This month Grace Care highlights another special member of the San Diego Elder Law Center, Elder Law Attorney Robert Dieringer. Below Mr. Dieringer shares with us what inspired him to work with elders and his unique experience as an Elder Law Attorney.
Mr. Dieringer is a real patient family advocate with a caring heart for elders. He shares the same compassion for serving others and has a deep respect for Grace Care’s San Diego care management practice. We are pleased to feature his interview below for you.
What brought you to an elder care practice?
I came to an elder care practice from a large family of civil servants. My mentors include my brother, who serves in Africa as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army; my brother-in-law, who is a police officer in the city of Philadelphia; my aunts and uncles, who are pastors with the United Methodist Church; and several family members, who are educators. My mother is also a very religious Christian woman, and always imbued in her children an ethic of serving others. Prior to working for the San Diego Elder Law Center I worked in indigent criminal defense, homeless soup kitchens, and pro bono domestic violence law. The growing health care debate, and the issues surrounding, it made me realize my call to serve the elderly and disabled. Finally, after being introduced to Mr. Lindsley and the great dynamic at the San Diego Elder Law Center, I was able to put that call to service into action.
What particular aspect of your elder care practice do you find most rewarding?
I find the stories of people’s lives to be by far the most rewarding aspect of my elder care practice. I have clients who met during the post-war occupation of Tokyo and have a collection of Japanese dolls. I have a client who worked down in the canneries of Little Italy, San Diego in the 1930’s, and then went on to fish for tuna off the coast of California as a young man. He showed me his pictures. I also have a client who sticks by his incapacitated wife’s bedside every day, as he has for the last six years, because she stuck by him for his thirty years in the Navy, despite the decades at sea. And these are only a few stories from the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
What’s been the biggest surprise to you in the practice?
The biggest surprise to me in the practice has been how people come to terms with their own deaths and with the deaths of family members. For many people it is very, very sad. For others, it is a fact of life that may be accepted gracefully. Before this practice I did not realize that death, like life, comes in many shapes and sizes.
What do you see as our biggest need in elder care?
I see our biggest need in elder care to be clarity. So many people come to us because the barrage of information they encountered in the health care system confused them. The patchwork system of public benefits does not help; in fact, it hurts. The lack of coordination between the different levels of care is another problem. We are starting to see it with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but more still needs to be done to coordinate and organize systems of support for the elderly and disabled.
What difference does care management make to your clients?
Care management makes a huge difference to my clients. Care managers serve as great intermediaries for those who need assistance coordinating medical issues, sources of payment, placement, family, community support, and the variety of other factors that impact health and wellness. The ability to address tasks traditionally categorized in different skill sets – like an understanding of diagnostic issues, which is ordinarily thought of as a medical issue, as well as things like patient rights, which are traditionally legal – can be crucial for folks dealing with complicated health care situations.
To find out more information about the San Diego Elder Law Center, please visit their website at www.sandiegoelderlaw.com or call (619) 235-4357.