My Estate Planning & Elder Law Story
As a child, I loved to read comic books and I especially liked the origin stories. So here is mine…
I grew up in Queens, NY to middle class parents. My father worked for the City and my mother was a stay at home mom. I have two older sisters and six nieces and nephews.
I have had three personal contacts with end of life decisions and it impacted my life and practice areas. My mom’s mom lived with us growing up. She was spirited, healthy and vibrant. She was a quiet, pleasant woman that was widowed at 49 and stayed single until her passing at 87 years old. When she worked as a seamstress in a clothing factory her nickname was Swifty Millie. Her real name was Carmella, but like she told everyone, all the Carmella’s were Millie.
At 87 years old, my grandmother, without any prior signs of being ill, discovered that she had a tumor in her belly. It was the size of a grapefruit. She had no pain but it was only days before she fell into a coma.
On the tenth day in the hospital, my mother and her sister, the only two children of Grandma Millie were discussing whether to pull the plug and remove her from life support. My aunt thought it was the right thing to do and my mother was adamant not to. There was no prior discussion and no prior thought about this situation.
I sort of remember that they had a health care proxy that gave them the authority to do so but they just didn’t know. They had no family guidance and really didn’t know what their mother’s wishes were. In a bittersweet fortunate twist, the decision was taken from them as my grandmother passed away still in a coma.
Each sister wanted to do the right thing, the humane thing, but neither really knew what that meant. I was in law school at the time and wanted to know how to remedy this dilemma.
Flash forward to 2000 — after a year of visiting doctors, having tests done, blood drawn and scans taken; by process of elimination, my father was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. My dad, a loving, sweet and kind man was happy that it was not Kennedy’s Disease because that is an inherited illness and this way his children would be spared from a similar fate.
I have gone through meetings, appointments, doctor’s visits, medical issues, insurance issues, hospice issues and end of life decisions with my father. He passed away leaving my mother a young widow.
My mother passed away in May 2018 from complications due to dementia. It was a failure to thrive. In 2016, at 86 years old she was vibrant, driving, going on Senior trips, playing cards and socially active. She had an energetic 86 and ½ years and then experienced a precipitous drop. There were appointments, doctors and specialist visits as her health was failing. She had cat scans, blood tests, iron infusions, vitamin b shots and a variety of measures were taken as she was not feeling well. She lived alone and aides were brought in, services were sought and ultimately community medicaid was applied for. During this period, she was brought to the hospital, brought to two different care facilities and ultimately hospice was necessary. She passed away at home in the presence of her children and grandchildren and we know that she waited for everyone to arrive before she left.
As an attorney, I reached out to so many kind and caring attorneys in the elder law field to assist and give professional wisdom. I deepened my own knowledge, I studied, I went across the country to study with the best in the elder law field. I took several different immersive trainings in Medicaid practice, elder law strategies, advanced directives, trusts and estates. I rededicated my practice to the service of issues affecting the infirm and elderly.
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