Alzheimer's Advocate: Lawyer focuses on 'compassionate' approach for clients with dementia



By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When attorney Dan Kosmowski’s father was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2009, Kosmowski began a journey that led him to change not only his life, but his entire legal practice. 

Kosmowski’s father Bernie, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from frontotemporal dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder, bounced between seven assisted living facilities in five years. 

“It was only through the help of many people that we learned what Dad specifically needed to feel comfortable and safe, which reduced his negative behaviors,” Kosmowski says.  

Kosmowski, who is his father’s guardian and conservator, found help and tools from the Alzheimer’s Association - Greater Michigan Chapter. The Alzheimer’s Association helped him support and care for his dad, who came to live with him two years ago. Everything around his father had to be structured, from furniture to scheduling food, and travel and physical activities were tailored around his abilities.
“I was 29 when my father was diagnosed,” Kosmowski says. “With such a rare dementia, there were only a few of my peers that could understand my situation. The Alzheimer’s Association helped me connect with others in my peer group, and provided the educational resources to understand what help my father needed.”

After a decade of coping with day-to-day issues and the unknown future, Kosmowski revamped his law practice to focus on serving people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and their families. He has adopted many things he learned from the Alzheimer’s Association – Greater Michigan Chapter into his practice, Brain Care Law PLLC in Bloomfield Hills, launched in August 2014. 

With a slogan, “Caring For Your Loved Ones Like I've Cared For My Own,” Kosmowski focuses on legal, medical, social, financial and housing topics, developing creative and compassionate solutions for his clients.

His work includes opening, administering and closing estates for personal injury clients; drafting and filing estate conservatorship annual accountings and petitions to use funds; drafting estate planning documents, including powers of attorney, wills, and trusts; identifying and managing supportive housing and services for brain injured clients; special needs planning to preserve government benefits; and public speaking on the needs of individuals with brain injuries.

“I’m passionate about helping out families and individuals along the journey of dementia and other brain injuries,” says Kosmowski, who recently was featured in content at Urban
Aging, a quarterly newspaper focusing on issues impacting older people. “I want families to avoid the mistakes our family made—families should have a thorough estate plan before crisis strikes.

“Even with a dementia diagnosis, we should still value and support our elders,” he adds. “I encourage families to be positive. I get so much joy out of caring for my father and getting to know him better.”

As a solo practitioner, Kosmowski enjoys the ability to be creative in growing his law practice. 

“As I wrestle with all of the administrative tasks, I’m working to build and grow something larger than just myself,” he says.

An only child, Kosmowski found his father’s diagnosis brought the two closer together.  

“By my early teens, my father’s issues from Vietnam became clearer and he stopped discussing his war stories with me,” he says.  “Over the next 20 years, our lives radically changed, but I’m proud to give back to my father by helping him.”

Kosmowski is a member of his local American Legion’s auxiliary chapter, where he enjoys meeting Vietnam veterans who are willing to share their experiences, and whose conversations help him better understand his father’s Vietnam experiences and struggles.

“We should remember our Vietnam veterans,” he says. “My father was drafted in 1966, and earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in action in Vietnam. He never received a welcome home, and his untreated issues from the war worsened over the past 50 years. Only recently did the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize his service-connected problems. While I wish we had the VA support earlier, I’m thankful we have it. All veterans, especially Vietnam era, should look at the resources they have earned with their service.”

A 2017 Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Star, Kosmowski earned his undergrad degree in mechanical engineering in 2004 from Wayne State University, magna cum laude, and worked at Nissan, and at DENSO International America before making a career change.

“I started my automotive engineering career in 2005. By 2008, there was such uncertainty about the automotive industry and I began seeing the cutbacks sweeping across the industry,” he says. “Studying law added a unique skillset to an engineer’s mindset—engineering was black and white, while law taught me that human nature is captured in shades of gray.  I enjoyed the exposure to opportunities outside of engineering. I learned to be an advocate, a clearer writer and better public speaker, and to appreciate that facts are relative.”  

Kosmowski earned his juris doctorate, cum laude, from Wayne Law in 2013, where he was a member of Law Review, Order of the Coif, a finalist in the Student Trial Advocacy Program, a member of the Wayne Intellectual Property Student Association, recipient of several scholarships—and also met his fiancée at law school. He clerked for Young Basile, was a judicial intern for Chief Judge Gerald Rosen in Detroit, and a summer associate at Miller Canfield.

The Dearborn native owned a Ford Historic Home for seven years before moving to Pontiac, where he now lives in the Lafayette Lofts, a historic department store converted to lofts. 

“I’m a big fan of historic buildings and cities,” he says. “I lived in a church as a caretaker in Midtown Detroit during my engineering studies. I was involved in Detroit architectural photography before it became cool, and I volunteered on committees to save the Hudson’s and Book-Cadillac buildings.”