Author: Ian Hull
Your annual physical is approaching, and you’re still averaging three to four alcoholic drinks per night – despite the fact that you told your doctor last year that you were going to cut back.
At your appointment, your doctor reviews her notes and asks how the drinking is going. You surprise yourself by blurting out a complete lie – that you’re now going drink-free every other night and have effectively cut your drinking in half.
Your doctor is pleased, and she begins her examination. In your mind, you move on too, but with one perplexing question: why did you lie?
More common than you think
First, if you do lie to your doctor, you’re not alone. In a recent survey carried out by the University of Utah, about 80% of respondents admitted they lie to – or conceal information from – their doctor on issues that could have health implications. The people most likely to do this were women, younger patients, and those who rated their own health as poor.
The top three reasons?
- Not wanting to be judged or lectured
- Not wanting to hear how harmful their behaviour is
- Not wanting to be embarrassed.
This recent CBC article has more information on the research.
A new approach
Whether you blame this lying on preachy doctors who scare people into not fessing up, or on cowardly patients who don’t own up to their behaviours, one point is crystal clear: lying to your doctor does nothing to advance your health needs.
With more health professionals now available online (either by email, chat or video conference), we now have the tools to move to a more non-judgmental “health coaching” model, with regular check-ins on areas of concern.
For example, a regular smoker will still have an annual physical with their doctor, but rather than dealing with the issue of smoking annually in a single (dreaded) conversation, the doctor diverts the behavioural elements to a nurse practitioner with experience in smoking cessation who provides online coaching on a regular basis. Even if the smoking continues, the nurse practitioner can encourage the person to adopt other behaviours that at least move the needle on health (“hey, how about walking to work twice a week – is that doable?”). And with electronic medical records, they can add any changes to your file, so that your doctor stays in the loop.
In short, we free up doctors to focus on physical health needs at annual physicals (such as blood pressure and heart and lung functions) and rely on encouraging, non-judgmental health coaches to focus on behaviours that may be harming our health (such as risky sex, poor eating, gambling or drug and alcohol issues).
Some of these models exist today in various forms. So, if you’re tired of your own “dance with the truth” at your annual physical, ask your doctor about health coaching alternatives.
Thanks for reading.
It’s an “aha” moment I’ll never forget. It was February about 10 years ago and I was in the large sunny plaza outside the hockey rink in Tampa Florida. I was visiting a friend who lives in Florida, and the Toronto Maple Leafs were in town to play that night.
It was still hours before game time, and we saw a very happy family of four – a husband, wife and their two daughters – walking the plaza in Maple Leaf jerseys. We asked them where they were from and they said Thunder Bay. It sounded like a long hike to come for a game, but they said it was way cheaper than flying into Toronto and getting tickets for a home game.
The cost of four “cheap seat” tickets in Tampa at that time? US $11 each from the box office (they couldn’t even get Leaf tickets in Toronto from the box office). They had to fly anyway to see the game in Toronto, so the extra cost to Florida was just $150 per person. It all made perfect sense.
Escape the big city madness
If you live in the Toronto area like I do, you gain the benefit of everything a big city has to offer, but you bear the burden of a rabid sports culture that makes it difficult and expensive to see games. That’s why I love seeing my team (the Leafs) play away games in less-rabid sports towns with lots of availability.
Three reasons make it hard to resist:
- You see another city: A couple of nights in a new city makes the experience that much richer, and since most cities are south of Toronto, you’ll likely enjoy some nicer weather as well.
- You meet people: If you wear your Toronto jersey, you’ll not only meet other Toronto fans, you’ll also meet home-team-supporting locals looking to razz you into some friendly competition.
- Cost: I checked on StubHub, and the cost of a 3rd row, centre ice seat to the Leaf game against Florida in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday Dec 15, 2018 was US$235. The best you could get for the following Saturday night in Toronto was the 11th row for US$616. That savings of nearly US$800 on a pair of tickets goes a long way towards covering the cost of flights and hotels. It might not be cheaper in the end, but it’s close enough and comes with a 26 degree Celsius daytime high.
Looking for a gift idea? Take a look at your Leaf or Raptor away game schedule in 2019 and plan a short trip south. Once you get hooked, you’ll never see a home game again.
Thanks for reading!
I think the coverage of George H.W. Bush’s recent funeral tweaked my interest in some of the things that make Canada unique. Once again, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was chosen to give a eulogy for a U.S. President (he spoke at the funerals for both Ronald and Nancy Reagan as well). And what a eulogy it was – personal, humorous at times and eloquent throughout.
