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.
An Alternative to Nursing Home Care
By Mary West
Nursing Home Alternatives to Consider
As people age and require more care, they start contemplating a move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. Places that offer assisted living are often pleasant abodes, but they are pricey, with most costing around $3,000 per month. The nursing home option can be undesirable, as low staffing sometimes results in neglect and abuse of residents.
Are any other alternatives available? The answer is a resounding yes. Below are some wonderful choices to consider that provide a higher quality of life than what is found in most facilities.
The village concept permits seniors to live at home longer than would otherwise be feasible. It started in 1999 with the founding of Beacon Hill Village, a network of elderly residents in a Boston neighborhood. Since that time, more than 150 villages have been formed around the world, and more than 100 are in development, reports The Atlantic.
Villages have several benefits. Members vet service providers such as home care workers, drivers, and plumbers, so everyone has access to a list of trustworthy people they can call should any need arise. Seniors belonging to the village also go to museums together and socialize. Staff or volunteers serve in many ways, such as taking members to the doctor or grocery store.
The cost of belonging to the networks varies. While the Beacon Hill Village members have a yearly fee of $675, which pays for full-time staff, other villages are operated by volunteers and have much lower fees or no fees at all.
Do villages have drawbacks? One concern is the safety issue associated with being alone 24/7. A senior could fall, and some time could elapse before the person is found. However, this problem should be weighed against the alternative of spending years in a dreary but safe existence.
Staying at Home (Non-Village)
Because the village network concept is relatively new, many seniors may not live in an area where they have access to one. Nonetheless, making modifications in the home and arranging for an array of services may enable the elderly to stay out of a long-term care facility longer, according to U.S. News & World Report. Although this choice doesn’t come with the social benefits of villages, it gives seniors the profound comfort and pleasure of more years in their own home.
Home modifications can significantly promote independent living. These changes would include building an outdoor ramp and widening doorways to permit easy maneuverability of a walker or wheelchair. The bathroom is a critical area, but installing a floor-level shower and grab bars as well as using a raised toilet seat and shower bench can make a big difference. Removing area rugs and other potential obstacles can reduce the risk of falling.
When seniors are no longer able to cook, various organizations can help. Meals on Wheels delivers frozen meals that accommodate special dietary restrictions. This need may also be met by churches or senior homes that offer meals in a community dining setting.
A geriatric care manager can assist seniors in finding local resources for other services. When housekeeping becomes difficult, a cleaning crew can be hired to come every other week. If vision and health problems make driving unsafe, groceries can be ordered online and delivered; Mobile Markets is a grocery delivery service for seniors. Some communities have volunteers that provide rides to doctors’ appointments and other places.
Hiring a Caregiver
Some seniors need more than modifications and services to be able to stay in their home. If they have the income to cover the expense, they can have a caregiver 24/7. If this isn’t necessary, they can hire a caregiver for four to six hours per day for an average cost of $21 per hour. A home health agency nurse could also visit daily to check on vital signs and medications.
Moving in with Children
One in six American households is multigenerational, reports Safewise. Moving in with children presents the advantage of maximal personal involvement, but it can pose challenges when everyone is accustomed to having their own space. Some homes have an attic, basement, or area over the garage that can be transformed into separate living quarters for a senior. Another option is to purchase a MEDCottage or “Granny pod,” which is a freestanding unit with all the amenities of home that can be installed on the property.
If a senior is alone at home all day, an adult daycare center could be of value. The staff monitors medications and provides crafts, games, and other amusements. On average, these centers cost $76 per day.
Joining a Retirement Community
Moving to a home or apartment in an age-restricted community can come with several perks such as meals, transportation, cleaning, and on-call medical care. This is a choice to consider for seniors who are relatively independent and only need the availability of services.
Adult Foster Care
Regulated by states and counties, adult foster care is less expensive than assisted living and nursing home facilities, with nationwide costs ranging from $1,500 to $3,500 per month, reports Paying for Senior Care. In this scenario, one to three seniors are cared for in a home. They receive personal care, meals, and supervision, along with assistance with toileting, bathing, and medications.
Group living was discussed in more detail previously in the Silver Standard News. It involves several friends moving in together, which is similar to the village network but on a smaller scale. This concept offers an economic advantage because the friends can share expenses. It also means the seniors always have someone with whom to share activities and engage in conversation. In addition, group living affords safety because the friends can get help if a senior falls or needs medical attention.
