Where will we live?

An elder orphan has plenty of matters to consider and eventually we all get around to the question of where we will live.  I suppose that there is a different and unique answer for each of us.

A few of us will be quite content in a cabin in the woods with a wood-burning stove and a short trip to the creek for fresh water with a canine companion.

My wife and I began our married life together in a rented apartment, went on to buy our first modest home where we happily lived for several years among friendly neighbours.  We moved on to build a comfortable new home in a small village.  It was large enough to accommodate the family that never happened.  After thirty-five years and confronted with health issues we reluctantly made the decision to move to a condominium in a near-by city.

Our condo is certainly spacious enough to accommodate us and has all of the amenities we need or want.  We don’t at all miss the lawn mower or the snowblower.

In the village we enjoyed sitting on our front porch (or leaning on a snow shovel) and chatting with friends and neighbours as they tended to their own properties or were passing by led by the family pooch.  In our condo the elevator ride from our lower level parking spot to the upper floor where we live takes less than fifteen seconds.  It isn’t a lot of time to develop a friendship, or even conduct an introduction.  Attempts to create some kind of cohesive community in our high-rise building have not met with success.  Perhaps it is because of the diversity in age and cultures combined with busy schedules of most people that it hasn’t worked for us.  I know of similar condominium communities where opportunities to interact with each other abound. Unfortunately not so for us.  Perhaps it will eventually happen.

Our next move will probably be to what is referred to in Ontario as a retirement residence or an independent living facility.  These residences are operated by independent companies that receive no subsidies from the government and are free to charge whatever the market will bear for the services that they provide.  Although there are examples of this type of accommodation where condominiums exist, most of them are exclusively rentals.  The accommodations can range from a smaller one room suite to spacious apartments.  Services usually include housekeeping, three meals per day in a common dining room complemented with snacks and beverage such as tea or coffee available all of the time.  The upscale residences will offer movie theatres, exercise facilities, spaces to conduct hobbies and crafts,  courtesy vans and in some cases even a happy hour, all coordinated by a person dedicated to providing entertainment opportunities to their clients.

Giving up grocery shopping and the vacuum cleaner are attractive ideas.   So what’s holding us back?  It is likely the idea of further downsizing.  The thought of sacrificing the generous space that we now occupy with a spare guest bedroom, a large dining room suite and other amenities are certainly a factor.  However perhaps it is relinquishing much of our independence.

 

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It’s That Time of Year Again

For Elder Orphans at this time of year when those around them are celebrating the holiday season with children and grandchildren, Christmas trees and gifts and festive dinners there doubtless are those among us who must stave off the melancholy feelings while we remember the Christmases of earlier times.

I like to conjure up memories of snowy Christmases with excitement with the anticipation of gifts and even a visit by Santa Claus.  I’m still a believer!  There was midnight mass too, but one of the memories most cherished was the celebrations at my grandparent’s home when my aunts and uncles and cousins would gather for a dinner of roast turkey with all of the trimmings.

Fortunate are we among the family of Elder Orphans who are remembered by our friends.  While they are consumed by preparing for the holidays for their children and grandchildren we are grateful that they remember us and often include us in their celebrations.

Others of us reach out to the larger community and participate in preparing dinners and Christmas events for those who may be less fortunate.

And then there are certainly a few among us who will be isolated and lonely.  Perhaps we can find it in our hearts to invite them to our table, especially at this time of the year. It’s a wonderful world.  Be kind.

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Dying Without a Will

The subject of Last Will and Testament is of particular interest to me since I have personally experienced the consequences of having to deal with this situation when my younger brother passed away a few years ago.  Perhaps this story will encourage those who don’t have a will to prepare one and prevent a lot of anguish.

He and I had been estranged for a few years and he lived in Northern Ontario in a community that was about a six hour drive from my home so there were some logistics issues that complicated matters.  A couple of his friends took care of the preliminary matters of having a funeral home collect his remains from the hospital, plan for cremation and so on and I confirmed the arrangements.

Winter was setting in and to make matters even more difficult I was recovering from recent open heart surgery that resulted in complications that kept me in the hospital for nearly a month.  Recovery was slow and I was in no condition to travel so at least for the first few weeks after his death any duties that were required in his residence were relegated to his friends or postponed.

The first issue that you must come to grips with is that there is nobody in charge.  Strictly speaking, there is no one who has the authority to enter the house even if it is to search for a will or evidence that one exists.  His friends took it upon themselves to ignore that complication and search the place, and this probably happened before his death was even pronounced.