The Globe and Mail described Mulroney as “emerging as something of the eulogist-in-chief for American commanders-in-chief.” That speaks very highly for Mr. Mulroney but also very highly for Canada. It’s clear that there was (perhaps still is?) a high level of respect for our country and the role we play in the world.
Aside from having a former Prime Minister who was clearly adept at fostering close international friendships, what else makes us unique? I think it starts with the country itself:
- We have about 20% of the world’s fresh water
- Almost one-third of the country is covered in trees – and we have 10% of the world’s forests
- We have the world’s longest coastline
- Along with the U.S., we share the longest demilitarized border in the world
We may not have the population size to match many other countries, but certainly have the physical size.
The quirky side
We also have character. Maybe that’s what the U.S. political elite love about us. Consider these:
- We love comfort: We eat more mac ‘n cheese than any other country in the world (I have no idea who measures this stuff)
- We’re sweet: One Canadian province (Quebec) makes more than 77% of the world’s maple syrup
- We’re inventive: Hawaiian pizza was invented by an Ontario man, not by the Hawaiians
- We’re procrastinators: We didn’t get our own flag until our country was nearly 100 years old
- We’re talkers: The famous Canadian interjection “eh”is listed in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as a valid word. Who knew?
Thanks for reading!
We’re all too familiar with the conventional advice for living longer – and the same ol’, same ol’ is being trotted out again by scientists. A new study says that sticking to the following five things can prolong your life expectancy by more than a decade. The five things?
- Never smoke
- Maintain a healthy body-mass index
- Keep up moderate to vigorous exercise
- Don’t drink too much alcohol
- Eat a healthy diet
Any surprises? I didn’t think so. It feels predictable and a bit puritan for my tastes, but you can read more about the study here.
Offbeat tips for living longer
I much prefer these five tips for living a long life. The article here outlines 10, but these are the five that caught my eye.
- Work hard and be stressed
An 80-year study that began in 1921 followed a group of 1,500 children. Are you ready for this? Children who were happy-go-lucky, carefree, and had a good sense of humor lived shorter lives than those who were more serious, persistent and prudent. As adults, these people were the most involved with and committed to their jobs. Three cheers for the workaholic!
- Get rich
Wealth and long, healthy living are positively correlated all around the world, with poorer countries having predictably lower life expectancies. While you don’t need to be rich, money helps. There’s something to be said for playing the lotto.
- Learn a second language
Studies have shown that the ability to speak two or more languages significantly slows the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, both of which are fatal diseases of old age.
- Do good in the world
Many studies have shown that volunteering increases your life expectancy significantly, especially if you’re doing it for purely altruistic reasons.
- Live on a mountain
In the US, seven out of ten communities with the greatest longevity are in high-country Colorado counties. And in a mountain town on the Italian island of Sardinia, as many men as women live to be 100. Seek elevation, live longer.
So, if we combine these five tips, you’d live on a mountain working hard at a job that made you rich, while learning a second language and volunteering in your spare time. See you at my 100th birthday party!
Thanks for reading,
Estate law is centred on asset planning for an end-of-life experience. So not surprisingly, we’ve seen just about every end-of-life situation you can imagine. I can tell you first-hand, many of these situations are painful, fearful, and depressing.
Does it have to be this way? The answer, in many cases, is “no.” We’re beginning to learn about new treatments that can help – and one of the most promising is the use of psilocybin, the active compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Thank you legal cannabis
The legalization of cannabis in Canada and many U.S. states is breaking down barriers for research that was previously taboo, illegal, or underfunded. This is especially so in areas of mental health.
The treatment of physical pain with restricted drugs like morphine has long been accepted. But the use of mind-altering drugs for mental health? Not so much.
That stigma is changing. We’re on the edge of a new frontier in the treatment of “mental pain” – anxiety, depression, and fear of death – and psilocybin is front and centre.,
Research has shown that one of the most promising uses for psilocybin is in end-of-life situations. For those with a terminal illness, psychedelics not only provide relief from the terror of dying during the actual psychedelic sessions, but for weeks and months after.
According to researchers, psilocybin can create a deeper meaning and understanding of terminal situations – and is helpful in relieving the agony of the inevitability of death. Patients could reassure themselves and their loved ones that from a mental standpoint, they truly were okay. Many reported that using psilocybin was one of the most important experiences of their life. You can read more about the studies here.
