Q: In my Upper West Side co-op, a rent-stabilized apartment on my floor is occupied by an older couple, one of whom is suffering from advanced dementia. This morning, the woman opened my apartment door, which was briefly left unlocked, and I found her standing in my living room! I was able to gently escort her back to her apartment. Building management says that they have spoken to the city’s Adult Protective Services, which has investigated and declined to act. This is a terrible situation — there are no interested family members, and the couple is often unbathed and walking the halls. What can we do?
A: Involving building management, as you have done, can be helpful, replies the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. And remember that there's security in numbers. If the building's management and co-op board receive reports from several shareholders and tenants, and then passes them on to Adult Protective Services (APS), caseworkers can get a better idea of what is going on. (APS is a city agency that provides help for physically or mentally impaired adults.)
“It’s good for APS to know that there’s multiple concerns coming in from multiple different people,” says Jennifer Schranz, a licensed clinical social worker with the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. A confused resident wandering into someone else’s apartment is an important piece of information that APS should know. “You don’t want someone who is cognitively impaired to be entering your home,” Schranz says, adding that it could become a safety issue for both parties.
APS referrals can be made online or by calling the central intake unit at 718-557-1399, and should be made when someone is having physical or mental difficulties and cannot meet their basic needs. These referrals can be anonymous, and can be made by anyone with knowledge of the situation, or by the person in need.
In instances where people require help with meals or personal care, or a visitor to keep them company, New York City’s Department for the Aging has in-home services. A neighbor or family member can call Aging Connect at 212-AGING-NYC. People do need to consent to these services. Regular visits, for things like home-delivered meals or help with bathing, are a way to ensure that older adults remain physically and mentally fit, and services can be adjusted as people’s needs change.
Dementia professionals also staff help lines run by CaringKind and the New York City Elder Abuse Center, and they can offer advice, says Dina Patel, a geriatric psychiatrist on staff at the Elder Abuse Center.
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