by Patricia Brandlmayr
I am a single woman (widowed) now in the classification of “Senior” (86). I recently came to the conclusion many things are changing fast in my life and, if I am going to maintain control of the decision making during the changes, I should find resources to assist me. Strangely, the first thing I learned was that it is unusual for the “senior” to do the investigating. After running into problems, it is usually the “Caregiver” who seeks assistance from resources in the geriatric field.
My current situation is not uncommon. I am still living in the family home which my husband designed and we built 56 years ago. I have been extremely lucky to live on a street where six families raised their children and the adults have continued to live here. However, the street is changing now due to the passage of time. I am also lucky that my family, daughter and son, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all live in the same area and support me in my life style and home.
However, with age come changes which are difficult to anticipate but which, for certain, are happening to us all. Because I realize I am not going to be able to stay in my house forever, I decided to seek guidance before making any big decisions which I might live to regret. The legal documents I now have include a Will, a General Power of Attorney and a Representation Agreement which we all should have. One thing about which I was uncertain was dealing with my estate when I sell the house and how to assist my family if and when I need more personal care.
My daughter’s friend had difficulties when she and her sister needed a “Caregiver” for their mother. She was able to give us the name of a lawyer specializing in geriatric law which has provided me resources to deal with many of the elements facing us as Seniors.
I had a consultation with Hugh McLellan, Barrister and Solicitor, who specializes in Geriatric Law and particularly in Caregiving Agreements ( www.mclellanherbert.com ). I learned an agreement should be entered into when Caregiving is present. This applies not only to family members who are Caregivers but also to agencies and institutions. If family members are providing Care, it is called a Private Care Agreement which can be extremely helpful to insure there is understanding and harmony among family members when they become Caregivers.
We discussed the benefits of owning Real Estate; the sale of a home; how to arrange for the option for one beneficiary to purchase the home without neglecting other beneficiary(ies). We also discussed management of the estate by means of gifts on the sale of the primary residence. I wrote in my summary of the visit, “While I believe there presently is no urgency for me to make a big move from the house, I believe it is now prudent for me to determine what options are available to me as a contingency.” In other words it was of great help to me in guiding my decision for the present and to do some research on my options in the area in which I want to continue to live for the time being.
During our discussions, Hugh McLellan suggested I might like to contact Peter Silin who heads a company,“Diamond Geriatrics, Managers and Consultants” in Vancouver. I made an appointment to consult with Peter to learn about the kind and type of services available through the company. My daughter and I had a discussion with Peter which included my background, present situation and the type of services his group can provide. The decision was that I did not need his help at this time but since I may in the future he gave me documents to complete on the present and past background about myself and family so that he can establish a file. I am finding as I work on the document that I am rediscovering my personal life story which will also provide information for my family.
At Diamond Geriatrics I know my family has access to assistance for my care by personnel experienced and trained in managing the care of the elderly. This training includes recognizing the importance of the relationship between a client, family and care manager; assistance by a Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapist; a Dietitian/Nutritional Consultant and a Vancouver family physician with a special interest in elderly who are frail.
It has been an interesting and profitable journey of research. It has provided me not only with assistance in estate and personal planning but also in immediate and future decision making including insight into resources to assist my family in my future care.