Elder Law Library

Elder Law is a legal term coined to cover an area of legal practice that places an emphasis on those issues
that affect the growing aging population.

When it became apparent that Americans were living longer, new laws were needed to address the phenomena. Perhaps the first President to realize this was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In accordance with his “New Deal” in the l930’s and 1940’s, the Social Security Act was passed. Arguably, it was a program designed to help those over 65 achieve a fair standard of living once they retired.  It was never intended to be a “full-scale pension” program.

The three major categories that make up elder law are:

  •     Estate planning and administration, including tax questions
  •     Medicaid, disability and other long-term care issues
  •     Guardianship, conservatorship and commitment matters, including fiduciary administration.

Other issues found under the umbrella of elder law include such areas as estate planning; wills; trusts; guardianships; protection against elder abuse, neglect, and fraud; end-of-life planning; all levels of disability and medical care; retirement planning; Social Security benefits

Medicare and Medicaid coverage; Medicaid planning (United States); consumer protection; nursing homes and in-home care; powers of attorney; physicians’ or medical care directives, declarations and powers of attorney; landlord/tenant needs; real estate and mortgage assistance; various levels of advice, counseling and advocacy of rights; tax issues; and discrimination.

The form of elder care provided varies greatly among countries and is changing rapidly. Even within the same country, regional differences exist with respect to the care for the elderly.

Traditionally elder care has been the responsibility of family members and was provided within the extended family home. Increasingly in modern societies, elder care is now being provided by state or charitable institutions. The reasons for this change include decreasing family size, the greater life expectancy of elderly people, the geographical dispersion of families, and the tendency for women to be educated and work outside the home. Although these changes have affected European and North American countries first, it is now increasingly affecting Asian countries also.

In most western countries, elder care facilities are freestanding. They may also be part of a continuing-care retirement community, seniors apartment complex, or wing of a nursing home. Ownership and operations of these facilities vary also. In the United States, most of the large multi-facility providers are publicly owned and managed as for-profit businesses. There are exceptions; the largest operator in the US is the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a not-for-profit organization that manages 6,531 beds in 22 states, according to a 1995 study by the American Health Care Association.