By Franklin Drazen, CELA
Many of the elder law attorneys I know took care of elderly relatives before becoming a lawyer. I was already an attorney when my elder care story started.
I had an estate planning and business tax practice. I also led seminars. Some of the people who attended my seminars would come up to me afterwards and ask if I could help them with elder law issues. After enough people asked, I said yes. I was helping my clients with their elder care stories when mine started.
It was about ten years ago when I moved my parents from Florida to Connecticut so they could be closer to me. Dad had been dealing with prostate cancer for years, and his health was getting worse. Mom was doing her best to care for him, but she was having trouble. She didn’t want outside help, yet the stress of caring for my father was affecting her health.
My brother and I discussed the best way to handle the situation. I made all the arrangements for their move. The facility I chose required a down payment, and my brother agreed to pay it. There was just one problem. Mom wasn’t sure she liked the place. If we made the down payment, and then my parents decided they wanted to go somewhere else, we might lose that money. We had a very short time to make the decision. Fortunately, they liked the place enough to stay.
After the dust settled, people I knew would stop me in the street. “Your brother can't stop raving about this elder law stuff that you do,” they would say. “You knew exactly how to handle the doctors and get your parents in a facility in three days flat. How did you know what to do?”
That’s an easy question to answer. I help my clients solve problems like these every day. However, I'm not a hands-on caregiver. There are many, many caregiving tasks I’ve never done. For instance, I've never changed a diaper. I like to think of myself as more of an orchestrator—a project manager—for what needs to be done. That’s the role my staff and I play for clients who have Life Care Plans.
After my parents moved to Connecticut, my wife was the one who was doing most of the work looking after her parents. She was dealing with all the same issues my clients go through. My mother-in-law couldn’t live alone and moved in with us four years ago. She had all the same questions, but she rarely asked me for any advice. She went to our kids, who would come to me and say, “Dad, what’s the deal? You can answer every question that Mom is asking. Why doesn’t she just ask you?”
That’s not an easy question to answer. Certainly, I wasn’t the only elder law attorney in his situation. “Maybe if you told her that she should ask me, she would actually talk to me about it,” I told them.
Did my wife ever come to me with her questions? I’ll keep you guessing on that one. I’ll close by saying that I have always had a tremendous amount of sympathy for my clients and their elder care issues. Now I share genuine empathy with them.
Franklin Drazen is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and the founding member of Drazen Rubin Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Milford, Connecticut.