"Nothing Left Unsaid" Documentary about Gloria Vanderbilt's 90+ Years Showcases How Families Benefit from Sharing their Stories

Seniors, caregivers and families can learn how sharing a senior's life story can benefit everyone in the family. Gloria Vanderbilt, socialite, heiress, artist, entrepreneur, actress and mother shares how she began the conversation about her life with her son, newsman Anderson Cooper in this new documentary.

Nothing Left Unsaid profiles Gloria's life and how she has navigated being in the spotlight since the day she was born. Her life story will leave you inspired to stay positive and keep on living, as she is doing, as you are aging, while appreciating the lessons learned along the way.

You can catch this documentary tonight, April 29th, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on CNN and it also will continue to air on HBO. You will not be disappointed.

Anderson Cooper, one of her 4 sons, shares that there were many things he did not know about his Mother until they began the deeper conversation.  Begin to ask your senior loved ones about their life stories and go deeper to ask "why" to learn more about who they really are and how they became the person you know.

One really interesting item Anderson shared was that his mother earned more money than she inherited. He chooses to not inherit any money as he says he sees that many are not motivated to develop their passions when they do not have to earn a living. Gloria Vanderbilt continues to develop her passions and we compliment her for promoting this documentary and sharing her story with us at age 92. And also thank her for bringing us designer jeans with a little bit of stretch in them!

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Anderson Cooper with his Mom, Gloria Vanderbilt

End-of-Life Care Ethics: NYC Hospital Made Home for Heiress for Twenty Years

Posted By: Julie Northcutt

End-of-Life care sparks opinions and contemplation for everyone, especially for those of us working in the senior care industry who have witnessed a variety of scenarios.  Hospice care was established to help families navigate through the details and emotions of saying goodbye to a lifetime of friends and family and.....assets.  It seems that time after time it is the assets that can cause problems for everyone for many years after someone has deceased.

Following estates and how they are divided and contested makes for fascinating reading.  The dramas can be better than the best movies and even become the material for movies.  Even when everyone thinks the estate has been firmly settled and legally structured, the heirs can bust a move to contest an issue.  Remember Lady Astor?  Her son seemingly (and a court agreed) convinced her to sign a new will after her memory loss had begun.  

Huguette Clark is the most recent heiress who has some relatives wanting more money from her estate.  A reclusive copper heiress, she collected dolls and found solace in playing with dolls as an adult and lived her last 20 years at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.  She had no children, but her distant relatives did inherit some of her money and now they are digging for more dollars, filing documents in Manhattan Surrogate court that seem to show the hospital also begged Mrs. Clark for dollars.

In one e-mail, the CEO of Beth israel joked that a Manet painting Mrs. Clark donated the hospital did not bring as much as they would have liked at auction and joked that Mrs. Clark "didn't take the bait and offer a half dozen more."  Mrs. Clark gave the hospital more than $4 million dollars and stayed at the hospital until her death at age 104, in addition to the millions she privately paid to stay at the hospital.  She also donated another $1 million in her final, contested, will.

The fact that a hospital allowed someone who perhaps was depressed, but did not need acute medical care, to remain as a patient for 20 years raises ethical questions.  Might have there been a better environment for Mrs. Clarke to live in to address her emotional needs? The fact that the hospital did keep her for so many years and continued to ask her for donations is alarming.  The New York Times reports some of the more disturbing facts, such as the hospital sending staff out to research the Clarke family in order to better understand her wealth.  Mrs. Clarke paid the hospital $1,200 a day for her room.

Sometimes it seems, doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, should take precedence.  A grown woman who watches the Smurfs cartoon and plays with dolls all day probably is not in the state of mind to make donations in the millions to a hospital and to decide she should stay indefinitely in a hospital -  it does not take a degree in medicine to know that.  It takes everyone to be a watchdog for ethics, including senior caregivers.  The Inspector General's office can be one place to report senior abuse and instances of Medicare of Medicaid fraud.  It will be interesting to see how Mrs. Clark's heirs are able to gain some restitution from Beth Israel Hospital.

However, this scenario also begs the question:  where the heck were Mrs. Clarke's heirs during the 20 years she was staying at the hospital?

Research your senior care options ahead of time and plan for the costs of senior care and rehabilitation which often takes place in a nursing home.  This way, if you happen to have an uncle who was a copper baron from Montana, you may better be prepared for how to plan.  

Wealthy Socialite Brooke Astor Estate Finally Settled

Estate planning can be a complicated process, especially when age-related illnesses, such as memory loss develop.  Unfortunately, some will take advantage of a senior’s forgetfulness.  The fact that one of the wealthiest families in the U.S.A. could not succeed with the implementation of their estate plan speaks to the challenges of this.  So if you thought you were the only one with a family where everyone did not get along, well, even the very, very wealthy have the same challenges - and even when they are paying for top lawyers to establish solid legal documents.  Anything can be argued, it turns out.

Adult children want to inherit their money, in most cases.  It is important and that a trust or will is set-up well before any age-related illnesses develop.

Brooke Astor, the wealthiest socialite in New York City, did plan ahead for her death.  As she had actively raised money for many non-profit organizations as a philanthropist during her lifetime, she wanted some of her money to be left to these groups.  However, it turns out her son decided to have her sign a new will, after her memory loss had developed, which shifted some of this money to him.

After five years in limbo, the attorneys will now get the most generous share of this son’s inheritance.  But the cultural institutions, parks and schools will now receive the money that Ms. Astor had intended for them to receive. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will receive $20 million and the New York Public Library will receive $15 million and $30 million will go into a fund to improve education in New York.

The tabloids have had a field day covering this story, as those testifying in the court rooms gave many juicy tidbits, such as a maid who said the daughter-in-law was called “Ms. Piggy”.  She was the wife of Anthony Marshall, Ms. Astor’ son, who was the one who had her sign his new version of her will.  Now he will receive just $14.5 million and must give the majority of that to the attorneys who fought the case for him.  He was convicted on 14 charges, including grand larceny, related to an alleged scheme to loot his mother’s fortune in the final years of her life. Mrs. Astor died in 2007.

A senior himself now, at 88 years old, he has said he is happy the probate proceedings have been resolved.

Other groups to receive gifts include Rockefeller University, Central and Prospect parks, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Hall and the Trust for Public Land's New York City playgrounds program.

New York University's School of Education is to receive $2 million and Historic Hudson Valley expects to get $1.2 million.

Drawings and other artwork valued at $4 million will go to the Metropolitan Museum, the Morgan Library and other charities.

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Caregiverlist's Estate Expert on Good Morning America

Caregiverlist's "Ask the Expert" section allows you to submit your senior care questions to industry experts, including Alexis Martin Neely, an attorney specializing in family law.  Alexis was a guest on Good Morning America today, discussing her recent book "Wear Clean Underwear", along with estate planning.

She also talks about 5 legal documents every family should have on Good Morning America today. 

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