A one-size-fits-all choice doesn’t exist, as preferences and needs will vary. Notwithstanding, the elderly can take heart that a move to a facility isn’t necessarily an inevitability. In many cases, they may select among alternatives that permit them either to stay in their own home or to move to a family member’s or friend’s home. All of the options have multiple positives.
I Was Just Thinking...
by Joan Hunt
Embedded in the Lesson
One of the great things about getting older is you don’t worry as much about what other people think of you. That must be why I was totally comfortable going to church a few weeks ago with my teenaged granddaughter and the “baby” she had charge of during the weekend for her family living project.
The concept is that the student takes care of a plastic baby that has been monitored to need feeding, changing, and cuddling at various times during the day and night—just like a real child. Its sensors can apparently tell if the baby is shaken or manhandled, and it records the student’s reactions to each of its needs. The baby’s wiring somehow records satisfaction when it gets a bottle during its crying mode, gets changed during its bathroom-needs mode, or gets held if it is just crying for an unknown reason.
Frankly, I was a little surprised that Vivian chose to attend church with this little time bomb. More so when she told me the teacher had accidentally given her the wrong color of diapers for the baby, so it often cried for quite a while even after she changed it. But the lesson was to take the baby everywhere during the weekend to see how much a baby would affect your daily life, and although she is somewhat shy in public, Viv likes to do things right.
I have taken her and her brother to three different churches in the past few months, trying to find a good fit for them. One thing we decided at the start was that we would only try accepting and affirming churches that welcome everyone. Brad stayed home this particular Sunday with a cold (or possibly a premonition that we were pushing the envelope with the plastic kid), so it was just the two of us. We decided we would blend in better at the big stone church in Hartford, and that we would sit in the back pew in case things went south.
The “baby” created a minor stir while we were walking in because it is life-like and comes with its own infant seat and diaper bag. Vivian handled it well, explaining that it wasn’t real and telling one particularly interested lady all about the school project.
It turned out that the theme that week was “accepting others for who they are.” The hymns reflected the message to embrace others right where they are in life and to welcome their differences. We soon learned, however, that the welcome did not extend to plastic babies.
The first time it cried, Vivian quickly fed it. Although it is programmed to make annoyingly loud sucking noises, the sound of the choir drowned it out, so we thought we were home free. But after a few silent moments, it started to whimper again.
According to our prearranged plan, Vivian took the baby outside into the vestibule—as I have dozens of times with my own children—until it calmed down. If that didn’t work, I would come out in a couple of minutes and we would go home. Sitting in the back of the church, I could hear no baby sounds outside, so I was not surprised when Vivian came back a minute later with a quiet “baby.”
The sermon was titled “Fear Not,” but we never got to hear it, because the wrong-sized-diaper phenomenon hit just about the time of the Doxology. Realizing that we had pressed our luck, Viv and I decided to book it back to the car before the choir stopped singing, so nobody would hear the noise.
When we were safely in the vehicle, she told me that a man had come up to her in the vestibule and scolded her for disturbing the service. In fact, he was the very man who had dourly accepted my offering as I dropped it into the plate on my way out the door.
Turns out, Vivian learned two lessons that day: it is tough to be a teen-aged mom, and it is easier to say you accept others who are different than it is to actually do it.
RIGHT-TO-DIE LAWS HASTEN EXPENDABLE HUMANITY
By Romona Paden
Fifty years ago, Western society cherished its life-affirming attitudes, but contemporary society has moved a long way from those norms.
In 1975, 21-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan fell into a vegetative state after mixing alcohol and Valium. When Quinlan’s parents requested removal of the life-support respirator administered by doctors, local prosecutors threatened homicide charges against any hospital official who complied.
As the case entered the legal sphere, much centered on the definition and application of “extraordinary means” of life-saving care. Finally, a decision was handed down by the New Jersey Supreme Court allowing for the removal of the respirator. Miss Quinlan, however, continued breathing on her own and lived ten more years in a nursing home nourished through a feeding tube.
“We never wanted her to die,” Quinlan’s mother said of the situation.
The layers of nuance in the Quinlan case spurred a national debate around morals, bioethics, and euthanasia. The progression of the debate to 2019 demonstrates a slippery slide as legislators around the country embrace and promote the death option—especially for society’s most vulnerable populations.
