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Practicing Elder Law in the Time of COVID-19

Firstly, Elder Law Practitioners offer our sincerest condolences to the families of Seniors. There is a disproportionate amount of deaths of residents in facilities in Pennsylvania that is unprecedented and truly tragic. The Senior population is also more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 and their need for Elder Law Attorneys and the provision of legal services in this area is greater now due to COVID-19.

The Practice of Elder Law has also been impacted. In the past, house calls, hospital, and nursing home visits were an integral part of our Practice since many of our clients are too ill and infirm to meet with us in our Law Offices. Obviously, they have been curtailed. Further, many of our Seniors are incapable or uncomfortable using alternate forms of communication such as Zoom, Facetime and even telephone conversations in lieu of face to face meetings. Concurrently, there is an increased need to prepare documents reflecting their last wishes such as Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills and Wills. There is an even greater need for preparing Durable Powers of Attorney. However, our ability to counsel our clients and their families to assess capacity is challenged by our inability to meet with them in person.

Our Practice has also reached crisis proportions due to discharge from Nursing Homes or conversely, admissions to Nursing Homes, Healthcare Facilities, Home Healthcare and Hospitals. Elder Law planning to obtain benefits and facilitate payment is all needed now on an emergency basis. We must be ready and able to help facilitate the provision of services to those who cannot navigate the complexities themselves, which is the majority of our clients. Elder Law and Estate planning in advance is always the best practice. Awareness of this need has been raised by the current climate, if there is any upside to this misfortune.

Although our Bar Association has been influential in obtaining legislation for remote notarization and facilitating the provision of essential legal services, the demands of technology upon Seniors differ from that of other populations and effects our representation and the provision of legal services to Seniors. Despite these challenges, we will continue to do our very best for our Clients.

Michelle C. Berk, Esquire. "Practicing in a Pandemic." SIDEBAR Magazine, Summer/Fall 2020, pp. 18

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