In the Disney classic movie Bambi, when spring arrives, the adolescent Bambi notices that all of his male friends are becoming enchanted by young females of the same species. When Bambi asks the wise old owl what is wrong with them, he is gruffly told, “They are twitterpated!”
As an attorney serving seniors and those who love them, I have observed that not just adolescents—but rather adults of all ages—can become “twitterpated”. When seniors come to see us for premarital legal counseling, they are rarely interested in our left-brained, analytical advice regarding senior dating, partnership, and marriage. Here is some cautionary information that we give to our senior clients regarding marriage and/or remarriage.
It is important to understand that, as we age, it becomes highly likely that the health condition of the two partners will diverge. Married couples who age between their twenties and early sixties can usually count on relatively good health. But as the famous actor Jimmy Stewart once said, “After seventy, it’s just patch-patch-patch.” Seniors who are getting married need to understand that when they say, “I do!” they also are giving an implied and legally enforceable promise that says, “I will be obligated for your medical expenses.”
It is very important to understand that neither medical providers nor the State of Illinois are barred by prenuptial agreements from proceeding to collect for unpaid medical bills and/or reimbursement for Medicaid expenditures.
When the kids are growing up, you always worry about how they’re going to turn out. While I always worried about my daughter Diana, she has far exceeded all of my hopes for her. She has become a great law partner, outstanding attorney, and an excellent wife and mother. I could not be more proud of her.
The Northern Illinois University College of Law Alumni Council recently recognized Diana as the 2011 Young Alumna of the Year. The Alumni Council stated, “Her practice focuses on serving seniors and those who love them…Most often, Diana’s cients are burdened by a long term care crisis. With passion and purpose, she serves the frail, elderly, children with disabilities, and disabled adults.”
The Alumni Council also recognized that Diana is the president of the 1,345 member Kane County Bar Association, and that the Illinois State Bar Association named her Young Lawyer of the Year for 2010. She was selected to be a “Super Lawyer Rising Star,” and Leading Lawyers Network selected her as a top elder law attorney for 2010-2011. Along with renowned Chicago attorney Kerry Peck (of the Peck Bloom Law Firm), Diana is the co-chair of the Task Force for Senior Fairness.
By Diana’s Dad, Rick L. Law, Law Elder Law LLP
Pictured below: Diana receiving the Young Alumna of the Year Award
Other 2011 NIU alumni award recipients were: Mark D. Gilwit, Esquire, Alumnus of the Year; Honorable Renee L. Robinson (posthumously), Outstanding Service Award; Honorable Ronald G. Matekaitis, Distinguished Service Award; Mrs. Betty DeGunther, Honorary Law Alumna Award; Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbridge, Public Service Award; and Rachel Hernandez Hoag, Esquire, Mentor of the Year Award.
For more information on the recipients and their awards, click here.
Recently, at two different MCLE (continuing legal education) presentations, I spoke on the “Elder Law Essentials.” The goal of the presentation was to distinguish the solutions of elder law vs. the solutions underlying traditional estate planning.
I was originally trained as a tax attorney, and my principal estate planning solutions were motivated by the client’s desires to:
Minimize or avoid estate & gift tax costs; and
Minimize or avoid probate expenses; and
Minimize problems at the time of ultimate distribution to heirs/beneficiaries.
As an elder law attorney, however, the usual client motivation is the diagnosis of a long term illness. This is illustrated by the life-changing call I received at my office almost ten years ago. A family friend called me and she asked, “Rick, what are we going to do? Bob has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Am I going to lose my home? Are we going to lose EVERYTHING?” There was panic in her voice.
In those days, I was not prepared to give appropriate answers. I was a traditional estate planner—and she was not asking for a traditional solution. She was asking me for answers to these questions:
How are we going to maintain sufficient income?
How are we going to pay for Bob’s health care needs?
Will I ( the healthy spouse) be forced move out of my home by health care expenses?
When someone asks these type of questions, elder law has the answers. Our goal is to work with our clients to try to assist them to protect their income, obtain quality health care, and protect the marital residence for the healthy spouse.
If a traditional estate plan is not the right fit, please call us to discuss how we may be able to help you.
