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Elder Abuse Trial Starts for Palm Beach County Couple Alleged to Have Locked in Alzheimer’s Patient

A Boca Raton couple started trial this week for allegedly abusing the woman’s elderly mother, the Miami Herald reported Aug. 31. Kerstin and Toby Fenn are accused of neglecting Kerstin Fenn’s mother, Elly Lorey, who died at the age of 89 of starvation and dehydration. Lorey had advanced Alzheimer’s disease but received no care for it, the article said, and weighed just 80 pounds when she died. The Fenns are charged with first-degree murder and aggravated elder abuse, and face life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say Lorey was kept in a locked and unventilated bedroom in the Fenns’ home, with a wooden lattice blocking a sliding glass door and pizza boxes nailed over the air-conditioning vents to keep the smell of the room from affecting the rest of the house. According to police reports, the Fenns had a maid who refused to enter Lorey’s room to clean it. Police reports also said Lorey smeared feces on the walls and ate a diet of ramen noodles and packaged honey buns. The Fenns’ attorney told the paper that they never abused Lorey and that the same thing could have happened to anybody who tried to treat an Alzheimer’s patient without a doctor. The trial will feature big names testifying for both sides, including defense expert Dr. Michael Baden, a host of HBO’s documentary series Autopsy.

A geriatrics expert quoted by the Herald said it’s common for Alzheimer’s patients to lose weight, and that cultural differences and lack of education may have contributed to the Fenns’ caregiving decisions. However the expert said, locking an Alzheimer’s patient into a room could constitute negligence, especially if she was a danger to herself or others. I am not an expert in geriatric medicine, but negligence, in the legal world, is defined as failure to take reasonable care to avoid foreseeable harm. As a Deerfield Beach elder abuse attorney, I believe it’s easy to foresee harm from locking anyone into a room where she is helpless and dependent. It’s even easier to foresee if the victim is a dementia patient who can no longer care for herself.

The Tamarac elder abuse lawyers at Cohn, Smith & Cohn represent families seeking to hold caregivers legally responsible for abuse, neglect or exploitation of the people under their care. Criminal prosecutions may be brought against caregivers and nursing homes caught hurting the people who trusted them — but they cannot usually compel the abusers to pay the high costs associated with the abuse, such as the cost of medical care to fix the medical problems or hiring new caregivers to replace the negligent ones. Our Hialeah elder abuse attorneys help families victimized by caregiver abuse claim these and other costs back from the abusers, in addition to or instead of a criminal or professional licensing investigation.

If you have an older loved one who has been abused, neglected or exploited, Cohn, Smith & Cohn can hold the abusive caregivers legally responsible for the terrible results. To learn more at a free consultation, please call our main office in Hollywood at (954) 431-8100 or contact us through the Internet.

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