizations and were honored when Mary Jenkins, Chair of the Missouri Federation of Women’s Democratic Clubs, invited us and NASGA to send a representative to their yearly convention. Molly Freebairn did us proud as our representative discussing elder abuse and involuntary guardianship with the attendees and providing the documentary. Mrs. Jenkins also proposed that a bill, created by Catherine Falk and Elaine Renoire, concerning persons in guardianship’s rights of association be included in their proposed projects for 2019. Also, this winter the Uniform Law Commission begins the hard work of trying to get their new Uniform Conservatorship and Other Protective Arrangements Act, enacted in all states—it recently passed in Maine. Those hard-working ladies of Missouri would be of great assistance to the Uniform Law Commission in getting it passed in their home state. 15.39% of Missouri’s population are seniors and they deserve protection.
The wonderful Marti Oakley (talk about people who work 24-7) moderated a panel and gave an extraordinary presentation at the Washington Whistleblower’s Summit. We are including the video here. Whistleblowers, especially where nursing home abuse is concerned, have been guardian angles for America’s seniors.
Marti Oakley with whistleblowers Brian Kinter and Randall Stone
Tanya Hathaway, Lisa Belanger, Marti Oakley, Marcia Southwick
Marti Oakley addressing Summit attendees
Sharon de Lobo represented The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project on Marti’s radio show in July. Despite some telephone difficulties, it went very well, and The EARN Project was honored by her invitation.
The only disappointing note so far is the lack of interest from religious organizations. The Billy Graham group told us they were too busy doing God’s work and that we should speak to our politicians. My goodness, it would never have occurred to us here at the EARN Project that defending seniors from abuse and educating them on how to be vigilant and take steps to make themselves less vulnerable, is something God would not consider to be part of doing his work. We think your Pastors and Rabbis would agree with our belief that it is. So, we hope all of you will put a word in their ear to set aside an afternoon or evening to educate their flock.
Now it is off to more speaking engagements and Washington DC in October!
ELDER INITIATIVE STATISTICS SHOW
ELDER ABUSE VICTIMS
ARE TWICE AS LIKELY
TO END UP
THAN SENIORS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ABUSED
THIS IS NOT
By Joan Hunt
Grandma Minnie always had a jar of chocolate chip cookies on hand. If you dropped by her house and she wasn’t home, Mr. Burling next door, or Cora across the street, always knew where she was—and they would offer you a lemonade, so you could go sit on her porch swing and wait for her to return. She always had a lap to sit on, an ear to lend, and good advice if you asked her for it. For as long as I can remember, she sold Avon door to door in her little town of 580 people. A talker, she exchanged more conversation than products, but my dad and my uncles had her back financially, so the Avon was mostly to make her feel independent.
Grandma didn’t retire at a specific point, because she had never really worked outside the house. She raised a family, and after my grandfather died she found ways to stay valuable. She took in boarders, volunteered at the church, and would take any of her nine grandchildren for a weekend or so to take the burden off their families. I was lucky enough to earn that honor quite often. And in those days, I vowed to be just like her when I became a grandma. It seemed like she had all the time in the world, and no matter how busy she was, you could always get her attention.
Flash forward. After decades of editorial deadlines and juggling work, kids, household chores, and personal needs, I wake up wired for activity. That is after three years of being retired! Sometimes I dream about all the things I must accomplish during the day, just as I used to do when I was responsible for 15 weekly newspapers and a staff of a dozen people. In the morning, my partner, also retired, does the crossword puzzle with his coffee, while I read a few pages of my current novel. Then we hit the ground running. We often skip breakfast because it takes too much time.
Three days a week, we babysit his three grandchildren. One day a week, I take one of my grandchildren for the day. We often take kids to their doctor’s or dental appointments or run errands for our children who are at work. We have a beautiful yard, a garden, and a koi pond that require a lot of maintenance. We take the dog to the dog park almost daily. My partner does taekwondo, I exercise, we walk a lot. I freelance for the local paper and two other clients. We also have a beach house in Old Lyme, which is about an hour away. In the summer, we try to get down there as often as we can—and, of course, it requires regular maintenance, as well as our home. Are you exhausted yet?
