Making your own decisions about how you want to live your life may be important to you, and it may be equally as important to those you love. In Texas, you have the option to obtain a guardianship over someone who is unable to care for themselves or their finances in some cases, but this guardianship takes away some of their civil rights. If you have a loved one who cannot make their own decisions due to an intellectual or developmental impairment (ID/DD), an alternative to guardianship is supported decision-making.
Supported decision-making is a relatively new, groundbreaking change in the way caregiving is approached in difficult situations involving the intellectually or developmentally impaired. It is different from guardianship because it leaves the right to make decisions with the individual. This is unlike guardianship, in which the guardian makes decisions on a person’s behalf. For example, in guardianship, someone with an intellectual disability, which may include dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or Down Syndrome, will lose direct control of their choices. While they may say they would like to work at a particular retail outlet or begin a new hobby, their guardian would need to approve that request.
In a situation with support decision-making, that’s not a problem. Instead of making decisions for the person with an intellectual or developmental disability, the SDM helps them feel supported in making decisions for themselves.
What Kinds of Alternatives to Guardianships Are There In Texas?
Supported decision-making is one kind of alternative, but it’s not the only type. Some other forms that you may want to consider for your loved one may include:
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (essentially a financial power of attorney)
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Joint checking accounts
- Living Wills/Trusts
- Community advocacy systems
All of these can be beneficial to someone with an intellectual or developmental deficiency.
What Is the Process for Setting Up an SDM?
Someone who wants to use the SDM process will choose trusted loved ones, professionals, and family to serve as their supporters. Those individuals will not obtain guardianship powers. Instead, they will agree to work with the person with an ID/DD to understand their decisions, communicate those decisions, and consider them before going through with them.
As a support system, everyone works as a team to help the person with an ID/DD weigh the pros and cons of their decisions. The support team may help the person with an ID/DD work with third parties or carry out arrangements that allow them to make changes in their life.
Before an SDM goes into effect, all parties involved must sign an SDM agreement to understand their responsibilities and rights.
What Are the Benefits of SDM?
SDM is beneficial because it gives a person with a disability more control over their own life. Instead of a caregiver approach, this is a rights-based approach. With SDM, the person with an ID/DD doesn’t lose their civil rights. They retain the right to:
It’s also good to use SDM because it can prepare a person to make decisions for themselves if their caregivers or loved ones cannot be there for them in the future.
Is an SDM Agreement Legal in Texas?
The Supported Decision-Making Act governs an SDM agreement in Chapter 1357 of the Texas Estates Code. This agreement is designed to help accommodate and support individuals with disabilities as they decide where they live, the medical care they receive, and the support they want. The goal is never to impede the individual’s ability to make their own decisions at any time.
If you have had doubts about guardianships, a Supported Decision-Making arrangement may be what you are looking for. Find a trusted Guardianship attorney to help you explore the alternatives to guardianship.