Originally published in allaboutestates.ca on October 11, 2013:
I had the pleasure of presenting at a recent Ontario Bar Association estates and trusts section session. The topic was ‘De-escalating the Family Feud’. Those of you who know me, know that one of my favorite expressions is ‘the only normal families are the families you don’t know’. A fitting commentary for a topic that causes angst amongst the most seasoned practitioners. Family feuding, has historically been a common theme. It does not seem to be based on religion, class or colour. Within the elder care world, I regularly work with families who are in conflict. Typically referrals from estate lawyers are as a result of conflicts between the powers of attorney; siblings who cannot agree on what mom or dad requires.
One of the questions asked from the audience was what can be done to assist families before they become embroiled in a legal battle. My answer to this question is a ‘Functional Living Assessment’.
The Functional Living Assessment is an assessment tool that puts aside family differences and focuses on what should be crux of the matter- mom’s or dad’s care needs. The end result is a comprehensive analysis that documents the areas of need and concern, quantifies what is required and makes recommendations based on the knowledge and expertise of an objective and experienced professional who understands aging, elder care needs and community resources. Rather than being caught up in the rehashing of long lost promises and childhood hurts, this is an extremely valuable tool that refocuses the attention on to the older individual and their needs. While we continue to strive to put family members on the same page for a plan of care for mom or dad, we can all agree that sometimes families lose sight of this important issue. It often takes the wisdom of an experienced lawyer to recognize the need for a functionally based assessment that can objectively outline the older person’s care needs and which provides recommendations that are in the older person’s best interests rather than in the interests of the disputing children.