The other day, it occurred to me that we are working so hard at retirement we aren’t enjoying it. We’ve just turned it into another job. Many of our retired friends are just like us, so I have determined that it is a real “thing.” We need to chill out. But how? All these responsibilities are valid, and I don’t see them going anywhere. What needs to change, I have decided, is our mindset.
Most of us gauge our value in life by what we accomplish. We pride ourselves on being able to juggle activities. And my generation wants to remain vital and self-reliant for as long as we can. “Use it or lose it” is our motto. I think we are afraid to stop and smell the roses. But if not now, when?
I can’t help contrasting my lifestyle with my grandmother’s. She got just as much done, but she wasn’t neurotic about it. And I think the difference is that her generation didn’t feel guilty about renewing themselves. After mowing the grass, Grandma might sit on the front porch for an hour or more with a magazine, or a neighbor, or maybe singing silly songs with one of us kids if we were there. She could lose herself playing the piano for half the afternoon. Work ended with dinner dishes. Sundays were for family entertainment: ballgames, the movies, a picnic in the backyard. The ebb and flow of life for her was not goal-oriented, it was grounded in common sense. Relaxation was part of that.
So, at 70, I am teaching myself to relax. I have taken up drawing and painting as a hobby, and now I am working on not feeling guilty about the time it takes. I have a charming little studio in the loft where I can lose myself for half a day if I want. What I am turning out up there may not be all that valuable, but it makes me happy—and that is the quality I most identify with my Grandmother Sahling.
INSIDE THE BELLY OF THE BEAST: GUARDIANSHIP
By Marcia Southwick
A social worker employed by a professional guardianship company contacted me recently on my Facebook page, Boomers Against Elder Abuse. I was surprised because not many insiders are willing to open up when it comes to this secretive cottage industry. This legalized system of theft from elders and persons with disabilities is a secret world operating below the radar. The public is unaware of how this system works against the people it is supposed to protect because the courts involved in these proceedings do their best to keep guardianship matters secret. Records are sealed; gag orders and contempt-of-court charges are leveled against adult children of the victim if they choose to speak out.
The social worker said that at first she admired professional guardians because the guardian’s mission seemed purely to help those who could not care for themselves. Later, though, the social worker began to see gaping cracks in procedure. She didn’t go into details, but my guess is that she witnessed elders and others being snatched up into guardianships they didn’t need or want.
We hear nightmare stories every day at the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse. One of the top complaints is that courts choose professional guardians over family members who are perfectly able to care for their elderly parents. Attorneys and guardians argue to the court that children of wealthy elders, in particular, have a conflict of interest due to the money they will inherit.
What about the fact that everyone in the courtroom will soon be paid out of the elder’s estate if the elder is deemed incapacitated? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Every single person working on a guardianship case has a motive to draw a wealthy elder into the system because everybody will be on the payroll, and they get to charge the estate for services with almost no monitoring. The people about to “make bank” include a court visitor, a doctor who makes an assessment of incapacity, the guardian ad litem (an attorney appointed as an arm of the court to decide what’s in the prospective ward’s “best interest”), and anybody the guardian wishes to hire off the elder’s dime.
Another social worker told me that she knew of a guardian who found elderly victims to put into guardianships by investigating property tax records to see if any elders were behind in their payments. If taxes hadn’t been paid, she would approach the elder or others close to them and suggest that the elder needed help with paying bills and care. Then, her attorney would petition for guardianship over the unsuspecting victim.
Guardians and conservators for the elderly control billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars. There is no central database for guardianship registry. Many states don’t have records of all guardianship cases; therefore, there’s no way to really know how many wards are out there with their money being controlled by total strangers who may or may not have their best interests at heart.
