Upcoming Event: “Healthy LGBTQ Aging: Strategies for Success”

September 23, 2015:  “Healthy LGBTQ Aging: Strategies for Success” at Parkway United Church of Christ from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. 

This free event is co-sponsored by the Elder Law Clinic, the Shepherd’s CenterParkway UCC, and the Adam Foundation.     

Click here to register by September 16th.

Complimentary dinner is sponsored by the Craige Jenkins law firm.  The speakers will be: Prof. Kate Mewhinney, JD (Wake Forest Elder Law Clinic), Dee Leahman (Novant Health), Diane Spaugh, MSW, LCSW (Hospice & Palliative Care Ctr.), Kaycee M. Sink, MD (Wake Forest Baptist Med. Ctr.), and Burch Johnson, NCC, LPC (CenterPoint).

For questions call (336) 758-5061 or email

A Caring Response to LGBT Clients

Crowd pic for website (2)

On August 4, 2015, over 65 people attended the program “A Caring Response to LGBT Clients” sponsored by the Elder Law Clinic and the PTRC Area Agency on Aging Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman ProgramThe event took place at Senior Services.  Professor Kate Mewhinney, long-term care ombudsman Jennifer Harriss, and third-year law student Crissy Dixon presented a cultural competency training program to staff and volunteers of long-term care facilities, community-based aging service providers, and concerned family and loved ones.

Upcoming Event: A Caring Response to LGBT Clients

The Elder Law Clinic and the PTRC Area Agency on Aging Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program are sponsoring a FREE cultural competency training using the film Gen Silent. 


WHEN: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

WHERE: Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Dr., Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 27105

WHAT: This is a free cultural competency training program using the critically acclaimed film, Gen Silent.  Light refreshments will be served.

WHO: Staff and volunteers of long-term care facilities, community-based aging service providers, and concerned family and loved ones.

WHY: The purpose of the training is to raise awareness of the unique issues and concerns of LGBT older adults. From this training, you can expect to learn “best practices” for those who work with LGBT older adults, to ensure that they feel welcomed and are treated with dignity and respect.


Click here for the event flyer and registration information.  Registration deadline is July 31, 2015. 

Students Help Clients Decide

Older clients usually can make good decisions. But some clients have deficits we need to understand. Other clients are clearly unable to understand legal options. Some clients are fighting for the right to keep making decisions (both good and bad). And some clients are under pressure from limited options.

Spring 2015 Group - web

                                             LaRita Dingle, Crissy Dixon, Jasmine Pitt, Mario Ramsey, Alina Buccella

Who Can Decide?
Mr. B owns his home with his two adult children. They all live together and share expenses. His choices about a will are clear and freely made.

Who Cannot Decide?
Mrs. S has memory problems, so she lives in the secure wing of an assisted living facility. Her only son needs to sell her home in Virginia. This will involve guardianship laws of North Carolina and Virginia. The house sale is just step one. The next issue will be keeping her eligible for valuable coverage to pay for her care.

Who Wants To Decide?
Mr. T is an eccentric writer who landed in the hospital and wants to return to his mountain home. But the medical staff decided that would not be safe. A court will decide if Mr. T can make a risky choice about where to live.

Who Needs Help With Decisions?
Mrs. R is deaf and recently had a stroke. To accommodate her, the clinic student used a sign-language interpreter and met Mrs. R at her home.

Who May Need Protection?
Ninety-one-year-old Mrs. L has no relatives or close friends. She wants all her medical and financial matters to be handled by the young home health aide from the Medicaid agency. And she wants to leave her property to that nice young lady! Can she? Should she?

The clinic students helped all of these people. They patiently handled challenging communication difficulties and analyzed tricky ethical dilemmas about decision makers. Meeting their clients in homes, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, courtrooms, clinic offices, and community centers, they showed great compassion and intelligence. These clinic students will be superb advocates and caring members of the communities where they practice. Congratulations on a job well done!

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The Medical Side of Elder Law

Elder Law Clinic

Director Kathy Long introduces Alina Buccella to Senior Services’ Williams Adult Day Center.

