I received a message from a friend in government the other day, asking if I had information on individuals or organizations that can help people who are enmeshed in elder care issues.
Sadly, I had to respond that based on my personal experience the best bet is to hire a lawyer who specializes in elder law. But even that is an easier response than the actual effort involved in finding an elder care lawyer – or paying for legal services which can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The Connecticut Bar Association does maintain a list of attorneys who specialize in elder law, but unfortunately that list contains the names of only 25 individuals and firms statewide. That means roughly one elder care attorney for every 7 towns, which isn’t a very good ratio.
The association also maintains a list of firms that provide legal assistance “pro bono” – for free, but free work usually doesn’t take precedence over work for pay. In some cases Legal Aid may be appropriate but there are requirements that must be met for that help.
Fortunately, there are others forms of assistance available as I have learned through my own experiences and through contacts with others who are fighting elder care battles.
For instance I have been in contact with Marjorie Partch in recent weeks concerning her efforts to have her mother released from a nursing home in Wilton. Her battle spans several years and only now is beginning to show some promise.
I’ll be writing in-depth about Marjorie and her mother Dorothy in the very near future – this is a complex case and requires a considerable investment of time to produce a comprehensive column. In the meantime you can visit their website and read about their battles here.
Marjorie told me of a number of organizations that now are helping her, primarily the Money Follows the Person program that is being strongly advocated by the Connecticut Commission on Aging and the Department of Social Services. The state Attorney General’s office is involved too.
But Marjorie also is getting assistance from her church which is an area that far too many people seem to be overlooking these days. She wrote to me recently that her mother “is being evaluated by two state agencies for transition to home care: The Money Follows the Person, and The Southwestern Conn. Agency on Aging (SWCAA) – and so far, so good. They are approving her.
“My mother doesn’t require furniture, just a hospital bed and wheelchair … Our church will provide whatever we need – including a refrigerator …”
In addition she said, “We are poised to have modifications made to the house through ‘Rebuilding Together,’ a Habitat-for-Humanity-like program our church is part of, working in conjunction with (Money Follows the Person.)”
Unfortunately, elder care issues have been on the back burner for decades as the elderly comprised a relatively small portion of the population. But that is changing drastically with the Baby Boomers now officially becoming “elderly” in ever increasing numbers.
I also should point out that as a result of the battles my own mother fought we now have a state law that makes it a crime to falsely report elder abuse – which is a common tactic for some people who are trying to take custody of an elder person. Perhaps the state agencies that are tasked with investigating such cases could do a better job of using the law when it applies, and in publicizing its existence to people who are playing fast and loose with the truth.
The law provides for a jail term and fine for people guilty of making false claims which should prove to be a good deterrent to that tactic, and also would help free up some of the case loads for investigators.
Ultimately, although I don’t favor much in the way of expanded government, it seems that we need a clearinghouse of some sort that can give people a place to find the type of assistance that fits their circumstances. I presume there are more than 25 attorneys in the state who specialize in elder care, so it would be worthwhile to work with the Bar Association to identify those attorneys and maintain an easily accessible data base.
The same can be said for government agencies as well as private entities that can help people engaged in elder care issues. In addition to Marjorie Partch’s battle for her mother Dorothy I get a new plea from people enmeshed in similar conflicts on a nearly weekly basis.
It would appear that it is way past time to recognize the extent of elder care issues and the need to help people who in reality are only trying to help themselves.
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