Hi, my name is John T. Anderson. Welcome to my blog! I have been practicing law in California since 1975 and have been the Chairman of the Estate Planning and Probate Section of the Long Beach Bar Association since the mid-1980s. I'm also certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. On this blog, you will find articles written by me regarding estate planning and probate in California. Many of these articles address recent changes in the law and summaries of the Long Beach Bar Association’s Estate Planning and Probate Section meetings. I hope that you find these articles helpful. If you would like more information about me or my law office, please visit my website at or contact my office at 562.424.8619.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seniors and Substance Abuse AND Why You Should File Your Estate and Trust Matters in Long Beach

Probate, Trust and Estate Planning Tidbits.
by John T. Anderson, Chairman
Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust
and Probate Law by the State Bar of California,
Board of Legal Specialization

Seniors and Substance Abuse
Why You Should File Your Estate and Trust Matters in Long Beach

NOTE: Darciann Horton, our Long Beach Probate Attorney, has changed her office hours in Long Beach. They will now be Wednesday from 10-12 and Thursday from 1-3.

The Elder law Section of the Orange County Bar met on September 11th with Dr. Max A. Schneider the speaker.  Dr. Schneider has been around for a while.  I was fully prepared to be bored-to-death getting 1 hour of MCLE in a required topic.  I begrudge the Mafia . . .also known as the Bar, for requiring these topics.  I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink.  My vice is weight lifting and teaching karate.  But, I found Dr. Schneider to be a very intelligent and interesting fellow who made the hour well worth it.

But, before I comment further on Dr. Schneider and my efforts to get him to drive to Long Beach from Orange, I want to comment on the low number of Probate, Trust, Conservatorship and Guardianship filings in Long Beach.  Okay, Judge Paul rode into town, took the Bench and laid down his methodology.  Some of you got scared at the new Sheriff-in-Town; and like a deer in the headlights, your eyes went BIG and you leap to Central; or find some “excuse” to legitimately file elsewhere (yeah, right!)  YOU WERE PREMATURE!  Its okay to file in Long Beach.

Sure, the courthouse is ready to fall down and there is asbestos.  It’s our effort to save the State(the taxpayers) the cost of demolition.  It has been a longtime coming.  We saved annually on upkeep and maintenance by doing none.  We let the wind and occasional rain clean-off the walks.

But listen, like the vast majority of Probate judicial officers to sit in Long Beach over the past 40 years, Judge Paul is really decent to appear in front of.  He will hear you on your case.  He is clear about his expectations.  He is working on moving the calendar more expeditiously; AND where else do you get Darci Horton as our Probate Attorney? 

The only negative I hear regarding Darci is accessibility.  But, it goes with the territory.  She takes e-mails.  She works with you to clear notes.  She is extremely pleasant to work with.  If you don’t get Darci, you work with LaKendra McGlothin and she is also great to work with and pleasant to speak with.  I have found that if, as soon as you get your Probate Notes (3 to 4 weeks in advance) you work to clear them, they will be cleared prior to hearing.  When you file supplements with upcoming hearing dates they get to the Probate Attorney.  If your notes are not cleared and do not reflect that you filed a Supplement, e-mail her with the case name, number, hearing date and calendar number and attache the file-stamped supplement and documents to clear notes by scanning them.


Back to Seniors and Substance Abuse.  My credit to Charles Strickland, Esq., Secretary of the Orange County Bar Association, Elder Law Section, for the following:

Anything and everything we eat, drink, breathe, etc. affects our brain.  The use of alcohol or drugs, even if only done once, affects our brain.  To what degree and for how long was expressed allegorically by the presenter.  If one hits ones thumb with a hammer, even once, it definitely affects the thumb.  To what degree and for how long depends upon the age of the person whose thumb was hit.  Additionally, if the thumb is hit more than once then the immediate effect and lasting effect is greater and if hit repeatedly irreparable damage can be done.  The actual damage is greater in the older person and the lasting effect is greater in the older person.

So, the older you are the greater the initial impact, the greater the damage and the longer lasting the impact.  The recovery is delayed considerably the older you are.

The effect of alcohol and drugs on the senior can be seen by reason of the effect it has on: ability, nutrition, diabetes, endurance, bladder problems, kidney disease, cancer, hypertension, digestive problems, respiratory disease, vision, anxiety and depression, to name only a few.  He discussed the effects of alcohol.  The old wound or scrape medication, tincture of iodine.  Tincture is an alcohol mix.  It first agitates the wound, then it puts the nerves to sleep.