Jasmine Pitt observed the medical center’s Geriatric Consultation Clinic, where doctors assess patients with memory problems.  One patient appeared normal at first, but his cognition turned out to be impaired. When asked the question, “What year is it?” he replied “Fifteen minus ten.” Other elements of the mental screening test were a challenge for him. His score of nineteen out of thirty surprised Jasmine. She noted:

He is only a few years older than my parents. I realized that even though I have seen a couple of sixty-five-year-old clients who leave no question as to their mental competency, I may have clients of the same age who are at a completely different mental capacity level.

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Client Reviews

client reviews pic

Seeing the Big Picture

Caring for a spouse with dementia is tough.  Even tougher is figuring out how to pay for years of in-home care, assisted living, and nursing home care.  Mario Ramsey helped a family understand the complex eligibility rules of health care coverage.  He reassured them that the healthy spouse would not lose the couple’s home.  Mario’s background in public health gives him a unique perspective on a social need that will grow in coming years.

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Jasmine - web

Jasmine Pitt helps a client understand her options.

Moving to the Beach

LaRita Dingle & Aimee Smith

LaRita Dingle talks with her client and attorney Aimee Smith (’02) before court.

It’s not just the rich who dream of moving to the sunny coast after retiring.  Alina Buccella’s client heard that housing for low-income seniors can also be found near the beach, with reduced rents.  So, she got on the waiting list and is ready to move if an opening comes up.

There is one problem, though: moving may cause her to break her lease in Winston-Salem.  She is worried about being sued for a few months of rent and about her $1,250 monthly income being taken if she does this.  She is also afraid of losing her thirteen-year-old car if she is sued by her landlord one day.

Alina reassured her that Social Security income is protected from creditors and that her car is safe under state laws.  Also, Alina explained that the landlord has a duty to try to re-rent her unit, so this would lower the amount owed.  Now, it’s time to wait for a phone call from the coast!

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The Helicopter Daughter

Mario Ramsey - web

Mario Ramsey reviews documents with a client.

Some parents hover like helicopters over their young children. Similarly, adult children can be overprotective towards their older parents. It sure isn’t easy to find the right balance between independence and protection. Fortunately, older people are entitled to a court hearing before their children can make decisions for them.

LaRita Dingle handled a case in which she determined that the older gentleman should not lose decision making rights. The man she was court-appointed to represent was well oriented and socially appropriate. However, his daughter didn’t like his choice of an assisted living facility and thought his memory lapses were grounds to declare him incompetent.

Fortunately, LaRita found that medical testing showed her client was doing well. Family dynamics were causing a bit of a power struggle and this gentleman was caught in the middle! The case was dismissed and the man gets to continue making his own decisions.

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Clinic Students Look Back

  • Every client meeting that I walked into, I knew one thing for sure: nothing was for sure!  Often there were one or two issues that a client mentioned on an intake form but after just a few minutes of conversation, three or four issues percolated to the surface.  What once appeared to be an urgent problem became a non-issue; a single question about insurance turned into a conversation about Medicare and Medicaid. It was always interesting.
  • I improved how I handled and managed interviews. I use the term “manage” because I learned in clinic that the attorney might have to take charge of the interview and help the client stay focused. I also learned to connect clients to outside resources to address their non-legal needs.
  • The traditional classroom setting does not give you many ways to immediately cement and test your understanding of the law.  In the Elder Law Clinic, while learning about the law or soon after learning about the law, I was able to work on cases with clients who had those issues. This enabled me to issue spot in practice and to see how the law impacts a client’s life in a very practical way.
students in class w glasses (3)

Cataracts, arthritis, and hearing impairments—what do they feel like? Our students learned how these conditions can make life challenging—from medicine bottles to complex legal documents!

  • Since taking this clinic, I have become more comfortable discussing personal and sometimes sensitive topics with clients.  I also got better at looking at the big picture and thinking long-term: a client may have come in wanting one thing, and I am now able to help the client see if that is what he really needs or what else will enable him to fulfill his wishes.  Perhaps most importantly, I can now help my family members plan for their own long-term care.
  • This semester has definitely increased my desire to practice law.  Dealing with a client and having a name, face and story to associate with a case made me realize that every action you take, or decide not to take, can impact the life of that client.
  • I had to become comfortable with not having an answer to every question that clients asked.  It is okay to undertake research after the interview in order to follow up with the client about a very narrow or unique legal issue.  In fact, offering to research an issue further is not a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge. Rather, it shows that you have taken a genuine interest in the client’s case and that you are willing to go the extra mile to find a solution.

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