When someone has a physical or mental condition which interferes with his or her ability to make decisions, it can be difficult.  While fostering an individual’s independent choices is important it is also vital that he or she receives the care they need. One option is to ask that another person be appointed as the individual’s guardian.  However, there is a less restrictive alternative.  Through supported decision making it may be possible to promote the individual’s autonomy when it comes to their care.Michigan Son and Father Talking about Supported Decision Making

Supported Decision-Making

Supported decision-making is a model for assisting those who have a cognitive impairment or other disability to make important decisions regarding their lives.  This approach involves having different factors in place to empower the individual to have as much independence in making choices as possible.  These supports could be family, friends, medical and other professionals, community programs, religious organizations, and other resources which can help the individual understand their options.

Guardianship, by contrast, is a legal process which involves the individual or “ward” being evaluated and a court deciding if someone should be named to become their legal guardian.  Once a guardian is appointed, that person will make decisions regarding where the ward lives, about their medical care, and in some cases end-of-life decisions. 

While supported decision-making allows the individual more freedom to make choices regarding their home and care, guardianship takes this authority from the ward.  However, deciding which approach is the best for the individual will depend on their circumstances. If the individual’s impairment is such that they can reasonably communicate with their support system and make informed choices, supported decision-making seems to be a favorable option.  However, not everyone will have the capacity to direct these decisions even with a support structure in place.  In that instance, guardianship may be appropriate. 

Making sure someone has adequate care while maintaining independence can be complicated.  We have experience and knowledge which can help as you consider these and other option for your loved one.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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