[This is a republished piece from 2011- still timely and still asked about.] I am asked a lot about what my practice of Elder Law means? What is it? How is it different from other law practices? Isn’t it just protecting the assets of the wealthy?
I met with a new senior citizen client on Wednesday afternoon. Picked her up at her house and took her to a diner for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. She has a lot of legal issues and she was very confused about most of them.
Elder Law issues? No. Legal issues. Different kinds of issues. But she has them all, and that makes them Elder Law issues.
She lives alone with several large dogs on the top floor of a two story building in Skokie. She slipped on ice behind her rented house this January. Broke her arm and shoulder bones. No one responded to her cries for help while she was lying on the sidewalk on the ice. She crawled back inside, up the stairs, and called a neighbor for help and a ride to the hospital. She is still in pain, can’t move her fingers, and gets therapy several times a week.
Her landlord didn’t salt the sidewalks or the back walk. He didn’t clean out the gutters so the rain spilled over onto the walks. The back stairs are wobbly, so she takes the long way around to the back trash cans.
She found an attorney in the phone book to pursue a claim against her landlord. The attorney sent someone out to the house to meet her and they took photographs of the ice and the gutters. They signed her up. Then they left and started collecting medical bills. She paid for and sent copies of her xrays to the attorney and sent the attorney copies of her bills.
Last week she got notice from her landlord telling her that she must move out. And then she got a call from the attorney’s office telling her to come pick up a check for $1,000.
So what are her legal issues? What about that is Elder Law?
She lives alone. She has no family. None. She is the last person in her family still alive. No parents. No children. No husband. No brothers or sisters, cousins or other relatives. She says she has no friends she trusts. She doesn’t like her neighbors or her landlord.
She has financial resources. She can buy a house for cash if she decided to. She has no will, or any written documents directing health care providers on what steps to take should she become incapacitated. But no one is managing her assets.
She has medical issues. She deals with them the best she can. But she has no insurance beyond Medicare, and she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid without a big montly fee that she refuses to pay. And no one is managing her health care.
She hired an attorney to pursue a claim against her landlord for her injuries. But she doesn’t trust him, she doesn’t know what the $1,000 check is for, and she hasn’t spoken with the attorney since February when she hired the firm.
Elder Law is all of that. She needs someone to trust. She needs someone to explain things to her. She needs someone looking out for her best interests. She needs an attorney who gets her problems. No matter what those problems are. That is Elder Law.