Although as his only living sibling, I was the obvious person from whom to take direction, nevertheless I repeatedly reminded them that I had no authority over any aspect of the estate, whatever it may be.  (His spouse passed away exactly two months before him; our parents are deceased, and there were no dependants.)

So we have an unoccupied home in early winter, no assurance that the heating system will even operate, no knowledge if there is even insurance in place to cover it in the event of a loss, a refrigerator and freezer containing food and other perishables, and no knowledge of whatever else might be in the house that would be damaged if frozen.  When his friends made the decision to clear the contents of the place and remove them to their own residence I still had no authority to object, and nor would I under the circumstances.

I asked them to set aside every paper that they found in the home and finally a few weeks later I felt that I would be able to manage the trek to see firsthand what we were dealing with.   I visited the home and discovered that nearly everything had been removed laving a few pieces of furniture, some items in the kitchen cabinets and miscellaneous trivial items.

Upon returning home I sifted through the papers and records that they provided.  His friends claimed that they found no will and after thoroughly looking in every envelope and piece of paper I found none either.

To mitigate damages to what appeared to be the only asset of any significant value and at my own expense I hired a plumber and authorized him to enter the premises and winterize the water and sewage systems in case there was a power failure.  I also contacted the company that had been supplying furnace oil and asked them to continue to ensure that the oil tank was topped up.

To backtrack just a bit, if you die without a will, and nobody comes forward to be named Estate Trustee, the government will appoint one for you.  As with an executor in a will, this person will search through your personal effects for any important papers or documents such as insurance policies, make a detailed inventory of your assets, pay any debts, liquidate or manage your assets, apply for any death benefits, and so on.  Then finally deal with whatever remains.

The Estate Trustee may hire lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers and anyone else they desire to fulfill their role, and of course they are entitled to a fee for their services.  Unless you have a sizeable estate there may not be much left to distribute.  So what happens to whatever remains?  It is distributed to relatives according to the laws of whatever the jurisdiction of your former residence.  Typically, the spouse would inherit first, then children, grandchildren, parents, then nieces and nephews, and so on.  If there are no blood relatives, whatever is leftover will probably be claimed by the government.  There is an excellent reason to consult a lawyer and make a will.

In Ontario, a logical assumption might be that if there were any assets in the estate, there wouldn’t be much left to be distributed to any heirs so the alternative is to apply to the Superior Court to be appointed the Estate Trustee. This process may take several months to be reviewed and approved.  Or not.

There are many obstacles to submitting the application, the largest being that a cheque for the probate fees that would be applicable to the estate is required to be submitted with the application.

Here is where you encounter the hurdles.  Without the certificate the bank will not disclose if there is a savings or chequing account let alone sharing if there are any balances in the accounts.  Of course they will not disclose if there is a mortgage on the property or the balance remaining or if the mortgage was insured.  Financial institutions will not tell you if there are any investments or retirement plans.  In short, you cannot retrieve any useful information to help you establish the value of the estate and the probate fees until a few months have passed and the certificate appointing the trustee arrives in the mail.

Fortunately for me the local postmistress who understood my predicament was willing overlook my lack of authority and bend the rules slightly to help me in a small way by forwarding any mail to me.

Although some real estate agents might be helpful in coming up with an approximate value of the property, you cannot sell the property or even list it for sale.

You can of course keep paying the bills for electricity, heating oil, insurance, snow removal and more.

There is a lot more to the story but I hope that my experience will provide to you a glimpse of the mess that dying without a will leaves behind.

Finally  as a corollary to the story several weeks after I received the authority to become the estate trustee a will was discovered among the possessions that were kept by his friends.  In Ontario as I discovered, a will becomes null and void if the person was married after it was executed.  This was the case in my brother’s affairs so the discovery did not change anything but I mention it anyway to illustrate that there are always potential surprises so one needs to cautious and wary.

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Who will be your executor?

This brief lecture targets everyone, not specifically elder orphans, nevertheless it is an essential element of all estate plans. I’ll keep it brief.

There was a time when being invited to be an executor of an estate was not something to be feared and avoided, but rather considered an honour and a privilege. However over the years, that has changed drastically and it is definitely not something that I would agree to unless there were really no other options available to the person requesting my help. My only personal experience is in the Province of Ontario but I expect that most other legal jurisdictions are moving in a direction that makes the experience much more daunting.

