Real Life Tragedies Happen and Some Can be Avoided
Guest Blog by Natalya Hanna of Uptown Notaries
A recent B.C. survey showed that 6 in 10 British Columbians would not know what to do if they encountered someone living with dementia that needed help. While awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is growing, the frustration experienced by the individuals who are affected remains a reality. Additionally, in a separate survey, 61 percent of Canadians thought they would experience discrimination if diagnosed. However, even bigger challenges lay down on the families of people diagnosed with dementia.
I would like you to tell a real-life story of Margot Bentley, an Abbotsford resident. She was a nurse who made her end of life wishes clear - she wrote a note in which she said explicitly — if she got to the point where she couldn't recognize her family, she wanted to die without having antibiotics, without resuscitation, and no to food or water. The document was signed and witnessed. The 85-year old, who died in an Abbotsford nursing home in 2016, lingered for many years in a vegetative state, her life prolonged through spoon-feeding by nursing home staff, contrary to Bentley’s 1991 living will and her family’s wishes. Bentley lived 17 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She became a central figure in a right-to-die case that one of her daughters, Katherine Hammond, fought and lost in the courts.
I would like to underline that legal professionals can play a unique role in this process. Because of the realities of the disease, advance planning is imperative for families. In the example of Margot Bentley, the judge specifically referred to the representation agreement which Margot didn’t have and her written statements of wishes didn’t qualify for the formalities of advance directive.
Now I would like to ask you, who do you know have early stages of dementia and need to be helped? Talk to them, and their families. We can help them before it is too late.