A recent study done by Hunter College in New York showed that throughout the state, 25 to 35% of guardianships are sought by hospitals and nursing homes. Profits are the bottom line, and if a court system appoints a stranger as guardian to take over the accumulated fortune of an elder, it means that the estate will be sure to pay off hospital and nursing-home bills. It also means that the home or hospital will pay a referral fee to the guardian so that everybody benefits, except the elder.
If you are an elder who has been deemed incapacitated, which is far too easy for a court to do (often your situation is declared “an emergency,” which eliminates the requirement for due process), you will no longer have the right to sign contracts, vote, marry, or decide what happens to your money. Although emergency guardianships are meant to be temporary, the bulk of them nationwide quickly become permanent. Guardians can sell off your home to generate more cash for payments to themselves and others, and you can’t do a thing about it because you aren’t entitled to look at so much as a bank statement due to your supposed “incapacity.” Your children have no control either.
In fact, if you are in this situation, you can’t leave a facility without the guardian’s permission. Guardians are known for isolating their wards from family members who question the guardian’s decisions. Guardians have so much power that they can retaliate by stopping visitation, claiming that the children’s presence upsets their parent. In some cases, the elder dies alone, and the adult children are informed weeks or months later by mail. In other cases, the children have no idea where their parent is being kept.
As if that isn’t painful enough, every time a friend or family member is given permission to visit an elder under guardianship, most likely the visit will be monitored by a guardian or an employee—to the tune of approximately $100 per hour paid out of the elder’s estate. Close family, even spouses, of wards will be told exactly what they can and can’t talk about during these visits. It’s about as draconian as it gets.
In the case of Ernestine Franks, from Pensacola, FL, one of her three sons made the mistake of consulting an elder attorney because the family was in conflict over her care. The son’s lawyer petitioned the court, and a professional “for profit” guardian was appointed. The guardian stopped communicating with the sons and insisted that all questions go through her private lawyer, who would then contact her to discuss the issue. Then, she would give her answer to her attorney, who would call the sons’ attorney to discuss the answer. Then, of course, the sons’ lawyer would contact the sons. The sequence occurred with all communications about visitation or other matters, which allowed everyone on these calls separately to charge endless fees to Ernestine’s estate, all three applying lawyer’s rates. Then, of course, the guardian and her attorney claimed in court that the adult children were the ones responsible for driving up charges.
In my opinion, the worst exploitation of elders and adults with disabilities occurs by using the innocent-looking system of guardianship, which supposedly exists to help those who need it. Elders can be mercilessly removed from their homes and warehoused in facilities against their will and at great expense. After one loses one’s rights, there’s often no way out.
So far, the press has been the only way to shine light on this growing form of abuse; luckily, thanks to newspapers throughout the nation—the Silver Standard included—guardianship is in the spotlight. It’s not a pretty sight.
In 2013, Wells Fargo held a conference to discuss financial elder abuse. Almost every one of the 200 people attending that conference said they had a family member or friend who had been victimized. Here at The EARN Project, we know from experience that were Wells Fargo to conduct another conference on the topic today, five years later, many of the attendees would know more than one victim.
Every year, around June 15 (National Elder Abuse Awareness Day), the press and a few politicians pick up the story. Sadly, it appears that they consider addressing the abuse of America’s senior citizens something of a duty dance, because the discussion disappears as quickly as it emerges—and we won’t hear much more about it until June 15 of the next year rolls around. In addition, for some unfathomable reason, the American public seems not to care about the issue unless it is “me or my senior citizen” being abused and it will be if each of us does not stand up and insist it be stopped now.
Last month, Richard Arvin Overton—at 112 years of age, America’s oldest World War II veteran—became yet another of our hero victims. As a result of predatory guardianship, so much money has been siphoned out of Mr. Overton’s bank account, over a period of just a few short months, that he can no longer afford the round-the-clock medical attention that he needs. His family has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover these very necessary expenses.