When appointed as an executor there is a great deal of time consuming work to do and a lot of responsibility and you had better be good at keeping records. Here in my Province of Ontario there was a time when you could simply take your best guess as to the value of the assets in the estate and pay the probate tax. As of January 1st, 2015 the Ministry of Finance wants to see details on all bank accounts, real estate property, vehicles and any other assets. The province also suggests executors contact professional appraisers to make sure the valuations are accurate.

When deciding on an Executor be sure to consider if they have the time and the skill to undertake the work and do they have the personality to negotiate on behalf of your estate. I have heard of situations where major charitable organizations have had their lawyers at the table disputing what share of the deceased assets should be allocated to each of them. These discussions are not for the faint-of-heart. Of course it is assumed that you have complete trust in your choice. Another consideration is where the executor lives. In Ontario the task becomes a great deal simpler if the executor also resides in our province. If you decide on co-executors, at least one of them should live in the same province. Will they be able to get along with other executors if you have decided to name more than one? Will they be fair and loyal to your wishes? Will they out-live you?

Here is a list of the tasks that an Executor must deal with as compiled by the Bank of Montreal. Whomever you select should fully understand the duties and responsibilities that they are signing on for. In this post I have presented the facts as I understand them in my home Province of Ontario. Depending on where you live, your mileage may vary so be sure to investigate the nuances of the regulations in your province or state.

One appealing solution as to how to settle on an executor may be to appoint a person that you trust, then, as co-executor choose a professional organization that has the experience and resources to carry the burden and take on all of the detailed work. They may be expensive however you may be comforted in the knowledge that before any steps can be taken, both parties will need to agree.

Finally, you should talk to the person that you have selected to be your executor to determine that they are interested in assuming the role. They are under no obligation to accept the responsibility. They are however able to hire professionals such as lawyers and accountants to assist them in their duties and whose fees would be covered by the estate. And they are entitled to be paid. It may be a good idea to add those details to the will.

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Yes, You Need a Will

Even if you hold the opinion that when you are turned into ashes or compost, and you had no one to guide you on the path to the grave, and you believe that it simply won’t matter what transpires afterwards, you still should have a will.

According to recent surveys, approximately 50% of Canadians do not have a valid will. (Curiously, the percentage of lawyers who do not have a valid will is approximately the same as the general population.) It seems that there are groups who believe that a Will is a document to be written on one’s deathbed.

Other than making it a great deal easier for whoever is left when you “shuffle off this mortal coil” (Shakespeare), there are some other benefits that you may want to ponder.

For instance, since you likely have no relatives, or least ones that you would want to inherit your money, perhaps you would like to see it go to your favourite charity. Possibly you would like to set up an event or a fund in your name. Do you have a treasured item that one of your friends has admired that you would like to pass on to them? Don’t forget about your digital footprint; perhaps you would like to designate someone to delete your on-line accounts and erase your hard drive. What about making sure that your pets are cared for?

And finally, and this is my favourite, how about throwing a grand farewell party in memory of you for all of your friends. I’m sure that they will drink many a toast to you. No doubt if you think about it for a short while, you can add to this list.

You see, the downside of not having a will is that if you don’t have one, the government will make one for you after you have died. (In a future post I’ll share with you my personal experience in dealing with this matter. Stay tuned!) And if you have sufficient funds remaining after they have taken their fees, and hired lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers and other talent to assist them, they just may leave whatever is left to a niece or a nephew or a second cousin that you didn’t even know existed let alone ever sent you a Christmas card. And failing that they will simply park it in the government’s coffers.

You may decide to craft your own document by purchasing a kit for a few dollars or perhaps even by researching the subject at your local library. Nevertheless, this is such an important document that I believe that most people would want to consult with a lawyer who has experience in these matters. From my own experience I discovered that this whole subject can be tricky and results may vary significantly by jurisdiction. When a person dies without a valid will, it is referred to as “intestate” and matters become complicated. As an elderorphan, it is unlikely that there will be a host of people scrambling to become your Estate Trustee, a role which for the most part mirrors that of an Executor named in a will.

In the second paragraph above I used the adjective “valid” to describe a will. It is important to understand that even though you may think that you have a will, there are circumstances that might render it invalid. In most jurisdictions, if you were married after your will was executed, it immediately became invalid. Likewise if you were divorced, parts of your will might be considered invalid. Check it out!