Euthanasia, mercy killing, and assisted suicide target disabled and elderly elements of the population. Regardless of what it’s called, proponents of these legal positions in other countries have wholeheartedly embraced the notion of disposable humanity.
Legislators wrestle with efforts to create an “acceptable” legal definition of characteristics associated with legitimate reasons to permit the withdrawal of a life. Known under a variety of euphemisms, right-to-die legislation—euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity, and so on—embraces the pursuit of death.
Death with Dignity, an organization promoting the “basic idea that it is the terminally ill people, not government...politicians...or religious leaders…who should make their end-of-life decisions” believes that people have the right to decide how much pain and suffering they must endure and determine when death has become the preferable option.
Despite the irony of seeking legislation in order to avoid state and institutional interference, the Death with Dignity statement speaks to a well-meaning position centered on enabling an escape plan for those faced with an unyielding circumstance.
But from a rational perspective, our understandable sympathy begets unintended—and to many, unacceptable—consequences. In countries where assisted suicide is legal, it is also more and more frequent, with proliferating accounts of unrequested doctor-assisted deaths.
In the United States, according to one report, an intensive-care doctor prescribed “excessive” pain medication, far beyond what was needed to provide comfort and at a potentially fatal level, to at least 27 patients between 2015 and 2018. Each of the affected patients was described as having been near death. Each patient’s family members had requested halting life-saving measures.
The story becomes even more egregious considering that pharmacists and nurses assisting with patient care acted in support of the doctor. If prosecutors prove allegations, it demonstrates staffers’ belief in right-do-die propaganda.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, “euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia, is now a common occurrence,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Bureaucrats defend the practice, which includes euthanizing patients in their 20s and 30s who are diagnosed with mental illness, as wholly in keeping within legal guidelines. Of course, this ignores the essential objections: Are the mentally ill less capable of forming a “true will”? Are their intentions intrinsically more difficult for a doctor—or anyone—to establish? Are they capable of evaluating a situation that asks them to make a life-or-death decision? Do we have the right to decide that their intellectual limitations make them so invaluable as human beings that we can simply dispose of them? In some countries the answer is yes. Is that an answer we Americans have come to feel comfortable with?
Too frequently, the establishment demonstrates excessive mission-driven zeal in executing right-to-die actions, and the public as well is beginning to demonstrate a finance-driven philosophy. In a 2013 study of 84 Facebook groups comprised of 20 to 29 year olds, university researchers reported pervasive comments like, “Seniors are burden to society,” “I hate everything about them,” “They don’t contribute to society,” as well as the desire to see “anyone over age 69 immediately be put in front of a firing squad!”
Underscoring this, former President Obama addressed the issue of end-of-life care costs by suggesting, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.” Perhaps it is the pressure of crushing student loan debt and low-wage jobs that contribute to the callousness and animosity of these young people, but would they make the same proclamations if the elderly people in question were their parents or grandparents?
“There is a growing tendency to promote ‘mercy killing’ as a solution to not just suffering, pain, but aging, mental or physical challenges, social ills, and even rising health costs and cost containment,” according to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s (EPC) list of concerns. Other EPC observations include:
EPC members “believe that euthanasia and assisted suicide should continue to be treated as murder/homicide, irrespective of whether the person killed has consented to be killed.”
Well-intentioned government involvement will invariably develop into mission creep. Oregon is a case in point. The northwestern state spearheaded the right-to-die movement two decades ago. Dubbed Dr. Death in press reports at the time, Jack Kevorkian brought the right-to-die issue to national conversation for his advocacy of physician-assisted suicide.
“Dying is not a crime,” the pathologist said in promoting his pro-death position in the late 1990s.
Included among the individuals Kevorkian assisted in dying were people who were not suffering from any terminal illness as well as some with a history of depression.
Nevertheless, legislators ultimately adopted the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which went into effect in 1998. In the 21 years since adoption of the “world’s first assisted dying statute,” according to its website’s information, “a total of 2,216 people has received prescriptions under the Act, of whom 1,459, or 65.8 percent, have died from ingesting lethal doses of medications.”
In a January 2019 Euthanasia Prevention Coalition blog entry, Executive Director Alex Schadenberg responded to the information by pointing out that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) once again achieved their standard year-over-year increase of right-to-die deaths in the state.