Think of how much money they could raise if each one of us who has never raised a finger to support the effort to stop elder abuse were to put a single dollar bill in Mr. Overton’s account. In my opinion, those of us who have done little or nothing to ensure his and other elders’ financial protection owe it to him.
It is no wonder that, as the General Social Survey has shown, we no longer trust one another. In 1972, 46% of us said we believed most Americans could be trusted; in 2012, that number had dropped to 32%. In a relatively recent study from the Pew Research Center, only 52% of the public said they believed they could trust most or all of their neighbors. Lack of trust leads to lack of interest—and, sadly, sinking numbers of Americans volunteering to help where help is needed. We have fewer volunteers in all fields than at any other recorded time in the history of our country.
In an excellent 2017 Wall Street Journal article by Daniel Henninger, discussing the all too frequent sexual abuse perpetrated by men in the workplace, he linked this behavior to a dangerous change in the “broader “evaporation of conscience” pointing to Rochelle Gurstein’s theory that the sacred and the shameful had gradually declined across the 20th century to a slow but steady estrangement “from any coherent moral tradition”. All of this, says Mr. Henninger, makes these male sexual abusers simply a product of their time. The same could apply to our lack of compassion for other resulting in the drop-in volunteerism and a general unwillingness to put ourselves to step up and prevent any suffering other than our own.
Finally, Mr. Henninger referenced something from a Sunday homily—the priest said that one of the purposes of confession wasn’t just to admit sin but to learn conscience and perhaps we need to ask ourselves if “the long period of freedom from organize conscience formation simply isn’t working”
Consider what our apathy has allowed to happen lately to some of our seniors:
A Physical Attack Filmed But Not Stopped
In Pittsburgh, an elderly person sitting in the booth of a diner was physically attacked. The attack was filmed on someone’s cell phone. In the video, no one moved to protect that senior citizen, and the person filming the assault certainly was not the hero of the day.
Pennsylvania has seen more than a 60% increase in reported cases of elder abuse over the past few years, and it is estimated that only one in five cases is even reported. Reporting, however, does not seem to get anyone very far; an independent study done by a Pennsylvania newspaper found that the health department referred just three of 1,800 cases of elder abuse reported to them over a seven-year period. Nate Wardle, a health department spokesman, admitted, “It has been established that Pennsylvania nursing home regulation needs to be updated…. We have been working to rewrite these regulations, but changing regulations takes time.”
How long do you think it would take them to develop appropriate regulations if Gov. Wolf found out his favorite aunt was being abused in a Pennsylvania nursing home?
A Daughter’s Theft
In Minnesota, a daughter (who is also a lawyer) abused the trust that her aged and seriously ill mother had placed in her, misappropriating and mishandling her mother’s and her aged, ill stepfather’s funds.
A Daughter-in-Law’s Forgery
In New Hampshire, a daughter-in-law forged bank withdrawal slips to the tune of $44,000 from her 87-year-old mother-in-law’s account.
An All-Too-Familiar Story
A woman wheeled an 82-year-old gentleman into an Oregon medical center. He weighed only 115 pounds, was barely conscious, and was, according to what the doctors later told the man’s son, only 24 to 48 hours from death. In addition, he had high levels of liquid morphine, as well as more than half a dozen psych medications, in his bloodstream. The woman claimed to be his daughter and was requesting that he be put in hospice care. (Note: In Oregon, the medical examiner does not investigate the deaths of patients in hospice care. A primary care physician assumes that responsibility and signs the death certificate.)
Shortly thereafter, according to police and prosecutors, another victim, demonstrating the same symptoms, showed up in the medical center with this same “daughter,” who was again asking for hospice care for the elderly patient.
About 10 years before this incident, when this relatively affluent gentleman had been divorced and determined to need a caretaker, this woman had applied for the position. His family said that her calm, religious demeanor made her appear to be the perfect choice.