So please invest a few dollars or at least some time and prepare a will. If you do a bit of research on the subject you will discover that in some provinces in Canada you can in fact create a handwritten will from your deathbed known as a holographic Will, and it will be legal if a number of conditions are met. There is a famous (and interesting) case that addresses this. On 8 June 1948 in Saskatchewan, Canada, a farmer named Cecil George Harris who had become trapped under his own tractor carved a will into the tractor’s fender. It read, “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris.” The fender was probated and stood as his will.

Oh, and one more anecdote…..

After the funeral, Mrs. Smith was talking with her best friend about the dearly departed. “You know, he never wanted to leave home, wanted to spend all his retirement years right here in town. He just refused to take me to Hawaii or even to take a cruise in the Mediterranean.”

“Oh, you poor dear,” said the friend, “and now you’ll never see those places.”

“I dunno,” smiled Mrs. Smith, “You know … where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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The Jobless Future

This post doesn’t have a great deal to do specifically with elder orphans other than to reinforce the notion that a lot of us will be comforted by the fact that we don’t have children and/or grandchildren to worry about. (See my earlier post Behind Closed Doors.) Since I have the keys to elderorphan.org be forewarned that I will likely stray off on a tangent from time to time.

I tend to rely a great deal on the Internet for my daily dose of politics, social issues and technology and recently came across this article on bigthink.com entitled “Here’s When Machines Will Take Your Job, as Predicted by AI (Artificial Intelligence) Gurus”. It suggests that many top minds think that automation will cost humans their employment, with up to 47% of all jobs gone in the next 25 years. For example, we should get Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven machines in retail by 2031. By 2049, AI should be writing New York Times bestsellers and performing surgeries by 2053. And if you think that there will still be plenty of jobs in the service industry that will be isolated from this effect, the essay suggests that an unlikely task such as folding laundry should be a breeze for AI by 2022.

There is no shortage of stories on this topic. This morning’s local newspaper featured an a article suggesting that a 3D printer will soon be able to create a small house in 10 hours, for $10,000 and that you’ll be able to speak English into a specially designed cell phone and the person you’re speaking to in Tokyo will hear you in perfect Japanese.

There are of course naysayers who refuse to accept these ideas. I recall about 30 years ago I enrolled in an evening class in digital electronics at the local community college. The instructor related a story of how as a young man he was part of a team at IBM who were tasked with the challenge of building a factory that would operate entirely without humans. The project was successful and achieved the goal of producing telephones. When it was proven that it could be done, the entire operation was dismantled. Few would argue that AI could replace most workers, but the question is whether it will happen. For an argument on the other side see “Robo-AI jobs doomsday may, er… not actually happen.”

I can’t imagine a life without a job. I confess that I was one of the early adopters of the idea that the average non-professional would have several different careers throughout out working years. I was a technician, a sales rep, a teacher, an entrepreneur and held senior management positions in diverse industries, just to present a partial snapshot of my life. All of these positions engaged me and challenged me, but it was always exciting to move on to something new. It occurs to me that a life without a job and without the opportunity to advance in experience and income, it would have been a boring existence. I enjoyed working, and I enjoyed being rewarded for my efforts.

This brings me to wondering what the sociologists will predict about how our world will function without jobs. Will this become like permanent vacation? Will people spend their time playing golf, strumming a guitar and creating works of art? It sounds grand until one ponders where these people will find the income to pursue these pastimes. Certainly a few of the very wealthy do share their fortunes with those who have little income but there are many more who resent the idea of paying people not to work. Will there be a massive shift in the way the tax system works. Will we tax the robots for taking our jobs? Or there will be anarchy and chaos in our society!

I feel compassion for those people in the coal industry and in manufacturing who struggle today, but when these predictions come to pass, could we witness a social/political revolution? And as an early baby boomer, it is possible that this could transpire in my lifetime.

Do you sometimes wish that after you have passed from this earth that in a hundred years you would be able to peek into the workings of our world to witness what happened? But then again, I doubt that in our super-consciousness that we would want to spend a lot of time reflecting on how humans managed to mess up the world. We may just want to spend our time in heaven, playing golf and strumming a guitar.

Further reading:

The Economist – Automation and anxiety

The Guardian – Robots will destroy our jobs – and we’re not ready for it

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Behind Closed Doors

I had no idea what the trigger might be to cause me to write this post, nevertheless I was certain that it would soon become apparent. And there it was, and article on politico.com entitled “How Trump makes us feel.” According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 13% of people surveyed decided to delay or to make the decision to not have children.

