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Sentinel : LCPLFA | Keystone Elder Law – Mechanicsburg, PA

The unfamiliar acronym LCPLFA stands for the Life Care Planning Law Firms Association.  This association was instrumental in the development of Keystone Elder Law.  Tim Takacs, an elder law attorney in Tennessee, saw that his clients needed help navigating the confusing and fragmented elder care system.  He found that a collaborative practice of an attorney and an elder care coordinator provided the comprehensive service his clients needed.  This experience gave birth to the LCPLFA. As an organization, LCPLFA uses a picture of jigsaw puzzle pieces to illustrate the process of how this collegial effort helps clients put the pieces of their care needs together.  In the past, several of us at Keystone Elder Law have had the personal experience of having the “pieces” of our loved one’s care handed to us with the overwhelming instruction to figure out how to put the puzzle together all by ourselves.  This is why Keystone uses the team approach of attorneys, elder care coordinators, and benefits specialists.  We not only help families understand what the pieces of their loved one’s care are, but we also help them put the pieces together to form an integrated care plan that maximizes their loved one’s dignity and independence while avoiding unnecessary expense.

In October, Attorney Jessica Fisher Greene and I were able to attend the 7th annual LCPLFA conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where we heard some great speakers present on relevant topics.  The conference also provided the opportunity to share with and learn from colleagues in other elder law firms.  Here are some of the highlights.

John Nance, an ABC analyst, author, and consultant was the keynote speaker for the conference.  He traced the development of health care from its inception in the United States to the present.  He noted that, during the early settlement of the country, physicians were like the “Lone Ranger,” completely independent and isolated as they traveled in the wilderness.  Self sufficient, their only resources to help their patients were their own medical knowledge and the contents of their black bag.  Today, this autonomous outlook has its drawbacks.

John Nance’s premise is that the healthcare system today does not have “bad” people working in it but that because humans are fallible, mistakes happen, sometimes with disastrous consequences.  Consequently, he feels a more cooperative system with checks and balances is needed, so mistakes can be caught and corrected before there is a disaster.  Until this more collaborative system is developed, Mr. Nance recommends that patients, as well as those advocating for them, speak up to make sure they understand what treatments and medications they are receiving.

Shelley Whalen, BSW, of Community Mediation Services, spoke about how mediation can be useful in helping family members work through conflicts about care for loved ones.  She explained issues that families often disagree on and went on to show how an impartial mediator can help the parties in conflict voluntarily reach agreements that are acceptable to everyone.

Viewing the documentary “GenSilent” gave participants an opportunity not only to see what health care is like from the perspective of people with a variety of sexual orientations but also to develop a sensitivity to their concerns.

Michael Ross, Esq., from the Law Offices of Michael A. Ross in New York, gave an excellent presentation on “Ethics/Mandatory Reporting Laws in a Multidisciplinary Practice.” I know it is easy to joke about lawyers not having any ethics, but there are a very strict set of rules they must follow in their practices. In most areas the codes of ethics and mandatory reporting requirements are similar for lawyers and social workers. There are, however, a few areas where lawyers are required to place “duty to the client” above “duty to society,“ while social workers have the opposite requirement. It was helpful to have this clearly spelled out for everyone.

In addition to general sessions, there were a number of “breakout out” sessions, which focused on different areas of interest for attorneys and for support staff. I attended sessions on “Specialized Dementia Care in the Home,” “Understanding and Supplementing Long-Term Care Insurance,” “Older Driver Safety vs. Independence,” “What’s New in VA Health Benefits,” and “Hoarding Behaviors.” The value of these sessions is not just the material presented but also the references given on where to obtain additional information.

Jessica Fisher went to other sessions targeted at attorneys including “Legal Issues Unique to Same-Sex Couples,” “Risk Management, Documentation and Ethical Practice Issues,” and “Understanding Complex Tax Issues in Life Care Planning.” Jessica stated that the latter two sessions were the most valuable. As Jessica is attending Stetson University College of Law to complete her LLM advanced degree in Elder Law, the Ethical Issues session allowed her to compare her LLM classes with the content at the conference. As for tax issues, with all of the trusts that Jessica establishes on behalf of clients, she makes it a priority to stay up to date on any changes in tax law.

All in all, the conference was educationally worthwhile, but while the LCPLFA gives us the model structure for our elder law practice, it is not the only professional organization of which Keystone is a member. We use these collegial organizations to keep us up to date on how to provide the best service to you.

John Reese
Elder Care Coordinator