When an elderly loved one's health is failing, quick action is vital. Life Care Planning Law Firms play a unique role in guiding families through the process.
If you’re caring for elderly loved ones, you’re probably quite familiar with the element of surprise. Emergency room visits. Falls. Diagnoses. Accidents. It’s impossible to know what’s around the next corner.
For many families, the ultimate surprise is learning that an elderly loved one can no longer live at home safely. A few families see it coming and make provisions ahead of time. They are the lucky ones. Families that don’t plan ahead become what attorneys practicing Life Care Planning call a “crisis case,” meaning that immediate arrangements must be made to move an elder to a long-term care setting, most often a nursing home.
This is the ultimate family emergency. Fortunately, Life Care Planning Law Firms like Donna J. Jackson & Associates PLLC are well equipped to give family caregivers the guidance needed to protect the legal, financial, and personal well-being of elderly loved ones in this situation.
“It usually starts with a phone call from a family member,” said Donna Jackson, who founded the Oklahoma City-based elder law and estate planning firm that has been offering Life Care Planning for the last four years. “We arrange for our elder care coordinator to meet with the family and the elder, either in our office or in the elder’s home or long-term care facility.”
Julia, the firm’s elder care coordinator, is a Registered Nurse, which is a great help during the process. “Health care professionals and administrators will sometimes give families the runaround,” Donna noted, adding that Julia often accompanies family caregivers to meetings at long-term care facilities or with hospital discharge planners. “Julia’s in-depth knowledge of the health care system gives families more confidence to stand up to providers than they would have if they were doing this on their own.”
In most crisis cases, decisions need to be made very quickly. While Julia is completing her initial assessment of the elder’s condition and creating a blueprint for future care, Donna or one of the firm’s other attorneys works out the legal issues, completing essential estate planning documents and determining how to pay for care. “If the elder is going to rely on Medicaid, we work to get him or her qualified,” said Donna. “If the client was in the military, we look at the possibility of applying for VA Pension with Aid and Attendance.”
In a true crisis, it's usually too late to do financial planning. “There’s no time to plan for gifting,” stressed Donna. “We just advise the family on the Medicaid spenddown and keep them from doing things that would disqualify the elder from getting Medicaid.”
Before Donna added Life Care Planning to her firm’s service offering, she realized, like many elder law attorneys do, that there was something missing in her practice. “I would listen to family caregivers tell me about their struggles with care,” remembers Donna. “With Life Care Planning, we can now offer exactly what families need.”
The pressure created by an elder care crisis often leaves family members exhausted, overwhelmed, and numb. Health care facilities can put pressure on families to make quick decisions. “Hospitals will often issue ultimatums,” noted Donna. “They’ll say, ‘Mama has to be out in a day.’ Julia knows how to slow the process down to give family caregivers the breathing room to make good decisions.”
Relief is the end result. “People want to take baby steps to feel comfortable,” Donna added. “We make that possible.”