Too Stubborn for a Life Care Plan

Physically unwell but mentally sound seniors have been refusing to accept guidance from younger family members for millennia. What happens when the younger family caregiver happens to be an attorney in a Life Care Planning Law Firm? We posed this question to Julia Price, a VA accredited attorney at Elder Law of East Tennessee, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in Knoxville and Johnson City, Tennessee.

Not long after taking in her 89-year-old grandmother who could no longer live safely at home, Julia began her job as an attorney at Elder Law for East Tennessee. Did Grandma eagerly invite Julia to use her growing on-the-job experience to make her life better?

“Of course not,” Julia laughed. “She wouldn't let me do anything. She wouldn’t let me create a Life Care Plan. She was eligible for VA benefits, yet she wouldn’t let me apply for them. Her disabled daughter could have benefitted from a Special Needs Trust, but she wouldn’t let me set it up. She got mad when I asked her to sign a Power of Attorney. She would tell anyone who would listen that I was trying to take over her life. She was very resistant, even though this is what I do for a living.”

Julia helps clients create and implement Life Care Plans every day, yet her own grandmother refused to take advantage of that experience, which made the entire situation worse than it might have been. How might things have been different if Grandma had accepted Julia’s help?

Everything would have been easier, Julia admitted. “We wouldn't have suffered as much,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had to be the bad guy all the time. We wouldn't have stumbled through as gracelessly as we did.”

The process of creating a Life Care Plan could have also helped the family unearth a key insurance document that would have changed the course of Grandma’s life. “While she was in the process of moving to an assisted living facility, I was going through her papers and I discovered that she had a long-term care insurance policy that would have paid for in-home caregivers,” Julia said. “I said, ‘Grandma, why didn’t you tell me about this before,’ and she said, ‘I didn’t want anybody to know my business.’ If I’d known about that long-term care policy, she could have stayed at home. She could have been happier. She would have had other people to talk to.”

A Life Care Plan would have also given Julia access to an elder care coordinator who could have served as a sounding board for decisions. “The elder care coordinator would have been a neutral third-party who was familiar with our situation,” she said. “The elder care coordinator can see when things are changing and can offer suggestions about what do to next. I'm not a person that likes to ask for help, which made things worse, but it still would have been nice to have somebody who could say, ‘Now it's time to do this. Now it’s time to do that.’ It’s the ultimate irony that I create Life Care Plans for a living and Grandma wouldn’t let me do a thing. There’s so much I could have done. Her life would have been so much better.”