Recently, Kerry Peck of the law firm of Peck Bloom LLC and his wife Hillary invited us to join their table for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Chicago fundraising gala. I am unaccustomed to attending formal black-tie events, but this one was worth the effort. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan is the gala’s general chair. Princess Yasmin is the daughter of the 1940s-1950s screen star and pinup girl Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan.
Rita Hayworth was the first “reel life” glamour star to become a “real life” princess. (Grace Kelly was the second.) Unfortunately, in 1981 Rita was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. In those days very little was known about both the illness and proper caregiving. Yasmin left her career as an opera singer to become her mother’s conservator and chief caregiver. Following her mother’s death, Princess Yasmin dedicated herself to honoring her mother’s memory by promoting awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and fundraising in the hope that one day there will be a cure. The annual Rita Hayworth galas, which are held in Chicago, New York, and Dallas have raised millions of dollars.
The theme of the event was “The World is a Circus” and featured acrobats, jugglers, and Cirque du Soleil style acts. For Rose and me, it was a true joy to attend this fundraiser with our great friends Kerry and Hillary, our daughter and son-in-law Diana Law and Chris Jarot, and other friends of the Pecks.
After dinner we danced until 11, when the raffle winners were announced. Much to my amazement, my wife Rose and my daughter Diana were both “major award winners”! Seriously, there were over 500 people in attendance and only five raffle prizes. Rose won #4 and Diana won #5. I feel like a winner, too! It is my honor to have attended this event the Pecks and their dear friends. Thank you, Kerry and Hillary!
Please consider joining us in donating to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Nunca te Detengas (Never Stop Yourself)
The Words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
In February, when I was in Central America, I was given a brochure which celebrated Costa Rican retirees and their value to their country. I translated the inspiring Spanish language message, which quoted the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I have never seen any comparable message sent to retirees here in the United States, so I want to honor my fellow senior citizens with this message. Yes, I too qualify for the senior discount coffee at McDonald’s without asking for it! In addition, I have noticed that my lovely and still youthful-looking wife Rose requests the senior discount at the movie theater. (Shhhh—please don’t tell her I told that I told you!)
The brochure said this:
Our retirees are an important reason that our country is a wonderful place to live. We celebrate all senior citizens and older adults. Thank you for constructing a better country. Please read these words of encouragement by Mother Theresa:
Never Stop Yourself
Always keep in mind that your skin will wrinkle and that your hair will go white and that your days will become years… But the most important thing never changes—your strength of will and your convictions don’t have an age limit. Your spirit is like a feather duster to wipe away the cobwebs.
After every arrival there is a leaving. After every accomplishment there is another challenge. While you are alive, feel and know that you are alive.
When you are feeling sorry for yourself about what you used to be able to do, do something new. Don’t live surrounded by the yellowed photos of yesterday. Continue forward, even though you feel abandoned by others. Don’t let rust take away the steel that is in you.
Behave in a way that others respect you, not pity you.
When, due to your years, you cannot run—trot. When you can no longer trot—walk. When you can no longer walk—grab a cane and keep on going.
My 4 year-old granddaughter, Lucy, has been explaining my recent illness by flatly stating, “Grandpa’s got a bug in his lungs.” Thankfully after an almost two-week illness, I am ready to head back to the office… for half a day. (After all, “In Sickness and in Health” is the official name of my weekly blog, even though its host website is https://lawelderlaw.com/blog/.) During my bout with sinusitis—which morphed into bronchitis—I experienced several things worth sharing.
First, when we are healthy, we do take a lot for granted. I am grateful to be able to sleep in a bed again after many nights of trying to sleep in a chair.
Second, being a lawyer is not very helpful when you need medical care. One physician who did a follow-up checkup told me that the prior doctor warned her that “he is a lawyer.” I was not exactly sure how I should feel about that, but it was obvious that we lawyers cause medical personnel to act as though they are treating a sick cobra. Third, I enjoyed using Wikipedia to look up everything I could about my illnesses and medications. As a predominantly left-brained analytical, it is very satisfying to come home from a doctor’s office or the urgent care and look up information. It was very helpful to understand the diagnosis of bronchitis. I actually understood my own anatomy better and could better apply what the doctor had told me to do and what to expect. In addition, I had been admonished to NOT use a cough suppressant medications. “But why?” I wondered. “I feel like I really need some cough medicine!” To better understand that order, I looked up cough suppressant medicines and learned that with bronchitis, its better to “promote coughing.” Cough suppressants actually make it more difficult to clear the bronchial tubes.
