Reprinted from "Seniors' Mental Health" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, No. 15, pp.15-16
What is abuse, neglect and self-neglect?
Abuse is deliberate mistreatment that causes physical, mental or emotional harm, or damage to or loss of assets. It includes:
Neglect is any failure to provide necessary care, assistance, guidance or attention if that failure causes, or is reasonably likely to cause, within a short period of time, serious physical, mental or emotional harm, or substantial damage to or loss of assets.
Self-neglect is any failure of an adult to take care of himself that causes, or is reasonably likely to cause, within a short period of time, serious physical or mental harm or substantial damage to or loss of assets. It includes:
How To Plan Ahead
As we get older and as we watch our loved ones get older, making plans for our future becomes more and more of a priority. Today, there are several tools available to help individuals in planning for a time when they might need assistance to make personal, financial and/or legal decisions. A person might choose to give an Enduring Power of Attorney to a trusted family member, friend or financial institution. Alternatively, a person might choose to make a Representation Agreement that encompasses not only his/her financial affairs but also decisions about his/her health and personal affairs.1
Both of these legal planning tools will allow your family to care for you at a time when you might need more support. A diagnosis of dementia can be terrifying for an adult and the adult’s family. By planning in advance and ensuring there is someone you trust who can assist you with your financial and personal affairs, you lessen the stresses for yourself and your caregivers. An Enduring Power of Attorney or Representation Agreement can also help protect you from potential financial abuse or neglect. A health care Representation Agreement will allow your Representative to ensure you receive the right amount of support and assistance to help you maintain your independence in a manner consistent with your values and principles.
How To Access Help
In British Columbia, The Adult Guardianship Act further protects all adults’ right to a presumption of capability, right to self-determination and right to access support and assistance. If you know of any person who is not receiving support and assistance, suffering financial and/or physical abuse, neglect or self-neglect, and is unable to seek help on his/her own, there is a Designated Agency regulated by the Adult Guardianship Act, Part 3 that can assist you. Your local health authority is the Designated Agency (e.g. Continuing Care, Mental Health) and the nearest location for your community is listed in the Blue Pages of the phone book. The Designated Agency is required to investigate circumstances of alleged abuse, neglect or self-neglect of vulnerable adults and ensure they are receiving the appropriate level of care to which they are entitled.
Often people have concerns about how a person’s finances are being managed. The Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia has a mandate to protect the legal and financial interests of vulnerable adults. The Public Guardian and Trustee Act gives the Public Guardian and Trustee the authority to investigate situations of financial abuse by a Power of Attorney, Representation Agreement or Trustee:
if the adult is mentally incapable of managing his/ her financial affairs,
there is identified risk, and
there are no other family or friends available to assist.
The Public Guardian and Trustee’s office also reviews situations where there is no preexisting Power of Attorney/ Representative/Trustee and a vulnerable adult is unable to pay his or her bills, manage his or her investments, or is being financially abused or exploited by a third party. If there are no other family or friends who can help the vulnerable adult, the Public Guardian and Trustee will seek the legal authority to act as Committee of Estate for that person.
Representation Agreement Resource Centre
If you or your family want to investigate the best pre-planning tool to meet your needs, you can speak with a lawyer for legal advice or contact the Representation Agreement Resource Centre ((604) 408- 7414). You can also contact the Assessment and Investigation Services Team at the Public Guardian and Trustee for general information or to discuss concerns you may have about a vulnerable adult living in your community ((604) 775- 0202), or www.trustee.bc.ca).
About the authorSara works with the Public Trustee’s Office in Vancouver
The Provincial Government recently announced that changes will be made to the Representation Agreement Act which will likely occur in the Spring of 2003. Visit the Public Guardian and Trustee web site at www.trustee.bc.ca for more information.