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What are they?

Supported Decision-Making Agreements are written agreements that give people the help they need to make choices about their lives. These choices could be about where to live, what to do during the day, how to spend money, or when to see a doctor.

How are they used?

Supported Decision-Making Agreements can help a person get the support they want, like getting information in words they can understand. If you have an agreement, supporters can help you find out what choices you have and help you learn more about the choices you have made. They can find ways for you to try out different choices, to see how you feel and which ones you like. If you want them to, supporters can remind you of important dates and come with you to meetings or appointments.

Why are they helpful?

Everyone uses support from others to make decisions. But older adults and people with disabilities may need more or different supports. Having a written agreement with your supporters that describes how you make decisions shows everyone that you are getting the support that is right for you. You don’t have to use your supporters’ help, if you want to make a decision without it. If you choose to use the support that is in the agreement to make a decision, other people have to treat the decision the same way they treat all decisions.   

Who can have them?

Anyone who wants support one can have a written agreement with people that they trust to help them think about their options, talk with others, or write applications or other forms. Supported Decision-Making Agreements are not only for people who experience disabilities or older Alaskans. You only need to be able to understand what the agreement is and what it does for it to have a legal effect.

How do you get them?

If you want to write a Supported Decision-Making Agreement by yourself without professional assistance, you should make sure you know what the law requires for the agreements to be done just right. If you want professional help writing the agreement and you experience a disability, several service provider agencies and legal service agencies are ready to help. If you are eligible for low-income legal services and want help writing an agreement, you should contact Alaska Legal Services Corporation for more information about your options. There are also lawyers that you can hire to help you write a Supported Decision-Making Agreement.

Who can be supporters?

A supporter should be someone who knows you well, and who will be helpful and available when you want to make a decision. Supporters can be people in your family or in your group of friends. They can be people in the community who have a lot of information about a part of your life or your choices, like a nurse or a teacher. There are a few rules about who can’t be a supporter in an agreement. Someone who can’t be around you or contact you because a court order stops them from doing that can’t be your supporter. Someone who is paid to provide you with a single service can’t be a supporter for choices that include the services they give you, like the manager of your group home can’t be a supporter for making decisions about where you should live (unless they are in your family). Someone who you work for in your job or who works for you can’t be your supporter for making decisions, unless they are in your family.

What does a supporter do?

In supported decision-making the supporter gives advice, information, or other help when you choose to use it. If you ask for a supporter’s help, the supporter does what you have described in the agreement to help. A good supporter respects your wishes. A good supporter listens and suggests ways to make your wishes happen. A supporter can’t make decisions for you and can’t sign your name on papers. Supporters can’t push you into making a decision that you don’t want to make. If a supporter needs to get your personal information to help you with your choices, you have to say that they can get it, first. And they can’t share that personal information with anyone else, unless you say that they can.

What if I have a guardian or a conservator?

If you have a guardian or a conservator, you can still have a Supported Decision-Making Agreement. If any part of the agreement has to do with things that your guardian or conservator decides for you, then your guardian has to consent to the agreement. Your guardian has to know that you are using the agreement to have other supporters help you make your choices. Your guardian has to sign the agreement for you to use it.

What if I have a representative payee for my Social Security benefits or have given someone a Power of Attorney?
A Supported Decision-Making Agreement doesn’t change whether you have a representative payee for making sure your Social Security benefits get used for basic needs. It also doesn’t change any authority that you have given to someone else through a power of attorney or medical directives.

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