The abuse of the elderly has become a significant public health problem, the extent of which can be hard to truly know. Seniors are particularly vulnerable when it comes to abuse, especially when their cognitive faculties are declining and they are unable to advocate for themselves. We would all like to think that our elders would be afforded the respect they deserve, especially from the people who should be dedicated to their well-being. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Each year hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of sixty are abused, neglected or financially exploited. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimates that nearly 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ has experienced some form of abuse.1 This poor treatment of the elderly is not limited to either gender, and even wealthy and powerful people can become victims.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is broken into two categories, domestic and institutional. Domestic abuse generally refers to mistreatment committed by someone the victim has a special relationship with, including a spouse, sibling, child, friend or caregiver. Institutional abuse is committed in residential facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, by someone with a legal or contractual obligation to provide some element of care. The following types of abuse can occur in either institutional or domestic scenarios:
- Physical Abuse: Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a person, or depriving them of a basic need.
- Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on a person through verbal or nonverbal actions.
- Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, or coercing a person to witness sexual behaviors.
- Financial Abuse/Exploitation: Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of a person’s funds, property, or assets.
- Neglect: Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection.
- Abandonment: Desertion by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
The Sumner Redstone Elder Abuse Case
On October 25, 2016, billionaire Sumner Redstone filed suit against two of his ex-girlfriends claiming elder abuse among other allegations. Redstone claimed that his former girlfriends, Manuela Herzer, and Syndey Holland, coerced him into liquidating his assets and giving each woman a ‘gift’ of $45 million, resulting in nearly $100 million in tax obligations that Redstone was forced to pay using company funds.
Mr. Redstone’s family claimed that he was mentally and physically unfit to make important financial decisions, accusing Herzer and Holland of maliciously manipulating the 93-year-old billionaire. Herzer was removed of her duty as Redstone’s health care agent last year, where she then tried to challenge the decision by also claiming that Redstone was not competent enough to make such a decision.
The two women have now changed their tune, however, saying that Redstone was of sound mind and body when he gave them their respective gifts.
The lawsuit also cited several e-mails from a nurse of Mr. Redstone’s who said she repeatedly heard Herzer and Holland berating him and claiming his family did not want to visit him. If the allegations are true it will definitely constitute elder abuse, as Redstone’s aged condition resulted in at least one party trying to take advantage of him.
If you or a loved one is suffering or has suffered elder abuse, Hardy Wolf & Downing is here to help. Each of our partners has extensive experience investigating, preparing, and trying cases in court. Defending the rights of people who have done so much for us is a true passion for our attorneys, and we’d be honored to help you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.