A Life Well Lived
By: Jerold E. Rothkoff
Last month, our long-term client, Bob, passed away. At the beginning of our representation, we emphasize to the client or family that our goal is building a relationship with the client. We do not typically assist a client in an individual transaction. Our goal is to help the family navigate the issues involved with long-term care and follow the client & their family along the elder care continuum (home care, adult medical day care, independent living, assisted living, and/or nursing home care) as the care needs increase.
We worked with Bob and his family longer than we have worked with any other client during my 15 years as an elder law attorney. Bob first contacted our office about 13 years ago regarding his mom. We assisted him with care issues related to his mom, and eventually qualified her for nursing home Medicaid coverage. About 6 years after his mom died, Bob contacted our office once again in regard to his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We worked with Bob and his wife, Eileen, with financial and estate planning, and eventual nursing home placement for Eileen. Bob’s wife passed away about 3 years ago. Approximately two years ago, Bob’s son contacted us regarding his dad’s deteriorating mental condition. Unfortunately, Bob had developed dementia and was in need of assistance. We once again assisted the family with financial and long-term care placement issues, designing an asset protection plan and eventual assistance with assisted living placement.
I read that famed singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen recently celebrated his 80th birthday. He celebrated by smoking a cigarette. Although I am not recommending taking up smoking at any age, Leonard Cohen had an interesting idea. Jason Karlawish, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in his New York Times editorial published September 20, 2014, asked an interesting question – When should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead embrace the pleasures of the present?
Our country is becoming more and more obsessed with preventing diseases. Our office’s geriatric care coordinators spend hours documenting the multiple medications our clients are taking. Our clients and or caregivers sometimes complain that their days are spent going from one doctor to the next. Prevention of disease is important, but at what cost? As Dr. Karlawish writes, a national investment in communities and services that improve the quality of our aging lives may be necessary. Most people desire not simply to pursue life, but also happiness.
Medicine is important, but it is not the only means to achieve happiness.
Bob was a very proud and learned man who enjoyed life. Although he certainly had his difficult days caring for his mom and his wife, and eventually himself, he never lost his boyhood enthusiasm for life. He always had a positive outlook on life regardless of the circumstances.
Bob was a fatherly figure to me. He witnessed first hand the growth of our elder law firm and he always had words of wisdom regarding my elder law practice or life in general. Thank you to Bob and his family for allowing us to assist them on the journey for the past 13 years. We have much to learn from both Bob as well as Leonard Cohen.