Change is coming
There are calls for psilocybin to be reclassified for medical use, paving the way for the drug to be used to treat a number of mental health conditions – from fear of death, to depression, to addiction. The New York Times discussed this movement in a recent article.
This new attitude embracing research into the possible use of psychedelics for mental health is a welcome change. I look forward to the findings.
Thank you for reading,
How much are your non-financial assets worth? If you’re planning your estate, it’s an important consideration, especially if you plan to make specific bequests.
But here’s the issue: the value of non-financial assets, such as furniture, art, and other collectibles, can change dramatically in just a few short years. Antique furniture is a great example.
An example from the New York Times – in 2002, a New York City auction house sold a set of eight George III-style carved mahogany chairs for $8,000. In 2016, a similar set sold for $350. It wasn’t a fluke. Prices for 18th and 19th century furniture are down about 80% from their highs just a couple of decades ago. This article provides a great analysis of the changing times.
That’s bad news if your house is full of antique furniture, but if you’re a contrarian looking for a buying opportunity? Times couldn’t be better.
What items hold their value?
Yes, collect what you love – that’s rule number one, but if you’re looking for an edge in terms of value retention, this article from online journalism site Next Avenue provides some tips.
Here are a few from the article to consider:
- Quality, one-of-a-kind or limited quantity pieces handmade by a skilled artist or craftsperson. Even with high quality original art, no one can predict future values, so diversify by artist and buy what you love.
- High-quality items made by notable firms. Designer items – think Hermès or Tiffany – have stood the test of time and are more likely to hold their value or increase their value if kept in good condition.
- Collectibles that remind us of our youth.This includes comics, toys, books – just about anything. But timing your sale is everything, with the best prices usually 25 to 35 years after they became popular.
- Items that are made from material of value: The value of precious metals like gold and silver change over time, but they always have a liquid market value. So, items made from precious metals will always hold value based on the material it’s made from alone.
And if you’re looking for a bit of fun, this article highlights 10 types of collectibles that may surprise you in terms of value. The list includes items from Disney and McDonald’s, hot wheels cars, boardgames and maps.
Thanks for reading!
I’ve always loved a fresh apple – so this article in the National Post about the birthplace of the McIntosh apple immediately caught my eye.
It seems that the original farm in Dundela, Ontario, where the McIntosh was discovered in 1811, has fallen into disrepair (Dundela is north of the St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Cornwall).
It also seems that the popularity of the McIntosh apple is in decline. If you regularly visit the apple section of your local grocery store, this will come as no surprise. Tastes are changing, and people are looking for less “tang” and more “crunchy and sweet”. One grower predicts that McIntosh apples will, for the most part, disappear from the marketplace in his lifetime.
While there’s a great story behind the rise of the McIntosh apple, Heritage Canada doesn’t have the funds to buy the farm and preserve the story. There’s a good chance that younger generations will know nothing about this apple and never taste one, even though the McIntosh apple became a 20th century North American success (and even had a line of computers named after it).
Should we care?
I grew up eating McIntosh apples. I bought them from Boy Scouts on their apple day and received them as a Halloween treat (reluctantly). They’re truly part of my history. But so are Eaton’s, Sam the Record Man, and those Lola triangle ice treats (created in the late 1950s but gone by the 1980s). Time and tastes move on. Maybe we should worry less about shrines to the past and simply enjoy what we have while we have it and look forward to the next great thing when the time is up.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy some uniquely Canadian traditions, like Hockey Night in Canada, Caesar cocktails, butter tarts, Victoria Day fireworks, and Crispy Crunch chocolate bars (in no particular order).
Thanks for reading!
It’s a situation shared by many – you have a single elderly parent living alone. They’ve always been able to handle their day-to-day needs, with the occasional helping hand from family members. But something doesn’t seem right.
It often starts with your intuition. If you visit your parent regularly, it can be difficult to spot the signs of decline because these can happen gradually. They begin losing weight due to improper eating, or they start letting their appearance slide, or personal finance obligations – like credit card payments – are sometimes missed. Before you know it, those “something doesn’t seem right” thoughts become “something isn’t right” certainty.
Of course, there are more dramatic signs of not coping, everything from confused wandering, to car accidents, to kitchen fires. This article provides a great overview of 12 signs to look for in determining whether an elderly parent needs help.
While you can’t stop the aging process, you can take a few small steps now – while your parent is healthy and well – that can help ease the burden later if help is needed. Here are three to consider.