Alone with him all day, every day, the “caretaker” was able slowly to take control of his life, his finances, his possessions, and even his dealings with his family. She made extravagant purchase in his name, transferred money from his accounts to hers, and caused serious riffs between the gentleman and his family. In 2015, telling him that his son had died, the woman moved him without telling his family where they were. His son says he constantly searched the Internet for hints on his whereabouts but could not find him until he showed up in the medical center. At that point, the staff liaison called the gentleman’s next of kin—the son.
The 58-year-old woman, who went by several aliases, is looking at many years in prison, having pleaded no contest to second-degree assault, first-degree criminal mistreatment, and aggravated theft. She still insists that she was only helping the seniors under her care.
Oregon was able to indict this woman under standard state criminal laws. But what if the abused senior in question had been an 80-year-old widow who, though still sharp as a tack, had been hoodwinked by this “sweet, religious, attentive, kind caretaker” and gradually been convinced that the senior’s “greedy” family just wanted to make trouble?
Would a district attorney have been willing to slog through a protracted court case, battling gerontological expert witnesses in order to prove that, even though this senior citizen demonstrated none of the physical or mental impairments of advanced age, her age and life experiences still qualified her as vulnerable—someone with “developmental disabilities” meriting legal protection from predation? We sincerely doubt it. Oregon’s seniors will find little, if any, protection from this sort of predator.
Oregon needs to replace its existing elder abuse laws stating that the victim must be “a person with developmental disabilities” with verbiage defining a victim as an "elder adult"—and the state should define “elder” with a number, preferably somewhere between 60 and 70 years of age. The sooner this change occurs, the better!
In addition to the civil penalties for abusers of senior citizens, the state of Oregon should include criminal penalties to punish abusers.
Complete Strangers Who Nearly Took an Elder’s Life
Elder abusers were randomly knocking on people’s doors in her neighborhood, trolling for victims. She was old and lonely. They became her “friends.”
Eventually, they sold her house, took her cross-country, and purchased properties on her dime. Finally, they dumped her in a deserted house in Maine.
Even though she had been reported as missing, it took the FBI four years to find her. When they did, she was alone, in 100-degree heat, living in squalor with no lights, no money, and no edible food. That she was alive was nothing short of a miracle.
The state of Maine put her in a nursing home.
And don’t forget the cautionary tale told by two The Earn Project volunteers:
Lawmakers are elected by us and paid by us. If we are not willing to take the time to keep reminding them of what we expect them to do, and insist they do it, they will use that time propping up their reelection.
Can we really continue to consider ourselves to be civilized people if we allow this sort of activity to persist? Do we want these horrors to invade the lives of our loved ones, our friends, or ourselves?
By William Wine
"Here we go again," announces the subtitle. But is that a promise or a warning? Turns out the sequel to Mamma Mia! fulfills both suggestions, but more the latter than the former. For openers, ignore the movie's marketing: you are not, no matter what you may think, making a return visit to see the first film's star, Meryl Streep, once again. The trailer notwithstanding, she's barely in this one, contributing a fleeting, bait-and-switch cameo. So don't go barking up the wrong Streep. You see, Streep's character, Donna, has passed away—and that's no spoiler, it's revealed at the top.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a sequel to the decade-ago original, a cheerful—too cheerful and joyous and life-affirming by half, actually—adaptation of the internationally successful stage show based on the songs of the Swedish pop group, ABBA, whose tunes (20 in each film) are strung together by a more-or-less arbitrary storyline that's told against a background of sunny Greek scenery. The fluffy sequel, MM! HWGA, is another jukebox musical romantic comedy set on the same Mediterranean paradise a few years later than its predecessor. Once again, we're on the Greek island of Kalokairi, where Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, is pregnant with the child of Sky, played by Dominic Cooper. Sophie runs the bed-and-breakfast once owned by her mother, Donna, played once again but with hardly any screen time by Streep, but Sophie worries that she won't be able to make things work without her mother around. Planning to re-open the villa and restaurant, she receives visits from her mother's best friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters), who comprised two-thirds of the pop group, Donna