Interview with Stephanie M. Edwards, Elder Law Attorney, on April 23, 2011
1. What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?
An elder law attorney focuses on helping people plan for the aging phase of their lives. This planning includes helping you prepare for protecting your loved ones and assets if you pass away as well as protecting your loved ones and assets if you live, become ill with a chronic illness and need costly long-term care services. In my practice, many people come see me in their 50’s/60’s to start the planning process and then we update the plan as they age and life “happens.” I assist with this planning process by offering guidance in the areas of estate planning (wills and trusts), long-term care planning (asset protection and Medicaid qualification), advance directives (durable powers of attorney, healthcare surrogates and living wills) and veterans pension benefits (also known as aid and attendance). I also welcome every opportunity to speak to groups about what long-term care is, how surprisingly expensive it is, and why pre-planning can help you stay in your home longer should you need long-term care services in the future.
2. What Are Long-Term Care Services and What Are the Chances I Will Need Them?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “at least 70% of people over the age of 65 will require some long-term care services at some point in their lives.” (www.longtermcare.gov) Longterm care services are what people who aren’t as independent as they used to be need to help them live their daily lives, whether in their homes or in an assisted living community or in a nursing home.
3. What Do Long-Term Care Services Cost?
Costs vary depending upon where you live, however, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2009 national average costs ranged from $21 per hour for a home health aide to $198 per day for a semi-private room in a nursing home.
4. Why Do I Need to Plan for Long-Term Care Services, Doesn’t Medicare Pay for Those Services?
No, Medicare only pays for long-term care services in very limited situations and only for very limited periods of time.
5. If I Am Having a Long-Term Care Health Crisis Now, Can an Elder Law Attorney Still Help Me?
Yes, it is never too late to call for help. Although pre-planning provides the opportunity to put more options in place to protect your loved ones and assets, there are still options an elder law attorney can help you consider for dealing with the financial burden, stress and challenges of a current long-term care health crisis.
Stephanie Edwards practices in St. Petersburg, Florida. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and her J.D. from the T.C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond. She earned her LL.M. in Elder Law from the Stetson University College of Law. Her memberships include: the Florida State Bar (Elder Law and Real Property, Probate and Trust sections); the St. Petersburg Bar Association (Probate and Guardianship section), and the Virginia State Bar. She is also a member of leading professional organizations, including the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys, and Elder Counsel. (www.EdwardsElderLaw.com)