For many people with developmental disabilities, the elderly, and individuals with cognitive disorders, the only option for managing everyday life is guardianship. Through this legal process, the court appoints someone to handle the financial and personal affairs for someone who is unable to make responsible decisions in these areas. According to AARP estimates, there are 1.3 million adults who are currently the ward in a guardianship case. They have been stripped of almost all authority to manage their own lives, even in cases where they clearly have capacity to participate – though perhaps they need assistance.
A recent construct that is gaining ground in the legal field is supported decision-making (SDM). The term refers to a written agreement or an arrangement created by contract, which empowers disabled individuals to help them make choices. SDMA is not available in all situations, and it may not be suitable even when it is an option. Therefore, you should consult with an attorney, and read on for some helpful points.
How SDM Works
This approach to care allows the elderly and disabled to retain legal and decision-making capacity by working with supporters that help them make choices. The individual selects advisers that serve both personal and financial interests, such as parents and family members. There may also be a need for health care providers, attorneys, and banking professionals.
These supporters help the person understand the issue, consider options, and communicate, so he or she has the information necessary to make responsible decisions.
Strategies for SDM
The details regarding an SDM arrangement vary, since the elderly or disabled person’s needs and level of care are the focus. To achieve the goals of supported decision-making, tactics may include:
- Conversations about the topic;
- Creating lists of pros and cons;
- Role-playing and acting out different scenarios;
- Assistance with scheduling daily routines, activities, and appointments;
- Establishing joint bank accounts to manage income and spending; and,
- Keeping a joint journal.
Checks in Place with SDM
There can be concerns about the role and duties of supporters, but the arrangement encompasses internal checks and balances to reduce the potential for abuses. Supporters work together and are in constant communication with each other as they assist and advise. Especially when SDM involves financial choices, it is often recommended to have a monitor oversee all activities by supporters.
In most SDM arrangements, supporters will evaluate the individual’s needs as they fit into two categories: What the person can handle on their own, as separate from the decisions where they need advice. The objective is to enable as much independence as possible in appropriate areas, while providing guidance where more support is required.
Discuss Options with an Elder and Family Law Attorney Today
Supported decision-making is an emerging area of law in many ways, but the concept that individuals have the right to participate in management of their lives is long-standing. For more information on SDM agreements, please contact Francois Williams Legal LLC to schedule a consultation.