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March wrap-up: Alzheimer’s detection and human composting

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It’s the last Sunday of March. This month was all about Alzheimer detection and a new, eco-friendly way to dispose of your remains called human composting.

Alzheimer’s News

A new study estimates 6.9 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and another five to seven million have mild cognitive impairment. Getting an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is usually a fairly long process. It requires a doctor to analyze a patient’s medical history, symptoms, cognitive and speech tests and sometimes P.E.T. scan or M.R.I. New criteria proposed from the Alzheimer’s Association could lead to a diagnosis after only a blood test.

A small study out of John Hopkins has found that monitoring daily activity patterns using a wrist device called an actigraph may detect early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. AI may also help predict Alzheimer’s disease in patients up to seven years before any symptoms appear. Scientists from UC San Francisco are using machine learning to analyze patient records to help identify patients at risk. A new study out of UC Davis shows that the Keto diet may prevent early memory decline in mice, comparable to the mild cognitive impairment in humans that predeceases full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, they found that mice lived 13% longer on Keto diets. And, in an unusual move, the FDA postponed approval for a new Alzheimer’s drug and instead, decided they want input from its independent advisory committee. The experimental drug, made by Eli Lilly, is part of a controversial new class of Alzheimer’s medications.

Guardianships

The release of the documentary series Where is Wendy Williams? on Hulu, in late February of 2024 brought guardianships and conservatorships back into the spotlight this month. The docuseries opens in May 2022, following the start of her guardianship after a New York court found she was an “incapacitated person” and “victim of undue influence and financial exploitation” and follows the guardianship closely. This is just one of the many guardianship and conservatorship cases that has caught the publics eye in recent years. In the past we’ve talked about Britney Spears, Michael Oher, Amanda Bynes, Bryan Wilson and Jay Leno, to name a few. Popular fiction pieces are also highlighted guardianships and conservatorships, like Netflix’s 2020 Movie “I Care a Lot.” An upcoming example is a new movie starring Joan Hart and La La Anthony with the working title “The Bad Guardian” that will follow a woman trying to save her elderly father from the hands of a conservatorship. However, we recommend you watch these sorts of movies with a critical eye.

When sorting through different stories about guardianships and conservatorships, remember that different jurisdictions define the words “guardianship” and “conservatorship” differently. Guardians and conservators also have standards they use to make decisions for their wards. Often times, guardianships and conservatorships can also be avoided using a good set of powers of attorney.

Human Composting

If neither cremation, nor burial feels right for your remains, there may be another option- human composting. Human composting (also called natural organic reduction or terramation) uses microbes to decompose the body. The decomposition generates heat which kills off any pathogens that may be left. By the end, the body is dark brown dirt, which you can spread on forest floors or in a garden. Fans of human composting have hailed it as a more environmentally friendly option for disposal of remains. If you think this alternative might be a good fit for you, there may be one slight hiccup- human composting is only legal in six states to date: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont, and New York. Other states, like Delaware, are slowly but surely beginning to pass legislation allowing human composting.

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Robert B. Fleming

Attorney

Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman

Attorney

Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson

Attorney

Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour

Attorney

Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.