Trials and tribulations of caregiving

My mum is fast approaching her 65th birthday and I have been trying to organize her affairs as she transitions into being officially categorized as a senior.

It has been surprisingly difficult, thanks in large part to Service Canada

I submitted the Old Age Security application on December 22, 2016, to the Service Canada office in Edmonton, to avoid the very situation I eventually found myself in.

You are allowed to apply up to 11-months prior to the person's 65th birthday. So ever the eager beaver, I submitted the application as early as possible. I was required to submit a Certified Copy of the Guardianship and Trusteeship Order, along with the application.  

The agent did not want to accept the documents at first because they had a stamp from the court. Well the document is not valid without the stamp. A 45-minute call to superiors later and she finally took them. Already off to a good start.

I was told it would "only" take 12 weeks to process the application. 

When I called to follow-up on the application on March 22, 2017, I was told that it would take an additional 12 weeks to process as my mother’s case was complicated, because she lived in three different countries in her life. I was asked to collect as much information as possible to prove when my mother entered and existed Canada starting from 1970 to present day. 

I spent the next three months contacting as many agencies as possible, including CRA, CBSA and UK Department of Work and Pension.  These agencies advised me that they do not keep records on file for the duration of time in question. 

After collecting as many supporting documents as possible, I submitted them to the Penticton Service Canada office on June 27th. 

I called again towards the end of July for an update and was told that they couldn't speak to me because I was no longer on her file. The only recourse was the escalate the case and request a call back. I did that for two months, but still to no avail.

I finally got so tired of the rigamarole, I contacted the Minister for Seniors and Housing, who offered help on a provincial level, but could not help on the federal level.

Soon thereafter, I received a letter from Service Canada stating that they could not process the application without a questionnaire being completed and that the photocopy of the trustee document I provided with the application is not a certified photocopy of the court order. All comes down to that agent that did not want to accept it in the first place.

I finally had to fly to Edmonton and go to Service Canada in person. I ended up having to go into the office twice: the first time was to provide the original copies of the Guardian and Trusteeship from the lawyer. I was given several documents for my mother to sign. This is even despite the fact that she legally does not have her mental faculties and we have the necessary paperwork in place to have signing power.

The second time, I submitted the application for Guaranteed Income Supplement, a Consent to Communicate Information to an Authorized Person affidavit (to provide consent for my brother and I to discuss her case immediately as it takes 12 weeks to process paperwork ) and the questionnaire.

I was told it would take three weeks to process the paperwork and that I would then be in the "box" which allows me to able to speak on her behalf.

I have done absolutely everything I could to facilitate this process and I am just hoping that this is the end of the trials and tribulations with Service Canada. 

I wanted to write this post to demonstrate the inefficiency of the government and the undue stress on caregivers. 

Have you experienced a similar issue? Share your story by commenting on this post!

Learn more about what financial benefits are available after 65.

Navigating Bureaucracy as a Guardian

When my mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease in 2007, I had no idea how much paperwork, bureaucracy and frustration I had ahead of me.

When the person you are caring for is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it is important to get their “affairs in order.”

This typically begins with securing Power of Attorney or Guardianship, so that you can start making decisions regarding medical treatment, the estate and generally advocating on their behalf.

This is neither an easy process, nor a cheap one. There are ways to file the paperwork yourself, but this is lengthy and complicated.

First things first, you will need to decide who is going to be the legal guardian(s), including primary and secondary. Usually, you also select an alternate guardian in case the others are out of town or are otherwise incapacitated.

My brother and I decided to file the Application for Guardianship paperwork through a lawyer as in our opinion it was the most efficient and there was no time to spare. As we had made the application in Alberta, Canada, our application fell under The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act (formerly Dependent Adult Act).

It took a few months for the Court to approve the application, but once the Justice appointed us as her guardians, we assumed the responsibility to act and make decisions in such a way to serve the needs of our mother.

With the Guardianship in place, we are able to provide our input for any medical, social or residential decisions. However, in order for our decisions to be informed and reflect the needs and interests of our mother, we are expected to have regular contact with her and the people and agencies involved with her.

Unfortunately, in the past in Alberta, the Order was only valid for five years. Therefore, we were forced to go through the whole process again, including paying for the lawyer to file the paperwork with the court and having her attending physician complete a Capacity Assessment Report.

Luckily, the laws changed in Alberta in 2009 now  allowing for permanent legal guardianship, but that didn't come without its own set of hiccups. The type of information that the court now required was much more detailed than what was required in the previous application.

This time around, a Review Officer from The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee physically went to my mum's home to ensure she was in fact where we said she was. Once the Public Guardian/Trustee is satisfied with the application, it was sent to the courthouse for a final revision and approval by a judge. 

Now that we have this renewed and it in place, we can breathe a sigh of relief, except when it comes to dealing with anything related to money. That requires a Trusteeship to be in place, which I will address in a subsequent post.

If you have any questions about Guardianship and/or Trusteeship, please visit the Alzheimer Society of Canada