Melissa’s been reading “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune” by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. She turned me on to the strange, sad tale of a fabulously wealth heiress to a copper fortune, who withdrew herself from society. There’s a great article about her in the Washington Post titled “Will The Corcoran Get The Monet? The Battle Over an Eccentric Heiress’s Last Wishes” by David Montgomery.
When I hear stories about startlingly wealthy people who descend into mentally and physically unhealthy situations, I often wonder if their problems are exacerbated by their wealth, or if we just notice it more because it’s in the news. I have to say, though, that if someone has to go through what this poor woman went through, it’s better for her to have had the money than to not.
I’m going to use this as a jumping off point for conversations about elder abuse. While, to my knowledge (which is super-limited,) that didn’t exactly happen here, it raises the topic of appropriate elder care from institutions. In the heiress’ case, a hospital kept her under its care for at least 20 years, while soliciting her for donations to the hospital. Lovely.
Also, there’s a good Frontline investigative report episode on inappropriate institutional care for the elderly titled “Life and Death in Assisted Living.” It talks about the conflict between for-profit institution’s drive for profit versus the fragility of the elderly in their care.
It’s important that we acknowledge the vulnerability of the elderly to abuse and exploitation. If you want to learn more, click over to the Administration on Aging for information on signs of and resources against elder abuse.