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Interview with Martha Jane Lewis, BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support

CNPEA: Tell us a little bit about your project.

This project is funded by the Law Foundation of BC to produce an e-book describing the legal issues that affect people living in residential care in BC. Residential care is called different things in different provinces; in Ontario for example, it is called long-term care. What it refers to in BC is supportive housing provided to people who can no longer live in their own home who have been assessed and approved for residential care. We are creating the e-book to inform people of the legal issues: who has the right to make a decision, who can give consent and ways that problems can be resolved. The problem solving section is important because people do not often stay in residential care for long. This means solving an urgent, day-to-day problem through a formal legal means that could take up two years does not make sense. What this e-manual will provide are reasonable questions that residents and their family can ask to problem solve outside of the courthouse.

CNPEA: What else will the E-book cover?

The manual will contain units of information such as:

  • Governing Regulations
  • Legal Issues affecting entering a residential care facility
  • Living in residential care: Residents’ rights, standard of care, professional care, informed consent, physical and chemical restraints, detention, informed consent
  • Remedies for how to resolve common problems arising in residential care facilities
  • Decision making: power of attorney, representation agreements
  • Consent: treatment decisions
  • CNPEA: How did you come up with the idea to develop this E-book?

The model is based on the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) in Ontario Long Term Care Manual that has been widely used for many years by Ontario long-term care providers, legal professionals and advocates. ACE has as excellent elder law clinic and the manual itself is an amazing resource at over 900 pages. We knew what ACE had accomplished and we wanted to produce something similar in BC.

CNPEA: Who would use the E-book? Is there a particular audience?

The E-manual will be a valuable tool for our staff, the general public, care home staff and anyone else who wants to learn about legal issues related to residential care in BC.

CNPEA: What do you find most interesting about this project?

There is no similar resource in BC and it is really easy to get confused within the residential care system. We hear that residential care home management gets calls about residents after the resident has died. It seems that families are sometimes afraid to complain. You hear cases of family members being banned from facilities for complaining about the standard of care provided. Residential facilities need to be really open and invite feedback from families. This is a real challenge partially because staff may be defensive in receiving feedback and turnover of care-giving staff is high because it is exhausting work. Residential care homes can be very confusing for families. This project is about making information available and accessible. The guide can help both families and staff members learn their rights and responsibilities and clarify what level of care an older adult is entitled to.

CNPEA: How will this manual help prevent elder abuse?

The manual provides information that is helpful in describing what the vulnerable people who live in res care homes are entitled to. It helps families or others who care about a resident strategize about how to effectively approach the right person to discuss concerns. Abuse happens when an older person’s rights are ignored: the manual supports people to take action when they are concerned about a resident senior. It also helps ensure the senior is getting the right care, which helps prevent abuse and neglect. The manual is also useful to people managing or working in res care homes, as it explains what is reasonable, and why families may be hesitant to raise their concerns. All this contributes to a problem-solving environment that is more informed, compassionate and responsive. This helps keeps seniors safe, because when communication breaks down because family members are upset about the treatment of a loved one, the senior can get alienated from those very people who care about her the most and want to make sure she or he remains safe in a long term care setting.

CNPEA: Where can people go for more information?

The E-manual will be released this summer. For more information about BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support project and resources visit


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