Terri Lawson: May is National Elder Law Month

Staff Reports • Updated May 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM

May is National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys sponsors Elder Law Month to raise awareness of a growing need for a growing population.  

An estimated 18,910 people 65 years old and older lived in Wilson County in 2015, and that number is expected to rise to 20,997 by the end of 2017. Long life has both joys and challenges. An elder law attorney can help you or someone you love to maximize the joys and minimize the challenges by providing an array of legal, financial and other support services specific to seniors and people with disabilities. 

Elder law practice areas include wills and estate planning, advance directives and powers of attorney, Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, conservatorships and financial planning and asset protection. In sum, Elder Law encompasses all aspects of planning for advanced age.         

Elder law attorneys have a wide range of legal expertise, work closely with other professionals such as financial planners and insurance specialists and know the health care, public benefits, and long term-care systems. Elder law attorneys know the unique needs and strengths of seniors, and they often assist individuals, couples and families in making critical life decisions. 

Although our physical and mental capabilities change as we age, incompetence and chronic illness are not inevitable. Elder law attorneys individualize their services based on each client’s specific circumstances. For example, assisting a married couple may include planning for a well spouse and planning for a spouse needing long-term care.  

Some elder law attorneys, notably those in life care planning law firms, employ social work or nurse care coordinators to help seniors and their families navigate the complicated health care, insurance and public benefits systems. Care coordinators serve as counselors, advocates, educators, and community resource experts to help clients make informed, thoughtful decisions in their own best interests.     

Many people first contact an elder law attorney in response to a crisis such as the death or disability of a loved-one or an accident or illness that requires around-the-clock care. Long-term care is costly, and good care may be difficult to find, whether at home or in a facility. An elder law attorney can help with overwhelming legal, financial and health system navigation issues that many families in crisis face. 

Consulting with an elder law attorney before a crisis is ideal. Planning for advanced age or disability may prevent financial hardship and even financial exploitation. It provides information, peace of mind, and often a road map to guide you through life’s journeys of later life. Should something unforeseen happen - a health emergency, a financial loss, death or disability of a spouse – you or your loved one will be much better able to cope with the adversity if your legal and financial affairs are already in good order.  

Consulting with an elder law attorney now for your long-term care needs will provide peace of mind and increase the likelihood that your last years will truly be your golden years.  

Terri Lawson is an elder care coordinator with Holden Law Office in Lebanon.

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