Astor’s Son: Neglect Claims ‘Untrue’

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The New York Sun

With the 104-year-old grand dame Brooke Astor spending her second day in the hospital yesterday, her son responded for the first time to claims that he had neglected his mother.

“I am shocked and deeply hurt by the allegations against me, which are completely untrue,” Anthony Marshall said in a statement.

The allegations put forward by Mr. Marshall’s son, Philip Marshall, are tantamount to an accusation of deliberate abuse. A judge sealed the court papers detailing the allegations Wednesday morning, but an article in the Daily News, which obtained the papers before the judge’s ruling, described Mrs. Astor’s home-life in recent months as being a dramatic departure from a healthy standard of living. The article said Mrs. Astor slept in ragged nightgowns on a couch that smells of urine. Her diet, the article said, was restricted to porridge and peas. The article also said Mr. Marshall reduced her prescriptions and refused to buy her new clothes.

Three well-known friends of Mrs. Astor, Annette de la Renta, Henry Kissinger, and David Rockefeller, filed affidavits affirming her need for the best treatment and lifestyle available. A spokesman for Mrs. de la Renta and Mr. Rockefeller, Fraser Seitel, said the affidavits focused on the importance of Mrs. Astor receiving “the best treatment,” and not “opining on what was in the body of the text” of the allegations.

Mr. Marshall didn’t counter the individual claims yesterday, but in a statement he said he spent $2.5 million a year on his mother’s “care and comfort alone.” She has a staff of eight to take care of her needs, he said.

“I love my mother and no one cares more about her than I do,” he said.

A Manhattan judge ruled that temporary guardianship over Mrs. Astor be given to Mrs. de la Renta until a hearing on August 8. Mrs. Astor was admitted to Lennox Hill Hospital on Wednesday morning. Mr. Seitel said Mrs. Astor was listed in stable condition at the hospital, but would not say what conditions required medical treatment.

An elder-law attorney, Peter J. Strauss, said the issues in a case of elder abuse allegations could be more complex than they first appear.

“Is this person acting in a way that that is in her best interests?” he said.”I don’t know, but a guardian is entitled to certain amount of discretion.”

Having himself been a guardian for a 103-year-old woman, he said it’s possible that Mr. Marshall was overwhelmed by the duties of a guardian and needed to hire a professional care manager. Still, if the allegations were true, he said, it would only prove a disturbing trend of elder abuse that is systemic across the country.

Jaime Drake, a prominent interior designer who is involved with one of Mrs. Astor’s favorite benevolence projects, Furnish a Future, called her a “marvelous woman.”

“She should thrive and prosper,” he said. If the allegations are true, he said, “they are very sad.”

The New York Sun

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