Though no two days are exactly alike for attorneys leading Life Care Planning Law Firms, they tend to settle into a general rhythm. That’s how it is for Mary Kay Furiasse, an attorney and founder of A/Z Health & Elder Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Warrenville, Illinois.
Mary Kay brings a unique background to her work. Before heading off to law school, she spent a decade working as a nurse. Her 30 years of experience as a lawyer includes a stint as corporate counsel for a healthcare management company, and other healthcare-related legal and advocacy roles. Her corporate work, along with her experience as a neurological nurse, made the transition to elder law an easy one when she decided to shift practice areas 15 years ago. “It’s about being able to support our families, not only from the legal perspective but also from the nursing and the healthcare perspective,” notes Mary Kay. “We do a lot of healthcare advocacy, patient advocacy, and caregiver advocacy.
Mary Kay’s days start early. “I’m usually up by 5 am at the computer catching up with my billing and emails from the day before,” she says, adding that she makes it a point to respond to everyone within 24 hours.
By 8 am, Mary Kay is in the office reviewing client cases with Lauren, a social worker who serves as the firm’s elder care coordinator. “We lay out our schedule for the day, dividing up what needs to be done for each case and discussing what’s coming,” Mary Kay explains. “If the client situation involves care management, case management, or crisis management, Lauren will usually take the lead. If there’s a crisis case, dealing with that will take precedence over anything we had previously planned.”
Once they’ve sketched out the plan for the day, they get to work. Visiting clients in the hospital or at home and working with hospital discharge planners on unplanned discharges are tasks that end up at the top of the agenda. “If something has the potential to throw a family in crisis, we deal with it first,” notes Mary Kay.
Client meetings come next. “We have most of our in-office meetings between 10 am and 2 pm,” says Mary Kay. “There could also be courtroom appearances or other work on legal issues connected to estate plans, guardianships or probate cases.”
In between client meetings and legal work, Mary Kay is often making lunchtime presentations to civic organizations, community groups, or other attorneys. Afternoons and evenings are reserved for visits to clients at home or in long-term care facilities, and more educational presentations.
Throughout the day, Mary Kay remains in close contact with Lauren as situations arise, as they inevitably do for people on the elder care journey. As they work together to troubleshoot problems, Mary Kay often reflects on the past. “Before I discovered Life Care Planning and before I hired Lauren, I was doing elder care coordination on my own using my nursing background,” she adds. “It was a challenge to balance the legal responsibilities with care coordination tasks. Hiring Lauren to manage these tasks for me has made it possible for us to bring Life Care Planning to more people. I’m grateful for the opportunity to provide this comprehensive solution to families when they’re at their most vulnerable. I consider it a privilege.”