and the Dynamos, back in the day. And she gets to re-bond with all three men who might be her father (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Sjarsgard). Yep, we're still not sure who her father is. Then she gets a surprise visit from her grandmother, whom she's never met, played in her inimitable style by Cher. Writer-director Ol Parker (Imagine Me & You, Now Is Good)—who also scripted The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—based his screenplay on the story by himself, Richard Curtis, and Catherine Johnson. It's a prequel and a sequel, with flashbacks that introduce us to Streep's character a generation ago, when she's played by Lily James, who is skilled, radiant, likable, and convincing. The overall film, however, struggles to show off those qualities, despite a legitimately poignant mother–daughter love story that manages to register momentarily in this otherwise lighthearted outing. The problem is that far too many of the songs are shoehorned into the arbitrary narrative. And while several of them are catchy, none are compelling or memorable enough to divert us from their awkward inclusion. Which is the price you pay when the already-existing music is a film's primary component. That is, if the acting and dialogue and narrative don't arrest us, we begin to feel as if we're watching an extended music video. And that is the case more often than not with MM!HWGA, which offers several familiar ABBA songs that didn't quite make the cut in the original, such as "Fernando" and "Waterloo." Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again presents itself as a buoyant, feel-good musical, and fans of the first film may find it similarly magical. For the rest of us, however, there is, once again, little in the way of ABBA-cadabra.
Last Chance to See
By Elizabeth Sinclair
Last-chance tourism is just what it sounds like: a last chance to see places in the world that are rapidly changing or disappearing. Last month, we highlighted man-made sites at risk; this month, we highlight natural places at risk, mostly from rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather (such as Pacific Island nations or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), or from the threat of being permanently altered by increasing temperatures, such as Glacier National Park in Montana.
Tourism may help save some man-made sites from disappearing: if local governments realize that tourists will pay money to visit the last narrow-gauge railway in Chile, traditional houses in Kyoto, Japan, or Shanghai’s Old City in China, they are likely to act to save these places. However, natural wonders or wild places at risk cannot share the same protection: climate change is forcing their alteration or disappearance. To put it bluntly, if you have any desire to see some of these places, you need to travel sooner rather than later.
A short list of selected at-risk natural sites popular with tourists includes:
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia:
Almost half of the coral on the reef—the only non-manmade structure visible from space—has been lost, according to the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The loss is due to increasingly severe storms, coral bleaching (which results from rising ocean acidity and temperatures), increased coastal development, and the actions of invasive starfish species. However, many scientists and tourism authorities believe that reef tourism, which brings in almost 3 billion dollars annually, may help save the reef for future generations. Tourism to the area is highly regulated, as the reef is a government-managed marine park, with certain areas off limits. A significant portion of tourism income is channeled to restoration and conservation efforts. Resorts on Lizard Island, Hayman Island, and Orpheus Island, all within the Whitsunday Island chain, are some of the best places to access the Great Barrier Reef.
Everglades Wetlands, USA:
Florida, being a low-lying state, is threatened by rising ocean levels. No place in the state is more at risk than the famed Everglades Wetlands, the largest subtropical wilderness in the USA. Despite being named a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a protected wetland, the 1.5-million-acre national park is only half the size it was a hundred years ago, due to water diversion, pollution, and farming. The park is both the source of drinking water for millions of people and home to endangered species, such as the manatee, Florida panther, and American crocodile. Visitors can picnic, camp, hike, take boat tours, or fish, as well as see a range of reptiles and amphibians in their natural habitat, including both alligators and crocodiles living side by side. (The Everglades are the only place in the world where they do.) Stay at camping grounds within the park itself, or in nearby Miami. While in Florida, also visit historic Key West (famous as Ernest Hemingway’s home, as well as for diving and snorkeling), which is at risk of flooding in the coming years, as ocean levels in the Florida Keys are expected to rise fifteen inches.
