Recap of the National Guardianship Association Meeting 2018

Recap of the National Guardianship Association Meeting

by Heather Connors, Ph.D

In October, the Guardianship Institute sent three representatives to the National Guardianship Association Annual Meeting in Palm Springs California. The conference brings together guardians and guardianship stakeholders from across the nation to learn, network and share resources. Educational opportunities included keynote speakers, breakout sessions and legislative updates.

The conference’s theme, “An Oasis of Knowledge” drew inspiration from the literal oasis of Palm Springs, but also reflected the opportunity for guardians to network and recognize that the challenges they face on both a case level and a policy level, are experienced by so many other guardians in the field. For many working in guardianship, the issues may feel isolating. Being surrounded by other guardians who share similar experiences felt, to many, like an oasis.

On October 19th Traci Cucinotta attended an all-day training for state affiliates prior to the conference. The meeting, attended by representatives from 17 states, focused on two primary topics.  The morning session, Advocacy: Making it Work in your State, focused on making systemic change within guardianship and how to work with groups that are opposed to the overall concept of guardianship.  The afternoon session, Membership Development is a Process, examined the framework of long-term goal setting in an effort to grow an organizations membership and the importance of making connections with other stakeholders in the realm of guardianship.  The meeting concluded with a worthwhile group exercise on what it means to be a good guardian.

Heather Connors and Traci Cucinotta had the opportunity to present findings from their research on the experience of end of life for people under guardianship in Massachusetts. Their research indicates that guardians in the Commonwealth are unclear about their authority on end of life and are unsure whether they are required to return to court for permission to consent to a DNR/DNI order. Such confusion may lead to negative outcomes for people under guardianship as well as negative experiences for the guardians themselves. Overall, guardians requested more clarity on the issue and better training on end of life issues for guardians and judges.

The session was well attended and resulted in great interaction with the audience. Several audience members shared stories of end of life in their states and discussed legislative strategies that had been successful where they live. Plans are in place to turn the presentation into a law review paper to submit for publication.

Some of our best contacts were made at our booth in the exhibit hall where Karen-Mae L’Italien shared information about the Institute and the Academy. The exhibit hall gave us space to educate conference participants on our annual conference and the launch of the Guardianship Academy. It was a great opportunity to engage with others interested in training guardians, share ideas and learn what has worked for other organizations.

We are looking forward to the 2019 NGA Conference in Lexington, Kentucky!