How did you make decisions in the last month? Did you get advice about a medical procedure, google information about car repairs, or talk to your best friend about a relationship issue? We all get support for decision-making. Why can’t the same be true for a person with a disability?

An Alternative to Guardianship

Arc of the United States, the National Guardianship Association, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), and others have released position statements agreeing that less restrictive alternatives, including supported decision making, should be considered prior to guardianship.

Families want to protect their family member with a disability from exploitation and harm and are often led towards guardianship by trusted professionals. Unfortunately, guardianship is a quick fix that may or may not address the issues of concern. Additionally, guardianship can have a significant impact on self-esteem and quality of life if the person loses all ability to make decisions about what is important to them.

It is our responsibility to help everyone understand how we can help an individual with skill gaps make informed decisions. There are less restrictive formal options including power of attorney, conservatorship, representative payee, and others. There are also a variety of informal strategies that families can use to build decision-making skills while limiting risk for their family members including joint banking accounts, smart phone apps and other technologies, and identifying trusted advisors who will offer advice and support.

Recently, the Missouri legislature passed revised language to the Missouri Guardianship statute that went into effect on August 28, 2018. The new language requires existing guardians and individuals seeking guardianship to consider less restrictive alternatives to guardianship before deeming a person incompetent.

For more information on guardianship please join us for one of our upcoming workshops – Supported Decision Making on October 4, 2018 and Guardianship and Alternatives on November 15, 2018. You can also learn more about decision making options for your family member at The Alternatives to Guardianship Project.