All low-lying Pacific Island nations (such as the Maldives, Kiribati, or Tuvalu) are at risk of being submerged as ocean levels rise. The Maldives, which averages only four feet above sea level and is the lowest-lying country in the world, is most at risk. Famous for coral reefs, lagoons, and marine parks;, beaches, boat tours, and crystalline waters, manta rays and sea turtles, this nation of a thousand islands is home to some of the world’s most stunning diving and snorkeling sites. Visit the Maldives now before this island nation disappears forever beneath the waves.
Glacier National Park, USA:
Montana’s national park, famed for its glaciers and wildlife, is proving to be highly sensitive to climate change. When the park was founded in 1910, it contained 150 glaciers; now, only 25 remain, and even these could be gone in another 20 years. Glaciers serve as a long-term storehouse for water, and their loss could threaten water supplies in the Western United States, as well as cause habitat loss for rare and endangered species, such as the grizzly bear. Visitors can stay at historic lodges within the park.
Wine-growing regions in the USA and France:
Both the Napa Valley in California and the Rhone Valley in France are facing massive production decreases—up to 85%, say some experts—which will force wine producers to move into cooler, wetter areas. The vineyards of the Rhone Valley, stretching over more than 120 miles, may soon become a part of history. Take a week, rent a car, and travel slowly and leisurely along the valley, stopping at vineyards as you go, or join an all-inclusive tour. You can also visit California’s famed Napa Valley wine-growing area, home to 400 wineries. For a truly memorable tour of the Napa Valley, you can take a wine train tour, traveling a historic route established in 1864.
Other natural places in the world at risk from climate change—and definitely worth a visit, as well—include the Amazon rainforest, the Dead Sea, the Alps in Europe, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, and the Andes Mountains in South America.
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 in 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, each month we will carry forward the state that was the best in the previous month’s comparisons, to see...
WHO IS DOING THEIR JOB.
Financial Exploitation of Elders
Comparison of State laws protecting Elders against Financial Exploitation
Does the State define an elder?
Yes. Person 60 years or older
No. depended elder 60 yrs or older.
No. A vunerable Adult.18yrs/older.
Yes. Person 60 years or older
State laws protect elders against financial exploitation?
Are there penalties for financial exploitation of elders?
Yes. Divided into Classes of Felony
Yes. Divided into classes of felony.
Is there a duty to report financial exploitation of elders
Is there a penalty for failure to report?
Does the State law define financial exploitation?
Does the State's Elder law define the following:
b) Undue Influence
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 the wrongful taking, withholding, appropriation, or use of a vulnerable adult's money, real property, or personal property, including but not limited to:
(1) The breach of a fiduciary duty, such as the misuse of a power of attorney or the misuse of guardianship privileges, resulting in the unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property;
(2) The unauthorized taking of personal assets;
(3) The misappropriation or misuse of moneys belonging to the vulnerable adult from a personal or joint account; or
(4) The failure to effectively use a vulnerable adult's income and assets for the necessities required for the vulnerable adult's support and maintenance, by a person with a duty to expend income and assets on behalf of the vulnerable adult for such purposes.
Financial Exploitation means an action which may include, but is not limited to, the unjust or improper use of a vulnerable adult's financial power of attorney, funds, property or resources by another person for profit or advantage.
Financial exploitation means: the use of an eligible adult's resources by another to the disadvantage of that adult or the profit or advantage of a person other than that adult.
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: a misrepresentation or concealment of material fact relating to the terms of a contract or agreement entered into with the elderly person or person with a disability or to the existing or pre-existing condition of any of the property involved in such contract or agreement; or the use or employment of any misrepresentation, false pretense or false promise in order to induce, encourage or solicit the elderly person or person with a disability to enter into a contract or agreement.
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
Intimidation means: the communication to an elderly person or a person with a disability that he or she shall be deprived of food and nutrition, shelter, prescribed medication or medical care and treatment or conduct.
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.
As we have just begun, 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 through the EARN Contact Form or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org