Judy Berg, Seniors Rep Kelowna-Lake Country
Do you have a signed representation agreement? If not, be aware of this potential for elder abuse.
Representation Agreements fall within provincial jurisdiction, however we thought our readers should be aware of the importance of this document.
Meet my friends, Margaret and her husband Bob. Margaret’s nightmare began on the eve of their 27th wedding anniversary.
Like Margaret, I, was advised by my lawyer that a Representation Agreement was not necessary.
He did not seem to be familiar with the document and advised that an Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive would cover all aspects of having someone to make health and financial decisions on my behalf. Margaret’s story told me otherwise!
“I am Margaret. I am into my 7th decade. I guess that puts me in the ‘Elder’ category. If elder equates to wisdom, I was naïve to the abuse that turned my life upside down. Everything spiraled into an emotional and bureaucratic Hell on August 5th, 2016, our 27th wedding anniversary and one week before Bob’s 80th birthday.
Bob’s symptoms of dementia began about three years ago. On July 1st, I faced the reality I couldn’t provide for his care. He was admitted to a Care Facility. I was regretting the bitter-sweet emotion this year’s anniversary was going to bring. I was so sad that the man I loved was still a body I could hold; but whose mind often eluded me. With celebratory balloons in hand, I stepped into his room – to complete emptiness! Everything was gone! Apparently, he was removed the previous evening by two daughters from his first marriage and taken from Kelowna to New Brunswick, 5,000 kilometers away.
A Representation Agreement, presented by the daughters and signed by them and Bob two years previously, gave them the legal authority for his health decisions under section 9 of the agreement. Staff could no longer give me any information pertaining to Bob. They could not have even warned me of what was about to happen so that I could kiss him goodbye! Would I ever even see him again? If he were admitted to hospital, no one would call me! How can this be?” “Don’t I, the wife of 27 years, have some rights!” I felt like screaming in frustration. I felt that everyone was colluding against me.
Three years ago my husband started a slow journey into dementia. His three adult daughters from his previous marriages realized this. He didn’t always remember what he had said or done. They realized they could persuade him to sign legal documents without his fully knowing the implication. They had a Power of Attorney and a Representation Agreement drawn up and executed in May, 2014, without my knowledge. This gave them control over his money and health decisions (Section 7 Representation Agreement) and Section 9 Representation Agreement). I was later provided with a letter from their lawyer who admitted to attempting to get Bob (at the request of his daughters) to rewrite his Last Will and Testament to remove me as a beneficiary, replacing me with his daughters – and to change the title of our home from joint tenancy in my name to joint tenancy in his and his daughters’ names. Thankfully, in a moment of mental clarity from the dementia, he resisted this suggestion.
I submitted an application for a Committee Ship that would override any previous documents. This application went before a judge on August 22, 2016. The judge noted that the daughters’ actions seemed rather “high-handed” and ordered my husband be returned to the Care Facility by September 3, 2016. He withheld a decision on my application to give the daughters an adjournment with no time limit to file their own application for Committee Ship. They have not done so which leaves everything in limbo with no time constraints for them to take action.
Bob has fallen four times. Each time staff notified his daughter in New Brunswick, but not me. I live 15 minutes from the facility –she lives 5,000 kilometers away. On Saturday, October 8th he broke his hip. I was not notified until Sunday, after permission for surgery was provided by his daughter. It breaks my heart that he was alone and in pain. Sometimes I am grateful for the dementia which, at times, leaves him unaware of everything that is happening.
I exhausted my savings in legal fees and still do not have the right to supervise my husband’s care. I will not even be the first to be called should his death be imminent! How can this be about what is in his best interests?
Your Representation Agreement should reflect your wishes while you are of sound mind. Since I can no long afford to take legal action, I can only pray that a sense of morality and compassion will prevail and they will do what is right by their father – before Bob’s life ends.”