In a two-part podcast interview with ElderLawAnswers National Director Rebecca A. Hobbs, attorney Cathy Sikorski discusses conversations elder law attorneys need to be having with their Baby Boomer and Gen-X clients. Cathy is not only a practicing elder law attorney, but she has firsthand experience as a caregiver. She is a frequent guest on radio programs and podcasts, where she promotes financial and legal preparation for aging. Corner Office Books published Cathy’s second book, which premiered as #1 on Amazon: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones and Caregiving. She has been featured on the Huffington Post and AARP, and is a SheSource expert for the Women’s Media Center in Washington, D.C. Her website is at www.cathysikorski.com. Cathy also has a blog, “You just have to Laugh…where Caregiving is Comedy.”
In Part 1 of the podcast, Cathy begins the interview by noting that although we are facing a long-term care crisis, many people have their heads firmly in the sand and refuse to prepare. As she says, “No one thinks they are going to get sick,” particularly men. In persuading clients of the need to prepare for a possible crisis, Cathy likes to use the “toolbox” metaphor. Just as a carpenter would not go to work without his or her tools, she stresses to clients that they should not proceed into the future without the right tools like a durable financial power of attorney, health care POA, advance directives and a will.
Cathy also thinks that sometimes elder law attorneys miss the opportunity to use the parents’ crisis as an occasion to create plans for their adult children. Attorneys shouldn’t fail to ask: “Have you done this for yourself?” She notes that elder law is a “fear-based practice,” and that often clients have to be scared into taking needed planning steps, such as being presented with the specter of guardianship.
Cathy discusses making sure that if the client is in a health care facility, either the family or the attorney determines how the facility deals with advance directives. For example, do they send the documents with the resident when they need to travel to a health care facility in an ambulance?
In Part 2 of the podcast interview, Cathy discusses how women in the U.S. are particularly behind the eight-ball when it comes to finances. Women step out of the workforce to take on the role of primary caregiver for children and other family members, which has the unintended consequence of women having less money in retirement, lower pensions, and reduced Social Security benefits. If their husband experiences a health care crisis, the wife can become impoverished in the absence of careful planning.
Cathy says that elder law attorneys need to be prepared to team up with the client’s financial advisor to help devise a plan to protect both spouses. Elder law attorneys should be educating not only their clients, but also their financial advisors, tax advisors and related professionals so they are aware of these long-term care planning issues.
Cathy then moves on to a discussion of possible services offered by corporate Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), about which both clients and their elder law attorneys may be unaware. Where clients are part of a corporate environment, there may be benefits designed specifically for individuals dealing with an elder or someone with special needs. There may even be a paid caregiving benefit. Clients should review the company handbook, check the company’s website or speak to their human resources department.
Cathy points out that her new book Who Moved My Teeth?, may be of use to a firm’s clients. A play on the bestselling business book about dealing with change, Who Moved My Cheese?, Cathy’s book was inspired by her own experiences as a caregiver.