At Elder Law of East Tennessee, we promote proactive planning strategies to help our clients predict changes that may occur over time and avoid care and financial crisis situations.  Part of the way we achieve consistently good outcomes for our clients is by cultivating the same attitude within our team.  The fields of law, elder care, and public benefits are always changing as new rules, industry standards, and “best practices” are introduced.  Rather than reacting to these new developments as they come, we strive to stay on the cutting edge.  We believe that a well-informed team of individuals will better address the full range of our clients’ needs.  And not only do we provide continuing education opportunities our own team, but we also engage in organizing events to benefit other professionals within our fields.  This March and April have been conference season for ELET staff.

In mid-March, several members of our team traveled to San Antonio for the annual Life Care Planning Law Firms AssociationUnProgram,” during which they participated in presentations by legal and care professionals and engaged in informal discussion groups with other members of firms from around the country who practice the Life Care Planning model.  ELET has participated in the UnProgram for several years, and our staff consistently return from this event with insights that help us improve the way we deliver services to our clients.  ELET founder Amelia Crotwell is on the LCPLFA Board of Directors, and for the past two years Attorney Julia Keck Price has been on the Education Committee that organizes the conference.  “The UnProgram is incredibly valuable because we learn how other firms approach the Life Care Planning services we provide,” says Julia.

Elder Law of East Tennessee is one of about 100 law firms nationwide that practice the Life Care Planning model, which is unusual in that it combines care coordination services with traditional elder law services. “Every Life Care Planning firm handles things a little differently,” says Julia, “and we have an opportunity to learn from others’ innovations and incorporate them into what we do.  Growth and change are the hallmarks of this practice area because of how quickly laws change and because every client is unique.”  Five of the country’s Life Care Planning law firms are in Tennessee, with two located in Knoxville and serving the entire East Tennessee region. As a highly successful Life Care Planning law firm, we not only gain insights at the annual UnProgram but also take the opportunity to mentor other firms that are newer to this innovative practice model.

Later in March, Attorney Julia Keck Price and Public Benefits Specialist Hailey Michel-Evleth attended the Veterans Advocates Group of America (VAGA) annual conference in Denver, Colorado to learn more about obtaining Veterans Benefits for elders and their family members.  Our attorneys and benefits staff assist Life Care Planning clients in filing applications for Aid and Attendance benefits to help pay for long-term care.  Staying on top of the ever-changing VA rules and regulations is important to continue preparing successful applications for our clients.  “We were able to deepen our knowledge of the VA benefits we currently pursue, prepare for potential upcoming policy changes that would affect our clients, and consider other types of VA benefits that we don’t currently apply for,” says Hailey.

Meanwhile, Care Coordinators Jill Shoffner and Kyra Clements visited San Francisco for the Aging in America Conference, a massive week-long gathering of care professionals from all over the country.  “We attended the conference to learn about trends in proposed policies relating to long-term care of the elderly,” says Jill.  “It also gave us the opportunity to learn best practice guidelines and ways to advocate and care for the elderly.” Successful care coordination requires detailed knowledge of the array of available services as well as an understanding of how different health care agencies and government programs function.  The Aging in America Conference was an opportunity for our ELET care coordinators to network with care professionals in related fields and expand their professional knowledge base.

Early this April, Care Coordinator Cindy Hutson trained to become a Powerful Tools for Caregivers facilitator.  Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a nationwide program that helps caregivers learn how to care for themselves and avoid burnout.  ELET offers this free-of-cost program to clients and other community members biannually.  “I became a certified Powerful Tools for Caregivers class leader to help not just clients, but their caregivers as well,” she says.  Having completed her training, Cindy is currently co-leading the spring session of Powerful Tools for Caregivers hosted by ELET.

In mid-April, Attorney Bailey Schiermeyer and Systems Manager Malinda Joshi attended the Knoxville Bar Association’s Law Practice Today Expo in downtown Knoxville to stay abreast of law firm technology and security practices.  Bailey, who is on the Law Tech Committee of the KBA, was also an organizer of the event.  “I love finding new ways to help our practice leverage technology to better serve our clients,” she says.  With the legal and financial industries increasingly shifting away from paper and toward electronic methods of storing and exchanging records, cyber security is top of mind at ELET.  Our full team has participated in multiple cyber security training sessions, and our systems are monitored by an independent IT contractor.  Even so, we make a point of attending workshops and reading articles to stay on top of the latest developments and be excellent custodians of our clients’ sensitive information.  In addition to learning about how to reinforce cyber security, Bailey and Malinda also took note of devices and software that can help our whole team provide services to our clients more efficiently.

The ELET team’s passion for education goes both ways.  Our team has spent time early this year acquiring knowledge that will be passed on to our clients and to other professionals with whom we coordinate services on a regular basis.  The more we learn, the better we are able to plan for and serve our clients – and that is the most important benefit of all!