Thompson Rivers University

Research aims to improve support for people with dementia

  Posted on: June 16, 2016

Associate Professor Margaret Hall

Associate Professor Margaret Hall

A TRU Law faculty member wants to see a revised legal framework in place to respond to the needs of individuals living with dementia, especially those suffering alone.

“The question of who will provide care and support to the “rising tide” (the title of a 2010 Alzheimer’s Society report) of individuals growing old with dementia alone—without spouses, children or other family members to provide care and support—is an unknown,” said Associate Professor Margaret Hall.

Hall is conducting research to explore the possibilities of a unique Canadian Guardianship Tribunal Model, noting that since dementia-related needs are primarily around care-giving versus medicine, it is a social issue that can be addressed through law reform.

She explains the two major mechanisms for appointing guardianship in BC either leave behind individuals experiencing dementia alone or lack a coordinated approach in terms of responding to the multi-faceted needs of such individuals.

“Mrs. or Mr. X may need practical help—with finances or household matters—and usually a guardian would provide this, but if they are alone, there isn’t a process to initiate this kind of help,” said Hall, adding her goal is to also expand on the sole idea of guardianship.

“My research includes thinking about all of the types of services a tribunal could usefully facilitate. I want to create a new model that can appoint guardians more efficiently but can also provide other supports and services.”

She says with a tribunal model, people could report individuals—a neighbor, for example—that may have needs in relation to dementia. A tribunal could also help prevent neglect or financial exploitation.

Hall, who has formerly worked in law reform, is excited about what she might come up with and ultimately hopes the development of the model will have a widespread influence.

“I like to shuffle up the categories and engage in the imaginative process, and that is my responsibility as a legal academic. I get to think about things in new ways and stimulate the conversation.”

This year’s focus includes consultation with senior’s groups, health authorities, lawyers and government. The preliminary model will be presented at the International Congress of Law and Mental Health conference in Prague in July of 2017, with a final model forthcoming in fall 2017.

Hall’s research is funded by an internal TRU research grant, which also supports a summer research position. Law student Milad Javdan is entering third year this fall and calls it is a valuable opportunity.

“Serving as a research assistant to Professor Hall, I get to work with a leading academic at the intersection of elderly health issues and law, and hone my legal research skills which will be a great asset for articling,” said Javdan, who hails from Toronto.

Hall has worked with the Alzheimer’s Society of BC, writing Freda’s Story: Living Alone and Finding Help on the Dementia Journey. She recently presented on dementia and medically-assisted dying at the 8th annual Journal of Ethical and Medical Health conference, hosted at TRU in June, and hopes to help establish an interdisciplinary research centre on aging and health at TRU in the near future.

For more information:
Associate Professor Margaret Hall

Listen to Margaret Hall on CBC Daybreak Kamloops, August 24th