Insights on Aging and the Elderly Seminar – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #106
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian talks about a seminar he attended and participated in last week called ‘Insights on Aging and the Elderly’. The seminar was hosted by B’nai Brith and featured Dr. Nathan Herrmann, Ian Hull, Rabbi Roy D. Tanenbaum and Charles B. Wagner.
Insights on Aging and the Elderly Seminar – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #106
Ian Hull: Hi and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning.
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by
Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, that will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada, from the offices of Hull Estate Mediation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Here are Ian and Suzana.
Ian Hull: Hi, it’s Ian Hull and I’m here today, on a solo mission again, just because of crazy schedules. Suzana and I weren’t able to get together. However, we did talk before and thought we’d touch on a couple of topics that I think should be of interest. Now, don’t forget to check out our web page at: www.hullandhull.com where you can get easy access to our daily blog and of course, the phone-in number which is at: 206-350-6636.
So I thought what I’d like to talk about today is a seminar that I was involved with. Two seminars I did last week. One was with the Law Society of Upper Canada, it was an interesting seminar. It was about dealing with disability planning and estate planning and it was really…it was a phone-in seminar and it was really interesting to hear from…there was 5 or 6 of us speaking in different perspectives. But the second seminar I spoke at was the Trust and Estates Group, the Lawyers’ Division of B’nai Brith. And in conjunction with the Beth Tzedec Congregation of Toronto. It was a seminar which was sponsored by Scotia Private Client Group and it was held at Beth Tzedec on March 27th, 2008. Pretty interesting, great crowd and interesting group of speakers. And I just thought it would be worthwhile sort of doing a segway onto this because, in large part, I think it was such a helpful seminar and I encourage those who are interested. It’s going to be, it was videoed and it’s going to be on the Beth Tzedec web page and I think they are going to have a video link to it.
The program started off with Dr. Nathan Herrmann. Now Dr. Nathan Herrmann is the Head of Geriatric Psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. And Dr. Herrmann did what very few doctors can easily do, and that is, essentially bring down to an understandable level the whole question of cognitive impairment, from the medical practitioner’s standpoint. And he talked about cognitive impairment and the difference between that and dementia. And then, of course, finally Alzheimer’s Disease. And he kept pointing out, and I thought it was very important was that Alzheimer’s Disease is only part of the cognitive impairment aspects of any analysis that you undertake with regard to this kind of issue. Obviously, cognitive impairment dealing with problems with memory loss, language, concentration…that can affect anybody of any age. Alzheimer’s Disease is typically a disease that affects the elderly and dementia itself is also part of the cognitive process.
He pointed out that 8 to 10% of people over the age of 65 are afflicted by dementia and 20 – 30% of people over the age of 80. It was an interesting point that he raised was that a very high percentage of people, of course, in long-term care institutions, suffer from dementia. In Canada today, 200,000 people are said to suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. He talked about some of the causes of it, talked about sort of the medical analysis behind it, and I thought that was really helpful. But he spent some good amount of time on what Alzheimer’s Disease is. And as he said at the seminar, he said “you know, over 60% of those suffering from Alzheimer’s comes from the dementias and the cognitive impairment world in that sense”.
And he raised the 10 early warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. No. 1 was memory loss that affects daily functioning; No. 2 was difficulty with familiar tasks; No. 3 – problems with language; No. 4 – disorientation to time and place; No. 5 was poor or decreased judgment; and No. 6 was problems with abstract thinking; No. 7 – misplacing things; No. 8 – changes in mood and behaviour; No. 9 – changes in personality; and the last one, as a symptom, was loss of initiative.
So he works through the continuum of cognitive impairment, starting with mild cognitive impairment, leading to earlier mild dementia, moderate dementia, severe dementia and then, of course, end stage dementia. So he was very anxious to make sure that we all understood the importance of ensuring that there was a proper diagnosis, that those who were suffering from it were obviously…lived healthy and safe environments. And treating the dementia itself is an issue that was raised by those in attendance and by Dr. Herrmann. And he talked a little bit about that, talked about managing the illness as opposed to obviously resolving it. He mentioned that there was a couple of new drugs that are always in sort of the loop, so to speak, in terms of care and was really helpful, I think, in large part just putting people at ease in terms of how the medical community sees the illness and how to manage it.
Now his comments were to set the stage for what was then to be sort of the more legalistic approach to these questions and also what I thought was a phenomenal approach was by Rabbi Roy D. Tanenbaum, who is the Rabbi at Beth Tzedec Congregation of Toronto. He brought in sort of Jewish philosophical issues and the conflict between elderly autonomy and the family perception of best interests. And it was fascinating because when we litigate over these matters, the Courts are by statute compelled to consider and analyze any sort of decision that they make in the context of Power of Attorney litigation, with the balancing act of the rights of the individual independence, as Rabbi Tanenbaum mentioned, parental autonomy in his example, versus the best interest test. And, sure enough, for many thousands of years, the test has indeed been both from a religious standpoint and a statutory and legal standpoint, the test is this struggle between what is for the benefit of the person versus does the patient get to make his or her own decision? And Rabbi Tanenbaum took us through what was a challenging analysis of the existing legal system. And it was fascinating for me to see that many of the core issues that we work with in coming to the Courts, are very much founded in religious beliefs.
The last speaker I want to speak about, because I spoke, but the fourth speaker was Charles B. Wagner who is the Chair of the Estates and Trusts Lawyers’ Division of the Estates and Trusts Group. And Charles was really a phenomenal speaker at the seminar. He talked about duties of a person appointed as Power of Attorney over property. And talked about the privilege that it is to help our aging parents, at the same time, the challenge that brings with it. And Charles, of course, used some great anecdotal examples, but also spent some time going through what has been, you know, sort of, classic scenarios where we are faced with having to balance the act of the personal interest and independence of our parents versus what is in their best interest. And this is all done in the context of the grey area, and that is, what is indeed, you know, your capacity to do how much, and what will the Courts let you do in that respect.
We were reminded to step back and look at the Substitute Decisions Act under Section 22 and then Section 55. That sets out the, sort of the code of conduct to bring an application for guardianship when you don’t have a Power of Attorney. And then other provisions in the Act deal with what are essentially the accounting obligations that Charles talked about. Now the Act is much more voluminous than that and obviously more complicated than that, but he was very helpful in sort of setting us and grounding us in that regard.
So I thought those were really helpful words and brought some real insight on aging and the elderly. And my final thought on this seminar was that…the thing that was so wonderful about it was the participation from the audience. It was clear that this is a very important issue for everyone now, becoming more important, and based on the questions that were asked and the enthusiasm of the audience, we are seeing obviously development in this area that is not just because its our area of work but it is an important area for our society to keep mindful of.
So anyway I think that sort of summarizes that seminar and the seminar before, I will talk about at another podcast. So much missed was Suzana at this podcast, but in an effort to keep making sure that we get our daily podcast out, I’m doing it solo again. And I want to remind you to go to our web page at: www.hullandhull.com and you can work your way through that page and then ultimately to our blogs and our phone-in, which is at: 206-350-6636.
So thanks again for listening and we’ll be back to you next week. Thanks.
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