The following information was submitted to ThoroldNews by Dick Moore, co-founder of the Senior Pride Network Niagara:
Most of us resist thinking about our own death and dying. It’s a downer. Nonetheless, as we age and see friends and relatives leave us we realize there are some ways to leave this life that are better than other ways and some of these ways are within our control.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) people know about all too many very bad end-of-life scenarios. During the AIDS pandemic we knew or heard about the actions of too many families who disapproved of their son/brother’s gay life. At the time of death such families would swoop in, deprive the partner and members of the dying person’s chosen family of visiting rights. Then, at the time of death these family members would claim the body and bury it according to their own religious and family traditions. They were known to break the lease of the deceased person, empty the apartment and even take the pet. These actions left the partner of the deceased not only mourning the loss of a partner but also homeless and without the comforts of belongings and a family pet.
Similarly, trans people know of or have heard of disapproving family members claiming a corpse, dressing it in clothes of the person’s sex at birth, having a funeral reflecting their own family and religions traditions and having a tombstone engraved with a name the person had been given at birth not name the person had changed to reflect the gender they knew him/herself to be.
Senior Pride Network Niagara has received a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Seniors Affairs to offer a program on end-of-life planning. The program will provide information, tools and resources enabling participants to think about their wishes for end-of-life care, understand their options and make informed decisions to improve the quality of their interactions with the health care system. The program will engage legal experts and other resource people to advice participants of their rights under both federal and provincial laws. The program will also provide resources and application forms that participants can take home with them to start developing concrete plans.
The issue of a substitute decision maker, a person who makes decisions on one’s behalf should one be considered incapable of doing so, is a critical one for end of life planning. This person is chosen and named by a person in what is called a Power of Attorney. There are two different Powers of Attorney. One is for personal care and the other for finances. Understanding the ins and outs of substitute decision makers and powers of attorney is important to anyone planning his/her end of life care. However, it is especially important for LGBT people because the hierarchy of substitute decision makers favours biological or legal family. Often LGBT people are alienated from their families of origin who may have rejected and ostracized them.
The person one chooses as his/her power of attorney should be someone concerned with all aspects of one’s future personal care. That is someone who respects your religious beliefs and spiritual values, and will advocate for the use of you preferred name and pronouns/ ensure your dietary needs are respected, will attend to your needs and preferences around appearance
The program will provide participants with needed forms to name such powers of attorney.
When people are receiving long term care in a home their rights are protected under the Long-Term Care Homes Act of 2007. This act guarantees a person’s rights to live in a safe, clean environment, be properly sheltered, fed, groomed and clothed. Residents of long term care homes may meet privately with a spouse, partner or friend without any interference in a room what assures this privacy. Similarly, a person may designate someone to receive information regarding any transfer or hospitalization and have this person receive the information immediately.
The issue of consent is one that has significant bearing on end of life care. A person’s rights regarding consent are laid out in the Health Care Consent Act of 1996. Under this legislation the guiding principle is “no treatment without consent”. Consent has three elements: it is voluntary. That is, it is based on free will without coercion. Consent must be informed. That is, information about the treatment has been explained by the health care provider. Lastly, consent is made by a person who is mentally capable of making decisions regarding their own care.
The program will take place on Tuesday, March 19 at 2:30 p.m. at the Niagara Falls Pubic Library at 4848 Victoria St. in Niagara Falls.
The event is free of charge. Free transportation from Welland will be available by Seasons Retirement Home. For people from elsewhere in the region who require it, a bus ticket subsidy for transportation will be provided. Light refreshments will be available at the event. Interested people may register on line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dick Moore can be reached at email@example.com