It's National Social Work Month. What role can a social worker play in a Life Care Planning Law Firm? Just ask Janie De Leon-Male.
If you’re looking for an example of a social worker making a difference in the lives of older adults and their families, Janie De Leon-Male, M.S.S., LSW is Exhibit A.
As the Director of Care Coordination for Rothkoff Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with five offices serving the Philadelphia area and southern New Jersey, Janie leads the care team that delivers the firm’s life-changing services to elderly clients and their family caregivers.
Janie wasn’t always a social worker. After earning an undergraduate degree in business, she worked for a large mutual fund investment firm in Malvern, Pennsylvania. “Though my family has a history of working as caregivers in various capacities, I wanted to make money—to spread my wings,” remembers Janie, whose family came to the United States from the Philippines through a nurse exchange program.
The corporate lifestyle wasn’t what she expected. “I hated wearing suits and being in a cubicle,” Janie admits. “I didn’t like the fact that most of my interactions were via email or online. I wanted work that offered opportunities for more personal connection.”
Ultimately, Janie gave up her cushy corporate income to make a mid-life career change, earning a Master’s in Social Service from Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. “I ended up in the family business after all,” laughs Janie, whose mother is an executive in long-term care facilities in the Philadelphia area. Janie worked in many of the same organizations as her mother did, serving as receptionist, social work intern, activities coordinator, dietary department, and more. “I got to see the whole operation from the ground up—and from the perspective of clients. It taught me a lot.”
It was an internship during her second-year practicum that marked a change in Janie’s career direction. She began working for Jerry Rothkoff, a well-known elder care lawyer in the Philadelphia area, first as a public benefit specialist and later as the firm’s elder care coordinator. All the know-how she had gained in the corporate world, especially the marketing and public relations experience, proved useful as she developed relationships with long-term care providers and worked to spread the word about Life Care Planning. “I kept my maiden name on my nametag, knowing that everyone knew my mom as “Sweetheart,” said Janie, adding that the “Sweetheart connection” helped her greatly. “People didn’t seem me as a litigator, they saw me as Sweetheart’s daughter. They saw me as a liaison to residents’ family members. I was just another person on their team.”
For Janie, relationships with long-term care providers are paramount. “When our clients have an issue, we know who to call,” she says. “And when the provider gets the call from us, they will respond because we have that relationship.”
That’s not the only advantage. “Long-term care facilities that wouldn’t normally admit an elder who is Medicaid-pending will often do so when they discover that the elder is our client,” Janie notes. “Administrators know that we will make sure the Medicaid application gets approved.”
Ultimately, Janie is a business-minded social worker who is selling peace of mind. “Our clients are buying the security of knowing that Rothkoff Law Group is behind the scenes helping them get the best care for their elderly loved ones,” she adds. “At the same time, facility administrators can breathe easier knowing that we’ll help them get paid. It’s a win-win situation.”