Supported Decision Making
Guardianship deprives an individual of virtually all legal rights to make decisions and choices. The decision-making ability of persons with disabilities (including older individuals with dementia) is often too quickly questioned and discounted. In many cases, courts appoint guardians for people who could continue to make their own decisions with the right supports and services. The American Bar Association has long been committed to advocating for less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. The ABA Commission on Law and Aging’s PRACTICAL Tool is a guide for lawyers to implement less restrictive decision-making options for persons with disabilities. Traditionally, less restrictive alternatives take the form of surrogate decision-making, with a designated decision-maker making the final decision.
Recently, supported decision-making (SDM) has emerged as a cutting edge alternative to guardianship, placing the individual with a disability at the center of the decision-making process. Supported decision-making describes the process by which most individuals make decisions - by consulting with friends, family, social services, community organizations, and and/or other sources of support to weigh the pros and cons of a decision, review potential outcomes, and finally make a choice. The practice of supported decision-making takes many forms - from recognition of organic decision-making networks to formal, written supported decision-making agreements.
SDM is gaining support among practitioners, courts and state legislatures. It has been recognized and endorsed by the Administration for Community Livingof the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which funds the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making and has gained international recognition, notably in the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)