In some ways I feel like Yogi Berra, the quotable Yankee catcher and Hall-of-Famer, having “deja vu all over again” as I begin this introduction to Keystone Elder Law. We’ve been around since 2010. This debut in the Sentinel coincides with a revitalization of our web page and reflects our commitment to provide useful information to senior adults and their families.
If you are age 55 plus, or actively involved in the life of an older person, we are targeting topics that will interest you. The initial reaction of a younger person might be that what excites us is more relevant for your parents than for you. If that’s true, stay with us anyway and we’ll give you a few ideas of how to help your mom and dad. Sharing a newspaper clipping with them could be a good icebreaker.
Once a couple reaches age 65, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that one of them will need extended care eventually. The sooner one begins to plan, the more options will exist later. Maybe it’s a “guy thing” that most of us fail to act because we assume we’ll either be among the healthy half, or we’ll die suddenly as a result of living life in the fast lane. It opens such a guy’s door if you can help him to consider even the possibility that he might live a long life and eventually become frail. If he can get that far, he’ll probably agree his preference would be to avoid a nursing home without creating all-consuming responsibilities for your family. Maybe then he’ll face up to the need to plan how he can stay home in a way that his family can be care supervisors instead of hands-on caregivers.
If you are wondering what Elder Law is, you are not alone. Elder Law is a relatively new profession, not having any real focus until the formation of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) in October 1987. That was ten years after the organization of the Pennsylvania Area Agencies on Aging.
I discovered Elder Law, not as a lawyer, but as a consumer when my wife, Marcia, and I needed specific help to pay for nursing home care for my in-laws, whose financial stability had been eroded without our knowledge. It quickly became clear that a couple of their unfortunate and irreversible investment decisions had been influenced by Alzheimer’s Disease. We found an Elder Law attorney who advised us about nursing home costs, but found no organization with expertise or interest to help to develop a care plan, select a facility, or help with other details of our parents’ transition.
Marcia and I were really surprised by the confusion within the extended care system. We were shocked when one well known facility called us and told us to pick up my father immediately because they could not manage his behavioral issues related to Alzheimer’s Disease. We have numerous stories of what happened over eight years with four parents. Keystone’s other staff also have had real life experiences with the dysfunctions of the care network.
Despite our professional and business experience, my legal education, and our many friends and contacts in the community, what was going on with our parents had us feeling stonewalled and confused. After we had recovered from caregiving and grieving, we began to wonder what we might have missed that others must have known about. Much soul searching and local investigation did not ease my sense of frustration.
Then I discovered a model of practicing law which included care coordination by an experienced geriatric medical counselor, and really encouraged clients to interact with support staff of diverse expertise. I imported this new approach of Elder Law to Cumberland County, which became the first practice of its kind in south-central Pennsylvania. We belong to several national organizations, and each has a slightly different purpose. Our services necessarily include more than the preparation of legal documents, but also coordinate the various issues that aging adults are facing. Our staff or affiliated companies include social workers, public benefit specialists, and insurance and real estate expertise.
This column will also give you a chance to get insights from other Keystone staff. Attorney Jessica Fisher worked in an extended care facility for five years before entering Dickinson Law School, where she gained valuable experience in the law clinic, and graduated with distinction. Jessica is enrolled in a nationally acclaimed program which leads towards an advanced legal degree in Elder Law, and was recently quoted in NAELA’s nationally distributed magazine. Jessica and I are both committed to serve senior adults, but we really do bring different talents and perspectives that keep things interesting.
Keystone’s Care Coordinator, John Reese, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner who has a master’s degree in counseling and nationally accredited training as an Elder Care Coordinator. John began with the Cumberland County Office of Aging in the 1970s, and then spent most of his career as a discharge planner at Holy Spirit Hospital. We can count on John to blush when we refer to him publicly as the one who provides the added expertise which makes our services special. It might make you feel better to know that John admits that, before joining us in 2010, he really had no idea what Elder Law was about either. John’s experience with a wide variety of our area’s service providers has prepared him to inform you about a variety of care options.
A weekly column will give us opportunity to cover many topics. We will try to be fresh without choosing sides on partisan political issues. We welcome your feedback, either through our website or by regular mail, and we’ll try to consider your concerns in future columns. Our format will not be Q&A, but you can find that at our website where we also have opportunities for you to download various free literature about Alzheimer’s Disease, Veterans Benefits, Nursing Home Costs, and Estate Planning.
Keystone Elder Law P.C. does not intend to offer legal advice through this column. You should consult an attorney for advice that is specific to your situation. Questions or comments about this article should be sent directly to Keystone Elder Law at 555 Gettysburg Pike, Suite C-100, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055, or by email to info@KeystoneElderLaw.com. Keystone’s phone number is 717-697-3223 (MY PEACE), and the website is www.KeystoneElderLaw.com