News

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND?

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FALL 2017 ELDER LAW CLINIC STUDENTS
Amanda Perez, Brad Fleming, Matt Freeze, John McCool,

Samer Roshdy, Brandy Nickoloff, Kristina Syrigos and Jasmine Gregory.

Clients come to our Clinic with both legal issues and emotional needs.  One client is worried about her grown child who needs more help than his siblings.  Other clients come with spouses who are becoming frail or forgetful.  They are overwhelmed by complicated health care systems and by drastic changes in family dynamics.  Many are challenged by their lack of financial resources, though they are rich in community, religious, and family support.

Opening up and listening to clients isn’t a skill we teach in traditional doctrinal classes, where fundamental legal principles are the focus.  In this Clinic, students get to practice listening and empathizing.  They learn to integrate these “people skills” with the traditional tools of lawyering — such as gathering the facts, researching the law, and drafting documents.  Students find they do better and more satisfying work when they are open to hearing their clients’ goals and concerns.

The unpredictability and human side of law practice challenges and teaches us.  Here are a few of our cases and our students’ reflections on their experiences.  Some stories are changed for confidentiality reasons.

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OUR MEDICAL PARTNERS

Mark Corbett, M.D. (center), medical director for Kate B. Reynolds Hospice, met with students Matt Freeze (left) and Samer Roshdy (right).

Mark Corbett, M.D. (center), medical director for Kate B. Reynolds Hospice, met with students Matt Freeze (left) and Samer Roshdy (right).

Medical issues are often the trigger for legal needs.  A person gets sick and realizes she needs a will.  Folks may need to appoint a financial surrogate or figure out how to pay for long term care.  Fortunately, law students in the Elder Law Clinic get to learn directly from medical providers, such as the Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home and our University Medical Center’s J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation.

Jasmine Gregory shadowed geriatrician Jo Cleveland, M.D. as she and a multi-disciplinary team saw patients in the Memory Assessment Clinic.  The team spent extensive time interviewing both the patients and their family members.  Jasmine observed:  “The doctors and counselors were inspiring.  I learned a lot about bedside manner and about hearing out and supporting the caregivers.”

Dr. Callahan

Kate Callahan, M.D., M.S., was a guest speaker on mental capacity issues in aging.  She is the Program Director of the Clinical Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Learn more about the Medical Center’s services for older patients at the  J. Paul Sticht Center at www.wakehealth.edu/agingresearch/ or call 336-713-8250.

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Samer Roshdy and Dr. Caitlin Jones confer before a court hearing.

Samer Roshdy and Dr. Caitlin Jones confer before a court hearing.

 

The Elder Law Clinic invites physicians and other healthcare providers to observe competency hearings the law students are handling.

 

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DEAR DEAN SUZANNE REYNOLDS

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PARENTING A PARENT

Brad Fleming’s client is a nurse who is busy with work and teenagers. Her mother had been living in Georgia but had to be moved here due to dementia. Now, Brad’s client is patching together care at her home for her mother. When her mother can no longer live there safely, how can she pay for her mother to be somewhere safe and secure?

Brad explained that the mother’s savings will make her ineligible for help paying for care in a secure memory-care unit. She could pay $3,500/month for this care and deplete her savings that way. Brad suggested instead a written “family care agreement.” This way, the daughter could be paid for the care she is providing her mother. Then, when the mother needs 24/7 care, she will be eligible for government coverage.

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TACKLING TAXES

TaxesKristina Syrigos’s client had her home foreclosed on a few years ago.  She didn’t realize that her unpaid mortgage would appear as “income” to the IRS.  Now, the State of North Carolina is getting part of the client’s Social Security income each month, to recover state income taxes.  Kristina researched the laws on taxes and on the protection of Social Security income.  The case is working its way through the IRS and then the state tax system.  We hope to show that the tax debt can be reduced or eliminated under current legal rules.

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98 YEARS OLD AND ALONE

Reviewing the final details with Brad Fleming.

Reviewing the final details with Brad Fleming.

Living alone at age 98 is rare.  And it is risky.  A gentleman with no close family was doing so when his doctor reported him to the public agency that investigates neglected elders.  Adult Protective Services (APS) filed a court case to have the man declared incompetent.  Matt Freeze handled the case as the court-appointed guardian ad litem.  His client was adamant about staying in the apartment he had lived in for 37 years.  He had been getting only a couple hours of help each day, but this was ending.  For several weeks, Matt collaborated with APS to set up a new support system.  Ultimately, the client’s limitations made this impossible, so Matt recommended a guardian be appointed.  The court agreed.

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NURSING HOME CAUTIONED BY STATE BAR

STOP

Recently, the State Bar found a nursing facility to have violated the “unauthorized practice of law” statute.  The facility had advised a resident’s relative to get a power of attorney (POA) and had provided a form to her.  The State Bar determined that the facility social worker had supervised the execution of the document and their employee had notarized it.  These employees were not licensed attorneys.

The resident had had a severe stroke, and was the subject of an incompetency (guardianship) proceeding when the POA was signed.  Soon after it was signed, a court adjudicated her incompetent, and her guardian revoked the POA.  The guardian ad litem, Professor Kate Mewhinney, filed a complaint about the nursing home’s actions with the State Bar.
See elder-clinic.law.wfu.edu/files/2017/12/Letter-from-NC-State-Bar-11.9.17.pdf.

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PROFESSOR KATE MEWHINNEY

  • Presented a webinar sponsored by the N.C. Dispute Resolution Commission on “How Can N.C.’s Mediation Programs Address the Needs of an Aging Population?”
  • Will participate in “Advancing Legal and Medical Collaboration in Advance Care Planning,” an invitation-only conference in Washington, D.C.  Sponsors are the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and the U. of California at San Francisco Med. Ctr., with support from the Hartford Foundation and the Borchard Foundation on Law and Aging.
  • Serves on the county’s Elder Abuse Task Force which includes law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney’s office, and the Department of Social Services.

 

 

THE FUTURE OF AGING

TFA

Mark your calendars for an innovative look at the future of aging.  This two-day free program takes place on the Wake Forest University campus and will bring in speakers from many disciplines.  On the subject of law, we are excited that Charlie Sabatino will come from Washington, D.C.  He directs the Commission on Law and Aging of the American Bar Association.  Kristina Syrigos - Web

Save the Date:

Aging Re-imagined on May 3-4, 2018

agingre-imagined.events.wfu.edu

 

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