Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Genealogy Traces Roots

This morning, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, WITF-FM's Radio SmartTalk focused on genealogy -- the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history -- in an episode entitled Family Trees and Genealogy:

Living in the early 21st century has its perks – among them, access to information like never before. DNA testing can help you trace your roots. Social networking sites can help you reconnect with relatives. A lot of folks are taking advantage of these and other tools to develop a family tree.

We welcome your questions about genealogy for Jonathan Stayer and Aaron McWilliams, archivists with the Pennsylvania State Archives. They'll offer some insights into how to research your family's history, track down records, and get it all organized.

We'll also talk with a couple who have just completed an extensive family tree – Radio Smart Talk host Craig Cohen's parents, Ed and Sheilah Cohen. They've compiled the tree, records, biographies, and assorted family anecdotes. They'll share some of what they turned up – including some stories and connections to history, and some of the sleuthing they did to fill in some missing pieces of their family's past.
The hour's discussion , which can be heard via the Internet using a multimedia computer, was a mixture of "how to" steps in a genealogical study using Pennsylvania's extensive and available resources, which are summarized online, and also "done that, been there" experiences and emotions shared by the host's parents, who researched their Russian ancestry into a printed book.

I listened with interest from two points of view.

First, as a lawyer, I know that, where an intestacy occurs upon a death or where a Last Will makes class bequests or invokes substitution provisions, a "family tree" will determine what interests become distributable to living heirs. But such investigations involve just a few generations. That exercise is more like a study of
kinship to pass possessions or wealth.

Second, as a young man nearly forty years ago, my father presented me with a Hendershot genealogy, researched by one of my distant relatives, Alfred E. Hendershot, of Ohio. He prepared a
Genealogy of the Hendershot Family in America (1961), spanning from my generation back to the immigration of an ancestor from Germany in the early 1700's (as I recall). I found it referenced online, along with a database at ancestry.com. That book traced my deep roots.

That sense of personal history -- of connection to people who lived in the past, and of our legacy of their hopes and beliefs -- is important.

I urge listening to that session.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Session on Patient/Client Health Care Decisions

On Thursday, April 22, 2010, from 4 to 6 p.m., a continuing education seminar entitled "Documenting and Implementing Patient/Client Health Care Decisions" will be presented at the Allegheny County Bar Association, in its Auditorium on the Seventh Floor of the City-County Building.

The sponsors are:

Speakers include:
  • Robert B. Wolf, Esquire, Tener, Van Kirk, Wolf & Moore, PC
  • Judith S. Black, M.D., MHA, of Highmark Inc.
  • Raymond C. Vogliano, Esquire, of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, as Moderator
This is the Agenda:
  • Mr. Vogliano: 4:00 p.m .-- Introduction of Program
  • Mr. Wolf: 4:05 - 5:00 p.m. --Legal and Medical Background of Medical Decision Making; The Impact of Act 169; The New Patient Health Care Representative;Drafting the Durable Health Care Power of Attorney & Living Will; and The ACBA/ACMS Endorsed Form (Choosing and Using the Right Form)
  • Dr. Black: 5:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. --Defining the Role of the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST); Framework for Exploring Patient Goals and Guiding POLST Decisions; and Recognizing and Promoting the Value of POLST in Assuring Patients’ Health Care Treatment Choices are Respected
  • Panel: 5:45 p.m. - 6:00 pm -- Q & A; and Conclusion
The brochure notes the significance of the session in a one-sentence summary:
The program will provide continuing education credits for attorneys, physicians, nurses, nursing home administrators, and social workers in a first of its kind multidisciplinary seminar which will focus on the endorsed form of the ACBA/ACMS Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will Form that is available to all professionals and the general public for free download from the Bar Association and Medical Society websites, and the Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment or POLST form, which is a physician order that implements the treatment wishes of patients and is designed to portable from one care setting to another.
For those providers or advisers in Western Pennsylvania who have not attended a session over the past three years about the new Chapter 54 of the Probate, Estates & Fiduciaries Code, or want an update on the P.O.L.S.T. movement, this is a great opportunity. Registration is required.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Would the PA Dept of Aging Change its Name?

During an unscheduled late morning session held over coffee and donuts on Tuesday, April 1st, 2010, at a restaurant in Harrisburg, a representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, sitting among co-workers, was overheard discussing whether the Department should change its official name to the "Pennsylvania Office of Getting Older" ("OGO" or "Pogo").

When queried, the representative disclaimed any authority for seeking feedback or for involvement in a name change project, but he did comment.

"Some of my co-workers wonder if we should consider a change in our name. We're changing everything else lately. Personally, I'm tired of the negative connotations of some abbreviations used to reference the Department.

"Now, I gotta get back to the office . . . and don't print my name."
One source confirmed that concerns do exist within the Department that many people abbreviate the Department's current name into the acronym "DoA". That term carries a negative connotation in medical terminology.

"Our work is not about that condition at all," said that source. "That would be under the jurisdiction of the Department of State's Funeral Directors Licensing Board."

That same
source noted that many journalists refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Aging loosely as the "Aging Department." That name conflicts with the "enhancing" and "empowering" themes in its posted mission statement.

The ripple effects of such a name are uncertain, too, in a society that prizes youth. Remember what happened to the Oldsmobile.

Some workers, without explanation, have transferred to other departments having more positive, long-lasting names, like the "Welfare Department" or the "Health Department". But linking those departures to the Department's name remains purely speculative.

Also some confusion in mail deliveries may find their cause in the Department's current name. When the Department's name is called out in the central mail sorting room as "Aaa...Ging!", some deliveries are earmarked improperly to the Office of the Attorney General (A.G.).

That might not be as much of a problem if the name of the Department would be changed to the "Office of Getting Older".

"Everyone is 'getting older', right? That would be a politically correct name, and no joke" said one Department worker.

That worker confirmed, also, that more than one name had been floated initially. At least a few names were rejected due to their acronyms, specifically the "Office of Older People Services" ("OOPS"), the "Department of Inter-generational Experiences" ("DIE", which was viewed as similar to the current
acronym -- although a variation, the "Independent Department of Inter-generational Experiences" or "iDIE", was considered trendy), and also the "Agency on Senior Services".

As to the current suggestion for a name change, there is some concern about the new acronym ("POGO") as being too fanciful or flashy, and perhaps vulnerable to trademark disputes.

The idea of any name change may not be well-received by the Department's affiliated agencies at the county level, but for other reasons -- their changed acronyms.

Presently, each local entity is known as an "Area Agency on Aging" ("AAA"). Local workers have come to love the alliteration of the longer appellation.

Also, many county agency office workers have delighted in the anonymity of their offices' "AAA" name, which can reduce their workload. Since "AAA" is frequently confused with other organizations having identical acronyms, such as the "American Automobile Association", the "American Arbitration Association", and the "American Antropological Association", it is believed that many Pennsylvanians making an initial inquiry call those other offices instead, and then tire of their voice mail systems.

One employee in a county aging office expressed concern about losing its "AAA" rating -- something to be prized in today's beleaguered economy.

These benefits would disappear if the local agencies would be renamed the "Area Agencies on Getting Older" ("AAGO"). Who would confuse a local getting older agency with the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando or the American Academy of Gnathologic Orthopedics?

Such a changed name for the Department would also affect its leader, who would then be known as the "Secretary of Getting Older" ("So GO").

The Governor's Office apparently was unaware of any movement to change the name of the Department.

"If it comes to us, we'll have to study it carefully," said a liaison. "But a rose by any other name is still a rose, don't you think?"