It really helped to check all of the information out via Wikipedia ( www.wikipedia.org) and WebMD (www.webmd.com). I could better understand why I got a little crazy after spraying Albuterol into my body. Nonetheless, that medication is a life-saver for asthmatics and folks afflicted with acute bronchitis. For more on that, see the article entitled “Ventolin remains a breath of fresh air for asthmatics after 40 years.”
I am extremely grateful to my wife, Rose, and the entire legal team at Law Elder Law. We recently celebrated our 5th anniversary as an elder law-focused practice. When I decided to dedicate myself to the frail elderly and the disabled, one of my biggest concerns was my own age. One of my chief goals has been to make sure that if and when something happens to me, in that I cannot serve as the leader, the Law Elder Law team would be strong enough to carry on. Based on recent experience, I can assure everyone that Law Elder Law is being ably managed and staffed by my successors. Nonetheless, it’s time for me to get back to work!
I suppose it was a lot of ego (combined with what little remains of my testosterone) that pushed me to make the decision to ride a horse through the Andes Mountains. Or maybe it was the great promotional copy and the photos at www.rideandes.com:
“…ride through a stunningly beautiful, remote area of Northern Patagonia along old smuggler’s routes—crisscrossing rivers, skirting around brilliant blue lakes, riding through ancient forests, stopping off to fish or swim in crystal clear waters… an exclusive journey into hidden valleys through this rural gaucho (South American cowboy) culture, from the Chilean Lake District to an Argentine national park. Enjoy the adventure long after the road has ended in the pristine Patagonian wilderness.”
Wow! It almost sounded like Robert Louis Stevenson was inviting me to visit Treasure Island. So, screwing up my courage, I decided to try to sell my wife Rose on this idea. (She is the one with the common sense in this family.) “Rose, I want our grandchildren to remember their grandfather as a man who, when he was sixty, rode a horse through the Andes from Chile to Argentina.” She looked up from her work and calmly asked, “Have you talked to Ken Ireland at Northwestern Mutual about this?” I answered, “No, why?” She said, “You need to take out more life insurance before you go.”
So with that heartfelt vote of confidence, I did two things:
I sent in my deposit for the horse trek; and
I applied for a substantial increase in my life insurance.
Later, I learned that when my mother heard about my plans to embark on this Andes Mountains crossing, she predicted that I would not come back alive. I chose not to mention her prediction nor my eight-day horse trek on the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance policy application.
Shortly before the horseback ride, I received a letter entitled “Travel Notes: Essentials!” We were advised to pack no more than 32 pounds of gear, and told that the airline would fine us for any overweight luggage. In all caps it stated, “RAIN PONCHOS will be provided. You must bring suitable waterproof trousers and jackets. Be prepared for wet and cold mountainous weather. Bring easy-to-dry clothes.” What?!
I said to Rose, “I’m going in February, but it’s summertime in South America, right?” Rose got on the internet and discovered that even though my horse trip was in the Patagonian summer, it’s still a mighty cool and wet place. In fact, one of the side trips that is offered before the ride is a day trip to the island of Chiloe to see the penguins, seals, and an occasional orca whale. Oops! I did not own any waterproof pants or quick-dry clothes—but I do now!
The weather did start out cold and rainy, but during the actual ride we had sunny skies. Every morning was cool and damp, but by 10:30 a.m. we had peeled down to shirtsleeves.
The trip was truly one of the travel high points of my life! If you would like to read the eight-day itinerary, you can click on this link: Ride the Andes Itinerary. If you would like to view a gallery of our photos from the ride, you can click here to see my photo album.
I highly recommend Sally Vergette and www.rideandes.com and Catherine Berard at Open Travel. I have taken some kind of a progressive horse trek every year since 1985, and this was one of the best ever. If you have questions or just want more information, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
My Bucket List Adventure: February 27, 2010
My traveling companion, Joaquin Tortos, and I had just ended our eight-day horse trek through the Andes Mountains, so we were sleeping soundly.
