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National Seniors Council Regional Meetings on Elder Abuse

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We were most graciously invited to attend the National Regional Council meeting on September 26th, 2007 held in Calgary, Alberta, chaired by Mr. Jean-Guy Souliere, the Chairman.

The following is our submission which was made to the National Seniors Council and copied to the Honourable Marjory LeBreton, P.C. Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Senate of Canada, Ottawa.

  1. According to common law, health care providers owe a duty of care to provide a reasonable level of safety to their clients. That is not happening. In recent years, it has become public knowledge that residents in Alberta long term care facilities have suffered, dehydration, starvation, asphyxiation, fatal scalding, rape and other horrific happenings.

    Thus, we are asking the Federal government, who provides the monies to the province, under the Canada Health Act, to enforce that duty of care and demand the province to legislate effective, enforceable protective legislation for vulnerable persons who reside in elder care facilities, or enforce appropriate penalties.

  2. In instances of criminal harm to persons in elder care facilities, the criminal code should be enforced.
  3. Judges, who are federally appointed, should have training in regard to their dealings with seniors. In the surrogate court, it strongly appears that they have little understanding of Charter of Rights and Constitutional Rights and that these Rights also apply to seniors.
  4. In our long experience, the Alberta Surrogate Court does not provide adequate recourse when flawed decisions are made. The judiciary, with full knowledge, rely on evidence which is not well supported. They fully rely on the Form1, which has been filled out by a physician. The Form I is powerful, damning and final. However in essence, it is a trivial document which contains a few, often meaningless phrases.

    The Form 1 declares a person to be incompetent. Physicians who issue the Form 1, far too often depend mainly on input of family who may have vested interest in the estate of the elderly person. The surrogate court does not demand documentation or if in fact a mental assessment was actually carried out by the physician. We have documentation and affidavit evidence that in some instances no assessment or even interview was carried out. The court does not demand that physicians be cross-examined in regard to the Form 1.

    The court fails to require Expert testimony as would be the norm in other courts such as in criminal court. Nor does the court allow viva voce testimony of the senior in question whose rights hang in the balance.

    No one seems to be able, or empowered, to question and challenge this inhumane and unjust process. Unfortunately the sentences and stigma are much graver than incarceration.

    When a senior has been declared legally incompetent, he/she is is stripped of all rights. Rights such as access to monies/bank account, identification papers/ birth certificate, freedom of association, mail, right to financial statements, determining where to live, self determination. They are stripped of Charter Rights and constitutional rights. We have documentation where they have been denied a lawyer.

    If the senior has owned a home/house and is under trusteeship, the trustee changes the locks and denies the owner/dependant adult a key. If and when the senior is allowed to enter their home, they are cautioned not to touch anything. They are disallowed to give away precious belongings which they wish special friends or relatives to have. They are strongly informed that they may not do so.

    The house may be sold without the owner’s permission and often against the senior’s will.

    Once declared incompetent, no matter how competent the senior may be, or recovers from an illness, it is virtually impossible to regain autonomy.

    The Dependant Adults Act, the Personal Directives Act, the Powers of Attorney Act and the Mental Health Act establishes the protocol. Physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists carry out the protocol and the courts are the enforcers

  5. Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives should be registered Provincially and Federally.
  6. We are troubled by the fact that Federal Government/ National Publications, federally funded agencies, refer Albertans to the Protection for Persons in Care legislation in regard to elder abuse issues. This is an insult and cruel joke played on seniors. The Protection for Persons in Care legislation is absolutely powerless. This government funded department can only make recommendations, it is not punitive. It is deceptive legislation which purports to protect the vulnerable seniors of this province when in fact it has absolutely no power to do so.

Finally, we believe, that after these many years, change will come in regard to these most serious issues. We work daily in the trenches and are aware of the reality of senior mistreatment. We thank the Council for allowing us to make our presentation.