The current struggles dealing with COVID-19 bring to mind our vulnerabilities as a society but also cause reflection on how to deal with crisis and unexpected emergencies. I suggest it is by having a plan or maybe several plans depending on how circumstances play out. One of the problems we have had now nationally is the lack of plans for a crisis like this. Since planners, scientists, and experts have not been recognized for some time now, States and municipalities are stuck developing responses hastily with whatever information may be available.
When there is no specific plan to handle problems like this when crisis strikes, the answer is to develop appropriate plans and do it quickly and effectively because having a coherent workable plan has an amazing result. A plan converts fear and anxiety into action. Appropriate action in a crisis gives us faith we can handle the problem. This is what leadership is about.
I think of this when I tell a client – “you are going to be ok.” I do not make that statement lightly. I do it after learning what her circumstances are, after listening to his story, after comparing this to other situations we have handled, only after knowing the facts and knowing the law, only after considering the agencies and organizations we deal with and also what the results have been in dealing with past situations affecting individuals and families like them. Then and only then when I feel comfortable with this and consider what plan we are likely to follow, I tell a client “you are going to be ok.” Because we cannot know everything that will happen in every situation from the beginning we also consider what we would do if Plan A has to move to Plan B. We develop a reasonable plan based on the facts and then proceed to implement it. Often we hear people say they feel so much better. There is a reason for the term “Action Plan.” People know when you are telling the truth based on facts and when you are manufacturing stories and they react accordingly.
I believe, once our nation has a coherent plan to deal with COVID-19 and action to implement it, people will react with less fear and more optimism and determination. The issue during this time is developing and implementing a coherent workable plan.
A plan must be realistic and able to be modified as needed. Some circumstances cannot be changed but we can change how we react to them.
On reflection, it seems most of my law practice deals in one way or another with crisis and unexpected contingencies. We draft Wills and Trusts because clients want to be assured their loved ones are provided for after their passing. If conditions change, we change the documents. We try to anticipate. If we know individuals cannot get along we do not draft documents that force them to work together. If we know that someone would be overwhelmed serving as an executor or trustee we discourage appointing that person.
When it comes to planning ahead our office figures whether and for how long individuals and couples can afford to live in a senior community and we review documents to assure there would not be surprises. A move to a senior community often involves a contract, an agreement. This is a legal document and deserves at least a preliminary review. We plan.
Planning means we consider and address concerns regarding moves to assisted living or nursing care. We hear from families calling in when a family member is being discharged from the hospital or a parent or spouse needs to move from home because they can no longer stay there safely. Our office is continually faced with listening to and providing answers to questions regarding long term care, family dynamics, inheritances, budgets and life style changes.
So, for all of this, we develop plans. This is why this column today is named “Planning Ahead.” The office tagline for Colliton Elder Law Associates is “A Plan Ahead.” The radio show in which I participate with Phil McFadden of Home Instead, West Chester, PA every week is titled “50 Plus -Planning Ahead.”
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.