Accessing Self-determination Throughout Life’s Hurdles

George* (he/him/his) was an MTA employee and subway conductor until a workplace accident in the mid-90s left him with a cognitive impairment and severe speech impediment. When PG was appointed to be his guardian in 2011, George needed urgent support with housing, public benefits, and medical care. 

PG assigned George a multidisciplinary team—including a lawyer, case manager, and finance associate—and got to work. We paid his rent and other outstanding bills, and configured automatic payments to avoid future penalties; we checked to make sure he was receiving worker’s compensation, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and pension benefits each month; and we enrolled him in Medicare. We also scheduled and began to accompany George to medical appointments, stepping in to act as his advocate where needed.

While PG’s services improved George’s housing, financial, and health outlook, he talked often about his identity as a second-generation MTA employee and expressed a longing to go back to work—an impossibility due to his health condition. PG took extra steps to make sure that George was fulfilled in other aspects of his social life. We often accompanied him to the Transit Museum and on subway rides, and joined with him in caring for his cats. We also encouraged and celebrated the ways in which George remained independent, including shopping for groceries and tending to his nutrition. 

In more recent years, George has developed hoarding tendencies and struggled to maintain a level of cleanliness at home. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, George’s hoarding worsened and his quality of life began to deteriorate. At one point, his building management company threatened to evict George. PG stepped in to mediate and worked closely with George to clean and organize his apartment over the course of several months. With George’s permission, we successfully discarded 15 bags of refuse from the home and joined with him in celebrating a fresh start.

As George ages, we anticipate that new health, housing, and financial challenges will arise. As his guardian, PG will continue to support George to age in his home and community, to seek medical care for health concerns as they arise, to manage his finances, and to partake in the activities of life that bring him joy.

* “George” is a pseudonym for a Project Guardianship client and the photo attached is a stock photo (and not an actual photo of “George”). Project Guardianship maintains the privacy and protects the identity of, and all information related to, its clients.