OHA information describes victims of these deaths as mostly over age 65 with a diagnosis of cancer. “Similarly, the most frequently reported end-of-life concerns were loss of autonomy (91.7%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (90.5%), and loss of dignity (66.7%).”
Despite a history of right-to-die program growth, OHA officials currently seek an expansion of definitions within the law. Under the death-creep move, terminally ill patients include those who refuse medical treatment and “therefore the new definition of terminal has an undefined and nearly unlimited application,” Schadenberg writes. “Many people who are not close to being ‘terminally’ ill have a disease that will, within reasonable medical judgement, produce or substantially contribute to death.” Including the refusal of medical treatment within the definition “enables wide-open assisted suicide.”
Still, the state’s presumptive position serves as a model for other states around the country. Washington adopted its version of the right-to-die law in 2008, and then Vermont followed suit in 2013. Since 2015, legislative bodies in California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. each implemented right-to-die statutes.
In a right-to-die bill under consideration within the New Mexico legislature, which Schadenberg describes as the “most extreme assisted suicide bill I have seen,” assisted suicide allowances extend to patients with psychiatric conditions and undefined “terminal” prognosis with lethal injections administered by non-doctor medical professionals—nurses and physician assistants. The bill even grants assisted suicide approvals via telemedicine.
Current legislative right-to-die debates for 2019 are also on the table for Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Virginia.
By Elizabeth Sinclair
Iceland is a land of stark, dramatic landscapes filled with black sand beaches, ice-cold, crashing Atlantic surf, steaming thermal springs, fiery volcanoes, rugged lava fields, frozen glaciers, craggy mountain cliffs, and thundering waterfalls. In the winter, the Northern Lights shimmer across the sky, filling it with ribbons of light; in summer, the day and night merge into endless light as the sun never seems to set. Little wonder Iceland is called ‘The Land of Fire and Ice.”
The island nation has a long literary legacy dating back to medieval times: the Icelandic Sagas, which capture the poetically epic blood feuds, battles, and family betrayals that marked Iceland’s long history. Now a “progressive and peaceful” democracy, Iceland is better known for its quality of life, gender equality, free health care and education, as well as for being a clean, renewable energy leader.
Because of Iceland’s long, dark winters, people historically spent much of their time inside in this season, telling stories while they did their ‘winter work’: spinning wool, knitting, mending, and making or repairing tools and nets. Out of this tradition of storytelling, children learned to read and write, the sagas were shared beside a fire, and Iceland’s literary tradition became established.
Iceland has the most writers, books published, and books read per person of any country in the world. Reykjavik (a UNESCO-designated City of Literature) is home to the bi-annual Reykjavík International Literary Festival and the annual Iceland Writer’s Retreat, as well as the old custom of giving books as gifts and reading on Christmas Eve. (You can take special saga tours, and there is even a Saga Museum.)
The Guide to Iceland is the largest online resource for Icelandic travel servics, with connections to over 1,000 tour and travel operators, in-depth articles, and local travel blogs. Another good site for accessing tours, island information, and itineraries is Extreme Iceland. You might also want to check out Inspired by Iceland, the Icelandic Tourist Board webpage, which can help with trip planning.
Reykjavik, on the island’s southern tip, with its multi-colored houses, public art, and open spaces, is Iceland’s capital (and main) city and a wonderful place for walking and cycling. The Elliðaá River—famous for salmon fishing—runs through the city, emptying into Flaxa Bay. Centrally located Hallgrimskirkja Church is shaped to look like Iceland’s jutting volcanic rock formations. A poignant display along the harbor pays tribute to every ship lost in Icelandic waters.
Clear water and air, as well as free-ranging sheep and cows, together with wild fish, have given rise to traditional Icelandic foods that are simple, fresh, and delicious. Local specialties include skyr (similar to yogurt) rye bread, grass-fed butter and cheeses, as well as lamb and cold Arctic seafood like cod and herring, often served in stews and soups.
Wake Up Reykjavik, run by local foodies, offers a food walk tour and bar crawl as well as a beer tour. The Reykjavik Food Walk visits small family restaurants and local hangouts away from the tourist trail.
The city hosts a number of festivals including the Reykjavik Arts Festival, the Reykjavik International Film Festival, the Sonar Music Festival, and others, mostly in the summer months. Many small villages around Iceland hold their own festivals.
