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What you need to know about the NJ Aid in Dying Bill

Monday , August 26 , 2019

What you need to know about the NJ Aid in Dying Bill

Earlier this year, the New Jersey legislature passed a death with dignity bill called the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law on April 12, 2019. It was supposed to take effect on August 1, 2019, but is now under a temporary restraining order.

What happened?

The problems it was meant to solve

The new law will allow terminally ill patients to request aid in dying in certain clearly defined situations.

Many states have similar regulations, sometimes called “physician-assisted dying” or “death with dignity.”. Aid-in-dying is currently legal in eight jurisdictions, including California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Maine’s assisted-death law will go into effect in 2020. One in five Americans currently live in jurisdictions where such an option is available.

The New Jersey Aid in Dying bill does not allow mercy killing, euthanasia, or assisted suicide. It is meant to give terminally ill patients a choice in how their life will end by allowing them to request life-ending medications.

Often, those who suffer from a terminal illness experience prolonged and immeasurable pain. Many patients, though they would still prefer to live, choose to die in a more gentle way when they know the end is imminent.

Sometimes, it’s not even about the pain and suffering. It’s simply a way to maintain a final bit of dignity and control over one’s own life. For supporters of the law, the ability to have control over the circumstances of their death is a matter of dignity and autonomy.

When Governor Murphy signed the bill in April, he said, “By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity, and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face.”

What are the objections?

From the get-go, the NJ Aid in Dying Act has faced fierce opposition.

Many critics warn that disabled, vulnerable, and elderly people may face pressure from outside parties or unscrupulous family members to unnecessarily end their lives.

Others, such as the Catholic Church, call it an “affront to human life.” The Diocese of Trenton said that a terminal diagnosis isn’t always accurate, and people may make the choice using false or incorrect information.

The Medical Society of New Jersey also opposed the bill, saying that it will put physicians at odds with their professional ethical requirements.

Other common arguments against death with dignity bills include:

· A patient’s suffering can be lessened through palliative care

· Assisted death demeans the value of human life

· Many religions believe that taking your own life is against God’s will

· Assisted death is a slippery slope and will lead to legalized murder

· Pressure from insurance companies may lead doctors to force patients to end their own lives

· The cost of care may lead people to choose death over unaffordable medical bills

How the writers of the bill attempted to safeguard against abuses or misuses of the law

All assisted-death laws, not only in New Jersey, take specific measures to safeguard against misuse of the law.

According to the NOLO Legal Encyclopedia, these are the exact requirements in New Jersey:

To request a prescription for life-ending medication in New Jersey, a patient must be:

· at least 18 years old

· a New Jersey resident

· mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions, and

· diagnosed with a terminal disease that will result in death within six months.

A patient who meets the requirements above will be prescribed aid-in-dying medication only if:

· The patient makes two verbal requests to their doctor, at least 15 days apart.

· The patient gives a written request to the doctor, signed in front of two qualified, adult witnesses.

· The prescribing doctor and one other doctor confirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis.

· The prescribing doctor and one other doctor determine that the patient is capable of making medical decisions.

· The patient has a psychological examination, if either doctor feels the patient’s judgment is impaired.

· The prescribing doctor confirms that the patient is not being coerced or unduly influenced by others when making the request.

· The prescribing doctor informs the patient of any feasible alternatives to the medication, including care to relieve pain and keep the patient comfortable.

· The prescribing doctor asks the patient to notify their next of kin of the prescription request. (The doctor cannot require the patient to notify anyone, however.)

· The prescribing doctor offers the patient the opportunity to withdraw the request for aid-in-dying medication before granting the prescription.

Current status

As of August 2019, physicians may not prescribe medications under the law.

A Mercer County Superior Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order on the new law on August 15th, halting implementation until at least October 23.

On August 16, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal immediately filed an appeal to the temporary restraining order. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied his petition to allow the Aid in Dying Act to be in effect while the lawsuit resolves.

