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Deciding for Yourself

February 4, 2019

 By Melissa Keyes, Legal Director

We all make decisions every day. And whether we realize it or not, every decision we make follows a similar process - we are presented with an issue, we think about the potential options and consequences, we plan a course of action, and we communicate or follow through with our choice. Sometimes this process might be quick and we don't even realize we are doing it - for example when we are deciding what to wear that day. Other times, especially with more complex choices like choosing a place to live, we take our time - we are more deliberate. We may ask for someone's advice, we may research our options, but regardless of what tools we use, we are generally empowered to make our own choices and have those choices respected.

But what happens if you need help making decisions? Historically, you could appoint someone to help make decisions for you through a Power of Attorney or you might have someone appointed by a court to make decisions for you under guardianship.  Now there is another option – Supported Decision-Making (SDM).

SDM, in its simplest understanding, is a way to help or accommodate you through the decision-making process so that you still get to make the final decision. Whether it’s explaining complex information in a way you can understand, helping you determine what information to consider, or understanding the pros and cons of possible consequences, there are many ways to help support or accommodate the decision-making process so that you can make the final decision.

Using support to make a decision isn’t a new concept – it is how many of us make decisions every day. The formalization of it – writing down what help you need in a Supported Decision-Making Agreement is a new concept.  Having a written agreement allows for you and your supporters to be on the same page about what help you need.  A written document could also be used to let people like doctors or service providers know that you have made a decision with support.

To learn more about SDM and other options for adulthood, please click here to visit Indiana Disability Rights' website dedicated to SDM.