The role of an independent advocacy organisation is to speak or ask questions on someone’s behalf. When an older person is living with dementia, an advocate can ensure the person is listened to and represent the person's views and interests when dealing with other official agencies.
I will share a case study from our work to illustrate the above.
The return home of a lady in her 90’s who was adamant that she did not want to be placed in a care home environment following a very long hospital admission. She has been managing well at home in spite of being deemed to lack capacity to make her own welfare decisions and assessed as being at a high risk of falling. Inevitably the situation will not be sustainable in the long term due to her frailty and age but at least she has been given the opportunity to live back at home again.
Mrs W is a very private lady who Dundee Independent Advocacy Support (DIAS) has supported on and off for about 4 years. There have been several Adult Support and Protection (AS&P) concerns raised throughout this period mainly relating to neglect and financial abuse by her son-in-law; her only family contact.
Mrs W was admitted to hospital in December as a result of the concern of her neighbour. She was found to be hypothermic and living in a house with no heating. Her son-in-law claimed to be Mrs W’s power of attorney and was “looking after” her finances etc., but this turned out to be untrue. There were concerns of financial abuse as a considerable sum of money was missing and there was equity release on Mrs W’s home which she did not appear to be aware of. Upon initial admission to hospital, Mrs W felt that her son-in-law had acted well and appropriately on her behalf. However the longer she was in hospital, with insufficient funds to buy clothes and toiletries (or visits from her son-in-law), she changed her views and realised that she had been taken advantage of by him.
What we did
- Ensured Mrs W’s views were known and taken into account during the AS&P process. These views, initially, were at odds with social work and the police etc. as she initially believed that her son-in-law had been an effective support to her.
- Continued to voice Mrs W’s wishes to return home and not enter into a care home environment. This involved appropriately challenging assumptions made by care and nursing staff who had concerns about Mrs W’s safety if she returned home.
- By speaking to Mrs W at great length in private and thus building trust, the advocacy worker was able to reinforce the assessment that Mrs W was not aware of the financial abuse and neglect carried out by her son-in-law. This was beneficial to the AS&P and police investigation.
- The advocacy worker supported Mrs W meeting with her solicitor in relation to the guardianship application on her (initially applied for by her son-in-law, who was not deemed appropriate by then) by the local Council.
- The advocacy worker continues to visit and support Mrs W at home to safeguard her welfare as far as possible and to continue voicing her views, which have so far proven correct…
She can manage at home!
Shona Laidlaw, Manager of Dundee Independent Advocacy Support
Dundee Independent Advocacy Support (DIAS) is funded by NHS Tayside and Dundee City Council Social Work Department to provide independent advocacy. This is under the proviso that DIAS are required to operate without ‘conflicts of interest’, which means anything that gets in the way of an advocate being completely loyal to their advocacy partner. This core funding has allowed DIAS to apply for new development funding such as peer advocacy and collective advocacy for Older People in Dundee.