Aging & A Case for Personal Advocacy – 3

As we continue to learn from our own experiences, as advocates for others in all manner of care giving, in particular here, elder care, we must be a leader of own personal advocacy team by taking charge with some specific actions with our future in mind. It’s a matter of a taking proactive actions now, through conversations with others, family and or trusted friends, rather than remain blinkered in the vision of our elder selves.

Personal advocacy is a life lesson that we do not have to learn and live on our own. The team approach Mark Venning advised in the June 17th, first post in this series, and the self-education in personal financial advocacy as Marie Howes spoke of in part two July 12, can be strengthened by other actions which will help to reassure you. At the same time, this will provide vital information to your chosen advocate(s) who will be the spokesperson for you in the event that you cannot.

Before choosing your personal advocate first in line after you, there are some opening questions to ask:

  • Will the person have time to manage in a crisis?
  • Will the person be managing your affairs with their physical presence or from a distance? Managing from a distance can be done, but needs other steps to be put in place.  For example if giving instructions by phone or Skype there will have to a witness in place for those receiving the instruction and furthermore;
  • Will the person be comfortable advocating your decisions if that choice is contrary to their personal preference or choice?

The devil’s in the details – ignore & chaos will ensue

Here is some advice on how to choose a spokesperson strong enough to advocate and follow your clearly given instructions and not simply just follow their own inclination.

Ask up front if the person you choose will take on the specific responsibility of being a Power of Attorney before entering their names in a Power of Attorney documents.  There are a number of reasons why a person, understanding the honour of this role, may have a need to refuse.

Arrange for your annual taxes to be done by an “arm’s length” person, or accountant to protect you and your Power of Attorneys to be safe from allegations of impropriety. You should also review your relationships with these people on a frequent basis to make sure you are being served well.

In one of my many educational presentations called Take the Chaos out of Crisis™, I advise getting your will up-dated as often as particular life changes occur that may cause you to rethink, (such as divorce, or one of your children gets married), and having Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal care put in writing.

Attach to your Power of Attorney for Personal Care a directive instructing your preference for care.  The instructions must be – what is legally possible, what can reasonably be done, and what will lead to positive outcomes and good quality of life. I stress that information is vital and numbers rule.

Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc has an excellent on line resource to help collect information under its Consumer Information drop box.  They call this a “Virtual Shoebox”. It is 27 pages long, so read before printing it out, since not all of the 27 pages will be pertinent to your situation.  Along with other details, include the user names and passwords for on line banking, bills, subscriptions, – and not to forget social media platforms you use. These days this could be a longer list than what space there is on this shoe box document.

Congratulations. You are now the leader in your personal advocacy team. Now with this action plan in place you have a well set out record of vital information and wonderful resource for your chosen spokespersons who by the way, may include others besides your current designated Power of Attorney. As with managing your computer system, backup is recommended.

 

Mary Ellen Tomlinson

 

Aging & A Case for Personal Advocacy – 1

Seniors’ Month in Ontario is at its mid-way point in June and we are encouraged this year to celebrate Seniors Making a Difference. Sadly, it only takes one or two pieces of news, like rocks thrown at a window, to shatter the glass and make us turn our heads. These are familiar hard rock crimes – elder fraud and elder abuse. One such in the news this week came from British Columbia, where a man who was a caregiver to a 91 year-old woman, stands accused of having stolen $270, 000 from her bank account.

However, I choose not at this occasion to write a dissertation on the subject. There are enough resources and news feeds that can enlighten us all as to these crimes, and that is what they are – crimes. I personally had to step in some years ago as a Power of Attorney for a woman in her mid-80’s, who had been ripped off through a telephone fraud scheme, and as I was helping her through that experience (with police involved), I reflected constantly about what a responsibility it was to be put into a position of trust.

With this in mind, I want to make the case here about how important it is, early on as you age, to adopt an alert, responsible mind-set to take on the role of personal advocacy, for yourself as well as others. This also means setting up an advocacy plan should you not at some point, for whatever reason, be able to speak for yourself. Depending on the dynamics of your relationships, family and friends, it may not always be the usual cast and crew that end up down the road being part of your sustainable plan.

Personal advocacy as a team approach

Frequent reassessment of who is in your trusted advocacy network is as important as revisiting the content of your will, your named executor and powers of attorney. It’s also a good idea to assess your relationship with your financial planner. My colleagues Mary Ellen Tomlinson and Marie Howes will have more to say about this. But I’ve seen enough in several circumstances to know that the people you might have initially asked to be part of your advocacy team, formally or informally, at some point either end up being not who they appeared to be, change their minds about their commitment , move away, or die.

There are so many unbelievable twisted story plot lines in elder abuse and thus the vulnerability of an elder person is at risk whether under the roof of the family home, or in the one room chambers of a long-term care facility. If you are the advocate for someone else, elder or otherwise, it is a monumental responsibility.

