Category: Elder Law

17 May

Dementia and Driving: A Compatible Combination?

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A conversation about driving with dementia exploded in the press in recent weeks. Everyone is weighing in on this debate, with potential stakes running obviously high. Certainly the decision to take away a patient’s licence could never be undertaken lightly, so how can a physician accurately determine driving risks associated with dementia?

A patient’s score on the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) score, when considered on its own, is a surprisingly poor predictor of a driver’s ability to drive safely. In fact, studies have shown that as many as 76% of patients with mild dementia are still able to pass an on-road driving test. Last month, in a strong effort to refine the entire process of assessing driving risk associated with dementia, the American Academy of Neurology issued updated guidelines for physicians. These updated practice parameters take into account the following characteristics that have proven useful for identifying patients at increased risk for unsafe driving:

Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (CDR);
• A caregiver’s rating of a patient’s driving ability as ‘marginal’ or ‘unsafe’;
• The patient’s driving history, including accidents and citations;
• Self-reported ‘situational avoidance’ [Studies have shown that self-restricted driving, perhaps by avoidance of highway driving or night driving, or driving in inclement weather, or simply reduced overall mileage, is an accurate indicator of a driver at increased risk];
• An MMSE score of 24 or less; and
• Aggressive or impulsive personality characteristics.

This multi-faceted risk assessment brings the Americans more in line with the current Canadian approach, as outlined in the Canadian Medical Association’s document: Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles CMA Driver’s Guide which takes this stance: "The driving ability of people with mild dementia should be tested on an individual basis. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of those in the early stages of dementia are able to operate a motor vehicle safely."

Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger

10 Feb

Sibling Rivalry and Caring for Elderly Parents

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In her new book, They’re Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy, journalist Francine Russo writes about a difficult stage of life: the “twilight transition” when boomer-aged siblings reunite to care for aging parents. This period is laden with new challenges – dividing assets, dementia, caregiving issues – and has the potential to inflame old sibling rivalries as adult siblings deal with the end of their first family and take over their parents’ place as the decision-making generation. As noted by Ms. Russo in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail: “There’s a huge re-emergence of sibling rivalry over parents because when we see that our parents’ time is limited, all the unmet needs we’ve had resurface: to be loved, approved of, forgiven….”

In her book, Ms. Russo interviewed siblings, gerontologists, family therapists, elder-care attorneys, financial planners, and health workers to offer practical advice on such topics as:

          the negotiation of caregiving issues and dealing with unequal contributions or power struggles;

          the making of major medical and financial decisions, when parents cannot;

          how to cope with unresolved childhood rivalries and hurts; and

          tips for avoiding conflict.

Click here to read Ms. Russo’s interview in Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail.

Bianca La Neve

Bianca V. La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.

28 Dec

Upcoming ‘Medical/Health Series’ of Blogs

Hull & Hull LLP Elder Law, Estate & Trust, General Interest, Health / Medical, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

For those of you with one eye on the next page of the calendar, Hull & Hull LLP will be posting our third series of medical/health blogs starting on Monday January 4th, 2010. The series will run every Monday thereafter in the month of January, for a total of four blogs. The following subjects will be featured:

  • Pseudodementia
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Korsakoff’s Syndrome
  • Huntington’s Disease

We hope this series proves both useful and informative. Please feel free to contact us at with your feedback.

06 Oct

Life Expectancy Trends Means More Centenarians

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BBC News recently commented on a study published in the Lancet journal that shows more than half the babies now born in the UK and other wealthy nations will live to be 100 years old.  The data from the study indicates that these extra years would be spent with less serious disabilities for the elderly.

The researchers, from the Danish Aging Research Center, refer to “four ages of man”-child, adult, young old age and old old age. Surprisingly, there was little evidence that those who belonged in the old old age group were unhealthier that those in the young old age group likely because the frailest elderly died first leaving the more robust to survive past the age of 85. Danish and American studies show that about 30%-40% of those falling into the old old group live independently.

Of course, such a development requires countries to reform their health-care services, employment practices, and care services. In the U.K., with an election looming, the Tory party has promised a Home Protection Plan that would allow people at the age of 65 to make a one time payment plan of £8,000 pounds in exchange for free full-time residential care in later life. This proposed policy addresses the issue of the elderly having to sell their houses in exchange for funding care giving services.

A significant longer life expectancy requires careful retirement and estate planning. If this trend towards increased life expectancy continues, long standing assumptions will have to be altered.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

Diane Vieira – Click here for more inforamtion on Diane Vieira.


19 May

Access to Justice for the Elderly

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The growth in Canada’s aging population has led to increased awareness of the special needs of seniors and the impact of the law on them. Our blogs have often dealt with issues that particularly affect the elderly, such as power of attorney abuse. In a previous blog, I noted the rise of a new practice specialty, elder law, to deal with the multi-faceted legal needs of the elderly. 

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) is a longstanding community legal clinic that has been at the forefront of elder law since 1984. ACE specializes in providing legal services to low income seniors in Ontario and promoting access to justice for the elderly. Through its work, ACE has developed expertise in issues affecting older persons, such as elder abuse and exploitation, mental capacity and consent, patients’ rights in hospitals and other institutions, and substitute decision making. 

ACE is currently working with the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) to research the best ways to enforce the rights of older adults residing in institutional settings, such as hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes. Older adults, including residents in institutional settings, are too often denied access to justice due to lack of awareness of legal rights, discrimination based on age, and financial and physical obstacles in trying to access the legal system. ACE’s goal is to develop an ‘access to justice model’ that will promote the autonomy and dignity of older adults residing in institutions, and ensure that their complaints are heard and successfully resolved. ACE’s work is part of a broader multi-year project by the LCO to develop a new framework to analyze and understand the impact of law on older persons. 

