By Cassandra Ignatowicz
When I was in college, my initial goal was to be a teacher. My first few classroom teaching experiences were all it took to convince me to change my major. After graduating with a degree in sociology in 2012, I worked as a nanny for a few years, and then got a job at the South Carolina Department of Social Services working in Adult Protective Services (APS). APS investigates reports about abuse, abandonment, neglect, exploitation, and self-neglect of vulnerable adults. APS then collaborates with other agencies to offer protective services as needed. The goal is to promote lives free of harm while respecting individual choice.
When I started at APS, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn't know anything about hospice, home health, or the issues older adults deal with. It was challenging work, but I found it very satisfying. I helped a lot of older adults get out of horrific situations. By the time these people came to me, they didn’t have many options left. In some cases, it was like putting Band-Aids on shotgun wounds, but we were still able to make the lives of these seniors better.
It was through my work at APS that I met Lisa Hostetler Brown, the elder law attorney I work with today. We met in probate court. I was taking an APS client through the probate process, and Lisa was going to be the guardian for this client. That’s where our relationship started.
One day, out of the blue, Lisa asked, "Do you know a social worker who might be interested in coming to work with me in my Life Care Planning elder law practice?" The concept sounded intriguing, so I asked her to explain. Lisa told me about how Life Care Planning integrates elder law with care, which helps prevent the sad situations I was seeing with my APS clients. She told me how Life Care Planning involves attorneys, elder care coordinators, and public benefits specialist working together with the older adult and his or her family to create a proactive plan to address the legal, financial, and personal issues created by aging, long-term illness, and disability. Lisa explained how Life Care Planning works best when it is implemented before the older adult has run out of options or risks abuse by burned out caregivers.
After hearing Lisa explain what was involved, I agreed to join Lisa in her firm. That was about two years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I love everything about Life Care Planning, but what I like best is how it makes it possible for me to help seniors in a way that I couldn’t at APS.
Cassandra Ignatowicz is an elder care coordinator at LawyerLisa, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Lexington, South Carolina.