By Arthur Z. Schwartz
Last month I wrote about a woman referred to my office by WestView who, besides being terrorized by her landlord, had been contacted by Adult Protective Services (APS) and was now more scared of APS putting her in a nursing home than she was of her landlord.
APS, which is part of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, is supposed to help New Yorkers who are no longer children who have problems handling everyday life tasks. The idea is good, especially for elderly New Yorkers who have no nearby family or who suffer from dementia and need some help. The problem with APS is that they are often called by landlords, who want APS to help them get rid of elderly tenants in rent-regulated apartments. Often elderly tenants have a tendency to collect lots of paper and tchotchkes, or not to clean properly, and landlords use that as an excuse to call APS in the hope that APS will get a guardian appointed who will move the senior to a nursing home.
But APS can act only after it does a home visit and assesses someone. Even then, the person who APS wants to provide services to can appeal for a fair hearing.
Last month I received three calls about people being visited by APS, and one who got a Fair Hearing Notice. It is imperative that people who get these visits contact someone to help and advocate for them. Having one’s life taken over by a guardian—usually some super-busy social services agency—is not a good thing if there is an alternative.
And our local elected officials must do more. Volunteer help is available and can be made more available. Senior Villagers have a right to live out their lives at home, even if they need a little help.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is President of Advocates for Justice, a non-profit legal foundation which has represented seniors being victimized by landlords in our community.