Aging individuals suffering debilitating effects of mental decline often means family members will obtain legal guardianship of them. Those without relatives are dependent on strangers to identify and resolve their needs.

Even as a child, Mordechai Lichtenstein thought he might like to practice law. By the time he was in college, he was sure.

“I have always enjoyed the intellectual and analytical aspects of the law,” said Lichtenstein, adding he has a history of standing up and taking care of the underrepresented.

After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, Lichtenstein prosecuted child abuse cases in New York for 10 years. He also served on then Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2005 campaign.

“I served as mayor Bloomberg’s Jewish liaison,” he said. “We did outreach, rallies and grassroots work, anything that related to the mayoral campaign and the Jewish community.”

Lichtenstein never strayed from his passion for the underserved. A year ago, he came to Cleveland, where he started his firm dedicated to helping a vulnerable segment of the adult population.

“Guardian Connection is a comprehensive provider of legal guardian services … we represent people with mental incompetency or some kind of mental illness that would prevent them from making their own decisions,” he said. “We focus on elder care and legal guardianship.

“It has been exciting to build up something from scratch and find our niche,” he said.

Many of Lichtenstein’s clients don’t have family willing or able to make financial decisions that would serve the client well.

“Sometimes, family members are living out of state, or the client does not have any relatives,” he said. “We work with hospitals, nursing homes and families who need guidance.”

Lichtenstein remembers his first elder care case, which began shortly after a nursing home representative asked him to visit one of its residents in need of a guardian.

“I went to the home to see the resident,” he recalled. “She had dementia. At the end of our conversation, she walked me to the door and blew kisses at me. I was later told that she had not had a single visitor in 10 months.”

The story serves as a reminder to Lichtenstein as to why he started Guardian Connection.

“I enjoy the work,” said Lichtenstein, who also works with the probate court system representing patients in cases of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization.

The work has no affiliation with Guardian Connection.

“I am appointed by the courts to represent the patient,” he said. “I pick up such cases when I am available … these patients are unable to make their own decisions.”

Jill McCullough is a freelance writer.

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