A short drive from Reykjavik is the Blue Mountains ski area, the Blue Lagoon hot thermal baths, and the Heiðmörk Preservation area, a regenerated woodland dotted with lakes, waterways, and lava fields, which is home to large populations of birds and wildlife. You can also enjoy the popular Golden Circle tour as a day trip from Reyjavik, taking in Iceland’s famous Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Field, and the Thinhvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of Iceland’s first Parliament, the Althing.
A good read to prepare you for a trip to Iceland would be any of Halldor Laxness’s books—he is Iceland’s only Nobel Laureate in Literature and the country’s most famous author.
You are welcome to quote from Guide to Iceland materials and use our photos, with credit to Guide to Iceland and a hyperlink to the relevant page. As long as we receive credit, there is no need to contact us for permission.*
By Bill Wine
If you set out to re-tell the familiar story of Bonnie and Clyde—Depression-era bank robbers moving through the American South and Midwest on what, at the time, was the deadliest crime and killing spree in U.S. history—you better have an arresting approach.
Why? Because you're up against the memory and impact of director Arthur Penn's influential, trendsetting 1967 masterwork, "Bonnie and Clyde," starring Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker—a film that captured ten Oscar nominations and six Oscars.
That's the uphill climb undertaken by the dark and gritty cops-and-robbers biodrama "The Highwaymen." The film tells its story from the point of view of two retired Texas Rangers—reserved and efficient Frank Hamer and talkative recovering alcoholic Manny Gault, played respectively by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson—who are pressed back into service to track down the iconic outlaws.
They're turned to by the frustrated Texas governor, played by Kathy Bates, who is sick and tired of seeing the Barrow gang, infamous and elusive cop killers and supposed Robin Hood-type bandits, being celebrated—yes, celebrated—in the press at a time when extreme financial inequality was standing society's values on their heads.
While as a period procedural "The Highwaymen" can't quite match the power or intrigue of its predecessor, it nonetheless makes for a compelling companion piece.
Director John Lee Hancock, he of the eclectic resume ("The Rookie," "The Alamo," "The Blind Side," "Saving Mr. Banks," "The Founder"), leans on his dependable leads— two-time Oscar winner Costner and three-time Oscar nominee Harrelson—and they deliver commandingly.
"The Highwaymen" is, at the very least, a relatively quiet, thoroughly watchable two-hander of a character study and a comfortable showcase for two highly skilled actors.
With the latest forensic technology falling short of the mark, these two former Texas Rangers are coaxed by a consortium of banks to sign on as special investigators to employ their old-school gut instincts to the task of stopping the superstar killers.
That thrust emerges effectively enough, but the film pays a price for our preconditioned fascination with Bonnie and Clyde (played by Edward Bossert and Emily Brobst), who spend most of the film's time lurking faceless in the shadows. This previously untold true story, scripted by John Fusco and Hancock, could probably use even more character delineation, given that the notorious criminals being pursued are pretty much shunted off to the sidelines, seemingly because Hancock wants to avoid glorifying them any further.
Meanwhile, he's busy restoring Hamer's reputation, given that he was memorably shortchanged in "Bonnie and Clyde." Costner's knowing Hamer is the whatever-it takes-leader, with a paunch that corroborates his out-to-pasture status, while Harrelson's chattier Gault provides the film's restrained undercoating of comic relief.
Their bantering buddy dynamic is formulaic, to be sure, but Hancock, with the help of these two old pros, still manages to make that aspect of the proceedings seem freshly observed, helping the film to present itself as a bracing counterpoint to an enduring myth.
Thus, "The Highwaymen" employs a thematic focus that trains our attention on characters who truly deserve it in this celebrity culture corrective.
KEEPING OUR OLDER YEARS GOLDEN
Presently, in this country, all the planning in the world will not guarantee safety in your golden years. However, neglecting to make plans, to have discussions with those closest to you, and to take every legal step possible, does guarantee that you have a good chance of joining the approximately 5 million American citizens who are victims of elder abuse each year, and well as the millions more who suffer the unbearable sorrow of involuntary guardianship.
