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Report: Improving legal options for incapacitated adults

As our population ages more and more families will have issues concerning the ability to take care of their loved ones. Over the years at LegalHealth, a division of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), a pattern has emerged at our hospital legal clinics. A family member of a patient will make an appointment to meet with an onsite attorney. They discuss a number of nonmedical issues that are negatively affecting the health of their family member. The attorneys will ask them if they are authorized under a power of attorney to act as their loved one’s agent, and only rarely will they have one. If a family member does not have the appropriate authorization under a power of attorney, there are sometimes options to help with financial and management issues.

However, in many situations, when there is no specific remedy, the primary option families have is petitioning the court for the appointment of a guardian. The appointment of a guardian is a complex, time consuming, and expensive legal process. In order to address this problem, we have conducted this needs assessment and developed these recommendations.


  • The extent of the problem in NYC medical facilities
  • What programs and services currently exist to assist families
  • The need for additional services for patients who lack capacity
    or who have diminished levels of capaciy

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