The sign on the glass door reads “Elder Law Attorney.” You peer through that door but the office is empty—where is the elder law attorney?

I just returned from a house call—yes, elder law attorneys still make house calls. I witnessed a dying man sign legal documents giving his daughter authority to refuse anything other that palliative care for him, he wanted pain killing medication but no treatment to lengthen his life.

This is all part of a normal day in the life of an elder law attorney. Elder law attorneys are often found in the halls of nursing homes because their clients can’t come to them.

At other times, the office may be empty because the elder law attorney is visiting a client in an intensive care unit. The reason for that is usually that someone is unconscious and no clear written advance medical directives have been given about their health care. The lawyer then becomes a combination social worker, pastor and counselor to work with the doctors, the hospital administrator, and family members who may disagree on the proper treatment for their parents, etc. to work out a solution that sustains the dignity of the elder.

You will also find the elder law attorney in his/her office. People may be doing estate planning, probate,or a family whose parent is going into a nursing home may be seeking advice as to the best way to give that elder the most comfortable and satisfying lifestyle possible including physical, mental and economic aspects.

The attorney may be in the office counseling the family whose parent or adult child desperately needs institutional care but is unwilling to go there voluntarily and does not understand the seriousness of the situation. The elder law attorney may advise the family to file a guardianship in court to force their aging parent or brother or sister to get the kind of help that they so need.

The next time that you peer through that office door, the elder law attorney may not be there because he/she will be in Court actively pursuing a guardianship for the best interests of a client's loved one.

Elder law attorneys generally consider their practice to be a sacred trust with their clients—they genuinely try to treat each client as if they were a family member.