Saturday, September 19, 2009

Life Care Planning - Bridging the GAP

Last year when Cindy and I were attending the NAELA Elder Law Conference in Hawaii, I recorded a short clip about why I'm an elder law attorney. Unfortunately, the whole clip didn't make the blogisphere trip, but here's what came thru...

The rest of the story is that after personally dealing with my Mom's situation I knew that I needed to shift my focus to helping people who had gone through what I had just endured. My Mom had an unexpected (at least unexpected to me) stroke after going through a valve replacement surgery. The doctor told her that she needed to have this done or she had a high risk of heart attack or stroke. She told me that if she had a heart attack and died, that would be O.K., but she did not want to have a stroke. At age 85, she was in good health, was living alone, driving to the grocery store and church and enjoying life -so at the advice of doctors, she risked having the surgery. She made it thru the surgery and after a 3 week hospital stay, went home. A week later, she had her stroke.

After her stroke, it was impossible for her to live at home, so we had 2 years of nursing homes, hospitals and ultimately hospice before her death. I knew a lot about practicing law prior to this time, but knew nothing about all of the many day-to-day things that needed to be done to take care of my Mom. I had to learn, the hard way, about all sorts of things to make sure Mom got the best possible care.

I like many others before me had fallen into THE GAP - that is, the gap between legal issues and health care issues. It seemed that no person or entity was filling the gap – it was just there. Lawyers would help families sort through the legalities, then wish them the best of luck on the health care side. Health care providers would do just the same thing from their end. Families were left to figure out how to navigate the great gap in between.

About this time, I found that a few cutting-edge elder law attorneys were recognizing this dilemma and were facing it head on in their law practice. They hired life care planners, who worked directly with families to help with critical life care decisions. They would take the families by the hand and walk with them through THE GAP. We started working with life care planners a couple of years ago in our law firm. Since we have, I can’t imagine not doing so. Now we have a road map. No family should have to traverse the gap alone. We can help the family with all of the legalities (wills, trusts, powers of attorneys, Medicaid and Medicare, etc.) then we can walk them through the gap to the health care side to make sure that their parent is getting the best possible care, in the least restrictive environment, without going broke.

Most of us already have our plate full. We have a job, children, a million things going on in our lives - then Mom or Dad has a stroke or Alzheimer's or something bad - that demands immediate attention. When this happens in your family, don’t venture out into the gap alone – give us a call and we’ll break out the roadmap.

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