FAY, the youngest of three children, was raised on a farm in southern Canada. The family's home was three-and-one-half miles from the nearest village (population 150). She can remember when her family finally got electricity, but the luxury of indoor plumbing was never part of her childhood. During the winter, her father took her to school by horse and sleigh. Then when she was ten, the family farm failed due to drought, and Fay’s mother went back to teaching after a twenty-one year sabbatical.
The only school where Fay's mother could find employment was two hundred miles away from the family farm; thus, she took Fay with her, and Fay spent grades six, seven and eight in a one room country school where her mother was the teacher. “My background serves me well,” says Fay, “since my childhood experience is similar to that of most of my clients even though they are often older than I am. I am able to understand them in a way I never could had I not come from where I did.”
For her high school years, Fay was sent five hundred miles away from home to a religious boarding school, Canadian Union College Academy in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada. Such a decision took a great amount of sacrifice on everyone’s part and “I essentially became an adult at age 13,” says Fay. Since my parents were poor, they could not afford to pay all of my tuition. Thus, I learned to work hard at any job I could find on campus — from early-morning snow shoveling to cleaning the dormitory at night. “From these early experiences, I discovered the importance of hard work and responsibility.”
When Fay arrived at Walla Walla College in College Place, Washington to pursue an English major, she was able to skip a year due to her Canadian education and completed her Bachelor’s degree in three years. She then pursued her Master’s degree in English at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington in 1972. She had intended to complete her doctoral degree in medieval literature, but due to lack of funds she went back to Canada to teach English.
A year later she returned to serve as an associate dean of women at Walla Walla College and later became the dean of women. As a dean, one of her major responsibilities was being available to counsel almost six hundred women under her care.
“Deaning taught me a number of skills,” says Fay. “First, I gained insight into people dynamics as I mediated roommate quarrels. In addition, since the school required the women to attend morning and evening chapel services, it forced me to be creative, to consistently find something meaningful to say — and that took a lot of stretching. I also managed building maintenance and security as well as direct more than a hundred student employees in addition to several associate deans. As I now work with many families in conflict and in crisis, that counseling experience has proved helpful. I also learned to love kids from every background. It taught me not to judge because you have no idea the challenges each individual might be facing at any given point.”
Feeling that she needed more skills than her English major had given her, Fay began to pursue a doctoral degree in counseling psychology at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington in order to better serve her college women. “I was close to completing my doctoral course work, when my marriage failed. Since I knew a divorce would not be condoned, or at minimum would limit my effectiveness on that campus, as a matter of ethics I resigned my position and left it all — my job, my doctoral program and my friends. I truly thought my life was over. I packed everything I could carry in my car and a small U-Haul and left for California (where I'd said I would never live!).”
Fay arrived in California Christmas eve of 1980 and stayed in the home of friends where she assisted in caring for her friend who was living with multiple sclerosis. She immediately began to look for a job, but was considered overqualified for every position for which she applied.
Finally, Fay found a job as a janitor in a battery factory working the night shift. She applied to Fuller Theological Seminary to enroll in its dual theology/psychology program and started taking New Testament Greek the following quarter as she cleaned acid off the factory floor at night. It was not long before she recognized she could not do this for the next six years. She had to devise a better plan.
“I wish I could say I had wonderful and lofty reasons for suddenly deciding to attend law school, but I didn’t. I simply discovered I could complete my law degree in two and one-half years and assumed that was the fastest way to support myself,” says Fay. Thus she ended up at Western State University, College of Law, in Fullerton, California in the fall of 1981. Of course, once Fay began law school, she caught the “advocacy” bug and realized law could truly make a difference in the lives of people. She passed the bar in June of 1984 and began her law career with starry eyes and much idealism. Alas, she discovered that much of law was not about justice, as she spent the next five years practicing civil and family law in a small firm. In the process Fay became totally disillusioned with the legal system.
Finally, one day in September of 1989, she knew she had to get out, thinking she couldn’t be part of this system anymore. She was ready to leave it all, but it seemed so wrong to let go after sacrificing so much to attend law school. She had to try one more thing.
During this time of disillusionment, Fay remembered seeing a news item announcing the formation of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Since she had always loved older people, that caught her interest. It was then that Fay decided to start her own elder law practice in November of 1989. By the end of the year she had made a whopping $75.00.
As Fay immersed herself more and more in elder law, she realized the legal problems of the elderly were so entwined with all their other needs that if she was only helping her clients legally, she was merely doing half the job. She needed to become more aware of what the community offered by way of services to this population.
Fay's search for resources led her to so many of the wonderful people who serve the aging community in Orange County, California. One of her most important encounters was with a woman named Linda Scheck at the Orange County Alzheimer’s Association. Linda invited her to attend an art show featuring the work of Alzheimer’s patients. Fay was so profoundly moved by that art exhibit she felt “called” to dedicate her life to the cause. Linda also invited her to join other volunteers on a bus trip to Sacramento for the annual Alzheimer’s advocacy day.
