Thursday, January 23, 2014
There are a lot of impressive people who teach courses in the "law and aging" spectrum, people I know by name, but have never actually met. I suspect I'm not alone in this regard. So, this post is the first of what I hope to offer as a series of "spotlights" on colleagues teaching "elder law" -- broadly defined -- at law schools across the U.S. and Canada. My goal is go beyond the law school profiles with these spotlights.
Shining the spotlight on Associate Professor Lisa Brodoff at the Seattle University School of Law is a great place to start.
Lisa Brodoff is the Director of Clinical Programs, which keeps her busy with Seattle's Administrative Law and Trusts and Estates Clinics, as well as teaching Elder Law. One of the first aspects of Lisa's career that struck me is that she was well ahead of the curve on same-sex marriage equality issues, having filed an Amicus brief in Washington State in 2005, arguing that without marriage protection, same-sex elder couples risked impoverishment, loss of the family home, and could all-too-easily encounter "uninformed and insensitive health care." Her argument, even if unpersuasive in the short run with a majority of the Washington Supreme Court (there were strong dissenting opinions from those who understood), certainly predicted the path for success in Windsor.
One of Professor Brodoff's latest projects has been working on Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Mental Health Advance Directives. She has developed a first-of-its kind planning document, one that she originally proposed in a law review article for the Elder Law Journal in 2010. Links to her template, plus detailed instructions for use, are now available on Compassion and Choices' website. Students in her Trusts and Estates Clinic are already working with this format for advance directives for clinic clients.
Now we get to the really fun part of Lisa's background. She's a musician (electric bass!), singer and songwriter -- for a band called The Righteous Mothers. Absolutely fun music, great harmonies, well-crafted lyrics, often with a strong vein of humor, and a fair share of "law and aging" content. Just check out the YouTube video for their song "Old Fat Naked Women for Peace." I double-dog dare our readers to do so!
As my Elder Law Prof Blogging colleague Becky Morgan likes to say, "Elder Law Rocks!" -- and this time we can say so "musically."
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
On yesterday's ride over the Blue Mountains between my Law School's campus in Carlisle and the campus in State College, I caught a great public radio program, interviewing folks at a "Memory Cafe."
As anyone involved in care for a person with dementia knows, especially those who are "stuck" at home, it can be a challenge. Both the caregiver and the cared-for person could use a good break now and then.
That's where the concept of Memory Cafes come in -- a place where folks won't judge about how Alzheimer's or similar cognitive impairments might affect the ability to have a traditional conversation. Where canes and walkers are welcome. A place that is warm and friendly. Where people understand -- and can share a laugh, along with good coffee.
From Wisconsin Public Radio, here's a bit of history and a description of a cafe in Appleton, Wisconsin:
“'Memory Cafes' got their start in the Netherlands and are common now both there and in England. They are 'judgment-free zones' for people with mild dementia or memory loss.
About a dozen people gathered last week at a cafe session at a coffee shop in Appleton. John McFadden is a co-coordinator of the memory cafe and plays the ukulele to welcome participants. Betty Ann Nelson came with her husband, Duane. The Nelsons have been married 58 years and have attended several cafe sessions since they began earlier this year."
Some sessions might involve activities, such as a program called "Time Slips" where participants pass around amusing photos and are invited to tell the story. One photo showed nuns on bumper cars at an amusement park, leading a customer to describe them as "Holy Rollers."
For more on the concept, follow the links on Wisconsin Public Radio to listen to this radio account.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Over the Labor Day weekend, I happened to catch a great public radio interview with author Will Schwable about the book inspired by his two-year conversation with his mother about books. The End of Your Life Book Club describes how their mutual love of reading provided opportunities for the two to discuss life and death, both directly and indirectly. Why was this important? The conversations took place while his mother was receiving chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. He said they never had "the big talk" you might expect when confronted with mortality -- rather, they had dozens and dozens of small talks.
It made me think about conversations with my own family members. We live far apart and while I try to make it home frequently (at this point, I'm the only family member who flies), I know I don't make it home often enough. But we talk a lot on the phone and I think we have also developed ways of speaking directly and indirectly about the present and the future. Lately, with my parents that has often been through funny conversations about Dancing with the Stars. (Thank goodness for on-demand television access, since I rarely catch the show on first airing.) We talk about who is "doing well for their age" or who isn't. We suggest who we would like to see on the show (Julie Andrews?), and who makes us cringe (sorry, Cloris Leachman). It has become shorthand for talking about memory, mobility, capacity, and our own aches and pains.
What works for your family? Or are you part of a (rare?) family who talks about such topics directly? (Comments open below)