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Interview with Lillian Nakamura Maguire, Yukon Public Legal Education Association

CNPEA: How is the legal education of older adults an important step in reducing elder abuse?

Lillian: If people have access to legal tools and are able to put them in place to handle legal matters, healthcare decisions or financial matters, it can hopefully prevent an abusive situation from happening in the first place. It is equally important to educate caregivers, friends and family members. The information sheets available on our website summarize complex issues such as wills, advanced directives and so on. Trying to present information in as many understandable, plain language means as possible is really important. We have a lot of print information on our website, but this is just one aspect of our work. We also do community presentations and outreach. On our website we also have an animated video called My Friend Anne which is bilingual and relatable for people in the North. Recognizing that ageist attitudes can lead to abusive type situations is very important.

CNPEA: In your practice, how do you connect with older seniors and elder abuse stakeholders from rural Yukon communities?

Lillian: Because I have lived in the Yukon for quite a while I’ve used personal contacts to get into many rural communities. In Yukon we have a lot of satellite college campuses that I have used to connect with communities as well as nurses, social workers, elder support workers and seniors groups themselves. There is also a Yukon Council on Aging that has been very helpful.

One of the first things I did in this project was form a stakeholder advisory group that represents the diversity of the North and is very helpful in reaching people. We also use webinars to connect people across geographic barriers. We did one pilot webinar on enduring powers of attorney in Whitehorse with 2 other groups outside of the city. This took a lot of technical support to set up but was a good way to connect with people.

CNPEA: How does your project work to empower older adults?

Lillian: I believe that if people have education it provides them with information to make better decisions. Because we are a legal education association we have concentrated on the legal tools that give people more control over their finances, legal affairs and health matters. In a sense you provide people with education and encourage them to put things in place to help them take control of their situations. Emphasis is on preventing abuse from happening in the first place.

I find it is easier to have a conversation about abuse of older adults by beginning with legal tools. For example, with powers of attorney we can have a conversation around should you become incapable how to select someone who is trustworthy and would be a good attorney. If you advertise a session about abuse nobody would show up; but if you advertise a session on wills or power of attorney people are more comfortable and you may be able to talk about those issues and have the conversation that touches on abuse once you develop some trust.

CNPEA: Is there anything else you would like to share about your project? What are the next steps?

Lillian: This project ends March 2015, so we want to make sure as much as possible gets done. There is a need for a community support network for the prevention of abuse of older adults and we are trying to form a local network to support community practice. We are connecting with women’s groups, transition homes, victim services, the Department of Justice, Golden Age Society, Yukon Council on Aging, RCMP and getting these groups together to work in a more cohesive way to address common issues and challenges.

Often agencies work in isolation from each other, so sometimes if a person is experiencing abuse they may not necessarily know who to turn to. If they go to the RCMP or Adult Protection the issue is out of their hands as soon as they report the crime, and it is all confidential information, so the person who reported the abuse may never find out what happened. There are these systems that are put in place that prevent people from working together. We hope to change that. The other major thing is we applied for Crime Prevention funding from the Yukon Government and will soon begin Neighborhood, Friends and Family training in the Yukon.

To access any of their legal information resources go to the YPLEA website.

 

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