For more information about ACE, see their website at More information about the LCO’s project on older adults can be found on their website at

Have a great day!

Bianca La Neve

22 Apr

Social Media and the Canadian Conference on Elder Law – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning #161

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Listen to Social Media and the Canadian Conference on Elder Law

This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss the idea of knowing what is going on around us in social media. They mention the Canadian Conference on Elder Law put on by the Canadian Bar Association conference in Kingston, Ontario on June 9, 2009. One of the first topics at the conference will be on assessing the capacity assessor. Ian and Suzana discuss assessing the assessor and the pros, cons and what should be expected. They talk about what they see in their practice as important elements of a good assessment and where they might see some problems.

If you have any comments, send us an email at or leave a comment on our blog.


26 Jan

Managing a Move

Hull & Hull LLP Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Executors and Trustees, Support After Death, Trustees Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

My mother used to volunteer with Goodwill, where one of the projects was a contents sale. A team from Goodwill would organize a home’s contents for sale – I have a frying pan purchased from one of those sales.

Several organizations exist to assist with different aspects of the moving process. One such example is Marsha’s Helping Hand, which helps when clients, particularly elderly people, want to downsize.   

There are a lot of memories to manage and items to be packed up, distributed or possibly sold. Often the house itself must be sold. Many scenarios are possible – elderly people are downsizing or a home is being sold as part of an estate. 

Estate sales can be slow however.  Recently, the New York Times focused on this issue: delays can occur in transactions because of the dynamics between distant beneficiaries and the estate trustee, or even because of the emotional energy required by heirs who are assisting with the removal of the Deceased’s belongings. 

There are understandable reasons for the delays in the estate sale process. Not least of which is that often the people who want to do the job are themselves busy with multiple responsibilities, be it child care or parent care or the demands of a paying job. Help is available though.  Organizations, which cater to these increasing needs can assist, according to a recent Globe and Mail article.

These practical issues often dovetail with legal duties of the Estate Trustee, a role that may be more manageable when a plan is in place. Costs should always be considered though because ultimately, the Trustee has a duty to account to beneficiaries.

Enjoy your day.


23 Dec

More on Demographics: Under-Reporting of Alzheimer’s Deaths?

Hull & Hull LLP Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Power of Attorney Tags: , , 0 Comments

The words "aging population" have graduated from being an overworked cliche to a trite observation.  The implications are intuitively obvious in many contexts.  We’ve blogged here on this topic before and what it means for lawyers.  Our understanding of the implications continues to evolve, and it helps to keep an eye on other countries with similar levels of economic development, social services and legal cultures (and bigger populations hence more money to study the issue). 

One thing is becoming increasingly clear, and a quick tour over the ocean makes this crystal clear: our bodies seem to be outlasting our minds.

We all know the implications for increased demand for legal guardianship expertise, especially for The Sandwich Generation, and potential litigation later (which is enhanced by our general lack of knowledge of the depth of dementia across the population).  The Alzheimer’s Society (see the Canadian website for a local view) states that 1 in 3 British over 65 years of age die from the disease.  The over-65s will constitute 25% of the UK’s population by 2032, which means that 8% of all deaths (at least) in the UK will be caused by Alzheimers.  In other patients, the disease may still be present but not the cause of death.

Interestingly, Alzheimers was only the No. 5 cause of death among Americans over 65 years of age in 2004.  However, it turns out that Alzheimers and other forms of dementia often do not get noted on death certificates, at least in Boston.  If a similar trend exists elsewhere in the U.S., that might alter U.S. death statistics by raising the profile of Alzheimer’s and dementia generally.    

Fire and brimstone, all is lost?  Not entirely.  Medical research can always help.  Also, see this article which offers a detailed applied statistical analysis on the U.S. demographic bubble (or lack thereof perhaps) in a non-estates context, yet still relevant to any lawyer to whom demographics is relevant.

Have a great day,

Chris Graham


28 Oct

The Law as it Affects Older Adults – Hull on Estates #134

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Listen to The Law as it Affects Older Adults

This week on Hull on Estates, Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag discuss a recent consultation paper from the Law Commission of Ontario(LCO) titled: The Law as it Affects Older Adults. The LCO has initiated a project to develop a legal framework for the law as it affects older persons and will be essential in addressing the needs and experiences of this group.

Feel free to send us an email at or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estates blog.


03 Oct

Elder Law: A Growing Practice Area

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The focus on Canada’s aging population, and the special needs of seniors, is becoming recognized in legal circles as a growing practice specialty: elder law. Elder law lawyers have a multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted practice that ranges from estates, to health law, to real estate. For example, an elder law lawyer may advise on “private care agreements” (where a child may provide care in exchange for equity in valuable real estate owned by a parent) or the benefits of long-term health insurance. 

As part of my own practice, I regularly advise elderly clients in all aspect of estate and trust litigation. Advising elderly clients requires specific knowledge about the various issues facing seniors. Such issues include elder abuse and exploitation, mental capacity and consent, and substitute decision making (whether by court-appointed guardianship or powers of attorney). 


There are various resources available for those looking to educate themselves on elder law issues. The fourth annual Canadian Conference on Elder Law will be held this year on November 13-15, 2008 in Vancouver. The conference will focus on such issues as capacity, support, public/private guardianship and law reform. For more information on the conference and for other information on elder law issues, see the Canadian Centre for Elder Law’s website at


Have a great day!


Bianca La Neve


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