April is Donate Life Month – Do You Have a Heart?

Of course you have a heart! This title is about whether you have one of those little hearts with a “Y”  in the center on the front of your Colorado Driver License . . .

This is what it’s for!

This month Donor Alliance is hosting events statewide to publicize this year’s National Donate Life Month.  Check out one of the events here .  You can also see some activities of Donate Life Colorado (the namesake for the Colorado license plates ) on Facebook here .  Of course, it isn’t just about organ donation, there are plenty of related activities for this month.  In light of the recent tragedy in Boston, it is important to remember that there is something many of us can do to help someone in need – donate blood!  In the metro area there are several Bonfils Blood Centers that make donating easy (almost painless, in fact) and on their website  you can find out if there is a blood drive that can make your donation even simpler.  In my experience, there are better snacks and goodies at those blood drives . . . . . !

Bonfils has their own marrow donor program, but I am registered through DKMS as a donor.  Some years back at Film on the Rocks  (when Talladega Nights was playing at Red Rocks), DKMS was recruiting, so a cheek swab and an interview later, I’m signed up.  I even got contacted two years ago as a potential match for a patient.  I wasn’t able to donate because the patient wasn’t in a position to receive a donation.  These can be very tricky matches from a timing perspective for the patient, which makes it even more imperative to have lots of registered donors available.  You can visit the DKMS Americas website for more information In case you’re wondering about DKMS, it stands for the German – Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei (bone marrow donor) Center, which began in 1991 when a young woman, critically ill from leukemia and in need of stem cell transplant was in need of a match for a donation.  DKMS USA was founded in 2004 and has been involved in stem cell donation to battle blood cancers – cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

So why donate?  Here are some quick facts about blood donation:

  1. 4.5 million Americans will a need blood transfusion each year.
  2. 43,000 pints: amount of donated blood used each day in the U.S. and Canada.
  3. Someone needs blood every two seconds.
  4. Only 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood – less than 10 percent do annually.
  5. About 1 in 7 people entering a hospital need blood.
  6. One pint of blood can save up to three lives. PS This is the amount of a donation at a blood bank.
  7. Healthy adults who are at least 17 years old, and at least 110 pounds may donate about a pint of blood – the most common form of donation – every 56 days, or every two months. Females receive 53 percent of blood transfusions; males receive 47 percent.
  8. 94 percent of blood donors are registered voters.
  9. Four main red blood cell types: A, B, AB and O. Each can be positive or negative for the Rh factor. AB is the universal recipient; O negative is the universal donor of red blood cells.
  10. One unit of blood can be separated into several components: red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate.

Find more facts about blood donation here .

So . . . .  why donate? It is a gift of life for someone in need, it is a way to help others.  It is also a way of showing gratitude for good health that many of our community members do not enjoy.  Have you ever known someone who required a blood transfusion?  Most of us have and we are grateful that the blood was available at their time of need.

It’s easy enough to do.  first you determine whether you are eligible.  If you are, you will have your blood pressure, pulse and blood count (hemoglobin level) measured.  The next step is that needle in your arm to donate the blood.  When you are finished, you get a snack and perhaps a colorful bandage.  Pretty simple and definitely not too time-consuming.  Whole blood donors can give as often as every six weeks.  Because of the number of people who need blood and the relatively smaller number of people who can donate, you might decide to donate on a regular basis.  But every little bit helps.  In the U.S., someone needs a blood transfusion every 2-3 seconds.  Keep in mind that most of us will need a blood transfusion at some point in our lives.  Don’t wait till an emergency to wonder if the blood you or a loved one e might  need will be available.  Your donation this month will help ensure the adequacy of the blood supply.  Okay, if you still need a little YouTube inspiration, watch this clip about a mom of triplets whose life was saved a transfusion.   Okay, this last bit is for the legal part of this post, don’t forget to make advance arrangements with the correct legal documents to state your wish to be an organ donor.

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org





The Music of Family Relationships

It’s springtime somewhere, but definitely not in Denver this morning where the snow from Monday’s storm has melted only a little.  I got a blizzard alert on my iPhone at about 7:30 this morning!  It’s coming down right now.  We do need the moisture and I, for one, am not anxious to get started on the lawn mowing anytime soon. . . .  So here’s a picture of spring that I took last week in Ireland.

