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Making legal information accessible - Interview with Mtre. Hélène Guay, a lawyer who specializes in elder law

On February 25, 2019

For 30 years, Mtre. Hélène Guay has worked in close cooperation with seniors and their caregivers. She works to build trust, in order to facilitate and demystify legal processes.


What is elder law?

Elder law is a multidisciplinary approach that factors in the social, legal and health needs of seniors. Mtre. Guay deals with such matters as handling complaints, providing representation before courts, especially homologation or challenging of a mandate of incapacity, opening of protective supervision and legal authorization for health care.

Advocating for seniors

To serve the interests of seniors, Mtre. Guay works based on three fundamental principles: transparency of her services, respect of the senior and harmony in the exchanges between the people involved. These principles help her ensure the exercise of the rights and the independence of the senior. “With age,” points out Mtre. Guay, “the obstacles are increasingly numerous. And seniors can get the impression – on many occasions – that they do not have freedom of choice, that their wishes are not respected. Seniors can quickly become overwhelmed by feelings of frustration and sadness.” Before this situation arises, seniors and their loved ones must take steps to foster respect of the senior’s autonomy.

Taking into consideration seniors and their circle of family and friends

Any matter that Mtre. Guay deals with generally starts with an evaluation of the situation through discussions with the senior and members of their circle of family and friends, some of whom genuinely care for the senior and some of whom may not have the senior’s best interests at heart. She promotes the need to communicate and to clarify the role of each person: “Caregivers have respect for the person they are helping at heart; thus, it is normal and important for them to know their rights and duties toward this person.” She also recommends thinking about the members of the circle of family and friends around care receivers and caregivers: “Caregivers can become weakened by fatigue, lack of time, resources ... In these cases, close family and friends who are outside the caregiving circle as such may prove to be valuable allies.”

As this is Fraud Prevention Month, Mtre. Guay points out that one should start by presuming good faith and the senior’s ability to assess a situation. But, “it is also important to point out that when seniors are victims of infantilization and patronization in their daily lives, these may be the first signs of financial abuse,” she concludes.

Respect, communication, preparation: all values that Mtre. Hélène Guay has conveyed for 30 years.

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Biography

Mtre. Hélène Guay is a legal counsellor, teacher and guest speaker, while prioritizing advocacy through representing people before the courts and in negotiations for out-of-court settlements. Since the start of her journey, she has sought to disseminate legal information, whether through her involvement in associations, such as the Montréal Bar Association, publishing articles, teaching or participating in Barreau du Québec symposiums and at conferences with advocacy groups on current legal issues involving health and human rights.