Letter To Our Clients
First of all, my practice is 100% Elder Law. Elder Law is that area of the law that deals with the many unique problems that we face as we become older. The issues we face as we age not only affect ourselves but also our loved ones. That is why it is important to have lawyers that specialize in the area of Elder Law - that specialization means a better understanding of the effects and dynamics of aging on the client and his or her family. I am that attorney.
Even before I graduated from law school, I knew that this was the area of the law that was going to be my specialization. I believe the twists and turns of fate had something to do with this.
In 1980, my Uncle Steve, at age 67, fell, broke his hip and was hospitalized. The family was in shock and we found ourselves at a loss as to what to do with my grandmother. She had always lived with my Uncle in Willoughby and he had taken care of her. She did not speak English very well and her health had been failing rapidly. No one could suggest other living arrangements for her.
To top it all off, that happened on a Saturday. On Saturdays, there are no agencies open or administrative personnel available in any institution to give you any guidance. I remember to this day the panic that seized me as I was forced to make decisions I was not prepared to and the ignorance of not knowing who to contact for assistance. I remember well her beating me with her cane when I took her to a nursing home.
Today, we have come a long way in establishing help centers for the elderly and the so-called "sandwich generation" - the name given to a person who must take care of his or her elderly parents and his or her adolescent children. But who knows where to get that guidance and assistance? The help centers and available information is usually forgotten or put aside until the time you need it. And then, the panic that I went through sets in and you don't know where to turn. My goal is to be there for you. To help you make informed decisions. To tell you what options you have, hopefully before the emergency situation takes place.
Knowing the right kinds of information for clients is one thing, but experiencing your problems puts everything in perspective. Since my grandmother, I have been educated emotionally by:
1. my father's 11 year losing battle with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and seizures.
2. my mother who almost ruined her health as a caregiver, and needed assistance so as not to become impoverished by the bills.
3. my mother-in-law who had a lengthy recovery from a stroke only to be put in a vegetative state by a massive heart attack when we thought she had everything beat.
4. my father-in-law who could not make a life without his wife and so committed suicide in our home.
5. my husband's massive heart attack which led doctors to believe he had no chance of survival, and since 8/8/2004 every day that he is with me is a blessing.
6. my mother at age 92 is now suffering from dementia.
As our life expectancies increase, there will be a greater percentage of elderly making up the population of the United States. And because of this percentage increase, the sandwich generation may experience:
- incapacitated parents
- impoverished parents
- medically vegetative parents
- dementia suffering parents
- emotionally depressed parents
Fortunately, there are estate plans and legal documents that can pre-plan for some of the problems stated above, so the elderly can take care of their affairs with dignity.
The emotional experiences that I have endured will not be unique to me. I use my emotional crises to identify with my clients. When I tell you I understand, I want you to know that I do understand. I know first hand what you are going through. As you can see, this is more than a law practice to me - it is my opportunity to help you through what can be a very emotional and frustrating time in your life. And hopefully, by working together, we can get through it in the best possible way.
Margaret H. Kreiner