For all of you skeptics (or people who have been to Ireland before) the weather was beautiful and I took many pictures with visible blue sky! I took this picture on the grounds of Glenstal Abbey, where I was lucky enough to spend several days in a warm and welcoming Benedictine community.  I took this picture after walking back from a visit to Mass Rock.  There Irish soprano Noirin Ni Riain told our group about the history of the Mass Rock. She alo sang to us and finished by leading us in song.  She has an amazing voice and her music not only speaks to the soul, but moves it.  I purchased three of her CD’s when I was there and they are all available from Sounds True in Boulder.  Her songs are sung in Irish, but I find that the most moving music is not in my mother tongue of English.  I’m also thinking of Gorecki’s Third Symphony which you can listen to part of it (with beautiful visual accompaniment) here .  My favorite is the original million-seller with soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Music and spring and travel. . . .  That leads me also to an experience I had some years ago when I was visiting a local nursing home in my capacity as JFS para-chaplain.  I was there to lead a service and because I was lucky enough to be accompanied by a guitarist, I sang an old Yiddish song called Oif’n Prippitchik.  About midway into the song something very interesting happened.  One of the residents who attended was a woman with very advanced dementia who, it was reported to me later, had not spoken in over a year.  She started first to hum and then sing along with the song.  She spoke about her grandmother.  The song had transported her right back to a happy memory of childhood, when her grandmother had sung that song to her.  By the means of music, hearing that melody – she was moved in a sort of time travel.  I was most certainly moved witnessing that event.  Another story of music as a means of transport for the spirit comes to mind, it is from Megory Anderson’s book Sacred Dying.

So this post is about connections I suppose, and the beauty of writing blog posts is that I can incorporate things like . . . . a bumper sticker that I saw this morning on my way to work.  It read “love lasts longer than life.”  I nodded in agreement.  This post is also about new varieties of living arrangements in this country, which hearken back to some very old traditional arrangements.  I thought about the post after reading an article about it in the April 2013 AARP bulletin.

The title of the April Bulletin’s article is “Saving Money by Living Together,” and it is about money saving, but I suspect that the approximately 51 million Americans who live in a house with at least two generations in a single home, and many of these most likely have three generations, are enjoying more than just money savings from the arrangement.  The money savings factor in substantially for caring for an elder parent, and the arrangement also give an adult child or children the opportunity to give back to the aging parent some of the care they received from childhood.  This can be a beautiful way of modeling productive multigenerational relationships for young children.   I think it also can foster a productive stage of elderhood for many grandparents, a topic I’ve blogged about previously.

One of the biggest challenges that we face as a society is how to take care of the burgeoning number of elders, some of whom have meager savings and many whose savings have simply run out over the course of a long number of years of paying for health care not covered by Medicare and costs of living in retirement.  I sometimes hear the offhand lament “we don’t take care of our elders in this country,” to which I often quickly respond with the numbers of elders and the fact that the vast majority of those elders needing care receive some or all of their care from unpaid family members.  One of the side effects of longevity is reworking family relationships to support elders in their later years.  As an estate planning and elder law attorney, there are a number of legal arrangements that an individual and family can put in place to manage the legal aspects of these often complicated financial, medical and emotional considerations.  In a multigenerational housing arrangement, it is good to start with a plan.  I liked this article’s list of tips for making such an arrangement work which include:  discuss expectations and responsibilities like financial and privacy issues; talk about parental and filial (adult child to parent) responsibilities; check zoning restrictions about renovations for attached dwellings; and share the responsibilities.  I would also add that it might be wise to have a regular place for the family members to meet all together to ensure things are working and so any conflict can be managed productively and not allowed to proliferate.   Some of my clients have made such arrangements and they are usually mutually beneficial.  It is interesting to note the change in structure that economic and age-related considerations can have for families – for so many of us, it brings our dear ones closer to us.

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org




Springtime in Colorado: The New Colorado Civil Union Act Part II

In this second installment,  I’m taking a look at how the designated beneficiaries agreement (hereafter DBA) might fare in light of the ability (beginning May 1, 2013) of same gender couple to enter into civil unions or have their civil unions from other states recognized.


The DBA became an alternative for recognition of important  rights of unmarried couples,  which included same gender couples, for several rights which were previously available but also included new rights such as: making funeral arrangements hospital visitation and other health care purposes, the right to inherit real and personal property  under intestate succession (for the first of the DBA parties to die), along with a surviving party to a DBA’s standing to file a wrongful death action and  standing to receive benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado.  The Designated Beneficiaries Act was in some ways an intermediate stop along the way to civil unions, beginning with the Colorado Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act of 2006, Colo. Rev. Stat. §14-15-101.

How does the new Colorado  civil union law  treat couples who have previously entered into a DBA?

