Rothkoff Law Group will be celebrating our 20th anniversary in January 2020. During the past 20 years, I have learned many important lessons. One of the most important lessons learned is the law alone is not enough to advocate for our clients and their caregiver loved ones. An example is the recent situation our client found herself in, and why we love what we do.

Our client, who was living alone with her 10-year old Yorkie mix, Penny, was in need of immediate nursing home placement. The client dog owner had no immediate relatives to assist her. She was very concerned about her dog that could not live with her in the nursing home. She did not want Penny to go to an animal shelter. Our office team immediately sprang into action to find a proper forever home for Penny. In a matter of 48 hours, we were able to find a suitable forever home for Penny due to the assistance of our associate attorney, Melanie Hoff, and my wife, Erica. As a bonus, the new owner will be taking Penny to visit our client in the nursing home.

We now proudly employ six elder care coordinators as part of our advocacy team. The purpose of our elder care coordinators is to enhance the lives of our clients, many of whom have some form of dementia. The law may be effective in protecting our clients. However, in isolation, the law itself is not enough to truly advocate for our clients. 

Last month, we had the privilege of listening to Michael Verde, the founder and operator of an Indiana-based organization called Memory Bridge. Memory Bridge is an organization “dedicated to ending the emotional isolation of people with dementia.” Michael Verde believes, in the absence of a cure for dementia, we would all do well to focus much more energy on what causes the most suffering in people with dementia. According to Verde, “dying brain cells don’t cause pain. What really hurts, what threatens the very core of what it means to be human, is the way that people with dementia become cut off from their communities and loved ones.”

Verde said research has shown that we make judgments about whether to categorize others as “us” or “them” within a split second of meeting. Too often, he said, a dementia diagnosis instantly shifts people into the “them” category, beginning the process that can strip them of key relationships and lead to debilitating loneliness.

Lawyers are taught to think in shades of black and white. Someone comes to us with a problem. Our job is to solve and fix their problem. However, when working with individuals with dementia, it is never black or white. According to Verde, “you don’t have to know the day of the week to feel that someone respects you. You don’t have to be able to count backward from 100 by sevens to feel that your life has consequence to other lives.”

Our Elder Care Law Office must provide services to the whole person. The law, while helpful and needed, is not enough. Whether it is dog placement or helping a caregiver spouse obtain needed help for the ill spouse, our job is to help obtain the best possible care, and then figure out how to pay for the care.

About Jerry

Jerold E. Rothkoff, a practicing New Jersey and Pennsylvania attorney, is the Principal of the Rothkoff Law Group, an elder care law firm. Jerry dedicates his practice to serving clients in the areas of life care planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid & VA benefits, and advocacy for the elderly and disabled. He is past President of the NJ Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, former chair of the elder law section of the NJ State Bar Association, and past President of the Life Care Planning Law Firm Association. Jerry continues to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the elderly and disabled. He writes for and gives presentations regularly to attorneys and other professionals about legal issues related to seniors and those with disabilities. Jerry’s community activities include the Twilight Wish Foundation, the Delaware Valley Stroke Council, the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as numerous other advocacy groups. When not in the office, Jerry spends time with his wife, Erica, and their five children, eighteen-year old identical twin girls, Liza and Julia, fifteen-year old fraternal twin boys, Evan and Gregory, and six-year old Aitan.

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