The Work and Accomplishments of 2017
By the Hon. Patricia Banks
(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 39, Issue 2.)
About the Author:
Commission Chair Hon. Patricia Banks is the former Presiding Judge of the Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, and currently the interim chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability for the City of Chicago.
In its 38th year, the Commission has continued to leverage the cumulative expertise of its members and staff in pursuit of its mission, namely to serve as a collaborative, interdisciplinary leader of the Association’s work to strengthen and secure the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of aging persons. The Commission’s singular impact is attributed to its unique holistic focus on law and aging.
The 2017 Bifocal Year in Review, highlights the Commission’s accomplishments over the past 12 months. The work of the Commissioners and professional staff benefited legal practitioners, institutions, and the public at large; It has also informed public policy.
The Commission’s work improved the quality of service provided by Legal Practitioners and the Justice System in the following ways:
• Our Law and Practice Publications.
o Bifocal, our free bi-monthly e-journal. This publication is widely read and used by lawyers and others in the aging network.
o The PRACTICAL Tool for Lawyers to help lawyers identify less restrictive options than guardianship for individuals with diminished capacity. This was created as a collaboration with the Commission on Disability Rights, the Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice, and the Section on Real Property, Trust and Estate Law.
o Legal Issues Related to Elder Abuse: A Pocket Guide for Law Enforcement. More than 26,000 hard copies were disseminated to criminal justice professionals, and we are working with Georgetown Law students to develop an app version of the Pocket Guide.
o Our ethics brochure for families of older clients: Why Am I Left in the Waiting Room: Understanding the Four C’s of Elder Law Ethics.
o The Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning
o Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else: A How-To Guide.
o Giving Someone a Power of Attorney for Your Healthcare (multi-state guide and form).
o The legislative resource pages of our website tracking health decisions laws, guardianship, and elder abuse legislation.
• Our annual National Aging and Law Conference in partnership with the ABA Center for Professional Development. Now in its fifth year under Commission leadership, it is the only national conference targeted to legal services attorneys and other advocates who serve older persons. It continues to grow in attendance with 260 registrants this year.
• The National Center on Law and Elder Rights, a five-year, federally funded program in which the Commission partners with lead entity Justice in Aging, to provide education and technical assistance to legal services providers.
• Our quarterly Elder Law Essentials CLE webinars conducted through the Center for Professional Development, presented live and available for purchase/ download afterwards.
• Presentation of approximately 50 professional education presentations by staff and Commissioners.
• Our Elderbar e-mail list which enables dialog and information exchange among legal services and other advocates in aging nationally. Within the ABA, we also host quarterly calls among ABA entities working on aging issues, along with Elderlink, an e-mail list connecting these entities.
• Our Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program — Legal, a continuing legal education initiative, in partnership with the Investor Protection Trust and Investor Protection Institute, which is piloting the training of lawyers in six states to identify potential financial exploitation of or by their clients and respond effectively.
• Technical assistance in response to several hundred requests per year from lawyers, other disciplines, policy-makers, and the media.
The Commission has positively impacted Public Policy affecting older persons and their families through:
• Managing year two of our grant from the Administration for Community Living. The grant provides much needed support and expands Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) beyond the 17 states in which they currently operate. Partnering in the National Guardianship Network to further promote WINGS. The highest court of each state is a key partner in WINGS.
• Conducting a policy forum on Conservator Exploitation in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts for a project funded by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime.
• Working with the National Center for Victims of Crime in its project to develop Model Civil Statutory Provisions for Elder Financial Exploitation.
• Working with the National Center for State Courts to develop an online Training Curriculum for Guardians.
• Serving in a collaborative Advisory Role to key organizations, including the Uniform Law Commission in its drafting of a new Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act, the North American Securities Administrators Association, the National Center on Elder Abuse, and the National POLST Paradigm Task Force.
• Ongoing Technical Assistance to AARP, including fact sheet development, policy analysis, and education on elder abuse and guardianship activities at the state level.
• Compiling comprehensive research on Guardian-ship Restoration of Rights cases and convening a Forum on Best Practice, resulting in a report and recommendations.
• Providing ABA Federal Legislative Input on several bills affecting older persons, including the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, the Older Americans Act, the Care Planning Act, the Personalize Your Care Act, the Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, and others.
• Online Tracking Charts summarizing the status of state legislation on guardianship, elder abuse, healthcare decision-making, and other subjects.
• Liaison Support to the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in its efforts to examine the need for an international convention on the rights of older persons.
• In the last ten years, successful advocacy within the ABA to secure House of Delegate adoption of 17 Policy Resolutions, including a 2017 policy resolution supporting state legislation that would require courts to identify and consider Supported Decision- Making as a less restrictive alternative before guardianship is imposed upon individuals.
The Commission’s work has had a positive Impact on public education through our:
• Educational self-help materials for the general public, addressing legal education of family caregivers (e.g., Ten Legal Tips for Family Caregivers); and health care advance care planning tools; and other topics.
• Development of the national Managing Someone Else’s Money lay fiduciary guides for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). More than one million hard copies have been distributed and an untold number of guides have been downloaded. Additionally, we produced six state-specific versions of those guides as well as replication tips, and other states are now developing their own versions of the guides.
• Sponsorship of National Health Decisions Day, celebrating its 10th year this past spring with a forum on Capitol Hill.
• Collaboration with research groups such as Research Triangle Institute and consumer groups to develop resources and strategies to empower individuals and their families, especially those facing Alzheimer’s disease, in accessing the information, care, and services they need.
The Commission’s work, in its 38th year, portends its future capacity to meet the law related needs of older individuals. Historically, the Commission has enjoyed a staff and commissioners with the strongest work ethic imaginable. Examining needs and developing and executing workable solutions is what we do.
For this, I am extremely proud and appreciative. It has been my honor and privilege to chair such an awesome Commission and to work with partners and stakeholders who are truly committed to expanding, preserving and protecting the rights of older adults.
I invite you to get involved and lend your support in carrying out the “mission” through participating on one of our excellent discussion lists, such as Elderbar, subscribing to our bi-monthly e-journal Bifocal, interacting with us through our social media accounts, supporting the Commission financially, or by contacting us to discuss potential partnership opportunities.