A Practice with Purpose: Local elder law and life care center first and only in North Carolina

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Helayne Levy, left, Martin Case, and
Helayne Levy, left, Martin Case, center left, and Sharon Luquire, at their Shallotte office of life care planning firm, A Practice with Purpose. Photos by Caroline Curran.

Aging sucks. But it beats the alternative.

Those aren’t words one might expect to read on an elder law firm’s website, but A Practice with Purpose isn’t a typical elder law firm. In fact, it’s the first and only of its kind in North Carolina, said attorney Helayne Levy, who–along with her team of healthcare and legal professionals–describe their firm as an elder law and life care planning center.

“It’s a different way to approach aging, but, more importantly, aging well,” Levy, who has her advanced elder law degree, said.

“We took the concept of a traditional elder law practice and we transitioned to an elder law and life care planning practice, because that’s –what we came to realize–the only way to effectively care for aging adults and the families that care for them,” Levy said.

The practice focuses on the legal, financial and personal aspects of aging, and, as such, has a team of professionals who focus in those areas.

Martin Case is an attorney, a qualified mental health professional, case manager and memory care specialist. Sharon Luquire, a retired registered nurse, is the firm’s geriatric care manager and licensed nursing administrator. LaFaunta Johnson serves as the firm’s public benefits analyst.

“It has to be a series of disciplines. It can’t be just one anymore,” Case said.

Forming a team—and specifically the team she’s assembled—was a priority for Levy when she founded the practice in September 2014.

“People don’t know what they need. They don’t know what’s going to happen. There are only a certain number of trajectories in life. Our mission is to educate people on how they can go about it in a way that’s going to have the best outcome possible,” Levy said.

Life care planning, Luquire said, is more than legal documents.

“Life care planning encompasses all aspects of aging,” Luquire said. “Normally, when you think about elder law you think about documents, wills, trusts, those kinds of things. And it’s so much bigger than that as we’re living longer. And Baby Boomers—we’re more healthy, and we want to age more purposefully and more intelligently. We recognize that there’s more to the process of aging than just the day-to-day legal stuff.

“So many clients think of aging as, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to have my will.’ They don’t recognize that the will goes into effect when they’re dead. And they don’t realize that there’s that tremendous, humongous phase between retirement and the will,” Luquire said.

And during that phase between retirement and the will, retirees—particularly Baby Boomers—want fun, active lifestyles beyond bingo, Luquire said.

But when something does happen—whether someone’s been injured, can no longer stay in his or her home or require more assistance than family members are capable of giving,the goal is to “maintain their quality of life and their autonomy,” Levy said.

“So that they’re living day by day and not just preparing for death,” Luquire added.

And when it is time to put a loved one into a variety of facilities–from assisted living to skilled nursing–they “mystery shop” before selecting a facility and they conduct inspections and training for those at the facility.

“We’re looking at everything from how the phone is answered, to odors, to nail care…to the activity calendar,” Luquire said, adding they frequently search facilities’ compliance records with state and federal regulations. “We don’t just place a client in the most convenient location. If we wouldn’t put our parents there, we wouldn’t put a client there.”

According to Case, about 40 to 60 percent of adults in assisted living facilities and beyond have memory-care issues, and the goal, in those cases, is “to optimize quality of life in general.”

“We talk about this notion of going foundational. We know the legal foundation that we have to have that’s going to set everything in motion when we become incapacitated,” Levy said. “And those are the things that people are missing because they’re talking about documents that only impact their beneficiaries when they die and they’re not thinking, necessarily, about the documents that are going to protect them when they are alive and to avoid guardianship.”

Luquire, who’s been in the healthcare industry for 45 years, said the firm’s focus on life care planning, rather than just traditional elder law, is “the biggest change in healthcare I’ve seen in a long time that really benefits the client and really helps them think through the rest of their life–where they want to be and how they want to spend it and where they want to go.”

The firm hosts a series of events and speaking engagements throughout the community. Levy will host the third installment “Solutions at the speed of life: If there’s ever a good time to have a good plan, now’s the time” from 1 to 4:30 p.m. today at Brunswick Forest. They also host monthly seminars at local senior resource centers.

A Practice with Purpose has offices in Wilmington, Shallotte and Fayetteville. Click here or call (910) 755-PLAN for more information about the practice or any upcoming events.

The 'den' at the Shallotte Office of A Practice with a Purpose.
The ‘den’ at the Shallotte office of A Practice with a Purpose.

Caroline Curran is the managing editor of Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6336 or caroline.c@portcitydaily.com. On Twitter: @cgcurran