What Is Elder Law or Elder Care Planning?
People use the term elder law and elder care interchangeably, though there is a difference. Elder law is really the practice of law involving issues that face older people, including all of the issues that arise as folks reach their senior years, whether that’s guardianship, healthcare, estate planning, legacy planning, probate, and of course issues of long-term care or elder care. A common question is how to protect the home and savings from liquidation to pay for nursing home care.
On the other hand, elder care is simply caring for seniors as they get older, whether that’s through in-home care, assisted living, or nursing homes. There are tons of agencies out there that specialize in elder care, and more are popping up everywhere. It’s a cottage industry. Visiting Angels, Home Instead, Bright Star are just a few—these are all companies that specialize in at-home-care for seniors.
I pull elder care into my practice of elder law. Often, clients come to us trying to figure out how to pay and navigate how to provide care for a loved one. “Don’t go broke in a nursing home” is even a common phrase people use. I tell my clients you don’t have to go broke if you have an experienced elder law attorney who can help you navigate this field.
What Stages in Life Are People at When You Come Into the Picture and Start Helping Them Plan for Long-Term Care? When Would Be the Ideal Time?
People tend to not plan ahead. We have the mentality of That’s not going to happen to me. I won’t get run over by a car. I won’t get COVID. People go through life thinking that nothing unfortunate is ever going to happen to them. But what happens when Mom and Dad get old? We all want to get old, right? It’s better than the alternative. As we get old, we will eventually decline and die—it happens to everyone. So, let’s look at a typical scenario. Your mom has been living life at home during her senior years, enjoying her retirement, and paying her bills. Then, all of a sudden, she falls and breaks her hip. In the hospital, she declines, and you realize she can’t return home without help. She’s single—her husband is deceased, let’s say. As her child, you’re faced with the issue of providing care for her. And who’s going to pay for that? Your mom’s been living on social security, she has a house, and maybe she has a retirement account somewhere—who knows?
Nine out of ten seniors have not properly planned for this situation. I give my clients a clap when they’re one of the few who did a little preplanning, gave some pre-thought to their care, maybe even bought long-term care insurance. But it’s usually not the seniors who call me. It’s their children. The children usually come in after they’ve gone through a mess with their parents, like the above situation. We can help them through a situation with their parents, and that’s when the dialog begins for them to avoid a crisis in their own lives by not planning ahead “Well, maybe you should think ahead a bit and become the one out of ten people who do a little preplanning.” That’s basically how I meet most of my pre-planning clients.
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