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Family struggling to get power of attorney for loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s

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WATCH: A West Island family is sounding the alarm about the difficulties of getting power of attorney for a loved one. Betty MacDonald had dementia and is in a home. Her husband can't visit her because of COVID-19. And the family complains they are getting little help from the home she's in to assess her mental state. Global’s Amanda Jelowicki has their story – Dec 3, 2020

A West Island family is sounding the alarm about the difficulties of obtaining power of attorney over loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Dollard-des-Ormeaux residents Betty MacDonald and Robert MacDonald have been married 53 years. Betty started developing dementia five years ago, and in August 2019, she was moved to the Grace Dart Extended Care home in east-end Montreal, about 40 kilometres from the couple’s home. She now suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s, and can’t care for herself.

Robert is a cancer survivor with limited mobility, and can rarely visit. He hasn’t seen his beloved wife since before COVID-19 hit.

Robert’s niece and other family members started helping out organizing the couple’s finances when Betty moved into the care facility. She can no longer manage her affairs.

But when Robert tried changing her address for her pension and old-age benefits, he started running into stumbling block after stumbling block.

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“Some of his benefits have been changed because he is no longer living with her,” said his niece, Rebecca MacDonald. “Her Canada Revenue (Agency) file got frozen for a bit and it affected what benefits he was getting. Some of that got messed up because of her move.”

Read more: Coronavirus — Mother with Alzheimer’s needs her caregivers, son says

And without power of attorney, the family has struggled to access any of Betty’s files.

“We understand it’s to protect people from fraud but there needs to be a better procedure for situations like this,” Rebecca MacDonald said. “It should not be this complicated because my aunt and uncle are not the only Canadians who have had this happen.”

MacDonald said the process to declare someone legally incapacitated is complex. Doctors have to assess someone’s mental state and then the report has to go to Quebec court and a judge has to sign off on it.

MacDonald signed on with a legal aid lawyer in January, and the lawyer sent a legal letter to the Grace Dart care home on Feb. 5 asking for the doctors there to assess Betty’s mental health. But she says nothing has happened since then.

“Nothing has been done since February so it hasn’t moved at all,” Rebecca MacDonald said. “The file isn’t any further along even though my uncle did exactly what he is supposed to do for his wife.”

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On top of that, the family is concerned about the level of care Betty is receiving at the home. They worry that the orderlies who take care of her are unilingual francophones, and she only speaks English.

“She is not getting proper care. They lost her glasses and they lost her teeth. They don’t know anything about her,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald says her uncle has struggled to visit Betty because of COVID-19. Only one person is now allowed into a care home, and Robert requires assistance because of disabilities he suffers from. He would like to visit his wife this weekend because it’s her birthday, but he isn’t sure he will be allowed to visit.

“She has bad dementia; she can’t remember anything. She probably forgot what I looked like,” said Robert MacDonald.

The CIUSS West health department, which is responsible for Grace Dart, didn’t respond to Global News’ requests for an interview by deadline.

The CRA said it would be unable to respond until next week.