RLG_QuarterlyFallAs I write this article, I am sitting by my wife’s side while she lies in a hospital bed recovering from a high fever and an infection.  We have already heard terminology used such as she is under “observation status” and her assigned physician is a “hospitalist.”  We also have spoken with her physician discussing what may have caused the high fever and the status of different blood cultures attempting to locate any infections. (She is feeling fine now).

For a layperson, including myself, dealing with the health care system can be a frustrating experience.  We rely upon the medical expertise of those health care professionals who are treating us.  However, often we feel lost inside the health care system not knowing what questions to ask, what options there are for treatment, when we can refuse a specific type of treatment.

For our clients and their caregivers, in the majority of cases, concerned about future long-term care options, it can be a particularly daunting experience.  In addition to the health care itself, they need to be aware of the options available for future care as well as the resources available to pay for the care.  Our health care system does not do a very good job with educating patients as to their long-term care options.

For over a decade, our elder care law firm has been members of the Life care Planning Law Firm Association (LCPLFA).  Two years ago, I had the privilege of serving as the Association’s president.  The mission statement of the LCPLFA is as follows:

…to develop life care planning as a holistic legal practice which anticipates and provides legal and care advocacy services to the firm’s clients as their circumstances and health care needs change. Members are committed to helping clients and their families navigate the long-term and health care system and advocate for good care during their loved one’s journey through the elder care continuum.

It has been over ten years since we adjusted our practice focus to concentrate on Life Care Planning by incorporating the use of a geriatric care coordinator into our practice.  We not only concentrate on traditional elder law practice areas – estate planning, eligibility for public benefits, etc., but place an emphasis on maximizing the best possible care for our clients, whether in or out of the home.

When meeting with clients and their families for the first time, I stress that they are not retaining our office specifically for a power of attorney or to obtain valuable long-term care benefits.  They choose to retain our office to assist them in navigating through the long-term care maze that they did not willingly enter into.  What they are purchasing is a long-term relationship between the client, their family, and our office.

I sometimes advise clients at our first meeting that I expect myself and my staff to receive at least one hug from the client or client’s family member during the course of our representation.  Our job is to alleviate the burden on caregivers caring for a chronically ill or disabled loved one.  Receiving a hug from a client or caregiver symbolizes to us that we helped to alleviate the burden placed upon them.  A recent client meeting helps to illustrate this point.

I recently met with a husband and wife and their children concerning the wife’s need for care.  The family explained to us their concerns and their mom and wife’s current situation.  The mom and wife suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.  The family’s goal was to attempt to keep their wife and mom at home for as long as possible.  We explained the Life Care planning concept to them and emphasized the concept is based upon the relationship that develops between our firm and the client and their family.  The wife and mother was very unsteady on her feet.  Nonetheless, at the end of the initial meeting, she attempted to get up from her chair on her own.  Everyone in the meeting jumped out of their seats to attempt to steady her.  However, as soon as she was steadied, she said to me, “I give you a hug.”  It was one of the most memorable hugs I have ever received.

We are here to help you navigate through the health care and long-term care system. We look forward to receiving many more hugs from clients and family members.  Thank you for allowing us to assist..                                         

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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