An Invaluable Resource for Caregivers

worried man talking on phone

Diego Hernandez* has his hands full. His 87-year-old mother, Maria*, who lives with his family in a Bronx apartment, was diagnosed with severe Alzheimer’s disease. Her condition has steadily declined to the point where she now requires 24/7 care. Diego loves his mother and is committed to her care, but he often feels overwhelmed.

On top of assisting Maria with her Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) – everything from preparing food to dispensing medication to helping her transfer from her bed to a chair – Diego is also a parent himself with two sons who depend on him. He is being pulled in a million different directions, juggling endless tasks and challenges, while coping with the enormous emotional toll his mother’s deteriorating health has taken on the family. Diego is grateful for a home health aide Medicaid provides, but the limited hours are not enough to provide for all of Maria's needs, leaving Diego to care for her himself when the aides are not there.

One particularly difficult day, Diego reached out to a neighborhood social service provider for help. On Diego’s behalf, a professional there then contacted PG's Guardianship Prevention and Support Helpline, a free resource for anyone seeking general information about Article 81 guardianship, alternatives to guardianship, or referrals to other organizations.

Managing Attorney Annabelle Duggan, who runs the Helpline with Staff Attorney Anne P. Meyer, answered the call. While listening to Diego’s story, Annabelle learned that he was interested in potentially becoming his mother’s legal guardian, a move that would give him more authority to effectively care for her, but he wasn’t sure what to do next. Annabelle thoroughly outlined the process of Article 81 guardianship and put together helpful resources for Diego, including a step-by-step guide from CUNY Law School, information on applying for a fee waiver, and a list of respite programs that give over-extended caregivers short-term relief.

The conversation about Diego’s situation is one of more than 650 exchanges Annabelle and Anne have facilitated since the Helpline launched a year ago. Every weekday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., callers seeking guidance on a wide range of topics related to guardianship have the opportunity to speak directly with a caring and knowledgeable expert. (Callers may also email the Helpline or leave a message on the PG website).

“The Helpline is currently the only one-stop place for comprehensive guardianship information in New York,” Anne noted. “Our goal is to educate people and provide them with resources about every aspect of the guardianship process, while also making them aware of all possible guardianship alternatives, so they can make the most informed decisions on how best to help an individual in need.” 

As the U.S. population ages and life expectancy increases, cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are also on the rise. For the countless relatives, friends, and neighbors concerned about a loved one’s cognitive decline, it is no surprise that Annabelle and Anne find themselves busier than ever. Thanks to PG’s Helpline, desperately needed support for caregivers like Diego is just a phone call away.

To Contact the PG Guardianship Prevention and Support Helpline:
Phone: (718) 750-8474
Helpline Program Flyer

During the month of June, Project Guardianship is spotlighting the critical work of caregivers. Get involved by honoring the caregivers in your life by making a donation to Project Guardianship. Donate here 

* “Diego Hernandez” and “Maria” are pseudonyms for a Project Guardianship Helpline caller and his family member. Project Guardianship maintains the privacy and protects the identity of, and all information related to, individuals who contact the PG helpline and their loved ones as well as our clients.