Twenty-nine states do not have a laws where “elder” is defined as a particular age (usually 60 or 65). Instead, those states limit their protection to individuals who are “vulnerable”, “impaired” or “dependent” adults. This reduces the chance that a case of financial elder abuse (the most frequent form of elder abuse other than neglect) will be prosecuted because district attorneys’ offices are already overburdened—as San Diego Assistant District Attorney Paul Greenwood, the greatest defender of senior citizens, says “the burden of proving the elements of their victim being vulnerable is too high”.
Many more states do not use inclusive enough definitions in defining “deception”, “undue influence” and “intimidation”, thus, making it easier for a slick lawyer to get his abuser client off the hook. Many more do not define those words at all. The most excellent definitions, contained in the Alabama law, can be seen as an addendum to this article.
Many victims of financial elder abuse are elderly women. Most married and raised their families in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Often, in those families, the wife was responsible for the home and children while the husband worked to support the family and took care of all financial matters. Many of these women, now widowed and in their seventies and eighties, despite still being sharp as a tack, may very well fall for a slick sales person with a “sure thing” deal. In addition, science has proven that two areas in the inner cortex of our brains, from which the signals of something suspicious are relayed, begin to diminish as early as in our mid-forties. Another vulnerability.
As a result, a woman like this may well appear to the jury to be as on the ball as anyone else in the courtroom, unless that vulnerability is proven to them That will necessitate a protracted trial of waring gerontologists—something few District Attorneys welcome.
The following is a list of steps you should take (ASAP) in order to arm yourself with the best possible legal protection from financial elder abuse and involuntary guardianship. Then tell those that you have elected to represent your intentions, and whose salaries you pay through your tax dollars, you want laws passed that will protect the elderly population in your state and you want them passed now.
Step 1: INVENTORY
Make a complete inventory of all your possessions and assets. Photographs should be made of homes, furniture, jewelry, cars and any other physical assets you may have. If possible, have all of these items evaluated by a professional appraiser or, the original bill of sale or an accounting of present-day prices of similar items. This should be kept together—one copy held by you, a second copy held by the person to whom you have given your financial Power of Attorney (your agent) and a third person you have chosen as a co-agent.
Step 2: A LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
Choose a trusted relative or friend as the executor of your will.
If at all possible, make sure you have a lawyer and an accountant lead you through this process which can be more difficult than you might think.
If you prefer to do draft your own will, make sure that the state you live in will honor a will that is not drafter by a lawyer. If they do, take stock of everything you own and make it very clear, in writing, how you want the dispensing of these possessions handled. This includes cash, stocks, and bonds. Have this document witnessed and notarized.
If you still have minor children, choose a guardian for your children and choose someone to manage your children's property.
Your will should also contain funeral and burial instructions
Steps 3 and 4: A LIVING WILL
A living will is not a last will and testament in which you relay the direction of your property after your death. A living will, also called an advanced health care directive, defines your wishes for medical end-of-life care in case there comes a time when you are no longer able to communicate those intentions. If you have not clearly, and legally, stated your intentions all decisions concerning your medical care will be made by others and may be contrary to what you want.
There are various companies who make software to facilitate the ability to execute your own will without the services of a lawyer though some states like Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin do not accept universal forms; other states, like California, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, have special requirements for the witnessing of these documents in care facilities. Many states can be very dicey about accepting any will that is not drafted by a lawyer.
If you should choose to go this route, make sure it is tailored to your state requirements. Different states have different requirements.
At the EARN Project, we have seen, even the best lawyer-drafted, directives, wills, trusts and Powers of Attorney disappear as though they had never existed under the heavy hand of an uncaring judge or guardian. For this reason, we believe all of the preparations you make for your protection, should you become incapacitated, and the direction of your estate, after your death, should be drafted by a lawyer. It does not appear to us that the drafting of these documents, so important to your well-being and your estate, is the place to pinch pennies.
We also suggest that you combine a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for health-care into your living will. This delegates a loved one, or trusted friend, to oversee your wishes concerning end-of-life treatment. This person can also make decisions should there be an incident that is not covered in your living will or medical directive.
You should obviously choose the person you trust most, who really will listen to you and who is able and willing to agree. Remember, you are putting your life in that person’s hands and there may be times when they will need to stand up against family, doctors, and bureaucracy in order to protect you and your wishes—you need to feel sure this person, against all odds, will be your greatest defender. You might also consider a second person who can step in should your chosen agent be unavailable in a time of emergency. DO NOT, say all those in the know:
Choose any of your doctors, anyone who is responsible for evaluating your mental or physical capacity, anyone connected to a healthcare facility, or assisted living facility, that you use, anyone who works for any government agency participating in any part of your care, or anyone that a court has already designated as a guardian/conservator for you .