Why title this post “Behind Closed Doors?” It would surprise me if there weren’t a lot of elder orphans (or potential ones) who have had a conversation with their spouses or partners about the future, and the concerns that we would have for our children and grandchildren if we were fortunate enough to have any. It is however never a conversation that we initiate with our friends who have kids; unless of course they introduce the subject.

In recent comments by Stephen Hawking, the preeminent physicist, he has changed his outlook on the future of mankind to suggest that a catastrophic event for the human race is imminent. Not so long ago he was suggesting that in order to preserve earthlings we should be focusing on colonizing another planet in the next thousand years. Now he is view is that it should be more like 100 years.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that publishes the Doomsday Clock, it’s now 2 ½ minutes to “midnight”, suggesting that the end of humanity may be near.

When we do engage in these conversations about the future prospects, it inevitably comes up that in their time our parents probably had a lot of concerns about our future too. Perhaps I was isolated from the consequences of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust but I look back on those days in the 50’s and 60’s as rather halcyon times. Yes, I recall that air-raid sirens were installed and tested throughout the land, and underground bunkers were constructed but I was never counseled to dive under a desk when the siren was activated. Perhaps our parents decided that if a nuclear war were to occur it would all be over quickly. If you survived the blast, the radiation would finish you off soon enough anyway. I suppose too that they looked upon it as completely out of their control, and in the hands of the politicians and the military.

Contrast this with the constant drip, drip, drip of today’s threats. The environment and global warming are high on the list. Whether you agree with all but a handful of climatologists and scientists that it is caused by humans or not, it is still a fact of life. We can expect more droughts and floods and I recently read that the oceans are rising much faster than was predicted just a few years ago. Then there are the social issues. The political left and right factions are coming to blows and protests abound; terrorism is a constant threat. . People all over the world are dying as a result of religious/political differences. The nuclear threat has never really disappeared but lately it has surfaced as a distinct danger on more than one front.

We are now learning about the likelihood that a huge group of people will arise who are referred to as the “Useless Class”. These are the people who will soon be replaced by robots and highly intelligent computers. What will become of them?

According to Oxfam the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. They also calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. Those who control the money also control the resources. What are the consequences of this trend?

Two years ago Stephen Hawking told the BBC that the development of full artificial intelligence, could spell the end of the human race. His was not the only voice warning of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak also expressed their concerns about where the technology was heading – though Professor Hawking’s was the most apocalyptic vision of a world where robots decide they don’t need us any more.

Although I’m sure that we can conjure up many more potential threats I’ll conclude this discussion with the mention of global pandemics. Experts warn us that we are in the position for a perfect storm for the viral emergence of a global infectious disease.

My disposition is normally that of a “glass is half full” person, and from a personal perspective I am optimistic that I as a Baby Boomer will not be alive long enough to experience the results of these calamities but I confess that do have concerns for the Gen Xers, the Millennials, and their children.

Have you had these conversations behind closed doors?

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Healthcare Power Of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney document designates a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can’t make them for yourself.   Deciding who this person will be is an important decision, and the choice concerning whom you want to assume this responsibility should be carefully considered.  This person may be called upon to decide if it would be in your best interests to put you on life support systems to keep you alive or to let nature take its course.    Often a Healthcare Power Of Attorney is combined with the Living Will, a document that lets people state their own wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions

An Internet search will quickly yield many sources for information both Healthcare Power Of Attorney and Living Will legal documents.

For non-elder orphans, they can likely conjure up some candidates from their family or friends, but for us it might be a challenge to convince someone to accept this important role.  Although I accepted the responsibility for both of my parents, fortunately I was never required to invoke it.  The circumstances of their passing were predictable.

The question then arises as to how you would respond if someone were to ask you if you agree to be named in their Healthcare Power Of Attorney.  If you are a family member, you are probably not left with a choice other than to agree.  However without a connection would you be willing to take on that responsibility?  For me, this would not be a decision that I would embrace.  My first question might be “Isn’t there someone else who could do this?”  The importance of the responsibilities of this role cannot be over exaggerated.  It could be a matter of life or death.

Since the circumstance where these decisions are made often arise very suddenly, I suggest that it would be extremely difficult to offer one by listening to a physician explain the circumstances and then ask someone on a long distance phone call to make it.  I’m not sure if standing by the person’s bed side and holding their hand would make it any easier.

