Monday, May 3, 2010

The Empty Office

The sign on the glass door reads “Elder Law Attorney.” You peer through that door but the office is empty–where is the elder law attorney?

She is probably in the community making a house call – yes, elder law attorneys still make house calls. A paralegal and the elder law attorney first witnessed a dying man sign legal documents and immediately afterwards heard his daughter call the hospital asking for an ambulance to take him there. She explained that he wanted pain killing medication but no treatment to lengthen his life.

This is all part of a normal day in the life of an elder law attorney. Elder law attorneys are often found in the halls of nursing homes because their clients can’t come to them–it goes with the territory. At other times, the office may be empty because the elder law attorney is visiting a client in an intensive care unit. In this case an elderly individual is unconscious and no clear written advance directives have been given about their health care. The lawyer then becomes a combination social worker, spiritual advisor and counselor to work with the doctors, the hospital administration and family members who may disagree on the proper treatment for the patient in an attempt to work out a solution that sustains the dignity of the elderly individual.

You will also find the elder law attorney in his/her office. People may be creating a living trust to avoid probate and to implement a plan for the management of assets or families whose loved one is about to go into a nursing home may be seeking advice regarding the best way to give the elderly person the most comfortable and satisfying lifestyle possible taking into account physical, mental and economic factors.

The attorney may be in the office counseling with the family whose parent desperately needs institutional care but is unwilling to go there voluntarily and doesn’t understand how serious the situation is. The elder law attorney may advise the family to file a guardianship in court to lovingly seek court approval for their aging parent to get the kind of help that they so need.

The next time that we peer through that office door, the elder law attorney may not be there because he/she will be in Court actively pursuing the guardianship for the betterment of the elderly individual.

Elder law attorneys generally consider their practice to be a sacred trust for the betterment of clients–they genuinely try to treat each client as if he or she were a family member.

The month of May has been declared “National Elder Law Month” by the Tucson, Arizona-based National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. For more information on elder law or National Elder Law Month, contact the Attorney Patricia Bloom-McDonald at 781-713-4709 or 508-636-6097 or email her at: