by Letha Sgritta McDowell, CELA
January tends to be a very busy time for elder law attorneys.
The holiday season seems to result in increased injury and illness for the elderly which results in more rehabilitation leading to long term care needs. On top of those long term care needs that result from illness or injury, many children return home for the holidays and realize that their parents need more assistance than they had anticipated. All of these add up to increased need to find and organize long term care services and a need to plan for payment of long term care costs.
In order to better assist clients and to take advantage of this busy time, elder law attorneys need to be familiar with long term care services available in their area. This means knowing everything about local home health care companies, from which are easily accessible, to which have minimum hour requirements, and which accept state waiver plans. The elder law attorney should also be familiar with the different facilities in the area, what services they offer, their general costs, and what programs they accept. Each facility has a slightly different feel and will work differently for clients based on their long term needs.
Being able to recommend care based on the client’s needs and ultimate goals goes a long way towards establishing a good relationship with a client and is a desperately needed service. Others such as hospital discharge planners or geriatric care managers may have a good knowledge of care settings and providers but only the elder law attorney will know the entire picture for the client, including the client’s long term goals, ability to pay, and other resources (or lack thereof) which should all be considered when choosing care settings. Therefore, being able to make such recommendations with the long term goal in mind is both critical and valuable to the client and is a service that is particularly unique to the elder law attorney.
If you practice elder law but hadn’t stopped to consider what happens in January, then it’s time to begin. You may be asking what you should do to prepare. Here are my tips to prepare for a successful January:
- Be familiar with all long term care service providers in your area.
- Learn what providers have availability (open beds, caregivers available, etc.)
- Learn what the provider’s requirements may be (hourly minimums, period of private pay time, level of care, etc.).
- Learn what forms of payment each care provider will accept, including your state waiver programs.
- Have a client questionnaire ready to capture the information you will need to assist the client with care concerns.
- Be set up for video or telephone conferences, since family members from different locations often will need or want to be involved.
- Don’t over schedule – continue to provide excellent customer service.
If you have been in practice for some time but don’t seem to have a busy January, then now is a great time to ramp up your marketing efforts. Not only are families looking for assistance with these complex care issues and planning, but so are other professionals. Hospital discharge planners, social workers, and geriatricians are often looking for individuals who can assist patients and their families with appropriate care planning. This is a great time to drop off firm brochures and spend a few minutes talking with potential referral sources about why you, as an elder law attorney, are particularly well suited to help clients with their care planning needs.
With a little preparation and a little marketing, January can be a busy and profitable month for your elder law practice.
For more tips on growing and maintaining a successful elder law practice, continue to connect with InterActive Legal.