By Lorne Welwood

“I don’t want to be a burden on anyone” is something I am sure we all hear, especially from seniors.

In this article I will discuss the role and importance of having a Representation Agreement [Note: This is in addition to naming either a trust company or other person as the attorney in an Enduring Power of Attorney for financial and legal matters].

Older individuals who have not appointed a “Representative” for health and personal care because of ‘not wanting to burden anyone,’ instead of actually being helpful or considerate, cause the opposite. Without having someone named, physicians, hospitals and care homes may be put in a very difficult position. Friends or family who may present themselves as ‘wanting to help’ actually have no legal authority to do so and are not able to make personal care decisions on your behalf, should you no longer be deemed ‘capable’. The role of the Representative is a very important one as this is the individual who makes health and care decisions on your behalf when you are no longer capable to do so for yourself.

Individuals have the right to appoint a Representative pursuant to the Representation Agreement Act. If you have not done that and become incapable, someone you have not chosen may need to apply to the court to be appointed as your “Committee” (guardian) with much delay and expense pursuant to the Patients Property Act. Alternatively, a Temporary Decision Maker may be appointed for you under the Health Care Consent and Care Facility Admission Act and Health Care Consent Regulation.

Most commonly, people choose their spouse and/or an adult child as their Representative, but some do not have family close enough geographically or personally for this to be their preferred option. For single and childless people, this can make it difficult, but I suggest that naming a willing friend or neighbour is better than leaving it up to unknown persons when you are no longer capable. You can appoint more than one representative either to act jointly or with the second one as an alternate if the first one resigns or is unable to continue. You may not appoint a paid caregiver as your representative as (I suppose) there is a conflict of interest or potential for undue influence.

The complexities and interactions of various pieces of relevant BC legislation is beyond the scope of this article, so I recommend those who may need help with this get legal advice.