Why Elder Law?
By: Jerold E. Rothkoff
This is a question I get asked usually weekly. To adequately answer the question requires a reflection on my previous 15 years in the wonderful field of elder law.
In 1999, prior to opening my own elder law office, I represented a spouse being sued for her husband’s alleged outstanding nursing home bills. As I began to investigate the case, I became aware that I needed to become much more familiar with Medicaid and nursing home laws in order to provide the proper representation for my client. Coincidentally, I subsequently learned that the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys was having its annual 1999 spring conference in Philadelphia. Within the first two hours at the conference, I became energized in a way that had eluded me my first years in the practice of law. I knew back then that there was something about this field of elder law that would fulfill me in ways which I never could have imagined when I went to law school and set out upon my journey to become a lawyer.
One early case that I handled left an indelible impression on me and characterizes the essence of what elder law attorneys do for their clients. It involved a woman who suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Medicare denied her coverage for a procedure called Lung Volume Reduction Surgery. My client won the administrative hearing, meaning that Medicare would cover the client’s surgery. There were no words for the gratification I felt when I was able to explain to this family that I could help them. My client and her family thanked me stating that she can now dream of the possibility of playing with her grandchildren for the first time, something that she could previously not have done due to her breathing difficulties. For the first time in my career I felt that I had a real impact on a family that was confronted with real problems.
Like almost every elder law attorney fifteen years ago, I thought elder law was about protecting assets from the nursing home, drafting estate planning documents, and guardianships. Over the years, I have learned how narrow minded my views actually were.
Clients and their caregivers were coming to our office with typically more pressing issues than simply “protecting the money.” Issues such as how to convince dad to leave the home to keep him safe, how to best take away dad’s car keys, and how to maximize insurance coverage for therapy. I realized I needed to do better to truly address our clients ever increasing concerns.
In 2005, our firm, Rothkoff Law Group, adopted the “Life Care Planning” practice model by incorporating social work and health care advocacy to assist families in advocating for their loved ones. Life Care Planning has enabled us to truly provide “holistic” services that our clients need and deserve. Over the years, we have expanded our services to include Veterans benefits, health insurance navigation, client education programs, and additional advocacy in a home and community based setting. We will be adding further staff as needed to continue to assist our client and families with navigating the ever the increasing complexity of the long-term care system.
As I look back on these past fifteen years, I have been truly blessed. I have wonderfully supportive family and friends. Our law firm’s staff is amazing and it is a privilege to work side by side with such compassionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated individuals.
It is absolute joy to come to work each day to assist clients and their families in an area of the law that I love. We have much to learn from seniors and those with disabilities, and they have much to share. It has been an honor and privilege assisting seniors, the disabled, and their families these past fifteen years. It is a debt of gratitude that I can only hope to repay.