Sage promotes and protect the rights, freedoms and dignity of older people by developing and providing support and advocacy services wherever ageing poses a challenge for people.
The aim of the programme is to provide vulnerable older people, in particular those living in long-stay care, with access to an independent advocate. Atlantic funding has facilitated a scaling up of the advocacy programme to acute hospitals and the community, as well as the implementation of data collection systems and the provision of education and training programmes for volunteers. Sage is also committed to addressing systematic issues in the care of vulnerable older people.
Advocacy is a continuum that requires a range of skills including legal issues, medical issues, ethical issues, brokerage, as well as befriending and comfort.
Trained Sage advocates have provided support, for example, to vulnerable people who have been challenged by solicitors, financial advisers, even family members. They have also been instrumental in ensuring that people’s end of life care wishes have been followed through and respected. In addition, advocates have been involved in ensuring that people’s wishes are fulfilled in the transition between home and various in-patient care settings, including acute hospital admission and discharge.
The service was originally initiated by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in response to a major nursing home scandal (Leas Cross) in Ireland. Sage was subsequently developed under the governance of Third Age Foundation with funding from the HSE and Atlantic.
On the Ground
Sage has supported over 1,000 older people since it was established with a range of often complex and sensitive needs and challenges.
It now employs four development workers focused on developing acute care “pathfinder” models linked to academic teaching hospitals and has undertaken a comprehensive recruitment process for a range of advocates.
Sage published “Nothing About You / Without You – Quality Standards for Support and Advocacy Work with Older People” and contributes to the development and implementation of progressive policy and legislation on the rights and decision making capacity of vulnerable older people, including people with dementia.
Seán making decisions for himself
Seán has a challenging relationship with some of his siblings, who believe he has serious cognitive difficulties and, therefore, want to make him a Ward of Court against his wishes. Seán contacted an Advocacy Provider within SAGE, as he required legal support to challenge the Ward of Court procedure. The Advocate took time to develop a relationship with Seán, so that she could fully reflect his wishes and preferences in a mutually agreed advocacy support plan. With her support, Sean was able to create an enduring power of attorney, which would come into effect when he reached the stage that he was unable to make decisions for himself. Seán was more confident in navigating many legal and clinical meetings with the support of the Advocate and thus felt fully empowered in this process.