Getting Guardianship or Power of Attorney for an elderly parent in NYC

To All,


My name is Todd P. and I live in NYC. My mother is in a nursing home and she has been diagnosed with Dementia. She ended up there due to a fall she had in her apartment. She had a short stay in a hospital (Where she was diagnosed with Dementia) and after her stay was transferred to a nursing home. Between my sister and myself we tried to gain access to her apartment to get paperwork that she would need for Medicaid and other things that she needs to have. However she lived in Public Housing and since my sister and myself were not on her lease Housing Police padlocked her door and we can't gain access to what we need to get for her.


Would it be better for us to get Legal Guardianship over her affairs since her social worker told us that she may not be able to understand the paperwork for Power of Attorney (Which I have already but haven't given to her)? And does anyone know what the process would be to attain the Legal Guardianship in NYC? Our funds are limited as for as getting a lawyer is concerned. Ant advise or avenues as far as steps we need to take will definitely be appreciated.

AARP Expert

@tpollins  - you've had some good advice from @JaneCares. I'd just add a few thoughts:

  • Did you suspect your mother had dementia before she fell and went to the hospital? Sometimes people experience Hospital delirium (also happens at nursing facilities) when they become very disoriented. I'd be sure that she really has dementia first of all. A GOOD evaluation from a neurologist and/or Alzheimer's clinic, brain scans etc. Make sure there isn't something else causing her confusion (medication interactions, thyroid imbalance, etc.). Here is an article on Hospital Delirium.  
  • I'd also suggest you have a consultation with an eldercare lawyer in NY. It's possible, depending on her level of dementia (if she in fact has an accurate diagnosis), that she could still sign power of attorney papers if she has "moments of lucidity". In some states it's possible to file for guardianship on your own "pro se". Maybe you could get a consultation from an Eldercare attorney and then submit the forms yourself to save money. Here are forms for NY
  • To find an eldercare attorney, you can contact the state unit on aging in NY (as Jane said), or:

I hope this helps and you get this figured out. Guardianship can be complicated and it does vary from state to state. Most of all I hope your mother is getting good care and accurate diagnosis and medications. Take care of yourself - this is all very stressful and emotional. You are doing a great job researching the options! Let us know if we can be of any further help!


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving



AARP Expert

Good morning, Todd!

Well you are in a right mess, aren't you? It's too late for Power of Attorney given the diagnosis of dementia. Guardianship is the path to go, i'm pretty sure. The nursing home she's in should be able to guide you somewhat: is there a social worker there? Or perhaps the administrator is familiar with this process? Most long term care facilities very much WANT to have a family member as next of kin with guardianship. 


I would try the following resources for help with this process: look up and put in her zip code (of her apartment), and then call the agency that pops up. Ask for information on obtaining guardianship for your mother who has dementia. I actually called up the Legal Aid Society of New York and when i got through the maze of press this for that and that for this, i got a live human who said they do not help with guardianship cases. So my guess is the area agency on aging through is your best first step. 


Start there and then write more? Your mother is blessed to have such dedicated children, and i wish it wasn't so hard.


My other thought at the moment is to call your congressional representative's constituent services person. Or other local government official. This is a matter of public benefits and rights, and there has to be a pathway forward.


Write more?



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