It’s that time of year again – Spring has sprung, the flowers are blooming, and Elder Law attorneys across the US are celebrating National Elder Law Month. If you’re unfamiliar with the celebration, here’s a primer.
Since 1963, the month of May has been used to celebrate our nation’s elderly. President Kennedy called it Senior Citizens Month, while President Carter called it Older Americans Month. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) supports this annual proclamation by upholding May as National Elder Law Month.
During this month, we recognize all that this profession encompasses and the wide variety of ways that elder law attorneys help their clients. Elder law attorneys are unique, serving a specific type of client, as opposed to practicing a specific type of law. In fact, most elder law attorneys will be qualified to give advice about wills, trusts, and powers of attorney; guardianships (known as interdictions in Louisiana); financing long-term care (including Medicaid and VA benefits); and, special needs planning. Some elder law attorneys give advice about social security benefits, elder abuse and disability law as well. And some may even go so far as to assist in locating the appropriate type of care, coordinating private and public resources to finance the cost of care, and working to ensure the client’s right to quality care.
With laws and regulations becoming more complex, the number of legal problems that affect the elderly are growing – especially when you take into consideration the complexity of Medicaid and other government benefit programs, and how trying to navigate the systems alone can often have unintended consequences. Just one action in regard to a single matter can affect eligibility to other programs and services, potentially disqualifying someone from receiving benefits they are entitled to. It is incredibly important that your elder law attorney has a broad understanding of these complexities to ensure that you avoid problems in the future.
It is also crucial to check with your elder law attorney about what areas of law they specialize in. Because elder law meets such a wide variety of needs, it would be nearly impossible for one person to be a pro in all areas. Once you find out what specific concerns you want to address, speak with your attorney to make sure they are more than familiar with what actions need to be taken, and are skilled in your particular needs.
Additionally, a good elder law attorney will not only bring knowledge of the law to the table, but an understanding of the elderly and the sometimes very real physical and mental difficulties of the aging process that allows them to address a client in a compassionate way. Whether it’s a parent who is not ready to acknowledge that they need day-to-day help, or the spouse of someone with rapidly declining health, an elder law attorney will find a way to work with the client and their family to find the right solution, and the one that is in the best interest of the elderly.
To get more information on the particulars of elder law, or to find an attorney who can help you, check out a few of our most trusted resources. The first is The Louisiana Aging and Disability Resource Center. They provide a toll-free number to “assist older adults and persons with disabilities in locating supportive services and eldercare resources in order to continue living as they choose in their community.” Their toll-free number is 1-877-340-9100 and website is www.louisianaanswers.com. The second resource is The Advocacy Center, a non-profit organization based in New Orleans, but with offices in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport. They publish an excellent guide about interdiction and powers of attorney specifically relating to Louisiana. That document can be downloaded at www.advocacyla.org. And finally, for a wider geographical range, you can always contact The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at 703-942- 5711 or visit their website at http://www.NAELA.org.
Happy Elder Law Month!
Ms. Melancon has engaged in the practice of law in Ascension Parish for the last 12 years. The primary focus of her practice is estate planning, estate administration and elder law and she is accredited by the VA to give advice regarding veterans’ benefits. For more information, please contact her at 744-0027 or visit her website at www.LegacyCenterLa.com. Please also become a fan of our Facebook page for upcoming events.