- Start the conversation: People in their 60s and 70s are usually active and independent. But if your parent has reached age 80, a conversation with your parent about “what if” is highly advisable, despite any discomfort in raising the topic. Are they open to move into a retirement home when the time comes? Would they prefer home-based care? Would they consider down-sizing now, rather than later? Your parent may not be in a position to express their thoughts in two or three years. By having the conversation now, you can factor your parent’s wishes into future decisions.
- Get a financial opinion: Seek the help of a financial advisor (yours or your parent’s) to determine what type of help is affordable if your parent is no longer able to care for themselves. Ideally, your parent should be involved in these conversations. This information will give both of you an idea of what care options are feasible in the future.
- Make a retirement home visit: If a retirement home is a possible future option, a tour of one or two homes is a great way to familiarize your parent with retirement home living. Even if your parent is years away from a move, the ideal time to tour places is when there’s no pressure or crisis. If a need to move arises later, your parent already has some comfort level with the options available.
This short article – although written by a retirement home provider – offers some great tips for starting a conversation.
Thank you for reading and Happy Halloween!
Have you followed the wellness industry lately? The New York Times recently published a lengthy feature on Gwyneth Paltrow and her wellness company Goop. In it, the author describes a number of the “therapies” she learned about in the course of interviewing Paltrow and writing the article.
These ranged from more conventional wellness tips (healthy eating, cleanses, meditation) to far more radical ideas (bee-sting therapy, psychic vampire repellent, and jade eggs for vaginal therapies). It’s a fascinating (and somewhat disturbing) article. You can read it here.
Paltrow is by no means the only wellness guru out there promoting what she calls “radical wellness.” There are many – with many products and treatments to purchase if you are willing to give them a try. And despite the lack of scientific evidence that these treatments work (one woman recently died from bee-sting therapy) and the resounding criticism of many alternative treatments from the medical community, alternative wellness is flourishing.
Why is that? I can see three reasons:
- Social media makes it easier than ever for wellness “ideas” to go viral;
- Many people are suffering from a mental or physical condition that conventional therapies haven’t cured – and are desperate for answers; and
- The placebo effect results in many claims that a treatment “works” – and those good news stories are fed into the social media cycle.
Of course, some therapies may in fact work – but how can you tell truth from fiction? While there are hundreds of scientific studies that prove the health benefits of things like exercise, healthy eating and meditation, alternative therapies typically have only anecdotal evidence to back them up.
All to say, before you wade into a swarm of bees, get the facts first. This U.S. website lists five reliable online medical resources (such as the Mayo Clinic) that you can trust for information.
Thanks for reading!
Is it possible for today’s seniors to return to their hippie past? For some, plans are in the works.
Youth of the 1960s were a powerful social force that introduced a greater acceptance of community or “commune” living. While the concept never went mainstream, commune-type living is a niche arrangement that takes many forms today, from housing co-operatives in the city, to back-to-the-earth rural compounds, to religious groups seeking to live with their own kind.
If there’s a “hippie” feel to all of this, it’s for good reason. Many of these communities are progressive, socialist in leaning, and seeking a higher ideal in their living. It sure sounds like the 1960s.
Which takes us to commune living for seniors. I heard about this first from a group of men who played hockey together and lived in the same neighbourhood. Recognizing that many would need to “cash out” and sell their homes as they got older, the group lamented the possible loss of their community. One answer was to establish a single housing collective that everyone could move to to maintain their social bonds.
While that idea has never gotten beyond beer talk (at least not yet), I recently learned of another friend who was actively involved in a group that had moved beyond the talking stage and were scouting potential building sites. It may not be for me, but it certainly put the idea on my radar.
The push for senior communes
The attractiveness of senior communes is that it bypasses traditional retirement homes (too institutional) or living alone arrangements (no community, too lonely). A commune brings like-minded people together who can care for each other – and bring in help as needed as group members age.
Of course, there are countless hurdles to such arrangements that range from funding, to legal status, to rules relating to who can live in the complex and what the responsibilities of living there entail.
The Huffington Post ran an article about this recently.
One of the Toronto groups mentioned in the article, Baba Yaga Place, is in the process of making their community living project a reality. It’s modelled on a Paris commune of senior women that is up and running. The Paris commune took 13 years to establish, but Baba Yaga Place is hoping their development stage is quicker. You can follow their progress through their website.
Are you ready to channel your inner-hippie as you enter your senior years? You may soon have options.
Thanks for reading,