In wills created for disposition of property, as we will address eventually, it is possible to seek out a lawyer or other entity to assume the role of executor or trustee, but I have yet to discover one that would assume the responsibility to decide whether a person who is likely ,for the most part, if not completely unknown to them.  The default decision would of course be to continue life support in the absence of a living will.

At this stage in our existence, our financial affairs should be inconsequential and I have to hope that we have not designed them in way that would permit anyone to benefit as a result of a decision as to whether we live or we die.

How are you dealing with this critical decision?

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Loneliness and Isolation

Last month I read an article in The Boston Globe by Billy Barker entitled “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.”   A great deal of it resonated with me but one sentence in particular caught my attention.  It was this.    “Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general of the United States, has said many times in recent years that the most prevalent health issue in the country is not cancer or heart disease or obesity. It is isolation.”

The essayy caused me to reflect on my life and the friends both in it and those that have passed through it.  I doubt that loneliness or isolation was a concept that I understood as a boy on a diary farm in southern Ontario.  Most of my time when I wasn’t entertaining myself was spent with my parents or the farm pets.  In the one-room school that I attended I made more friends and of course on the bus ride to and from high school even more.  And I think at the time that although it was assumed that we would all eventually be married and rear our own families that our bonds would continue for all time.

And then my parents moved to a more distant city and I with them.  All my old friends were at least an hour’s drive away, and other than family I had no friends.  Soon after the move I went to work and I think that nearly all of the people that I called friends were people that I worked with.  And so it continued for most of my life and as I moved from one job or career to another, so would my circle of friends evolve, keeping some and adding some new ones.  I acquired some new friends through membership in service clubs and other organizations.  And throughout it all the thought never really crossed my mind that I didn’t have enough friends but always left room for a few more.

However, it never occurred to me how great the impact of a career was on my circle of friends until I retired.  Suddenly a lot of those people that I could depend on to share a story regularly over a coffee or a sandwich were gone.  Now I cherish even more those who remain.

And as for those high school friends that I thought that I would never lose contact with, I haven’t heard from any of them in fifty years.  In some ways I envy a few acquaintances who have managed to stay in close contact with people that they have know from their early childhood school days.  Of course it was moving away from the place where we lived that severed the relationships but it would still be comforting to have maintained those links.

Fortunate are those elderorphans who enjoy the luxury of having a lot of friends.  One day soon I hope that we can have a discussion addressing how we can all meet and keep new ones.  The record seems to suggest that most women are much better at this than men.  What can we learn from them?

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The Dreaded Dementia

Of all the perils that might befall an elder orphan, dementia is surely the most frightening.

Dementia describes a variety of diseases that are detrimental to the function of the brain. We often think of Alzheimer’s disease which marks the majority of all dementia cases, however, brain damage caused by a stroke or an injury, impairment from Huntington’s disease, are some of the other causes.

This insidious disease slowly embraces its victims and leads them into a fog from which at least in the present day they will never return.  We are often teased with news of advances in the fight against dementia.  Sometimes it feels like a race to cure Alzheimer’s disease or at least inhibit its advances against the time that we have before it envelops us.  There are plenty of on-line resources that describe the symptoms of dementia and the progress that research is making to deal with it.

Fortunate are those of us who have not witnessed the effects and progression of dementia among our family members and acquaintances and the struggle and challenges that their care-givers face and we are aware of the suffering that is inflicted on them.  We learn of the drastic steps that those care-givers take to deal with the condition.

As I write this, the legislators in the Province of Quebec are dealing with the debate.  Under Quebec’s 2015 law, euthanasia for the demented is specifically excluded arguing that a person who makes a request for medical assistance in dying must be capable of consent.  They now want to open a public debate on legalizing euthanasia for persons unable to give that informed consent and allowing people to make advance requests for assisted suicide, giving people with dementia access to the medical procedure.

Those opposing the idea contend that demented patients need to be protected and the wishes that they expressed years ago may not reflect what they would want today.

Quebec is also asking the courts to clarify a section of the federal assisted-suicide law that says the procedure should only be available to those whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable.

The issues came to the forefront as a result of a recent case of a man who is facing second-degree murder charges in the death of his 60-year-old wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease but was refused a doctor-assisted death but whom according to family members was refused help.

Now the question that surfaces is while we remain of sound mind whether we should be off to our lawyers to prepare a document that will deliver the authority to our loved ones and care givers to end our lives when we have lost our mental capacity to make that decision ourselves.  There is a great deal more to explore on this matter including how to prepare legally,  financially, and otherwise for the possibility that we might succumb to this terrifying disease.

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