Should Children Hire an Elder Lawyer for Their Parents?

“Finding the elder lawyer was a lifesaver. It was really a good thing that I did that when I did it. In the nick of time; my mother fell off the ladder just a few months later.”

Chast_book_coverI’ve just finished reading Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, The New York Times graphic books best seller by Roz Chast, a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine. In her brutally honest memoir, Chast chronicles how she coped with her parents’ old age, from dementia and incontinence to the huge financial and emotional toll.

Bit by bit, from her home in a different state, Chast realized that her 90+ parents are going downhill, and she assumed a more active role in their care. Her mother had fallen several times, and her father was showing signs of dementia.

Chast called in an elder lawyer, someone who, as she says, specializes “in the two things that my parents and I found it most difficult to discuss: DEATH and MONEY.” Her parents needed essential estate planning documents, like a will and an advance directive, a written statement that expresses your wishes about end-of-life care.

As is so often the case, the real bone of contention is the power of attorney, a document that authorizes a trusted family member, friend, or advisor to act as your agent in a variety of financial and legal matters if you become incapacitated. But, with the help of the elder attorney, the appropriate documents were drawn up for her parents.

After the publication of the book, Chast spoke about how important the elder lawyer was in helping her take care of her parents:

“The way they dealt with aging was the way they dealt with everything else: Don’t ask for trouble. I think they felt that by talking about anything in the future, they’d invite it in. If you don’t talk about it, it won’t happen.

“They were very much afraid of seeing an elder lawyer, which was kind of a turning point and a great thing—and I’m so glad they did it—but they didn’t want to discuss anything.

“I was as much in denial as they were. I didn’t know what those things were. Health care proxy? But if we hadn’t gotten those papers in order, it would have been a lot harder. I started to collect information, like what medications they were on. I did know what a health care proxy was by the time the appointment was over. We got their wills updated. I found out about some bank account they had about $114 in. Things that would have been much, much harder to deal with a few years down the line.”

Too often, adult children who are thrust into the role of caregiver of their parents learn that these vital documents were not drafted. In addition, sometimes advanced dementia makes it impossible to now get those documents because the parents don’t have the necessary mental capacity.

To learn more about my services as an elder lawyer and to see what I can do for you, call my office at 682-234-2006 to schedule your free consultation.