The matter is now resting with the state’s Appellate Court, which is tasked with deciding whether or not the law should be overturned.

Posted in: Aging, Health

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Is weight training the key to healthy aging?

Monday , August 19 , 2019

Is weight training the key to healthy aging?

Hippocrates said, “That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”

As adults steadily move towards old age, it becomes progressively more important to maintain health and fitness through a variety of exercises. More and more, research is showing that strength training exercises in particular are the key to a long and healthy retirement.

On the flipside, if efforts are not made, the age-related loss of muscle mass can become a slippery slope from which it’s hard to recover.

Why is strength training so important? And does that mean other exercises, like walking and stretching, can be ignored? Keep reading to find out!

Why do we lose muscle as we age?

As we get older, people tend to become more sedentary – whether it’s due to health issues, physical limitations, or just plain old fatigue. In addition, as we age:

· Hormone levels change

· Protein requirements alter

· And motor neurons die

Altogether, this can lead to a condition known as Sarcopenia, or the age-related loss of muscle mass. The word literally means flesh loss – from the Greek ‘sarx’ (or flesh) and ‘penia’ (or loss).

This loss of muscle can affect posture, stability, and balance. It is one of the reasons older adults fall so often, but it can be fixed through regular exercise and strength training.

Sarcopenia can begin to affect adults as young as 30 years old, but it’s not until around age 50 that the effects become very noticeable. At that point, muscle mass typically decreases about 30% during the next two decades. Even more dramatic losses begin after the age of 80.

It is important to note that age-related muscle loss can vary greatly from person to person.

Those that were active in their younger years are far more likely to stay fit as they age – that’s why most experts suggest adults start weight training well before they reach middle age.

Signs of sarcopenia

Often, the signs of sarcopenia can be vague.

Symptoms such as feeling physically weaker or suffering from frequent falls might just be attributed to old age or to other health issues. However, if you or a loved one experiences one or more of these signs and can’t explain why, you should talk to a health professional:

· Diminished muscle strength

· Feeling physically weaker over time

· Having more difficulty lifting common objects

· Poor hand grip strength

· Difficulty walking or rising from a seated position

· Becoming exhausted easily and having difficulty carrying out daily tasks

· Unexplained weight loss

Fighting age-related muscle loss

Ultimately, the only way to stay ahead of the aging process is by staying active and fit.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, older people who lift weights can slow or even reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass. In fact, they can actually GAIN strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness, and better metabolic health.

Experts say that a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance work are the key to preventing or reversing the condition, with a particular emphasis on the strength training portion.

According to one Harvard study, to gain more muscle mass, older adults need to engage in a PRT (progressive resistance training) program. Dr. Thomas Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says “It should be tailored to the individual with the goals being progression and improvement. It should focus on individual elements like specific exercises, load, repetitions, and rest periods, and should challenge but not overwhelm.”

A typical weight training program might include:

· 8 to 10 exercises that target all the major muscle groups

· sets of 12 to 15 reps, performed at an effort of about 5 to 7 on a 10-point scale

· 2 to 3 workouts per week

Of course, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, a qualified personal trainer can help set up a sequence of exercises tailored to your abilities and can monitor you for safety and technique.

And remember: All of the exercise in the world won’t help if you don’t eat appropriately! Always try to get lots of protein (shoot for 30 grams per meal), check your vitamin D levels, and eat your Omega 3s.

Posted in: Aging, Health

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What happens to your digital estate when you die?

Monday , August 12 , 2019

What happens to your digital estate when you die?

Facebook. LinkedIn. Instagram. Twitter. You’re likely on at least one of these social media platforms.

You share funny little quips, inspirational quotes, and photos of your grandchildren and your dogs. Some of what you share are likely cherished memories.

But what happens to all of that when you die?

Those items, and much more, are all a part of your digital estate. And more and more often, older adults are choosing to take part in digital estate planning to protect those valuable assets in the event of their passing.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is a digital estate?