Seniors have a decreased tolerance for drugs and alcohol, a decrease in the metabolism of the drug or alcohol, decreased excretion and quite often decreased body mass, physical activity and memory.  The senior begins hiding their drinking, begins sneaking drinks, too frequent refills, decreased tolerance to their medications, confusion, change in grooming habits, behavior or mood, frequent burns and falls and social withdrawal.  These are all items that should alert anyone concerned about the senior of the possibility of substance abuse.  Additionally, youths have been known to, when not in their own home, excuse themselves for a “potty break”, and after the door is closed they will rummage through the medicine cabinet and take what they want.  If there is an experience of missing items in a medicine cabinet this should be added to the list of danger signals.  When a senior goes to the doctor they should “brown bag it”, that is, take their medications with them to tell the doctor what all his prescription is going to be reacting with in the senior’s body.

The body pays for everything placed into it.  If you take uppers there will be a corresponding downer after the uppers wear off.  Additionally, there are withdrawal problems and the withdrawal from each drug gets longer and longer with use.  The withdrawal from downers are evidenced by aggravation and agitation quite often.

A drink is a drink.  One 12 oz. beer, one 5 oz wine and one 1.5 oz shot of whiskey normally contain the same amount of alcohol.

The effect of the blood alcohol level on the brain is different depending upon whether it is measured during the drinking process or measured after the drinking process has terminated.  Thus a .8 on the scale if drinking continues, may have less serious effects than a .8 on the downward side of the curve after alcohol use has terminated.  Concerning some of the addictive drugs, the ½ life of cocaine in the body is 1½ hours but the normal high is only 20-25 minutes.  The combination of alcohol and cocaine is not merely a combination of drugs.  There is an actual metabolism of the combination, and the Secretary believes it was said, by the liver, into a new drug called cocaethylene so the effect of the combination of drugs is not just 1 + 1 = 2, but 1 + 1 could = 3.

The use of mood altering drugs starts out as FUN, then fun and problems, then only problems.  Addiction follows it, affecting the brain by increased compulsion, impaired control and other consequences with chronic disease and a change in lifestyle following.  The younger the drug use starts, the more it is used and the longer it is used, the more difficult is the recovery.

The user is almost always in denial, very seldom will it be admitted by the patient to anyone in the family, their physician or their attorney.  Be on the alert for some immediate memory loss, some short-term memory loss and long-term memory loss and even blackouts.  The blackouts do not necessarily mean unconsciousness but that the individual is unable to recall substantial periods of time and when they “wake up” from these blackouts, they wonder how they got where they are or don’t know what they did during the blackout.  These blackouts can be for a very prolonged period of time where basically the long-term memory takes over for the motor actions while the short-term memory does not function at all.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are brain diseases and as seniors, you are more likely to have “brain disease” and drugs and alcohol only increase the probability and the severity.

The presenter says his approach is a little different, everyone is guilty until proven innocent.  If there are any symptoms of abuse, always assume guilty until proven innocent.

The time for recovery from each use increases with age and the recovery symptoms become more acute and possibly more varied.  In discussing it with the elder make it easier for them to tell the truth.  By way of a small example, only ask the senior if they’ve had 20 or 30 beers or drinks over whatever period you’re interested in and let them assure you it was only 5 or 10, etc.

There is absolutely no cure for alcoholism or drug addiction, one can only change one’s lifestyle.  By way of example, if you have diabetes, there is no cure, but it can normally be controlled by the change of lifestyle.  In that regard, court schools for DUI or drug diversion programs, it appears that for the non-violent drug offender, 11% of graduates only are re-arrested while 80% of non-completers are re-arrested.  Quitting is tough, staying quit is tougher!!  Additionally, there are other health issues involved, food, shelter and clothing for the individual, their transportation is affected and their socialization or re-socialization is changed.  It can result in domestic abuse, loss of job, misdiagnoses (a very severe effect), sex diminutions, sleep deprivation, and a severe change in their attitude.

Pain, uncontrolled, can be the cause of addiction so it should only be under the control of a doctor not self-medicated for pain.

Treatment programs are essential to stop, to recover and to not start again.  It is extremely difficult for an individual to do all 3 of these on their own.  Not to say it can’t be done, but it is difficult.  Assistance can be received through psychotherapy, behavior modification, group therapy, one-on-one, or faith based.

Seniors are quite prone to “share” their medication and this should be monitored by their loved ones.

Dying from substance abuse is hell!!

                John T. Anderson, Section Chair
                Certified Specialist in Probate, Trust and Estate Planning
                By the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization

Copyright © 2011 by John T. Anderson
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