With respect for privacy information and confidentiality in mind, your consistent visibility, research, inquiry and transparency by sharing information with others about what you are doing in your role are, in my mind at least, the very essence of the personal advocacy role.

We do have all sorts of public educational resources available  in Ontario, such as  the Elder Abuse Ontario Safety Line, yet I wonder, what would it take to create a core curriculum in schools for Gerontology & Personal Advocacy for Elders, much the same way we have with sex education and other social issues?

 

Mark Venning

Age-Friendly Canada: Time to Reboot!

Part Two

Promoting Age-Friendly awareness in communities in Canada came closer to home these last few months, with special significance to Planet Longevity; as one of our panelists, Suzanne Cook, is now a participant in two of the recent 56 community grant projects awarded in the Ontario the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program, under the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat Action Plan for Seniors.

suzanne.cook

Suzanne will serve in an academic research advisory role in both cases – Cobourg and Peterborough; as these communities conduct needs assessments with an eye to develop an action plan for age-friendly programs, or build on existing age-friendly initiatives. Along with her passion for forward thinking on aging issues, Suzanne is a Gerontologist who also brings to the table, her expertise as a Ph.D. in Adult Education and Community Development.

With particular emphasis on the issue of affordable housing, the Cobourg based project title is “Northumberland County’s Plan for Positive Aging”. What is a common thread in so many age-friendly initiatives such as this one, is the collaborative nature of community partnerships, including individual citizens, businesses and not-for-profits; Habitat for Humanity in the Northumberland project.

Inter-generational community engagement

Suzanne Cook has great insights on positive aging and inter-generational learning as evidenced by her work at York University teaching a Sociology of Aging course, where she engaged students with older adults. In my conversation with her about these community projects, we discussed how important it is in this needs assessment process, to reach out to a broad range of people for community engagement at an inter-generational level. How and to what extent this happens in any of the 56 Ontario projects remains to be seen.

At some point, let us hope that the messaging about age-friendly, which was designed to be inclusive, doesn’t end up becoming a dialogue in a seniors-centric bubble. Here’s an idea! Let’s take the age-friendly discussion to high schools as a class project, asking teens who have grandparents how they would improve the environment for an age-friendly community. The top three classes with the best ideas gets to present to an Age-Friendly Council at a pizza party.

No question we need to consult with older citizens, who on many levels of limited access and mobility, are already experiencing first-hand the need for a community that works better for them and meets their needs. The reboot in this second decade of the global Age-Friendly movement is about the way we message the positive relevancy of it, for the generations who are fast becoming our elder caregivers and future beneficiaries of the choices we make today.
Mark Venning

Planet Longevity: Leading Thought Begins!

With great enthusiasm I am pleased to announce the launch of Planet Longevity, a thought leadership panel; a group of eight people who collectively offer forward thinking with a broad perspective on issues related to aging and longevity.

Our extended life expectancy as we know it now, is changing outlooks on how societies will adapt differently around the world. The aspects and prospects for our longevity beg for clear observation, practical ideas and positive re-framing.

The Planet Longevity goal is to position the many dimensions of this subject so as to influence, enlighten and challenge assumptions around how we will actually adapt to the experience of aging and longevity in our foreseeable future:

  •  Healthy aging and social policy
  • Personal wellness – body, mind and spirit
  • Elder care and family dynamics
  • Later life career renewal
  • Aging and work re-modelled
  • Financial foresight for later life
  • Smarter marketing to an aging consumer
  • Community redesign and cross-generational networks

All of this and more is perpetually changing individual attitudes and societal policy approaches for generations now and to come. For example: How do we reshape our world from the narratives constructed from our familiar past? Old narratives around issues like old age pensions, long term health care and our relationship to work, jobs and economic progress.

Planet Longevity has a crisp offering, as you will see cruising quickly through the web site. You could say we serve almost like your one source conference program, advisory group or speaker’s bureau. Our bi-weekly blog will feature all our members throughout the year and we invite you to contribute your questions and comments to encourage positive ideas.

The photo on the home page of fingers intertwined is a sequence from the Japanese film exhibit at the 54th Venice Biennale, 2011.

“In some of the images…a human brain comes rising like the sun or the moon, and the world unfurls itself in the light that appears shining from the brain. Up-and-down movements like this form the basis of the images of this work…the mirrors make people imagine the world spreading sideways….and the energy reflected by the mirrors continues to expand endlessly by the imagination of the viewers.” Tabaimo, Artist

Aging is natural and inevitable. How well do we foresee, prepare for and actualize our longevity? It is in our collective minds to answer and in our daily life actions to fulfill.

Welcome to Planet Longevity; where Leading Thought Begins!

Mark Venning