First of all, my practice is 100% Elderlaw. Elderlaw is that area of the law that deals with the many unique problems that we face as we become older. The issues we face as we age not only affect ourselves, but also our loved ones. That is why it is important to have attorneys that specialize in the area of Elderlaw – that specialization means a better understanding of the effects and dynamics of aging and how it affects the client and his or her family. I am that attorney.

Even before I graduated from law school, I knew that this was the area of the law that was going to be my specialization. I believe the twists and turns of fate had something to do with this.

In 1980, my Uncle Steve, at age 67, fell; broke his hip, and was hospitalized. The family was in shock and we found ourselves at a loss as to what to do with my grandmother. She had always lived with my Uncle in Willoughby and he had taken care of her. She did not speak English very well and her health had been failing rapidly. No one could suggest other living arrangements for her.

To top it all off, that happened on a Saturday. On Saturdays, there are no agencies open or administrative personnel available in any institution to give you any guidance. I remember to this day the panic that seized me as I was forced to make decisions I was not prepared to and the ignorance of not knowing who to contact for assistance. I remember well my grandmother beating me with her cane when I took her to a nursing home.

Today, we have come a long way in establishing resources for the elderly and the so-called Sandwich generation – the name given to those who take care of their elderly parents and their adolescent children. But who knows how to get to those resources? These resources and the information available are usually forgotten or put aside until the time you need them. And then, the panic that sets in and you don’t remember where to turn. My goal is to be there for you, to help you make informed decisions, and to tell you what options you have, hopefully before the emergency situation takes place.

As our life expectancies increase, there will be a greater percentage of elderly making up the population of the United States. And because of this percentage increase, the sandwich generation may experience:

  • incapacitated parents
  • impoverished parents
  • medically vegetative parents
  • dementia suffering parents
  • emotionally depressed parents

Fortunately, there are estate plans and legal documents that can pre-plan for some of the problems stated above, so the elderly can take care of their affairs with dignity.

Knowing the right kinds of information for clients is one thing, but experiencing your problems puts everything in perspective. Since my experience with my grandmother, I have been educated emotionally by:

  1. My father’s 11-year losing battle with Alzheimers, Parkinsons and seizures;
  2. My mother who almost ruined her health as a caregiver, and needed assistance so as not to become impoverished by the bills;
  3. My mother-in-law who had a lengthy recovery from a stroke only to be put in a vegetative state by a massive heart attack when we thought she had beat everything; and
  4. My father-in-law who could not make a life without his wife and so committed suicide in our home.

My husband who suffered such a massive heart attack that he was given no hope of survival, yet today he lives and every day is a gift since August of 2004.

My mother who passed away at the age of 97 on March 2, 2011. Being her main caregiver taught me the emotional rollercoaster that families endure during last the illnesses of a loved one.

My husband, who suffered a stroke in December 2011 after being diagnosed with multiple dementias including Alzheimer’s in April 2011, was devastated and unthinkable since he has four degrees from the University of Akron. [BS in Chemistry, MS in polymer Chemistry, PhD in Polymer Chemistry and an MBA]. His driving privileges were suspended due to his dementia and the hardship this caused.

My burn out caused by my not following my own advice which finally led to placement of my husband in a facility which broke both of our hearts. We were not only spouses, but soul mates and best friends. Home visits become less and less as his dementia and Parkinson’s rapidly advanced. Sadly, he passed away on November 7, 2013.

In May of 2014, my faithful nursing home trained German Shepherd, Luzie, passed away. Luzie was with me as a pup from my husband’s heart attack to his passing. She was a part of my office daily until she could not function any more.

On July 1, 2014, I took an opportunity to go to Florida for the winter to rejuvenate. I am back ready, willing and able to assist clients with their elder law issues.

The emotional experiences that I have endured are not unique to me. I use my emotional crises to identify with my clients. When I tell them I understand, I want them to know that I do understand. I know first-hand what they are going through. As you can see, this is more than a law practice to me.

Margaret H. Kreiner