Remember when the term “social distancing” was not part of our vocabularies? Those days now feel like a lifetime ago. In our new normal, people all over the country are joining in a communal effort to cope with the onslaught of news about Covid-19, and to do our parts to flatten the curve and keep everyone safe, while staying as far apart physically as possible. Everyone is feeling their way and is worried about their families, friends, colleagues, and selves. Ultimately, we all need to act as if we are already sick, and then do our very best to ensure that we do not expose anyone else to inadvertently put anyone else at risk. Prevention is our first line of defense.
But while all of this is going on, the legal needs of the older persons and people with disabilities and their families do not stop. If anything, concerns about estate and long term care planning are even more now top of mind for many of our clients, their family members, and their caregivers. We now need to find new ways to provide the comforting support and advice that is such a big part of every elder law practice and to help our clients plan for these new challenges, without risking anyone’s health and safety. Even though it is hard to think beyond the current minute, it is more important than ever for us to all do what we can to take control of whatever we can in a time when we may feel not so in control. We remain ready and willing to help you care for yourselves and all generations of your families.
So what are we doing?
- We are all still working hard … just from our home offices instead of North Main Street. Our assistant Jami’s hours are essentially the same: Monday – Wednesday 9 – 2, and Thursday 12 – 5.
- Calls are currently being answered by voice mail, but we are getting your messages as soon as you leave them, and calls will be returned as quickly as possible. Emails are checked at various times throughout the day, so if you have a quick question, that is (as always) the best way to get a quick answer or an appointment.
- We are being updated constantly about how the Probate Courts, the Registries of Deeds, and MassHealth are adjusting their own procedures and staffs to meet the challenges of Covid-19. The short answer is that everything has gone virtual.
- Because of the order to social distance, we are not conducting any consultations in-person right now. We have always offered phone meetings, and we continue to do so. But now we have added the opportunity for video meetings through Facetime and Zoom. (Don’t worry … we’ll walk you through it if this is new for you or your family.)
- There is emergency legislation pending to allow virtual notarization of important legal documents, but until that passes, signings still have to be done in the physical presence of witnesses and a notary. For now, and for the duration of the stay at home order, we are postponing any elective signings. We do though have a plan if your need to sign documents is medically urgent.
And what can you join us in doing?
- First, because it can’t be said enough: wash your hands when you come and go (and as often as possible in between)!
- Second: stay home unless it is absolutely essential that you leave. This is not vacation! We will hopefully all have opportunities in the not far future to again connect with hands and hugs.
- Closely monitor expert guidance from CDC, state and local public health officials, and breaking news (but limit the number of hours a day you spend watching news because too much can make worse the anxiety and sadness you may already be feeling)
- Closely monitor loved ones, friends, clients and colleagues … and yourself.
- Cut yourself some slack. Things are weird right now. It’s ok if sometimes you maybe get overwhelmed. As someone on TV recently said (can’t remember who – sorry!): “This is not a blizzard … this is winter.” Pace yourself. This is an opportunity to try new ways of doing things, to explore interests you never had time for, to “travel” online, to clean your house, to try new recipes, to eat/drink too much sometimes, to reach out to loved ones and long lost friends in new ways … but you don’t have to do everything in the same day!
- Remember that it is more important than ever before for you and all of your loved ones over the age of 18 to have in place legal documents that protect you in the event of incapacity. If you already have a plan in place, pull out your documents, review them, and share your thoughts/feelings about health care decisions with the people you have chosen to speak on your behalf. If you don’t already have a plan, you have some free time now, right? Never a better time than right now to get started on this project. We are here to help.
Thank you for your understanding during these challenging times. Stay safe!