When a senior needs reputable guidance, locating a qualified professional takes research and patience. Professionals such as elder law attorneys, ombudsman and geriatric care managers, who specialize in working with seniors, focus on the needs of seniors in a particular area and can provide beneficial services.
A good way to start searching for a professional is to ask friends, clergy and other professionals for referrals. If a senior knows a trusted professional, that professional would naturally have contacts in other areas. If a direct referral is not a viable option, seniors can locate elder-focused professionals in other ways. The CSA Locator is a great way to find professionals who have gained and maintained the Certified Senior Advisor designation. Click here to search for a CSA in your area.
Elder Law Attorney
An elder law attorney is responsible for understanding many areas of law, including Medicare and Medicaid, senior housing, estate and trust planning, and health care directives. A senior needs to find out if an elder law attorney has comprehensive knowledge in all of these areas. A senior’s future, family and estate are at stake, so finding an experienced and trustworthy elder law attorney is essential.
There are several ways to find accomplished elder law attorneys. One is the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF), which provides the Elder Law Attorney (CELA) certification. NELF is “a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and improvement of the professional competence of lawyers in the area of elder law” and is the only organization that the American Bar Association recognizes to certify elder law attorneys.
For attorneys to become certified, they must meet certain criteria. Generally, their practice must be devoted to working with seniors, and they must pass an exam, with re-certification required every five years.
According to NELF, there are over 400 certified elder law attorneys practicing in the U.S. today, represented on the NELF website with a map of certified attorneys by state. Click here to find a certified attorney.
Other ways of finding an experienced elder law attorney are:
- AARP – www.aarp.org
- State Bar Association – www.hg.org
- The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys – www.naela.org – is a professional association of lawyers dedicated to improving the quality of legal services provided to the elderly.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the National Elder Law Foundation’s websites strongly suggest that before hiring an elder law attorney, one should ask the following questions:
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
- What percentage of the practice is devoted to elder law?
- What is the attorney’s area of emphasis?
- How long has the attorney been in this particular field?
- What is the fee for the initial consultation?
- What information should you bring to your first meeting?
Looking for an elder law attorney through reputable resources and asking questions will help seniors locate a qualified attorney specific to their needs.