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Elder care planning and crisis Medicaid planning is like the proverbial “elephant” and a successful plan will address a client’s plan much like the answer to the old question “how do you eat an elephant”: “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.”

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Elder Law Planning is Like an Elephant that Must be "Eaten One Bite At A Time"


Blog Category:
3/28/2010
Richard J. Habiger, J.D.
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Elephants in AfricaBob pulled some records from a grocery sack and sighed that he did not know where to begin.  Bob’s sister, Alice, said she was overwhelmed and experiencing a great deal of anxiety caring for her mother.  There was so much to do, and so little time in each day.  Their mother Jane had done nothing to prepare for the possibility that she would need long-term care.

I have seen this scenario oh so many times.  So, I assured both that they had come to the right elder law office, that my staff and I would be able to help.  I knew that by the end of the consultation, the anxiety Alice was experiencing would subside and she would be eager to move forward with obtaining the assistance that we can provide our clients and their families.  My concern was that Bob would freeze like a “deer in the headlights”… with predictable consequences.

Initially, I mainly just listened. I have found that with two ears and only one mouth, if I am to truly understand my client, their family, and their hopes and dreams, it is more important to listen than to talk.

After listening to Alice and Bob talk about their mother and the help they were providing to her, it occurred to me that Bob’s concern is an age-old conundrum ... “How to eat an elephant?”  It is an often-used short-hand way to describe the large and seemingly undoable challenges we all face.

I told Bob that it is one way to describe the challenges my staff and I face every day for our clients and their families.  We do not provide a simple fast food burger.  Instead, elder care or crisis Medicaid planning is like the proverbial “elephant” and a successful plan will address a client’s plan much like the old “how to eat an elephant” answer ……. “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.”

When viewing elder care and crisis Medicaid planning as the “elephant” challenge, I explained, it is my job as an elder law attorney to help turn the “elephant” into bite sized tasks.  And to advise on where to start and where to take the next bite.

Before my consultation with Bob and Alice ended, they understood that by working with an elder law attorney who has extensive experience they could reduce the different elements of their mother’s planning into bite sized pieces.  This allowed them, particularly Bob, to take them on, one element at a time – dealing with those that were most pressing first.  After they understood it was “one bite at a time,” everyone in the room could feel a huge “sigh of relief” instantly hit the room.

Just like an elephant, it might take a while to eat it one bite at a time.  But with the right plan and persistence, Bob and Alice were reassured that there would be a successful (and less stressful) result.  The understood that the key was to approach the process with a bite sized view of the challenge rather than facing a daunting elephant-sized single project.

There is a great article talking about the ways that businesses (as opposed to estate plans) use this approach to take on these types of elephant issues.  The article is by E-Myth, and you’ll find it at this location, "How to Eat an Elephant" - might give you some interesting perspectives on applying the “elephant eating solution” to business situations.  As for elephants, they really aren’t that hard to eat…



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