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Clinic offers caregivers legal advice

June 20, 2006|By BRIANNA LUSK,Staff Writer

Attorney Lois Kelly knows the challenges that come with being the primary caregiver for aging parents.

She knows the emotional rollercoaster that follows each trip to the nursing home to visit her mother. Some days are good and she leaves with a smile. Other days she leaves in tears.

“Sometimes care-giving is thrust upon those that don’t know what to do,” said Kelly, the managing attorney for the caregiver program in San Diego.

The caregiver program falls under the umbrella of elder law and advocacy, which provides senior citizens with free legal services. In 2002, caregivers began to receive legal assistance that directly aids the seniors for which they are responsible.

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A caregiver can be defined as one who takes care of someone else’s consumer needs such as bank accounts, legal documents and housing arrangements. Kelly said most family members of seniors are caregivers and may not realize it.

“They think they’re just taking care of them,” Kelly said. “I think it’s so important they learn seniors’ rights.”

The elder law and advocacy program is hosting a free legal clinic in El Centro on Friday to assist caregivers with problems ranging from power of attorney necessity to advance care directives.

“It’s really important because there are a lot of people in the Valley that don’t have the money for an attorney,” said Ricardo Aguilar, a legal assistant for the local Elder Law and Advocacy office.

Funded primarily through the county’s Area Agency on Aging, Aguilar said the program is continuing to see an increase in need as the number of calls for assistance grows.

In particular, caregivers that have been thrust into a new world of responsibility find themselves overwhelmed and unprepared.

“It’s not going to get any easier,” Kelly said. “The aging population is growing, growing, growing.”

Aguilar said that in an area like the Valley that has a high poverty level, seniors and their caregivers could benefit from the non-profit legal advice.

“We open their minds up to the help that’s out there,” Aguilar said. He added there are numerous support groups and resources available for caregivers in the Imperial Valley.

And while this week’s legal clinic focuses on caregivers, assistance is available year-round for seniors and their guardians.

“Seniors come first,” Aguilar said.

“People are getting older and living longer,” Kelly said of the importance of staying informed. “I see people that just don’t know what to do.”

“It’s all about education,” she added.

To set up an appointment or get more information about the caregiver legal clinic, call 353-0223.

>> Staff Writer Brianna Lusk can be reached at blusk@ivpressonline.com or 337-3439.

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