People can get help with decision-making even if they don’t have a legal guardian. This happens all the time, when people ask family and friends for advice before they make important choices. However, it is possible to make this advice-giving process a more formal one. A person with a disability can designate one or more people as their official supporters. They can then ask those supporters for advice whenever a decision needs to be made. An official supported decision-making agreement can even be created. This document gives the names of the supporters and describes the kind of advice they are allowed to give—advice on financial matters, health care issues, safety issues, living arrangements, etc. It is important to remember, though, that this is not like a guardianship. The ultimate choice on what to do remains with the person who has the disability, no matter what kind of advice the supporters give. For more information on supported decision-making, please visit the Center for Public Representation’s Supported Decision-Making website at https://supporteddecisions.org/, or The Arc of Texas’s document at https://www.thearcoftexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Supported_Decision_Making_For_Families_2016-06.pdf.
Disability Rights Pennsylvania has developed a guide entitled “Consent, Capacity, and Substitute Decision-Making.” The purpose of the guide is to help people with disabilities and their families be better informed about the important issues related to decision-making and thus assure that this right is protected for all. It includes chapters on consent and capacity to make decisions, health care decision-making, powers of attorney, guardianships, and trusts.