As they say, the rest is history …
Fay served for more than a decade on the board of directors of the Orange County Alzheimer’s Association. She was a key Public Policy voice of this community, guiding advocates, legislators, public policy staff, professionals involved at the federal, state and local levels, elder law attorneys and others involved in any field in which the law or regulations impact the quality of life of persons with dementia.
Fay founded the Elder Law Section of the Orange County Bar Association. She initiated an informal forum for elder law attorneys, conservators and senior care advocates from a variety of professions and organizations to meet monthly to share strategies and educate and inform each other. She founded the Long Term Care Coalition of Orange County. Fay originated free frequent Legal Planning Workshops led by expert attorneys that have become part of the Orange County community since 1993. They began as an opportunity to educate families about the legal, financial and policy issues they might face as Alzheimer’s or any dementia progressed. She discovered that people learned too late about their legal options and rights or they did not have sufficient knowledge to use them. The workshops have attracted many family members and other interested parties. Fay recruited a corps of elder law attorneys who now share in presenting these workshops.
Fay’s vision about helping people make wise and educated choices resulted in the Empowerment Series, a twelve-part lecture series presented by local experts. Both family members and professionals attended the series which covered all aspects of the caregiving spectrum, including hospice care and bereavement. The Empowerment Series filled a powerful need.
Fay is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and was among the first group of attorneys in the nation to become a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation. She received the Powley Elder Law Award in 2001 from the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. This award is presented each year to a NAELA member who has demonstrated a commitment to promote, in the minds of the general public, a greater understanding of the rights and needs of the elderly. She also served as president of the Southern California Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a member of NAELA’s Council of Advanced Practitioners (CAP). She was named as a fellow of NAELA in 2007. Fay has presented at conferences for the Alzheimer’s Association, NAELA, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Elder Counsel and other national California and Orange County professional organizations.
Fay has served on the California Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, the collaborative public policy organization of the state’s Public Policy committee volunteers. In this role, she worked with state agency representatives to help design regulations that reflect the intent of the legislation, with statewide associations to craft the language of bills that best implement the policy goals of the Alzheimer’s Association and testified at state hearings on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association and the patients and families served. For years she reviewed legislation for the California Council, searching for the impact such pending legislation would have on patients and families. Her diligent role in this effort, collaborating with a small team of experts, helped shape bills that had the power to assist patients and families.
Fay has been involved in many of the statewide “lobby days” in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. She helped plan annual local Legislative Breakfasts held in Orange County where legislators and their aides were together to hear about the Alzheimer’s Association programs, meet the board/volunteers and hear about the Public Policy Platform for the year.
In recognition of her advocacy efforts for those living with Alzheimer’s Disease, the National Alzheimer’s Association awarded her the Maureen Reagan Outstanding Advocate Award in May of 2005.
In 2006, Fay was appointed to the Governor’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Advocacy Committee as the state bar representative where she served for the next six years. That committee is tasked with the responsibility of keeping the administration and legislature informed as to “all things Alzheimers,” assuring that the needs of people who can no longer speak for themselves are kept at the forefront of the health care agenda.
Fay was also named as a member of the California Alzheimer’s Disease State Plan task force which was formed to position the state to deal with issues it will face in dealing with the growing number of citizens with Alzheimer’s Disease in the next decade. She also chaired the Reporting Committee for Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease Management for the medical community.
Fay shares her home with her beloved Siamese cats, Bunny and Skye, and says that when she goes to heaven, she wants to be able to learn to purr like they do.
Fay’s father died from prostate cancer in 1978. Then in a strange twist of irony, her own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1997. Fay reports her own personal family experience with the disease has made her much more sympathetic to the challenges her clients' face. Fay’s brother, Glen, died of colon cancer at the age of 57 in 2002, and three years later, her sister, Beverly, died of complications from breast cancer at the age of 59. Needless to say, Fay treasures her relationships with her nephew, Barton, her nieces, Kimberly and Deborah and her great niece, Penelope.
Fay is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes and tries to read at least one hundred books each year. She loves politics and although she is quiet by nature, it is rumored that she can often be found “shouting at the TV” during the Sunday morning political shows. Her present fascination is the study of the spirituality of dementia.
Despite her quiet intensity and kind nature, Fay’s friends report that she has a wicked sense of humor and quick wit. It is very hard not to have fun when Fay is around.
Fay loves Dr. Pepper, has visited the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas, and collects Dr. Pepper memorabilia. She is also learning to play golf and is surprisingly enthralled with the game. She loves fresh flowers and tries to have them in the office every day for her clients’ benefit. One of her favorite activities, however, is walking on the beach at sunrise or sunset to feed her soul.
Fay’s reputation as an advocate of pure heart and one with wisdom as well as passion is touted by all who know her. The advocacy efforts in which she has been involved have helped thousands of individuals receive better care and more quality support from the public agencies that touch the lives of patients each day they live with any form of dementia.
RETURN TO FAYBLIX.COM HOME PAGE