Janet Smith, an elder law attorney with the Northwest Elder Law Group, spoke at Discovery 2019, the 34th Annual Alzheimer’s Regional Conference. Elder law is an umbrella term for law practices that focus on seniors, persons with disabilities, persons planning for long-term care, and their families. Traditionally the practice areas are estate planning — preparing documents such as powers or attorney and wills — probate, planning for long-term care costs and protection of vulnerable adults, and that can include guardianship, and getting restraining orders dealing with, sometimes, fractured families, and mediation.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
The following is a podcast from a qualified senior care provider heard on the answers for elders radio show. So welcome back everyone to answers for elders radio and we are doing an interview here at the Discovery Conference for the Alzheimer’s Association and we’re really honored to be a part of this program and especially because there’s some amazing individuals that all of our families need to know. And I have a wonderful lady here sitting across from me and her name is Janet Smith and she’s an elder law attorney at Janet, welcome to the show. Thank you. I’m so happy to be here and we’re glad you’re here too, because every family needs an elder law attorney. I know we did. My mom thought she had everything set up by a traditional attorney and then when she got older and obviously we didn’t have the right pieces in place that we thought we were going to have. So Janet explained to me a little bit about why, when and what’s the difference between like a regular attorney and what is an elder law attorney going to do for Fam sure elder law is sort of an umbrella term for practices of the law that that focus on seniors, persons with disabilities, persons planning for long term care issues and their families. Right. So, traditionally the practice areas are estate planning, preparing documents such as powers of attorney and wills, probate in a State Administration after someone dies, but also planning for long term care, planning for long term care costs and protection of vulnerable adults, and that can include guardianship and getting restraining orders, dealing with sometimes fractured families and in in our practice we also do mediation wows those conflicts and that’s which is pretty prevalent and fort that the conflicts are prevalent. Yes, yeah, and it’s and it’s a sad thing because I know with families. I know with my family, my mom was the Super Matriarcha the family and when she started to decline it was like she was kind of the root anchor to everyone, and so everybody just went crazy and it was so funny. Everybody had different expectations and it’s like managing expectations is one thing and then the other thing is is putting one person, you know, on the frontline to handle everything, oftentimes as the family caregiver or you know, there’s different choices that are made that may not necessarily be the right choice in the situation. So having somebody like you, you understand the whole picture, which I think is really am Orton. Yep, elder law attorneys have some hes been described as social workers who happen to have a law degree. That’s a really good nus Gerson. Most of the elder law attorneys that I know and work with are very focused on the holistic practice making sure that the elder and the elders family have everything that they need have all of their questions answered. An elder law attorney is a good resource because we know all of the folks in the community. It’s why I love coming to this conference because I see everybody that I know that works and right elder care community, and so an elder law attorneys is a great place to start for issues more than just legal issues, because we can refer people to the folks who do whatever it is their unmet need right well, and I think to just really understanding the right picture of you know, families today, they don’t even know when you’re dealing with a financial piece of long term care. I remember the day when I walked into senior living communities and I was never asked the question, how much money did your mom have? What can she afford to do? What kind of a community should she look at based on her financial picture? Then there’s terms that got thrown out, like spend down because she’d have to qualify fight from Medicaid, and there’s different things like that that, if I would have known that information up front by meeting with an elder law attorney, I would have have had to move her so many times because of her financial situation and having to qualify her for a Medicaid. So it’s so important to families that they get on board with an elder law attorney to find out, you know, get somebody like you that will have those answers, that can take a look, you know, objectively at Marmor Dad’s financial picture and what those you know, what their assets are that can help fund their long term care. And you’ve pointed out correctly that families often don’t even know what questions to ask. Don’t know what you don’t know, and so if you come to someone who is an elder law attorney or a geriatric care manager, is another option. You can just describe. This is what we’re going through, this is what we’re concerned about, and let the expert tell you the questions that you shouldhare. S sures and obviously we’re here at the Alzheimer’s Association Conference, so there’s got to be some important aspects of when somebody has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, there’s this whole thing of wow, now my I’m going to start to decline. You know, how do you handle something like that? Well, we get a lot of referrals from the Alzheimer’s Association because that time, shortly after the diagnosis, is really an excellent time to consult with an elder law turning because usually at that point in time the person has the diagnosis but they still have the capacity to execute new legal documents if that’s what’s needed. And so it’s really good not to put it off until perhaps