But the peaceful night ended at 3:34 a.m. (the middle of the night)… Our world was violently shaking, and all over the city, car alarms screamed that they were being violated. 300 miles away, chaos, death, and destruction devastated central Chile—but where I slept that night, no one died and no buildings collapsed. Joaquin awoke and exclaimed, “That was a BIG earthquake!” Joaquin Tortos is a veteran survivor of disastrous earthquakes. He lives within the shadow of the Turrialba Volcano which recently reignited after a 150-year siesta. His home is Costa Rica, Central America, which, like Chile, is a land of violent earthquakes and active volcanoes.
We were safe, but many miles away in Costa Rica and the United States, our families were deeply concerned that we might have been injured or killed. One of my daughters was worried that I had died, and her husband reassured her with this thought: “Honey, your dad is not dead—but if he is dead… that is the way that he would like to go!” When I heard about his comment, I heartily agreed.
One of my sons took a much more pragmatic approach and checked Google Maps to determine that I was about 300 miles from the epicenter and deduced that I was out of danger. As it turned out, there was extensive destruction throughout a 250-mile radius of the earthquake’s origin.
Although we were uninjured, our travel plans were turned upside down. Chile immediately declared a national emergency and began to ration gasoline and other fuels. All airline flights were cancelled due to the extensive damage in Santiago, the capital city. All domestic flights in Chile are routed through Santiago. The airport was out of operation, and many highways, bridges, and other infrastructure were destroyed. See photos here.
Suddenly, we had a BIG problem! How do you get home when your airline has shut down indefinitely and has cancelled all flights? All telephone lines are jammed with calls and you are a long, long way from home… At first I thought, “Well, if we can’t get home, then we will just make the best of it.” But I was promptly told that since gas was being rationed, there would be no more tours. Fortunately, our horse trek tour organizer, Catherine Berard, and her assistant Susana Uribe worked tirelessly to rescue us and “find us a way out of Dodge.”
Cathy apologized that the airline refused to refund any money due to the loss of our flights and that emergency travel was going to be… “a little expensive.” We assured her that our wives would be oh-so happy to have us back home and that they would forgive this over-spending. Unfortunately, I did not know that my wife had just sent an e-mail which stated, “If you cannot get back… I will just go on without you.”
Nonetheless, we hired a private driver to race through the twists and turns of the Andean passes to try to make the Chile/Argentina border crossing by the closing time of 9:00 p.m. We held our breath while our driver used both lanes to make better time. We reached the Argentinean border guards at exactly 8:53 p.m. and they closed the gates behind us!
Early the next morning we dragged into the offices of AeroLineas Argentina to see if we could get tickets to Buenos Aires, which we could. From there we flew to Panama City, and then to be reunited with our Costa Rican family and my wife, Rose. Whew!
Please help with Chilean disaster relief. Here are two trusted organizations which can help us make people’s lives better:
Habitat for HumanityAmerican Red Cross
Hogar De Ancianos San Buenaventura, Turrialba, Costa Rica, Central America
My wife, Rose, and I recently visited the county nursing home in Turrialba, Costa Rica. We lived in Turrialba for a year in 2003-2004 to study Spanish and to learn a different culture, and our lives have been forever changed and broadened by that experience. We now feel at home in this Spanish-speaking land. We love being here surrounded by tropical birds, coffee plantations, and sugar cane fields.
This trip we wanted to learn about the local county nursing home, so we asked our friend and Spanish teacher, Olivia to ask permission to visit. Yesterday we visited what is literally called “Home for the Ancient Ones”—Hogar de Ancianos. We like it that Costa Ricans are not troubled by our North American political correctness filter. They often call me “Gordo” which means chubby… oh well! If someone has green eyes they are called “Gato” or “Gatica,” which means cat or kitten. But back to my story.
Olivia was our guide and we were accompanied by the assistant to the administrator, Benigne Solono Trejos, a living example of caring and compassion. The facility is nestled into the volcanic mountainside of Turrialba and has a panoramic view of the now-active Turrialba Volcano and the widespread green of the valley below. There were tropical flowers everywhere upon the grounds of the Hogar. The windows and doors of the residents’ rooms were wide open to admit the warm sunshine and gentle breezes. It can be cold here, but the average temperature year round is a lovely life-giving 75 degrees F.
Costa Rica is the wealthiest country in Central America, but it is not rich by Western European or North American standards. The facility may lack much of the equipment that is taken for granted in the USA, but the most important resources are present in abundance—loving and compassionate caregivers and administrators. The facility smells of flowers and cleanliness! I inspected every room and they were clean, clean, clean!
