Assistance As We Age – Supported Decision-Making Agreements

One of the more difficult challenges my sister and I dealt with as my mother began to show signs of Alzheimer’s Disease was finding the balance between respecting my mother’s dignity and autonomy and keeping her safe and secure.

This last spring, the Texas Legislature added an additional tool to help maintain that balance. It is a statutory form called the “Supported Decision-Making Agreement.” The purpose of the completed form is to allow an adult person with a disability (physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities) to empower a family or a trusted friend to help with important life decisions. The family or trusted friend is called a “supporter.”

These important life decisions, as the new law sets, include decisions related to where the adult wants to live, the services, supports, and medical care the adult wants to receive, whom the adult wants to live with, and where the adult wants to work, without impeding the self-determination of the adult.

The supporter does not make decisions for the adult, but helps the adult to make important life decisions by 1) assisting the adult in identifying, acquiring and helping understand necessary information; 2) helping the adult in understanding the options and consequences of these life decisions; and 3) communicating the adult’s decision to the appropriate persons.

Unlike financial or medical powers of attorney or guardianships, the Supported Decision-Making Agreement does not give the supporter the power to act on behalf of the adult or make decisions – only to support the adult’s decision-making process. Although the form authorizes the supporter to assist the adult in accessing health care information, a HIPAA Authorization form may also be needed.

For a copy of the legislation creating the Supported Decision-Making Agreement and the agreement itself, click Here

For more information on release of medical information and HIPAA waiver forms click here.

For information on powers of attorney and other important forms, click here.

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