(Note: The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 36, Issue 2.)
In this, its 35th year, the Commission has continued to leverage the cumulative expertise of its members and staff in its pursuit of its mission: 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. It is this unique focus on law and aging that enables the Commission’s singular impact.
This issue of Bifocal is our 2014 Year in Review issue, providing a snapshot of the Commission’s work over the past year.
Given the pace required to achieve what we have in the past year, it’s
easy to forget to step back and appreciate the breadth and depth of the Commission’s work. In the past 12 months, the work of the professional staff and Commissioners has impacted the legal profession, public policy, and the public at large in several ways.
The Commission’s work has impacted the legal profession:
- Through our law and practice publications, such as our capacity assessment handbooks and tool kits, our bi-monthly e-journal Bifocal, our elder-friendly law-office guide, our elder law ethics brochure, and topical articles;
- Through our new leadership role organizing the annual National Aging and Law Conference in partnership with the Center for Professional Development;
- Through our leadership as a partner in the National Legal Resource Center, funded by the Administration for Community Living;
Through our quarterly “Elder Law Essentials” CLE webinars and more than 50 professional education presentations by staff and Commissioners;
- Through our support of programmatic efforts of all ABA sections and divisions that seek to target law and aging issues, including cross publication with the Senior Lawyer’s Division and providing faculty to other section and division CLE programs;
- Through our new educational initiative, funded by the Investor Protection Trust and Investor Protection Institute, to train lawyers how to identify potential financial exploitation of their clients and respond effectively;
- Through our ABA “Enterprise” grant collaboration with other ABA entities to develop guidance for lawyers about decision-making options less restrictive than guardianship.
The Commission’s work has impacted public policy:
- Through responding to requests for technical assistance (over 2,000 per year from multiple disciplines, policy-makers, and the media) and online tracking charts summarizing the status of state legislation on guardianship, elder abuse, health care decision-making, and other subjects;
- Through our advisory participation in policy, advocacy, and training efforts related to state health care decisions, guardianship, and elder abuse laws; support for state enactment of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act and the Uniform Power of Attorney Act; and federal laws including the federal Elder Justice Act and the Older Americans Act, among others;”
- Through our advisory role with the National POLST Paradigm Task Force, particularly in developing a POLST Legislative Guide for states;
- Through our hosting, in collaboration with the National Guardianship Network, the 3rd convening of the World Congress on Adult Guardianship, as well as funding and supporting coordinated, court-community partnerships in the states to drive changes in the ways courts and guardians practice;
- Through our liaison work with the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, which is weighing the need for an international convention on the rights of older persons;
- Through our policy development and advocacy efforts within the ABA and at the state and federal level in conjunction with ABA Government Affairs, particularly the August 2014 adoption by the ABA House of Delegates of the Commission’s resolution on rebalancing the OASDI and Disability Trust Funds.
The Commission’s work has impacted the public:
- Through our educational materials for the general public, addressing financial exploitation, health care powers of attorney, and other publications developed under foundation grants;
- Through our collaboration with other groups in promoting National Health Decisions Day, April 16, including release of a new smartphone app that enables individuals easily to store and share their advance directives and related information on their smartphones.
A considerable and successful undertaking this year was the publication of Legal Issues Related to Elder Abuse: A Pocket Guide for Law Enforcement. This pocket-sized, tabbed reference book was developed with the support of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, an entity of the U.S. Department of Justice. Twenty-three thousand copies of the Pocket Guide have been printed and a pdf of the publication is available at the Commission’s website at: www.ambar.org/ElderAbuseGuides. A companion Desk Guide is due to be released soon in digital format.
And, work on the Commission-authored booklets for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues into 2015 with a set of six state-focused guides in process and a replication guide in the works, as well. The series, entitled Managing Someone Else’s Money, has been widely praised and more than 450,000 copies of the booklets have been disseminated.
I’m proud of our successes and accomplishments and look forward to continuing success in helping to shape an effective response of the legal profession in meeting the law-related needs of older individuals.
I encourage you to get involved: through participating on one of our excellent discussion lists, through interacting with us through our social media accounts, or by contacting us to discuss a donation or a potential opportunity to partner with us on a project.