Encouraging a Dementia Friendly Practice

  • August 01, 2015
  • Rebecca Morris

The importance of planning for dementia

Did you know that by 2030 the number of people living with dementia in BC will more than double? As the rates of dementia grow, we will all be affected – as community members, friends, family members or colleagues. But not many of us stop to think about what that might mean for lawyers.

Barbara Lindsay, the Alzheimer Society of BC’s Director of Advocacy & Education and member of the CBABC, is working with the legal community in BC to encourage them to think about making their practices dementia friendly. Ms. Lindsay describes herself as “a lawyer whose passion is for people rather than paperwork” and has dedicated her career to advocating for people with dementia, and their families. At the Society, Ms. Lindsay is responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating public policy, liaising with government agencies, and assisting staff in the work the Society does to support people affected by dementia with their advocacy and legal planning.

 “More than 70,000 people in British Columbia currently live with dementia, and many live in the community for a long time, able to maintain a good quality of life with some support. People’s risk for developing dementia increases as they age. However, it is a misconception that dementia only affects older adults. In fact, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people with dementia in BC are under the age of 65,” Lindsay explains.

Different types of dementia are caused by various physical changes in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, accounting for approximately two-thirds of all dementias. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease). There are many others.

Through funding from the Notary Foundation and with the help of a committee of experts, the Society has created Making Your Workplace Dementia Friendly: Information for Legal Professionals. This resource is designed to help lawyers and other professionals in the sector understand and recognize the signs of dementia, and learn how to communicate in an effective, respectful way. It encourages legal professionals to think about specific ways they can support people with dementia in their work and consider how to make their workplace more welcoming and accessible for people living with dementia.

“Many lawyers who practice in the estates field have been thinking about capacity and taking instructions for a long time. But more recently, I began to hear that even colleagues working outside of that area were concerned about clients who were showing signs of dementia and wanted to know how to manage that. We really wanted to develop a resource that could help the legal community work with people with dementia in a way that is supportive, person-centred and recognizes that people with dementia need legal counsel. They are often capable of providing instructions,” says Lindsay.

The Society has also developed a series of legal and personal planning tools to help people with dementia and their caregivers plan for their future. People with dementia or caregivers who would like to explore options for personal, legal, health and financial planning can download “Freda’s Story: Living Alone and Finding Help on the Dementia Journey,” or “Cam and Sally’s Story,” alongside “Getting Your Affairs in Order.”

Please contact the Alzheimer Society of BC for more information or to learn more about the Society’s Dementia-Friendly Communities initiative: dementiafriendlybc@alzheimerbc.org or 604-742-4939.

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Barbara Lindsay (pictured above) is the Alzheimer Society of BC's Director of Advocacy & Education, Rebecca Morris is the Provincial Coordinator for Advocacy and Public Policy at the Alzheimer Society of BC.