Interview with William Henry, Jr

What is new and different about this novel, The Crown of Life Society?
This is the first novel ever to address elder exploitation and family caregiving as primary subjects. The problem of elder exploitation continues to grow, as the population ages and the number of schemes to steal from vulnerable elderly people continues to grow. Meanwhile, elders' families are so busy with their own careers, families and other demands on their time that they find it difficult to spend as much time with their elderly loved ones as they would like. Often, they live at a distance from the elders. In that environment, exploiters often find opportunities to prey on the elders. The Crown of Life Society illustrates many of the kinds of exploitation that occur, so readers can understand the threat and protect against it. Also, it is a sympathetic look at the struggles involved in family caregiving.
Why is the problem of elder abuse worse now than ever?
There are 41 million people in the U. S. over age 65, and that number will rise to 70 million by 2030. Also, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one in eight Americans over 65 has some degree of dementia. Dementia can make elders more vulnerable to abuse. So there are more potential victims of elder exploitation all the time. Meanwhile, career criminals and one-time opportunists are finding more and more ways to identify and take advantage of elders who are too naive and too trusting. Whether it is a bogus financial investment or the theft of one's identity to perpetrate Medicare fraud, the number of schemes keeps increasing. A study by Virginia Tech, the Metlife Mature Market Institute and the National Committee For the Prevention of Elder abuse estimates the annual financial loss at nearly $3 billion. The number might be higher, because elders who have been victims often are reluctant to report the loss.
Why are elders reluctant to report that they have been exploited?
They often are ashamed that they have allowed someone to take advantage of them, or they are afraid if their vulnerability becomes known they will lose their independence (family might want to put them into assisted living or a nursing home). Also, it often is a family member who has taken advantage of the elder, and the victim does not want to press charges against that family member.
Can't law enforcement help prevent elder abuse?
Often they are not aware of a problem until the damage has been done. The same is true of Adult Protective Services. They do a great job once they become involved, but it really is up to elders' families to watch for signs of abuse, and take action to prevent it. The family is the first line of defense, and the job can't be outsourced. There is too much at stake.
How can families spot signs of abuse and take action to prevent it?
Always know who is in your elderly loved one's life, besides you. What is the nature of the relationship? Is the other person getting between you and your elder, in any way? For example, if you have hired a caregiver, does the caregiver always manage to be present when you are visiting your elder, and perhaps answer questions you have directed to the elder? Does your elderly loved one seem more withdrawn, hesitant to speak, or avoid eye contact? If you have durable power of attorney, you can see whether your elder is making more cash withdrawals from the bank, or writing checks to people you don't know, or otherwise changing how he or she handles money. These are just a few examples of signs to watch for. If you detect possible abuse, it is important to talk with your elder about it. Express your concern in a gentle, caring way, and don't be surprised if it takes some time to get him or her to talk about it. If you have hired a caregiver and have any reason not to trust him or her, terminate the relationship. If your elder has a new acquaintance whom you believe might be taking advantage, confront that person, and get him or her out of your loved one's life. Here is where law enforcement and Adult Protective Services might be helpful. They are trained to investigate these situations. Contact them, even if you do not have all the facts yet.
Are the characters in The Crown of Life Society based on real people?
The primary villain, Sherrelle, is entirely fictional. But almost all the other villains are based on real people, and real events. Some of those events have been reported in the media; others are based on the experience of coauthor A. Frank Johns, Jr., in his elder-law practice. The family caregivers who share their experiences in the novel's "Caregiver Coping" chatroom are based on real caregivers who participate in the many Websites and blogs on caregiving that have appeared over the past several years. We wanted readers to recognize their own family situations in that chatroom, and enjoy the novel on that level, while also learning how criminals can take advantage of the elderly.
You want this novel to stimulate discussion. How are you encouraging that?
We have included a discussion guide at the end of the book, so book clubs and other groups can discuss the issues illustrated in The Crown of Life Society and, to the extent they are comfortable doing so, discuss how those issues affect their own families. The authors also have been busy on social media sites, promoting the book and the issues it raises. We want readers to be able to anticipate and avoid problems that otherwise might occur in their lives, as a result of what they learn in the novel.
The description of The Crown of Life Society includes the claim that the book is "appalling" and "heartbreaking," but also "hilarious." Really? A book on elder abuse could be hilarious?
Yes, there is humor in these characters' lives. Any reader who is, or has been, a caregiver will get some laughs from the "Caregiver Coping" chatroom. They can laugh because 1) those situations aren't happening in their own lives, or 2) they ARE happening, and reading about them in a novel will provide a nice release. Also, one of the inept criminals manages to screw up his attempt to steal a widow's money, and his downfall is amusing to watch. As another example, the residents of a posh retirement community create a game called "Your place or mine?" that will make readers chuckle (and make them wonder, 'would Mom (or Dad) really do that?').
Published 2013-12-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Crown of Life Society - a novel
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 89,310. Language: English. Published: July 18, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Family sagas, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
The many ways in which elderly people are exploited for financial gain, and the struggles of families with caregiving responsibilities for elderly loved ones, are illustrated in this novel. The primary villain has established the Crown of Life Society, where women using stolen identities are trained to exploit the elders in their care. Baby Boomers, especially, will be entertained and informed.