She Was His North Star

His shoulders slump and his head bows as if his very life force has been suddenly drawn out of him. His face reflects the pain and confusion that his mind and heart are toiling with, struggling to grasp a wisp of reality and understand that the impossible has indeed happened. “I just can’t believe it; I can’t fathom it,” he says. “Are you telling me the truth? She’s not available anymore?” This happens every time my dad asks about my …

Alzheimer’s Deaths: Much Higher Than Reported

Alzheimer’s disease may cause up to six times more deaths than previously reported, making it the third leading cause of death in the country, just behind heart disease and cancer. The disease kills as many as half a million people each year, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. “We know that a lot more people are passing away from this disease than we recognized before,” said lead author Bryan D. James, an epidemiologist with Rush University …

Warn Your Grown Kids: Flu Killing Young Adults

Normally it’s those 65 and older who get hit hardest by the flu, but this flu season has been particularly deadly for young and middle-aged adults, causing many more deaths and dramatically higher hospitalization rates than the previous three seasons. The reason is a return of the dangerous H1N1 virus, or swine flu, that caused the 2009-10 pandemic. This particular strain of flu makes people “very sick, very fast, and it kills,” said Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Tom …

An Unusual Challenge to an Actress’s Will

Imagine that you die after a long series of illnesses. Because you’ve been successful in your field and leave a considerable estate. You might expect a will challenge – sure. But from your former lawyer?  Now, that’s one weird situation. But that’s exactly what has happened with the estate of Julie Harris, the renowned actress who died late last summer. Back in 2009, Harris had fired long-time lawyer Herbert Nass, who was potentially the executor of her will.  Several months …

Should Elder Abusers Be Able to Inherit From Their Victims?

Say there’s an older adult - let’s call her Judy - who has difficulty caring for herself. Judy’s son, Charles, is her primary caretaker, but he abuses her, pinching her and refusing to give her dinner if she doesn’t stay quiet during his favorite TV show.  Judy’s doctor notices that she has bruises on her arms and is rapidly losing weight; she reports Charles to family services, and Charles is eventually convicted of felony abuse. After several months, Judy dies of unrelated …

Andy Kaufman: Still Funny, Still Dead

Reports this week that the long-departed comedian Andy Kaufman is still alive have been debunked. For fans of Kaufman, who had often joked about faking his own death, the news was inevitable, but disappointing. Here’s what happened this week: On Monday, according to reports, the comedian’s brother, Michael, appeared at a comedy club in New York and, while introducing a woman he claimed was his brother’s daughter, read a letter purportedly from Andy. Thursday, the website Smoking Gun reported that the …