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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Adult Guardianship & Trusteeship Act - unjust legislation? I don't think so

I recently read an article from Elder Advocates of Alberta Society entitled "Adult Guardianship & Trusteeship Act, Unjust legislation". Click here to read it. I read this with great interest, as my regular readers know that I continually advocate for respecting the rights of seniors.

However, I have to conclude that the article amounts to fear-mongering. It declares the entire piece of legislation as being abusive and unjust, and I don't agree that it is. Some of the problems identified by the author of the article are: "In one case, a senior’s property was sold without consent, in other cases seniors haven’t been able to speak for themselves in court. In one instance, a senior was placed under guardianship without being informed." I'm sure these things actually did happen, but keep in mind that it's possible to find anecdotal evidence of pretty much everything if you look hard enough.

Yes, property may be sold without consent and that may seem harsh at first. But I have seen dozens - perhaps hundreds - of older individuals over the last 30 years who do not understand or do not accept that they can no longer live in their homes. They get lost when they leave home, they fall, they catch things on fire while cooking, they don't dress properly for weather conditions,  and they are vulnerable to dishonest people. These are, unfortunately, common effects of dementia that interfere with independence. Yes, I'd be upset too if someone sold my property without my consent, but what if I were one of those people in physical and financial danger because I didn't understand my own limitations?

Sometimes adult children are quick to place Mom or Dad in a long-term care facility, but most of the time it's a difficult, emotional decision that is based solely on what they believe will work the best for Mom or Dad. That doesn't mean that the parent, in danger or not, goes along without a fight. They may be frightened by what's happening and usually feel vulnerable and disoriented. Sometimes that comes out as anger. Sometimes the anger is a result of dementia, too.

A few weeks ago I visited a client in a secure (i.e. locked) dementia ward at a local long-term care facility. I went because she had told a family member she wanted to speak with a lawyer. When I got there, she had no idea who I was or why anyone would think she needed a lawyer. When nudged in the direction of complaining about being in care, she ranted for a good five minutes about how she hated being there and how unfair it was that her house was being sold and how she didn't *&($* well have dementia. Then she forgot all about it and started telling me how nice the place was, how she had a good social life, and how she liked it there. So I guess your perspective on how she feels about her house being sold depends on which five minutes you heard.

I don't believe in taking away rights and dignity from a person based solely on his or her age. I do, however, believe that when someone loses his or her ability to live independently, the family should step in and help. Sometimes that isn't comfortable. Sometimes the parent doesn't understand or accept what is happening. That doesn't make the entire law unjust.

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