Choosing Your Supporters

The Person Who is Supporting Matters

For most people, having choice and control over their daily lives is deeply important, and many people with disabilities have not had access to making everyday choices and decisions. Supported Decision-Making offers an opportunity to change this reality. People with and without disabilities can get assistance making decisions about health care, life choices, and financial matters without giving up the right to be in control of their lives. Supporters are an important part in getting the help you need to lead the life you choose. There are many things to consider when choosing supporters.

Video Description: Beatrice makes it clear how her supporters provide her with what she needs to manage her health care

How Do I Choose a Supporter?

When choosing supporters, the person going through the Supported Decision-Making Process should make sure that the supporter:

  1. Believes in your ability to make your own decisions
  2. Is someone you chose
  3. Knows you well
  4. Know how you learn
  5. Ensure that the person using Supported Decision-Making has what they need to make an informed choice, and
  6. Knows where to find information and other supports

Supporters can be found in many places such as:

  • Family
  • Co-Workers
  • Neighbors
  • Faith Community Members
  • Classmates
  • Team Members

Questions for Choosing Supporters

Supporters should be people you trust who believe in you, and they might be people who know about the decision you are trying to make.  These questions can help you think about who would be a good supporter for you.

  • Does my supporter know a lot about the area or areas I want support in?
  • Will my supporter be able to help me with all the decisions I need help with?
  • If you need help understanding a money problem, who could you ask?
  • Does anyone help you at medical appointments?
  • Who can you talk to about serious things?
  • Who do you trust with your personal information?
  • Who understands your disability and how it affects your life?
  • Who helps you understand when you are confused or scared about something?

A Sample Letter You Can Send to Your Supporter

Dear Supporter,

        I am in the process of documenting my Supported Decision-Making (SDM) plan. This procedure replaces guardianship. You may or may not know that guardianship strips a person of all their rights and declares them incompetent. I am not incompetent, but I need support. I am asking if you will sign on as one of my supporters. As a supporter, I may need you to do any of the following when I am making a decision: 

  • Help with obtaining information, 
  • Help with understanding information 
  • Help understanding and comparing available various alternatives 
  • Help executing the decision I have made 
  • Help communicating my decision appropriately.
If you are willing to be a supporter and be called on when I need to make a decision, or to be part of my primary decision-making team, please let me know. When my plan is finalized, all of my supporters will review it with me and be able to sign on as a supporter. Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Sourced from SARTAC

What do you want supporters to know?

What do you need from supporters?

A group of folks with disabilities came up with this list of what they want and need from supporters:

  • Help us (only when we ask)
  • Listen to us
  • Transportation
  • Assist us–Don’t do everything for us
  • Don’t take over!
  • Respect us
  • Help us understand things
  • Give us guidance/direction/advice
  • Give us encouragement
  • Motivate us
  • Get out of our way
  • Don’t control everything that we do
  • Respect choices even when you don’t like them
  • Slow things down
  • Remind us of past successes
Graphic with Quotes about the Role of Family Members in Supported Decision-Making

What should supporters keep in mind?

The same group provided the following list to their family members:

  • Understand us and help us say what we need to participate
  • Know us well
  • Help us understand things
  • Know when to back off
  • Don’t protect us too much
  • Don’t embarrass us