The ABA also recommends you not choose any person who holds the POA for the health care of more than 10 people.
It is imperative that you be very specific about your wishes concerning end-of-life treatment. We assume you will want all measures taken to prevent pain and suffering but you may not want “extraordinary measures”, in which case you would include a “Do Not Resuscitate” order. Or you may wish to leave that decision to the holder of your medical DPOA in conference with your doctor. Or, you may want to state under what circumstances you would or would not want such treatment. You may want to assign a third party who must co-sign all extreme-measures orders for them to be initiated.
It is very important, no matter how much you trust the person to whom you have given your medical POA, to make clear what they do and do not have the right to decide.
One of the stories told in the he documentary, The Unforgivable Truth, produced by The Silver Standard news tells the story of Mercedes Kibbee. Having broken her hip, Mercedes entered a nursing home to receive care until the hip was mended and she could return home. An heir to her estate—a person so highly trusted by Mercedes that she had given them her medical POA—gave that nursing home a “Comfort Care Only” order. Under this order, if Mercedes had developed a small ailment, easily treated with antibiotics and from which she would have recuperated without ill effects, the nursing home was forbidden from administering this curative medication. 85 years old Mercedes almost certainly would have lost her life. In fact, she almost did. Remember, once you sign over your power to someone else, if that person restricts you access to others (especially to a lawyer), you will have no way to revoke that POA.
Depending on a person’s wishes, a living will can go into effect upon its signing, but unless that person is unable to communicate, a reputable doctor is not going to rely on a document when he can talk directly to his patient. A living will can also be revoked at any time by simply destroying the original as well as any copies you may have given to others.
Step 5: DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR FINANCES
As in the medical Power of Attorney, there is great potential for misuse of a financial POA. Choose your agent very carefully.
We also recommend that you delegate a third party as a co-agent who is required to approve, and sign, all large financial transactions. In addition, as the primary agent will have free rein on your finances, it should be mandatory that a yearly accounting of all activity be provided to this third party.
In your will, clearly define the gifts you wish to give and the manner in which you want them given—a one-time gift or multiple gifts over a specific time frame. In both your will and your Financial POA document it is also wise, to make provisions for gifts you might want to give. For example, if you are incapacitated and you have wonderful caregivers, you may want to make it possible for gifts of up to a designated amount be given to those people. In the Financial POA document you may also want to allow your agent to continue your pattern of giving to charities, in designated amounts and frequency, if you are incapacitated.
You may want to consider including an order stating that, as of the date of signing of your financial POA, no gift of more than X (you decide on the amount) may be made by anyone. This can build a fire wall between you and a crafty abuser.
You may also consider, as of the signing of your financial POA, limiting anyone’s ability to replace existing lawyers, brokers, money managers, and accountants without proof of misconduct. This is a good defense against an agent gone rogue and another firewall between you and a crafty abuser.
Remember, even the most trustworthy of individuals, under difficult circumstances, can succumb to temptation—especially when the temptation is money that could get them out of a tight spot.
Step 6: DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO NAME A GUARDIAN
Should you become incapacitated, your living will speaks for you concerning your wishes about medical care and your durable power of attorney insurer's proper oversight of your financial interests.
Even if you have both of these documents in place, you still may need someone else to make, or help make, decisions about your personal life: where you will live, whether caregivers need to be hired, etc. Sometimes this person can be the same person who is your health care POA holder, but sometimes that person does not have the required amount of free time to manage all your affairs.
The decision about whether to name a guardian/conservator or not, is a very personal one. It should be made only after through discussion with family. A possible arrangement could be a co-guardianship that includes your health care agent and one other individual who lives fairly close by and has the time.
It is impossible to give advice on this matter. All we will say is, while making this decision, just remember that the worst thing that can happen to you is to have a court appointed professional guardian.
Step 7: TRUSTS
When making your will, you may want to consider creating trusts for your heirs. Each family situation is different, but this is certainly worth a discussion with your lawyer and accountant as it may save a bundle in inheritance tax—especially if you have a small family business or farm.
