As my father-in-law aged, and when he developed dementia, my husband became his primary caregiver and power of attorney. I’m a lawyer who has devoted a significant part of her career to research and public policy work on issues related to disability, aging and caregiving. There’s no doubt that my professional background was useful as my family tried to understand what everyone’s rights and responsibilities were at each step of the way, find the necessary services and resources, be good advocates, and do the right thing for someone that we loved. But it was surprising how difficult it often was, even so, to find the right information, understand the choices available, and navigate all of the complicated systems at play.
I think about this experience often as I work on developing reforms to law, policy and practice around legal capacity and decision-making. I know these challenges are ones that are shared by many other Ontarians. When the Law Commission of Ontario did public consultations in 2011 on issues related to older adults and the law, concerns about legal capacity and decision-making were identified as urgent by many older adults, family members and professionals: that’s why we undertook this project.
As my experience, and that of many others illustrates, there is always a gap between the law as it is envisioned by the drafters, and the law as it is implemented and experienced on the ground. For laws to meaningfully address people’s needs, and to do so in a way that is clear and fair, they have to take into account the everyday experiences of all of the different people that they touch.
This is one of the reasons why the Law Commission of Ontario believes that everyone should be given the opportunity to be part of the development of laws that touch their lives. To help us to understand what works and doesn’t work in the law about capacity and decision-making, and how this law can be improved, the Law Commission wants to learn from the experiences and perspectives of those most directly affected, including family caregivers, people who receive assistance with decision-making, professionals, service providers and experts. Please tell us about your experiences and your aspirations for change by filling out our consultation questionnaires at http://www.lco-cdo.org/en/capacity-guardianship.
Law Commission of Ontario