A teen or young adult may be able to make decisions in different areas of daily life, including health issues. Sometimes the teen or young adult can make an informed decision, even a serious medical one, with some support. However, if your family member has difficulty understanding medical issues and making informed medical decisions, you may consider guardianship. As guardian you would be the one to make all medical decisions. This does not mean that you exclude your family member from the decision-making process. You should still help your family member understand the situation and listen to his or her concerns.
States vary in the types of guardianship available. There may be alternatives to full guardianship. That is, you could have guardianship in certain areas only, like healthcare decision-making. To help your family member be as independent as possible, you might consider these options. Check with your state developmental disabilities office to find out the options in your state. You can find your state office at:
Resources to help you learn more about guardianship include:
- Guardianship and Alternatives for Decision-Making Support (Got Transition)
- Understanding Guardianship and Alternatives for Decision-Making Support Webinar (Got Transition)
All adults, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are capable of making health care decisions, should appoint someone who will make decisions at times when they are unable to do so. An example is if you are unconscious or in a coma and a physician needs to do a procedure. Depending on what state you live in, this person is called a health care representative, agent, proxy or a medical power of attorney. States vary on the name and regulations related to appointing someone to speak for you. In many cases, you just need to sign and have a witness sign a document. Check with your state’s Department of Health.