(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 37, Issue 2.)
In this, its 36th 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 holistic focus on law and aging that enables the Commission’s singular impact.
This issue of Bifocal is our 2015 Year in Review, 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 Commissioners and professional staff has impacted the legal practitioners and institutions, public policy, and the public at large in several ways.
The Commission’s work has improved the quality of service provided by Legal Practitioners and the Justice System through our:
- Law and practice publications, such as Bifocal, our bi-monthly e-journal; our Pocket Guide for Law Enforcement on elder abuse; our capacity assessment handbooks for lawyers, judges, and psychologists; our elder-friendly law-office guide; our elder law ethics brochure, and many topical articles;
- Leadership role organizing and expanding the annual National Aging and Law Conference in partnership with the ABA Center for Professional Development;
- Partnership in the National Legal Resource Center, funded by the Administration for Community Living;
- Production of quarterly “Elder Law Essentials” CLE webinars and more than 45 professional education presentations by staff and Commissioners during the past year;
- Coordination of entities within the ABA working on aging issues via quarterly calls and the Elderlink list;
- Support of programmatic efforts of ABA sections and divisions that seek to target law and aging issues, including cross publication with the Senior Lawyer’s Division and faculty contribution to section and division CLE programs;
- Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program — Legal, an elder financial exploitation CLE initiative, funded by 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;
- Leadership in collaborative efforts to develop guidance for lawyers in cutting edge approaches to supported decision-making for persons with diminished capacities.
The Commission’s work has positively impacted Public Policy Affecting Older Persons and their families through our:
- Technical assistance in response to over 2,000 requests per year from multiple disciplines, policy-makers, and the media;
- Online tracking charts summarizing the status of state legislation on guardianship, elder abuse, health care decision-making, and other subjects;
- Collaboration with the National Guardianship Network in funding working interdisciplinary groups on guardianship reform in 10 states and supportes efforts in others;
- Research now underway to examine legal capacity restoration policies and practices in order to identify model policies and best practices;
- Consultation and advisory engagements aimed at improving state health care decisions, guardianship, and elder abuse laws, as well as federal policy under the Elder Justice Act, the Older Americans Act, and Medicare and Medicaid;
- Advisory and technical assistance activities with the National POLST Paradigm Task Force, particularly in addressing policy and educational issues faced by states;
- Liaison work with 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;
- Policy development and advocacy efforts within the ABA and at the state and federal level in conjunction with ABA Government Affairs, particularly the February 2015 adoption by the ABA of the Commission’s resolution to support access to and financing of high-quality, comprehensive long-term supportive services for persons with advanced illness.
The Commission’s work has had a positive Impact on the Public through our:
- Educational self-help materials for the general public, addressing financial exploitation (e.g., the lay fiduciary guide series), health care advance care planning, and other topics developed under foundation grants;
- Promotion of National Health Decisions Day, April 16, including distribution of My Healthcare Wishes, a smartphone app that enables individuals easily to store and share their advance directives and related information on their smartphones;
- Collaboration with consumer groups to develop strategies to empower individuals and their families in accessing the information, care, and services they need.
A recurring word I have used throughout these highlights is “collaboration.” The strength of the Commission is its ability to work with and bring together experts and stakeholders across practice areas, multiple disciplines, and the public and private sectors to examine needs, find solutions, and implement them.
I am proud of our successes and accomplishments and look forward to continuing success in furthering the ABA Commission’s work in meeting the law-related needs of older individuals.
I encourage you to get involved. This may be accomplished through participating on one of our excellent discussion lists, interacting with us through our social media accounts, or by contacting us to discuss potential partnership opportunities.
Hon. Patricia Banks