|Catherine E. Sears, Esq.|
I regularly meet with clients who would be perfect candidates for TPC’s Life Care Planning program but just aren’t willing to accept it yet. For those who don’t know, Life Care Planning is a holistic approach to the concerns of aging that has the law firm at the center of your aging process. So often, families who are helping a loved one through the aging process make the same common mistakes.
Perhaps the estate planning documents are not in place, or, even if they are in place, the fiduciaries in the documents do not properly understand their role. Maybe long-term care planning or asset protection planning starts too late, many years after a diagnosis occurs. There might be misunderstandings regarding what the senior’s rights are when a hospital is getting ready to discharge him after a medical event, or a long-term care facility is getting ready to admit the senior as a resident. This might cause the senior’s care to be compromised, or for the senior to be moved from one location to another far more than is necessary, which can be very detrimental to the senior’s health. Or, perhaps the senior is experiencing isolation (and, therefore, more rapid cognitive decline) because she is trying to “age in place” in her own home, but has lost the ability to drive. Maybe loved ones are becoming burned out or are compromising their own health and wellbeing by trying to provide in-home care for the senior.
With a Life Care Plan, the law firm can help. Our Elder Care Coordinator, who has a background in geriatric social work, will visit with the senior and her family regularly to get to know the senior’s unique goals and wishes for her aging process and make sure that these goals are not compromised despite whatever changes might happen in the senior’s life. Additionally, the law firm provides the services necessary to ensure that all legal options are explored which could maximize the senior’s quality of life.
Additionally, with a Life Care Plan, the law firm can serve as the senior’s decision-maker for legal, financial, and medical affairs, which provides great peace of mind if the senior never had children, or is estranged from his children, or doesn’t believe that his children would make good decisions for him. Alternatively, if the senior does have family he would trust to make these decisions for him but the family members live far away or do not have sufficient time to devote to attending medical appointments or making regular visits, the Elder Care Coordinator can make these visits and report back to the family member to allow her to make an informed decision.
When I tell clients about Life Care Planning, they are usually excited about the program and feel it would be a good fit for them. However, they often tell me that they don’t need Life Care Planning yet because they are still able to take care of themselves and make their own decisions. However, this doesn’t mean that Life Care Planning is irrelevant to them; it actually means that it is the perfect time to begin Life Care Planning.
To utilize the program best, you should clearly still be able to make your own decisions. An important benefit of the program is that you have already created a plan, while you are healthy, to govern what decisions will be made while your health declines. If you wait until your health or your cognition begins to decline before starting Life Care Planning, there are still ways we can help, but you are limiting our ability to help. By allowing us to get involved once decline has already begun, you may already have compromised some of your standard of living or may already have fallen into some avoidable pitfalls. Just as you purchase a life insurance policy long before you think you will die, or you might purchase long-term care insurance many years before you anticipate needing long-term care, you can best utilize Life Care Planning by signing up before you need any help.
So, even if you don’t think you need Life Care Planning yet, consider scheduling a free Life Care Planning consultation with me and with our Elder Care Coordinator so you can learn more about the program and all the benefits it can provide you. Additionally, contact our office to RSVP for a special seminar about Life Care Planning on November 14th at the Holiday Inn & Suites Historic Gateway on Bypass Road. We look forward to seeing you soon!