The term elder law is somewhat deceiving. Although the main focus of elder law is the elderly individual or couple, the scope of this area sometimes includes disabled adults and children. Some people ask me why elder law is even a specialty, and my response is that people are living longer than ever before because of medical advances and disease prevention, improved public health living and sanitation conditions, and better nutrition than decades back. The elderly are a significant segment of the population, and the rate at which the elderly population is growing not only in Houston, but also across the nation is brisk to say the least. The label of elderly may be a subjective or case-by-case standard to many people, but for purposes of setting a criterion, the elderly are those persons who have attained the age of 65 and up. The first of the Baby Boomer generation (those born between the years of 1946 through 1964) began crossing the line into the “elder world” as of 2011.
The elderly and Baby Boomers have accumulated a tremendous amount of wealth, which provides them with quite a bit of political power as seen by Medicare and Social Security benefits taking main stage in most of the recent national elections. In addition to political clout, the elderly have many emerging issues on the horizon, such as health care decision-making, protection of financial assets and real property, age-related dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, when to stop driving, how medical resources are utilized, and even qualification for federal and state benefits such as Medicaid or community based alternatives to nursing homes.
The scope of elder law also includes powers of attorney, medical directives, special needs trusts, Miller trusts, estate planning, patient rights and responsibilities, nursing home care, elder abuse, and planning for Medicaid benefits.