Guardianship, utilized when a person can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about his/her person and/or property or has become susceptible to fraud or undue influence. Because establishing a guardianship may remove considerable rights from an individual, it should only be considered after alternatives to guardianship have proven ineffective or are unavailable.
Alternatives to Guardianship may include:
Representative payee; allowing someone else to assist with your finances, pay your bills, manage your benefits (if applicable) and provide assistance in an attempt to keep a person free from abuse and neglect.
Case/care management; in many cases the DDA case manager becomes a person to assist with IEP issues, living issues and providing resources and guidance on living, financial and social needs. The case manager may also be the manager in the home an individual lives in.
Health care surrogacy; with some individuals, health care can involve life and death decisions. A health care surrogate can assist with communicating the needs, desires and wishes of a person, in some cases better than the individual themselves. A health care surrogate is an adult you authorize to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make them.
Trusts; in Washington state we are fortunate to have the Developmental Disability Life Opportunity Trust managed by The Arc of Washington. Money can be placed in this trust or contributed by the person themselves to cover future needs. We all know that if an individual receives SSA benefits their liquid resource amount cannot exceed $2,000. A DDLOT is a one way to put money aside and avoid losing benefits.
Durable powers of attorney for property; another way to assist an individual would be to have them sign a power of attorney to assist with major life decisions. Forms can be downloaded or purchased at your local office supply store.
Durable powers of attorney for health care; again this might be an option to provide extra support to an individual who needs assistance making major health care decisions.
Community advocacy systems; connection to advocacy systems life People First, your local Arc or your local church can help individuals develop a sense of community and belonging. Community groups help an individual avoid isolation and the change of being taken advantage of.
Joint checking accounts; another way to protect a person’s financial security would be to open an account together. The convenience of the 21st century is that you could check the account online and assist your loved one with sound financial decisions or avoid costly mistakes.
Supported Decision Making is a concept designed to assist individuals with disabilities to authorize a surrogate decision-maker (s) to hold the individual with decisions in the areas of health, living arrangements and lifestyle. The approach aims to maximize the autonomy and independence. Supported decision making empowers individuals with disabilities by ensuring that they are the ultim
ate decision-maker but are provided support from one or more others, giving them the assistance they need to make decisions for themselves.
Resources that may be helpful:
Informing Families Building Trust
Disability Rights Washington
National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making
National Guardianship Association