There are several important changes to note – I’ll cover three major ones here:

  • (1) a civil union certificate is a “superseding legal document” in relation to a DBA (amending Colo. Rev. Stat. §15-22-103(3);
  • (2) neither party to a valid DBA may be a partner in a civil union (adding Colo. Rev. Stat. §15-22-104(a)(III.5); and
  • (3) entering into a civil union by either party will deem a DBA revoked (amending  Colo. Rev. Stat. §15-22-111 (3)).

The DBA was widely viewed as an important recognition of legal status for same gender couples, even if the language of the statute didn’t address the gender of the parties entering into a DBA.  The primary requirements are that the parties be 18 or older, unmarried, and as mentioned above, not parties to a civil union.  So, what is the future for the DBA?

DBAs can still be used, but it seems unlikely that many same gender couples will utilize the arrangement now that there is a civil union status that is essentially the same legal status as marriage.  So – whither the DBA?  I think the DBA can survive as an alternative to marriage or civil union and potentially as a defense against  common law marriage.  Colorado in one of a handful of states that still recognized the frontier relic of common law marriage.   It is important to keep in mind that there is no common law divorce – that if a couple is legally married, then they may only dissolve their marriage (or civil union) through divorce.  I think the DBA has a future for those couples who want to retool their legal relationship to ensure  some flexibility but without all the consequences of being a “spouse” by virtue of marriage or civil union.  The DBA could help define the nonmarital relationship in a meaningful and significant way.   This remains to be seen, but I think given the exigencies of many later life remarriages, the DBA may have a “second life” as a means of honoring a committed nonmarital relationship for couples in Colorado.

 ©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org


Attack of the Zombie Lawyers!




In a recent blogpost, I had a link to an adverstisement for an insurance company selling coverage for retirees interested in buying protection against robot attacks. . . .  Who knew I would be writing a post about zombie lawyers a few short weeks later! You may not recognize these zombies because, well, they’re not the Hollywood stylized ones popularized by the movie Zombieland and that whole genre of too-many-B-movies-to-name (with all due respect to George Romero and Shaun of the Dead. . . . ). Yes, they’re missing the makeup and the flashy zombie attire, but don’t be fooled – they’re real!




In case you are doubting the veracity of this post, here’s another picture – this one of bar association employees – who knew they too were zombies?! – gathered for a snack in their lunchroom.


Okay, really these zombies are obviously having too much fun to be the menacing, drooling Hollywood types! So what gives with the zombie lawyer theme? Is there any redeeming part of this whole April Fools blogpost you ask? Well . . .  hold on. . . .

I was also thinking of another variation of a “zombie lawyer” – I’m thinking of the DIY online document services  and legal information available over the internet  – both the free and the fee-based kind.  Why – you might wonder – would I consider this a kind of “zombie lawyer?”  Well, many folks who have legal questions or difficulties often have questions about the law, or how it applies to them – and they don’t know where to start.  The internet is an amazing but often overwhelming source of information, and some of the information that is available is legal in nature.  So there is plenty of information out there, but how to filter out the wheat from the chaff?  And what about figuring out how it might apply to your particular situation? If you aren’t sure whether you are asking the right question or think your situation is unique, or that your scenario might be complicated -and  not something that is readily answerable in an “FAQ” type information source – sifting through the information can be overwhelming.  How do you decide which is “good” information that applies to your circumstances?  Well, the “zombie lawyer” or more accurately “zombie legal advice” you can cobble together from a variety of internet sources may be problematic in several ways:

  • it may not be state (Colorado) specific, but based on another state’s law (how do you know?)
  • it may be designed to apply to a one-size-fits-all category and you’re not sure what your size is. . . .
  • you might zero in on a known problem and not consider its relationship to other issues
  • you might end up “fixing” one problem only to create a difficulty in another area
  • how will you know if you’re asking the right question or getting a sound answer?
  • can you accurately consider the cost of the “downside” for doing nothing, or addressing the situation by handling it yourself?

When you contact a lawyer, you get the benefit of talking with an actual human, not a zombie that looks like a source of legal information or advice! A lawyer is not someone who is just trained in the law in terms of finding information, we go to law school to learn to look at things and analyze issues and situations in terms of legal analysis.  Sometimes the most important task in finding an answer for a client is in identifying the right question.   Here I would also offer an insight from  a favorite book of mine – Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,”  and in terms of work in my field of estate and elder law, it takes me and my colleagues from being otherwise pigeonholed by some as mere document preparers to a job more along the lines of being a symphony conductor:  We provide the forum to ask the right questions, to hear the concerns of the client and to coordinate the legal issues, analysis and practical application to a synthesis or symphony. . . .   In my opinion, this is the best part of being a lawyer. And that is no April Fool’s joke!


©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org