When you think of the kind of person who might need an elder law attorney, what is your first thought? For most people, what comes to mind is an older adult in crisis. A crisis starts when the person has some sort of acute medical event or accident and can no longer live safely at home. The urgent need to find a place for the older adult to live creates a financial, legal, and care-related crisis—for the older adult and the family. Life Care Planning Law Firms are well-known for their ability to guide families through this type of crisis.
What if this elder care crisis could be avoided? Is that possible? We posed this question to Robin Lacrimosa, one of the Life Care Coordinators at Kimbrough Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in North Georgia. Robin says that the power of Life Care Planning is most evident in these “pre-crisis” situations when an older adult is first diagnosed with a chronic illness or disability that will eventually be life-limiting.
“Let’s say your father was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease,” Robin explained. “He’s lucid 95% of the time, but we know what's going to happen as the disease progresses. When we create a Life Care Plan for a client shortly after diagnosis, you can avoid the crisis because you have the mechanism in place to provide the care, services, and guidance the older adult needs.”
How does this work in practice?
When Robin begins working with a client who is early in the long-term care journey, she starts with a thorough assessment of the living situation, care needs, and the amount of family support. She spends time talking to each member of the family involved in the elder’s care. “I ask about their wishes, their worries, and their goals,” Robin said. “I take what I know about the available care and services, and then I figure out how to add that care and services as the disease progresses—I like to say, ‘layer in the care.’ If your dad has Alzheimer’s disease, but he’s lucid most of the time, he won’t need much in the way of care. We know that's going to change, but we don’t know exactly what day. We can't say, 'On March 16th, we're going to have to layer in the next level of care.' But we need to look at what our options are, what the patient and the family are open to, and decide in advance all the ways it could look.”
The proactive nature of the pre-crisis Life Care Plan is what makes it possible to avoid the crisis. “When you start the planning process early enough, we have all kinds of options. I may even reach out to a couple of the companies whose services we may need as Dad’s condition worsens, or I may give the family information on the companies so they can be interacting with potential providers and deciding which ones they like—and don’t like—well in advance. “We don't know what day that pre-crisis situation is going to become a need, so we have a long-term plan of how that is going to look, and then we already ahead of the game when we need those services.”
Working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm early in an elderly loved one’s long-term care journey can make a real difference in quality of life. “My job is to make sure the older adult receives the right care at the right time and in the right place,” Robin added. “When we do this before the crisis it makes life so much better for everyone involved. The older adult can usually live at home longer, with more independence, more dignity, and greater quality of life. Family members have more time available to be spouse, sons, daughters, and loved ones rather than first responders to the crisis du jour. With a Life Care plan, everyone wins.”