Your digital estate is made up of two key parts: Your digital legacy and your digital assets. Often, all three terms are used interchangeably, although they do mean three very distinct things.

Digital legacy

Your digital legacy is any information available online, about you, following your death. Often, this is information that you’ve personally published including:

  • Social media profiles
  • Blogs
  • Photo albums
  • Videos
  • Email
  • Interactions with other people (such as comments on social media posts)

 Digital assets

Digital assets are possessions that you have purchased and that are stored or available online. Examples include:

  • Movies and MP3s (through services like Amazon Prime or Apple Music)
  • Photos
  • Websites (domain names and hosting)
  • eBooks
  • Apps
  • Software (such as Photoshop)
  • Seller’s accounts (such as Ebay or Etsy)

Where are digital assets and digital legacy stored?

Digital assets and someone’s digital legacy are often spread across two main locations:

 1) Online services (social media sites, email, blogs, etc.)

2) Digital devices (laptops and computers, smart phones, tablets, etc.)

It is important to designate someone to handle your online estate once you’ve passed and to provide them with the information necessary to handle your affairs. At a minimum, they will need a list of everywhere you have an online account (bank, credit cards, web services, etc.) and everywhere you have an online presence (social media, blog, email, and so on). If you choose, you may also give them a list of logins and passwords.

How can I get my digital affairs in order?

Digital asset management isn’t a routine part of settling an estate just yet, but it should be. Because we live in a digital age (where much of what we do happens online), we must prepare our loved ones for handling those assets when we pass away. Unfortunately, most people are not equipped with the necessary information.

There are two key components to managing a digital estate:

  • Bank and other financial accounts
  • Social media and email accounts

Experts suggest including your digital assets in your will and creating a separate document with instructions for your digital legacy. It is important to note that different online platforms have different procedures for what happens in the event of your passing, and you should be familiar with all of them.

For example, Facebook has a feature which allows family members of the deceased to memorialize their page. Google, on the other hand, won’t do anything until they have a copy of the death certificate.

You, or your family, may also consider hiring a digital legacy firm. Not only will they help keep cherished memories alive, but they can protect your accounts from fraudulent activity once you’ve passed.

Why is it necessary to include my digital legacy in the estate planning process?

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal,

In 1986, Congress passed a law forbidding consumer electronic-communications companies from disclosing content without its owner’s consent or a government order like a police investigation. Although that law predates the rise of the commercial Internet, courts and companies have largely interpreted it to mean that the families can’t force companies to let them access the deceased’s data or their accounts.

In layman’s terms: Once you’ve passed, your family can’t legally gain access to your online accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Gmail. By losing access to those accounts, your family will also lose access to memories and mementos they may want to hold onto, such as photos, videos, status updates, and more.

Keeping your digital estate safe

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will take advantage of a deceased person’s online presence for their own gain. There are many known instances of hackers accessing personal information and using it to open fraudulent financial accounts or commit other illegal activity.

As part of the planning process, you should give your family or loved ones all the necessary information to keep your online presence safe. Your instructions should include:

  • Limit the details shared in obituaries
  • Report deaths to all financial accounts
  • Provide death certificates to the three major credit bureaus, as well as the IRS
  • Check credit reports for fraudulent activity a few weeks after you’ve passed
  • Remove your name from all joint accounts
  • Memorialize or delete all social media profiles as soon as possible
  • Consider signing up for a service that will scan the internet for mentions of your name – this will help prevent fake social media accounts being created in your likeness

Final thoughts

Keeping your online legacy safe and secure will limit the hardship your loved ones must face during a difficult time. When you pass, they will want to take time to mourn and grieve – and having to deal with a hacker taking over your online presence or accessing your bank account will make a difficult time even worse.

By providing them with the tools and information they need, you can help make the process a little bit easier.

Posted in: Aging

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