Harry and Ethel Glasner’s retirement in Florida allowed them to enjoy sun and warmth for many years. But their golden years ended on a sour note for their children as the mentally deteriorated Harry was exploited out of the couple’s life savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The nefarious act was accomplished by a man who claimed to be his son.
Making recovery of the funds virtually impossible, “The police refused to do anything about it,” said their daughter, Pamela Glasner, 59, of Connecticut.
The experience inspired Glasner to write and produce a documentary film about the proliferation of elder abuse that includes an extensive interview with actor Mickey Rooney, who testified before Congress about his victimization by a younger perpetrator.
“After six weeks of banging my head against the wall, I called my business partner and said, ‘We need to do a documentary about it,’” Glasner told The Macomb Daily. “It was at the same time Mickey Rooney was testifying about his experience, so I called his agent, and he called me back a couple of days later and said he would do it.”
The film, “Last Will and Embezzlement,” will be the subject of a Sept. 25 seminar, “Safeguarding The Golden Generation,” at the Italian American Cultural Center in Clinton Township. It will feature Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, senior crime Assistant Prosecutor Suzanne Faunce, Wayne State Law School Associate Professor Susan E. Cancelosi, Natalie Pearce of the Area Agency on Aging 1–B, and elder law attorney Terri Giampetroni. The moderator will be Catherine Emerson, elder law assistant prosecutor for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.
A second event will take place Sept. 30 at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts at the Jewish Cultural Center in West Bloomfield Township.
Rooney, now 92, says in the fiilm, “Don’t worry, I’m taking care of you, that’s what (his perpetrator said). And he was taking care of himself.
“Gosh, if it can happen to Mickey Rooney, it can happen to anybody.”
Glasner said there needs to be more effort by the legal system and law enforcement into protecting the elderly against abusers, who typically are not strangers but someone close to the victim, sometimes a family member who may have initial good intentions but may be having financial troubles and takes advantage of an opportunity for exploitation.
“We’re going to have the biggest shift in wealth in our history” over the next 20 years, she said. “We had better put something in place now or we’re going to have the same risk of elderly abuse that we’re having now.”
Glasner said her late father, who had Alzheimer’s Disease and died in 2012 at 90, was persuaded to sign away his power of attorney by a man who developed a relationship with both Glasners and was able to visit him in his nursing home by telling authorities he was Harry Glasner’s son.
“He didn’t know what he was signing. It could have been the Magna Carta,” Glasner said. “After my mother died (in April 2011), my brother (Corey) called the nursing home to tell them he would be now taking care of him. The nursing home said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Your brother is taking care of it.’ My brother said, ‘I don’t have a brother.’”
Glasner said she was naïve that her parents could be exploited. She believes the perpetrator, a man in his 60s, began ingratiating himself into her parents’ lives in 2008, when her parents suddenly changed their tax status, a move that surprised her but failed to raise suspicions.
“It never occurred to me that my parents could be at risk, and it never occurred to me after we found out that the police’s attitude would be so lackadaisical,” she said. “Most of the time they say, ‘Oh, this is a civil matter. Go get a lawyer.’
“The perpetrator even looked at me and boasted to me about it. He said we couldn’t do anything about it.”
The film – of which a shortened, 23-minute version will be shown at the event – and an accompanying guide can help the elderly and their adult children learn how to guard against abuse as the population ages and baby boomers enter their retirement years.
The most vulnerable are seniors who “feel alone and abandoned,” she said.
“That’s why perpetrators are easily able to work themselves in,” she added. “That’s why a smiling face at the front door can be so convincing. The perpetrator says to them, ‘Oh, your kids are 1,300 miles away? I can take you to the doctor. I can take you to the store.’”
To protect themselves, the elderly should remain in consistent communication about finances with a trusted loved one. If seniors don’t have a confidante, they should contact the Area Agency on Aging if they suspect anything unscrupulous, she said.
“One phone call to the (AAA), and they can send somebody over to the house,” she said. “They have specific training on what to do and on the right questions to ask.”
The AAA’s telephone numbers are 586-226-0309 in Macomb County and 248-357-2255 in Oakland County.
An adult child, meanwhile, should try to ask pointed questions about anything that may seem unusual about their parent’s finances, she said.
The best advice she can give to middle-aged people to prepare for their future in senior citizen-hood is to set up legal protection, such as wills, trusts and “advanced directives,” through an attorney, she said.
The film is directed by Deborah Louise Robinson.
The event, sponsored by Starjack Entertainment, takes place 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the hall, located at 43843 Romeo Plank Road. Tickets are $18-$29, some of which include the book, “Silver and Gold … Discussion Guide.” For tickets (for the Clinton Township Conference) or more details, call 586-806-9875.