Our administrative hostess, Sr. Solono, has worked at the facility for 16 years and has sacrificed to stay at the Hogar and provide care for “the Old Ones.” She considers every aged resident a part of her family. At every room, it was obvious that the residents feel respected and valued. They live in a place of dignity.
Most of the residents sat outside in the open air. It was a beautiful day! The buildings are designed with rooftops with large overhangs to create a front porch-terrace effect. Those who were able could walk around, pet the dog, and volunteer to help in the laundry or do other small chores. After all, everyone of every age wants to feel useful.
There are about 70 full-time residents at the home. Surprisingly, there are far more men than women. If you have visited a nursing home in the U.S. you know that there are very few men, since women typically outlive men by many years. I asked how it could be that there were more men than women. I was told that in Costa Rica, families try to keep the old ones at home and that women are able to provide more help with child care, cooking, and cleaning than men. My wife said, “See I told you that you men are harder to take care of!”
The question of paying for long term care was my next enquiry. Sr. Solono told us that the central and local governments provide only a bit of support. In fact, just like in the U.S., government may give with one hand but take with the other. In Costa Rica, the government keeps raising the standards of care but provides no money to accomplish those goals. Amazingly, one of the biggest sources of funding for the Hogar is a lottery which is conducted on an as-needed basis. (The Hogar must receive a governmental permit to sell lottery tickets within the county that they serve.) In addition, they own a fairgrounds where they conduct an annual fair as a fundraiser. Fundraising is a constant concern and activity of the administration and many volunteers.
As we visited many residents, we were cheerfully greeted by those who were able. I fell in love with Eva, an octogenarian who happily spoke excellent English. Her career was as an assistant in the international center of agriculture called Catie. She shares a room with her sister, who is confined to a wheelchair and sat quietly until she spied my bare legs sticking out below my walking shorts. She is the first woman in my life to become excited upon seeing my legs! She chortled and in Spanish she told me that I had chubby legs. Olivia, our Spanish teacher, said that she was flirting with me. My wife stated flatly, “You should be so lucky!”
I want to thank Sr. Solono Trejos and the entire team at the Hogar de Ancianos San Buenaventura. You are doing a great job as you serve seniors and those who love them!
City Slickers is one of my favorite movies. It is a comedic and philosophical glorification of urban men trying to live out life’s meaning through the machismo of adventure travel. If you haven’t seen this film for some time, I recommend you take a peek at it during the holidays.
In this 1991 Billy Crystal classic, three friends decide to trade their briefcases for saddle leather to fill the emptiness in their lives. This film always inspires me to remember to keep my life balanced despite the ever present stresses of productivity, competition, and just plain constantly trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do next. Actually life is pretty hard, because we don’t have much guidance for how to respond to the ever-changing environment around us.
Many years ago, when my oldest son Adam was about 12, I told him, “I’m sorry to have to admit this, son, but your mother and I try to make the best decisions about you—but the truth is… we’re just making this up as we go along! You see, we’ve never been here before.” We all just get swept along in the river of life, and sometimes it’s hard to steer, and to remember what it’s all about.
The movie shows us a midlife crisis dad and husband who is just plain worn out by his job, his life, and his tedium. He and his wife reach a crisis point where she asks him to leave and “go and find your smile.” So, he and his two lifelong buddies spend the next two weeks being transformed from New York city slickers into real cowboys who bring in the herd under crisis conditions. One of the key moments in the movie is when Jack Palance, playing crusty old top hand Curly, tells Billy Crystal that there’s only one thing that’s important in life. What they learn along the way is that the one thing that makes life worth living may be different for each of us. For me, I try to live out the Golden Rule, and I find that I’m most satisfied when serving others—but without an occasional “recharge” I can get pretty ornery and my family starts to call me a curmudgeon. The thing that makes me smile is when, like those city slickers, I get a chance to sit on a fine horse under a big sky—or be with my grandkids.
Nonetheless, there are times that I lose my smile, too—when I get wrapped up into misplaced thinking that my stuff and my position are my foundation in life. So I want to recommend that you take a moment at the beginning of this New Year and think about where you need to go or what you need to do to find your smile in 2010!