January is still Alzheimer Awareness Month


Written on January 27, 2015 – 6:26 am | by Audrey Miller

January is Alzheimer Awareness Month and as it comes to a close, I am more mindful about the landscape of which we are all a part. Where Alzheimer’s has been a dementia of old age, we who are boomers are all experiencing memory problems and more of us, aged 40-60 years are being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I have had reason to reflect on these issues in this month.

The York Regional Police report of January 17, 2015 stated that a 76-year-old grandmother went missing and was found more than 14 hours later sitting in a stranger’s car. Police stated that she was inside a vehicle and managed to slip away without her caregiver noticing. Also reported was that she suffers from severe dementia and speaks very little English. Police were particularly concerned about her because of the freezing temperatures overnight. Temperatures dipped to -3 overnight but it felt like -12 with the wind chill. Closer to home, a few months ago, we began working with a family where the wife went out for walk and she too went missing for 24 hours. She had been able to remove her GPS tracking system, which was in her coat pocket; police were sent looking for her as well. Fortunately, the weather was warmer in October and she was found unharmed and in relatively good health as well.

I highly recommend that registration with the Safely Home Program from the Alzheimer’s Society be completed before it is needed.

Alzheimer’s disease will eventually affect how a person thinks, feels, acts, and reacts to the environment. Symptoms will gradually increase and become more persistent. The Federal Government estimates that 500,000 Canadians live with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia and further predict that this number will double within a generation. The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada says that women represent 72% of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease and their newest campaign sponsored by KPMG Foundation is called ‘The 72%’.
This is because women are doubly affected by Alzheimer’s disease as they outnumber men living with the disease and more often than not shoulder the responsibility of caring for a family member with it.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada’s emphasis is on walking the talk and on knowing the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s and on sharing them with our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and friends. The Women’s Brain Health Initiative also understands these concerns and offers information geared to specific women’s brain health.

People with early onset are in their 40s and 50s have families, careers or may even be caregivers themselves when Alzheimer’s disease strikes. Since health care providers generally don’t look for Alzheimer’s disease in younger people, getting an accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process. Symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different health care professionals. People who have early onset Alzheimer’s may be in any stage of dementia – early stage, middle stage or late stage. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary. While this is Alzheimer Awareness month, we need to keep in mind this is a disease that impacts lives daily. Many of us will be touched by Alzheimer’s and the key messages here are to remember that You Are Not Alone and that support and assistance is available.
-Audrey Miller and Renee Ruiter-Kohn

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    The Dementia Plague


    Written on January 26, 2015 – 6:00 am | by Jasmine Sweatman

    Usually the first image that comes to mind when we say someone has dementia is a person who cannot remember and is confused about even the most basic facts of their being: where he or she is or lives, the present day, month or year, and even the names and faces of his or her most loved ones. We picture someone with dementia as someone who cannot manage their own needs and requires assistance for the tasks of daily living.

    As imagined above, a person with dementia no doubt has need for one or more persons acting under a power of attorney to make health care and financial decisions for them.

    However, dementia is much more complicated. For one, most people who have known someone with dementia recognize that the loss in cognitive impairment is gradual. The loss in mental function may not be noticeable until months or even sometimes years after its first diagnosis.  It may not be the same day to day.

    We recommend an article published in the MIT Technology Review (available online) entitled “The Dementia Plague”, which discusses dementia research and provides some striking facts about the disease. For example, the article notes a study conducted at one hospital revealed that, during the study period, 90 percent out of every person 70 or older who was admitted to the hospital, for any reason, had cognitive impairment of some kind. The article also says recent research found the frequency with which cognitive impairment arises from causes other than or in combination with Alzheimer’s disease, with which traditionally dementia was associated, was greater than was previously thought.

    The breadth and complexity of dementia reminds us that there are different kinds of capacity, and it is likely at some point almost everyone will need to address these questions for a family member. A person may seem capable to take care of his or her own hygiene and meals, but is he or she able to make financial decisions? And at what point has a person lost enough capacity that he or she is no longer able to enter into legal documents?

    The evolution and development of this area as it affects more and more of us represents increasing challenges. It too will require us as practitioners to evolve and develop.

    Until next time,

    Jasmine Sweatman/Cheryl Cheung

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      Are 36 Months Enough?


      Written on January 23, 2015 – 6:23 am | by Malcolm Burrows

      With the passage of the new estate donation rules by Parliament on December 16, 2014, the anxiety level in the estate planning community started to rise. The issue generating concern is the 36-month time period after death to distribute “estate donations” to charity, which is also known as the period of the Graduated Rate Estate. Simply put, for estate donations received after 2016, there will be more tax savings if property is distributed within 36-months, but far less if there the distributions occur after 36 months.

      To be fair, the new rules will benefit the majority of estates — those with straight-forward, easily distributable assets and no litigious parties. The 36-month distribution period will be adequate, and may even sharpen the minds of executors to wrap up administration. Charities will have an easier job receipting donations.

      Under the new rule the potential tax benefits have been increased. An estate donation — which includes a gift by will and direct designations gifts of life insurance and registered funds — can be claimed over a longer period and against more income. In addition to the ability to claim donations against 100% of net income in the final to lifetime returns, the estate donation rules allow the executor to claim donations against up to 75% of net income in the three years after death. Where once there was a two-year claim period for donations, now there is a five-year period. Moreover, executors have discretion about the years they wish to claim against. The downside is a distribution made after 36 months misses the five-year claim window and can only be claimed against 75% of income in the estate return in the year of receipt.

      Where once tax relief for a gift by will was a given due to 118.1(5), which deemed a gift to be made at death, the new estate donation rules require the property to be transferred in order for the gift to be made and a tax receipt issued. But what if there are circumstances that prevent the executor from distributing the intended gift? For example, what if the estate is tied up in illiquid assets, such as a private company or real estate? Or, what if the estate is tied up in a litigation, therefore preventing a distribution within the 36-month window? The estate pays more tax and the charity beneficiaries receive less. Surely, the public policy objective of the incentive is not to reduce the amount received by charities due to arbitrary factors beyond their control.

      The 36-month distribution window is a hard deadline. Unlike other sections of the Income Tax Act, there is no process to apply to CRA for an extension to the deadline. There is no recourse if the deadline is missed. This is a major oversight. Not only will charities suffer, but donors with complex estates or concerns about potential litigation may choose not to give. I am aware of at least one major donation that has currently been cancelled because the prospective donor felt the tax relief was not sufficiently assured and he feared that his donation would effectively result in double taxation. Donors and their advisors require a measure of certainty and, at the very least, administrative fairness. The current iteration of the estate donation rules need to revised to provide both.

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