Aging and Disability Explainers

The Government Law Center publishes explainers—short policy papers—designed to help policymakers and others understand the complex laws relating to older adults and people with disabilities.  Each explainer briefly reviews the law on a specific topic, and provides links to further resources. 

Supported Decision-making and Supported Decision-making Agreements

By Rose Mary Bailly
May 25, 2022, updated August 3, 2022

Anyone who has have ever sought advice from a friend or family member before buying a car, a pair of running shoes, or even a jar of pasta sauce, has engaged in supported decision-making.  It is part of everyday life.  Whether seeking advice of friends or ‘going it alone”, most adults don’t give their decision-making process a second thought.  Adults are presumed to have the “legal capacity” to make decisions.

Adult Protective Services

By Rose Mary Bailly
July 28, 2020

Adult Protective Services, sometimes called Protective Services for Adults, is a program mandated by New York Law. This explainer examines eligibility for Adult Protective Services, its work, and how it balances autonomy with protection.

Guardianship for Adults with Development Disabilities

By Rose Mary Bailly
July 21, 2020

A guardian for an adult is appointed by a court to make decisions for an individual found by the court to be unable to make their own financial and personal care decisions. This explainer describes the two guardianship statutes and highlights their differences. 

Healthcare Proxies

By Rose Mary Bailly
January 27, 2020

Competent adults have the right to decide what medical treatment they want. Achieving their desired treatment may be difficult when patients lose decision-making capacity.  Patients can plan for this potential difficulty by executing a health care proxy which authorizes their agent to act on the incapable patient's behalf. This explainer examines the rules governing health care proxies.

"Act Now" Healthcare Proxies

By Paul Kietzman
January 27, 2020

In 2008, a law was enacted authorizing a Simplified Health Care Proxy demonstration project for the care system overseen by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).  The project would develop a healthcare proxy form allowing a person to appoint a health care agent to act immediately.  This explainer describes how the "act now" healthcare proxy differs from a traditional health care proxy, the policy behind the 2008 law, and the reasons why the long-delayed project should be undertaken. 

Hospital Ethics Committees

By Cassandra Rivais DiNova
January 17, 2020

A hospital ethics committee also called an ethics review committee, is a body composed of individual members who offer support and guidance about ethical issues that arise in patient care in the hospital setting.  This explainer provides historical background on the creation of hospital ethics committees and explains their role in hospitals today.

New York State Justice Center for the Protections of People with Special Needs

By Rose Mary Bailly
January 27, 2020, updated April 27, 2021

The New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs was created in 2013 to standardize oversight of the care of vulnerable people receiving services in hundreds of programs operated, licensed, or certified by six New York State agencies.  This explainer described the scope of the Center's authority to respond to allegations of abuse, neglect, and other significant incidents that occur in these programs.