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Archive for August, 2019

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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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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The Importance of Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships

Tuesday , August 6 , 2019

The Importance of Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships

As an adult, I still think about my grandparents on a near daily basis, even though they’ve been gone for decades.

My father’s mother, in particular, holds an almost mythological place in my mind. She ruled with an iron fist, as only the mother of a very large family can do. With 12 children and 15+ grandchildren, there was no room for nonsense.

Yet, she was still loving and kind.

Every Sunday, the entire family would gather for dinner at Grandma’s house. The door was left open, and anyone that was able could just amble in and sit down. There were always uncles playing cards, aunts telling jokes, and grandma making her famous homemade rolls. Grandchildren held a special place in her life, and she always sneaked us treats that mom and dad wouldn’t otherwise allow.

She was the glue that held the family together. As soon as she passed, those dinners stopped, and the family scattered around the country.

Much has been written about the importance of those grandparent-grandchild relationships. Although it’s not frequently discussed, a strong grandparent-grandchild bond can have a lasting impact on the happiness and wellbeing for people on both sides of the equation. Here’s why:

Why Intergenerational Bonds Matter

When a grandparent and a grandchild have a strong connection, it’s usually a sign of a close family overall – but intergenerational bonds have several distinct benefits of their own.


  •  Emotionally close ties between grandparents and grandchildren result in fewer depressive symptoms in both groups
  • For grandparents, relationships with grandchildren provide a connection to the outside world and exposure to different ideas, which they may not otherwise get
  • For grandchildren, grandparents can offer wisdom that may help them navigate difficult times
  • Grandparents can offer first-hand historical perspective that enriches the child’s understanding of the past (for example, many of today’s grandparents likely remember first-hand the American Civil Rights Movement or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy)
  • Involvement with grandchildren can help older adults stay mentally sharp and physically active
  • Often, children will listen to their grandparents even when they won’t listen to their parents or other adults

How to Foster a Strong Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship

It may seem that grandparent-grandchild relationships just come naturally, but that isn’t necessarily so. Due to many factors, such as a large age gap, many children may find it difficult to bond with grandparents without the proper encouragement.

Several researchers, including Merril Silverstein and Vern L. Bengtson, have studied the issue and identified six factors they say lead to “intergenerational solidarity”. While some of them are beyond our control, many are not.

Knowing what these factors are can help grandparents, even if they’ve lost touch with their grandchildren, form a stronger relationship and build a lasting connection:

  • Physical Proximity: Geographic closeness is one of the strongest predictors of a close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. For grandparents who are unable to be physically close to grandchildren due to health, mobility, or other issues, technology can mimic that feeling of proximity. Apps like FaceTime, Skype, or even Facebook Messenger have made it possible to have a “face-to-face” conversation without even leaving the home.
  • Frequent Contact: Almost as important as one-on-one interaction is how often that interaction occurs. It seems almost too obvious to state, but grandparents who have more frequent contact with their grandchildren also tend to have closer relationships.
  • Grandparents’ Function Within the Family: Many grandparents provide childcare for young grandchildren and that regular interaction can help forge a stronger connection. As an added bonus, research suggests that grandparents who babysit live longer.
  • The Concept of Normalcy: Families that expect strong relationships between generations are more likely to have them. Often, this is a cultural function, as certain societies tend to encourage more intergenerational interactions than others. In such families, tasks and duties are expected to be shared among generations, and those values are taught at a very young age.
  • Emotional Bonding: Although bonding among generations is highly important, grandparents often report feeling a closer bond than do grandchildren. This makes sense, as older adults have a shrinking circle of friends and loved ones, and their children and grandchildren often occupy a space of high importance. Children, however, tend to value their peers above all others, closely followed by parents and siblings.
  • Reaching a Consensus on Values: Grandparents and grandchildren naturally have different values, especially as the children age. The younger generation may find grandparents’ ideas “out of touch” or even downright objectionable. While older adults shouldn’t change their ideologies or values, it is important to listen to the younger crowd. The simple act of being heard can go a long way in forming a bond.

Final Thoughts

Parents, remember: Building a strong grandparent-grandchild relationship ultimately falls on you. The middle generation is the one that can bridge the gap between old and young, and help build and shape those connections.

While the six factors above can influence the strength of such bonds, parents need to help facilitate the connection. Children learn their values and ideals from you, and you must teach them that grandparents hold a place of honor within the family!

On that note, I’ll end with another story: I distinctly remember my mother once whacking me on the bottom with a wooden spoon after I stuck out my tongue to my grandmother. I never tried that again . . . and I also learned that grandma was to be respected at all times.

Tell us: What do you do to foster the grandparent/grandchild relationships within your family?

Posted in: Aging

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