What is elder law? What is Life Care Planning? How do they compare? One of the best ways to answer that question is to talk to someone who has worked under both law practice models, someone like Jason Penrod, an attorney at Family Elder Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Lakeland, Florida.
Jason acknowledges that the public perception of elder law tends to focus on legal documents, asset protection, and Medicaid qualification. “In traditional elder law, we are typically going after very specific legal and financial results,” Jason said. “One client might need a special kind of power of attorney document. Someone in a nursing home may need us to do Medicaid planning and help them qualify for Medicaid to pay for that nursing home care.”
In a traditional elder law firm, the relationship with the client typically ends once the legal documents have been prepared, the assets have been protected, or the elder has been approved for Medicaid. That’s not the case in a Life Care Planning Law Firm. “Life Care Planning Law Firms do everything that traditional elder law firms do, and more,” Jason explained. “Life Care Planning Law Firms create comprehensive plans that help families maximize the elder’s legal, financial, and personal well-being throughout the long-term care journey. Where traditional elder law is transaction focused, Life Care Planning is about creating long-term relationships with families so we can guide, support, and encourage them every step of the way. It’s about dealing with all the issues that keep caregivers up at night.”
Life Care Planning’s relational focus delivers outcomes that traditional elder law cannot, especially in long-term care scenarios. “Let’s say that an elderly woman in the hospital is about to be discharged to a rehab facility,” Jason explained. “The daughter comes in from out of town with no idea what is going on and the discharge planner is pressuring her to make a decision a rehab facility. She has no idea which rehab facilities are best. She has no idea how she will pay for rehab. As an elder law attorney, I can only help with part of that problem, but as a Life Care Planning Law Firm, I can help with the whole thing. My geriatric care manager will assess the elder’s needs, recommend the best care, locate the best place for her to get that care, and then work with the rest of our team to figure out how to pay for that care. It’s a team effort that offers real guidance, peace of mind, and comfort to the family.”
Comfort is not a word that most people traditionally associate with lawyers, and Jason admits that clients are often surprised by the firm’s focus on emotional support. “That’s what really separates us from traditional elder law firms,” Jason added. “When clients come to us, they're often terrified. They need support. They need reassurance. They need to know that everything is going to be okay. When you're able to connect on an emotional level, it really helps put everyone at ease. It helps them open up to you about what they really need so you can better help them.”
When Jason was working as a traditional elder law attorney, a client would ask 20 questions and he might be able to answer one or two of them. “Now, they ask me those 20 questions and I can answer every one. That’s the best part about what I do.”