the person no longer has capacity and and to come in have your documents reviewed make sure that they meet the needs of the situation, anticipating that there will be a progression of the disease. Right, that’s an excellent time to write, to review documents well and, and I’ve been heard, are understanding that it’s a good idea to renew your documents like every three years or so ever. I mean, what would you recommend just anyway, with tax laws that change and almost yeah, it’s a state planning. Documents really don’t expire, but situations change, the laws do change slightly. We typically tell people to take a look at their documents every five years or when their circumstances change. Okay, and then five years, every five years and come in and have a review and make sure that everything meets your needs at that moment. And planning for the future awsome. So we are talking again to Janet Smith and you are an elder law tourney and the name of your firm is called Northwest Elder Law Group. Where you located? Jane? We are in the North Gate area, very close to I five. We cover king and snowhomish counties. Those that’s our coverage area and we’re really glad we’re not downtown. Yeah, we Allians don’t like to come down. No, that’s true, and I’m assuming being in the North Gate area you have parking to we have plentiful free parking and we have an accessible building and that’s so important where our clients like coming to see us. Because we’re in the neighborhood and well, I love that. So in in just working with the family, like obviously there’s different aspects. One of the things I really want to emphasize, and I think this is important, with an elder law attorney, is you represent the senior absolutely and you’re not there to represent the children. You’re not there. You’re there to represent an advocate for the best interests of a senior and I know that sometimes families will say, well, I’m going to go meet with an attorn Ernie and you know, kind of put you in a little bit situation because ultimately you will be the representative of that elder. Is that correct? That’s correct and and we’re very strict about that in our office. We actually have an a be a brochure in our Waiting Area titled Why am I waiting in the Waiting Area, and it’s for the family, because we make it very clear that the elder is our client and that we will initially be meeting with the elder in private without anybody else in the room, to make sure that it is the elder who is calling the shots and telling us what they want, without any influence from any family then so important. After that important. If we determine that they are in control and have capacity and they want a family member to come into the room to help them take notes, to help them process the information, that’s fine, but it’s their choice and we always meet with the elder privately first. Well, and that’s important and obviously I’m do you now? Do you have like an initial consultation? I mean, do you do anything? What happens in the initial consultation? The yeah, in in in our office we don’t do a complementary consultation. We talk to the clients in advance to find out what their situation is and make sure that we’re the right fit for them, make sure that we don’t have any in flicks of interest with any other family members and we can answer any questions about our fees, our process, how long it takes to do documents. If they’re interested in guardianship, we can answer a few basic questions about that. But at the first in person meeting we do a charge for that consultation because, okay, our efficient and we hit the ground running and we get a lot accomplished in that varieting right. Well, that and that’s important. And really there’s documents just in closing, definitely asking that that senior. You know, who do you like power of attorney to a point, and there’s different types of power of attorney, by the way, everyone. So you know, I know that you can help families guide them through those types of documents and then, you know, the healthcare directive is part of that. There’s just several documents that initially that you draft up. Is that correct? That’s correct, and we use a questionnaire to make sure that we fare it out all of the things that we need to answer questions for the clients, whether they think that they have questions about that or not. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So, Janet, you guys are in north and northgate. How do we reach you? So our phone number is two thousand and six nine, three, seven six, one hundred and two and you can find our website at and w elder lawcom and we have a lot of information on our website and pictures of all of us and in parision about our practice, circus and really families to understand that in many cases it’s the most important thing is is to get mom and dad into a you know, an attorney like you early while they still have all their faculties and while they are still have their mindset and all the things like that, because that’s when they can make the right decisions for their lives and it helps you in the process of advocating for them, and I think that’s what’s really important here. Don’t wait till it’s too late. Right, I’m gonna is it correct. So, Janet, thank you so much for being on the show. So glad to have you here and we hope you’ll come back again. Okay, thanks. Answers for elders radio show with Susan Newman. 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Suzanne Newman, host of the Answers for Elders radio show and podcast, proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne embarked on a 6-year-journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. Answers for Elders provides education, help, and support to families, caregivers, and seniors across the country who are experiencing their own unique journey within the complicated world of Eldercare. Each week, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including health & wellness, life changes, living options, money, law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.