I knew early in law school that I wanted to
do something with people with disabilities,
including issues of aging in vulnerable
adults. When I was in high school, I had the
opportunity to do some volunteer work at
a couple of our local nursing homes, and
that was always intriguing.
After law school, the first Medicaid application I did was for my 97-year-old great-grandmother, who was admitted to a skilled
nursing home for her end-of-life experience.
I had never done a Medicaid application—so
this was new for me—and hers was a fairly
simple, straightforward application: She
hadn’t owned a home for several years, and
she had very modest savings.
It was my first experience with a long-term-care nursing home admission, and
after we got her through the financial process and approved, some of the staff at that
particular facility reached out to me to help
other residents. I started helping residents
get through the paperwork and financial
processes for that particular facility.
I had three other grandparents live into
their late 80s. Each of them showed me
a different experience of aging and the
end of life. One grandmother developed
vasculitis and had some physical issues.
One night, in August 2005, while reading the paper, she fell asleep and didn’t
wake up. That experience is what we wish
for all of our loved ones: that they just fall
asleep and don’t wake up. But it was a very
emotional experience, and shocking for the
family; we weren’t prepared for her to leave
us that quickly.
My other grandmother, about five years
later, entered a hospital right around
Mother’s Day. From the hospital she was
transferred to a long-term care facility and
declined very rapidly, as a result of several
other issues. I had a very intimate nursing
home experience with that grandmother,
as that’s not where she wanted to be. But
as a family, we were unable to care for her
at the level she needed. As her disease
Amy R. Tripp
CHALGIAN & TRIPP
ELDER LAW; ESTATE
PLANNING & PROBATE
Their Greatest Gift
What Amy Tripp’s grandparents taught her about life and elder law
AS TOLD TO ANDREW BRANDT
progressed, she became a different person,
and we were very fortunate to be able to
transfer her into a hospice house locally.
Her last two months were spent there,
which was an amazing environment. I
learned more about the hospice house
and how that end-of-life experience works,
and they allowed her to bring in many
personal effects, which gave her much
comfort. Literally 24 hours after arriving in
the hospice, she lost all of her anxiety. She
became comfortable and regained a lot of
her ability to communicate, and she passed
away peacefully there.
Then, in August 2013, my grandfather
[pictured right] was battling lung cancer.
We wanted to honor his choice, and he
moved into my home until he passed away
in November—under my parents’ and my
care, and with some hospice help.
I use my grandfather as an example
when I talk about understanding risks and
judgment. He became a little frailer, but he
wanted to live up north at my dad’s cottage
all winter. He understood the risks, and it
was our job to respect his wishes—even
though it wasn’t the safest decision. I tell
families that their job is to reduce risk, not
eliminate it. We want to preserve an individual’s dignity and right to make choices.
Sometimes the parent’s or family mem-
ber’s decision isn’t going to be exactly what
we want, but that’s OK.
I say, with all sincerity, that the greatest
gift my grandparents gave me was their
end-of-life experiences. They’ve made me a
better lawyer as a result of being an active
part of each one of them. Elder law is a lot
of listening, understanding and counseling through some very tough decisions and
emotional times. Many people are very fearful as they see their loved ones decline, or as
they start to decline themselves. We provide
good, solid information and a lot of peace to
families. That gratitude is great.
Telling their stories