If you have heirs who are already financially secure, but you wish to make the gesture of leaving behind a gift for them, consider a Charitable Remainder Trust. It is an irrevocable trust that will pay out on a monthly basis for their life time. Upon their death, the principle goes to a charity in your name. If they are still young, look into a Charitable Lead Trust, which is the inverse of a Charitable Remainder Trust—it will provide financial support to one or more charities in your name until the beneficiary reaches a designated age at which time the remaining assets go to the beneficiary.
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. Vulnerable Adults.||No. Vulnerable Adults.||Yes. Person 60 years or older|
|State laws protect elders against financial exploitation?||Yes||No. Vulnerable Adults.||No. Vulnerable Adults.||Yes|
|Are there penalties for financial exploitation of elders?||Yes. Divided into Classes of Felony||Yes.||Yes||Yes|
|Is there a duty to report financial exploitation of elders||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Is there a penalty for failure to report?||No||No||Yes||No|
|Does the State law define financial exploitation?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Does the State's Elder law define the following:|
|b) Undue Influence||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|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 (i) Failing to use the
real or personal property or other financial resources of the vulnerable
adult to provide food, clothing, shelter, health care, therapeutic conduct,
or supervision for the vulnerable adult;
(ii) using, managing, or taking either temporarily or permanently the real or personal property or other financial resources of the vulnerable adult for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult; or
(iii) Depriving, either temporarily or permanently, a vulnerable adult of his or her real or personal property or other financial resources for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult.
Exploitation means "Exploitation" includes,
but is not limited to, a single incident.
(j) "Illegal use" means any action defined under Mississippi law as a criminal act.
(k) "Improper use" means any use without the consent of the vulnerable person, any use with the consent of the vulnerable person if the consent is obtained by undue means, or any use that deprives the vulnerable person of his ability to obtain essential services or a lifestyle to which the vulnerable person has become accustomed and could have otherwise afforded.
|Financial exploitation: A person commits the crime of financial exploitation of an
elderly if such person knowingly by deception, intimidation, undue influence,
or force obtains control over the elderly property with the intent to
permanently deprive the elderly of the use, benefit or possession of his or
her property thereby benefitting such person or detrimentally affecting the
elderly or disabled person.(a) Creating or confirming another person's
impression which is false and which the offender does not believe to be true;
|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 1) "Deception" means knowingly to:
(i) create or confirm in another a false impression that the offender does not believe to betrue;
(ii) fail to correct a false impression that the offender previously has created orconfirmed;
(iii) prevent another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of theproperty involved;
(iv) sell or otherwise transfer or encumber property without disclosing a lien, adverseclaim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, regardless of whetherthe impediment is of value or a matter of official record;
(v) insert or deposit a slug in a vending machine;
(vi) remove or alter a label or price tag;
(vii) promise performance that the offender does not intend to perform or knows will notbe performed; or
(viii) misrepresent the value of a motor vehicle offered for sale by tampering orinterfering with its odometer, or by disconnecting, resetting, or altering its odometer withthe intent to change the mileage indicated.
(2) "Deception" does not include puffing or false statements of immaterial facts andexaggerated representations that are unlikely to deceive an ordinary individual.
|"Deception", a misrepresentation or concealment of material fact
relating to the terms of a contract or agreement entered into with the elderly or disabled
person or to the existing or preexisting 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 or disabled person to enter into a contract or
agreement. Deception includes:(a) Creating or confirming another person's
impression which is false and which the offender does not believe to be true;
(b) Failure to correct a false impression which the offender previously has created or confirmed; or (c) Preventing another person from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved; or (d) Selling or otherwise transferring or encumbering property, failing to disclose a lien, adverse claim or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the (e) Promising performance which the offender does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed. Failure to perform standing alone is not sufficient evidence to prove that the offender did not intend to perform; property, whether such impediment is or is not valid, or is or is not a matter of official record; or
|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||"Intimidation", a threat of physical or emotional harm to an elderly or disabled person, or the communication to an elderly or disabled person that he or she will be deprived of food and nutrition, shelter, prescribed medication, or medical care and treatment|
|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.||None||"Undue influence", use of influence by someone who exercises authority over an elderly person or disabled person in order to take unfair advantage of that persons's vulnerable state of mind, neediness, pain, or agony. Undue influence includes, but is not limited to, the improper or fraudulent use of a power of attorney, guardianship, conservatorship, or other fiduciary authority.|
Letters to the Editor
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