Care planning can be facilitated with a new legal tool called 'Supported Decision Making Authorization'

Care planning helps if you lose your ability to make good choices for your own personal care or if you no longer feel as confident as you were in making personal care decisions or discussing your personal care with service providers.

Recent changes to legislation have created a new advance care planning document called a Supported Decision Making Authorization. This document allows you to designate someone close to you as a supporter. Your supporter can help you understand the information relevant to a particular personal care decision and help you make the best decision for your circumstances. Then your supporter can communicate your decision to the relevant parties for you.

Say, for example, that your doctor is asking you to make a treatment decision in a complex health matter, and you feel overwhelmed by all the information your doctor has given you. Your supporter can ask your doctor questions on your behalf, help you sort out the relevant information, assist in weighing your options to make the best decision, and then explain your decision to your doctor on your behalf.

Or, say, that you need to move into an assisted living facility and you want to make sure you choose the right facility to suit your needs. Your supporter can contact facilities on your behalf to find out about their services and amenities. Your supporter can also discuss your situation with your health care providers to get their opinion on the most suitable facility. Once you have made a decision, your supporter can communicate with the facility on your behalf to ensure that all the necessary information has been supplied and all the necessary paperwork completed.

Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Supported Decision Making Authorization as a part of care planning is that it allows your supporter to access your confidential information from service providers. Normally, privacy laws would prevent your doctor from revealing any of your personal information to your family or friends, but if you have designated someone as your supporter, your doctor is obliged to share your personal information with that person.

One limitation to keep in mind is that your supporter is only authorized to access information relevant to personal care decisions, not financial decisions. Your supporter would not be able to access confidential information from your bank or from the Canada Revenue Agency, for example.

If there is more than one person whose support you value, you can designate up to three people as your supporters. Any or all of your supporters can gather information on your behalf, help you make decisions, and communicate your decisions for you.

You can terminate the Supported Decision Making Authorization at any time by signing a Termination of Authorization form. Your supporter’s authority would also be terminated if you were found mentally incapable of making your own personal care decisions. At that point, your personal directive would come into effect and the person(s) appointed under that document to make your personal care decisions would assume responsibility.

The Supported Decision Making Authorization is a valuable tool for ensuring that you get the support you need to make fully informed decisions regarding your personal care and to effectively communicate them. It can be useful for yourself, your parents or any other person who could benefit from it.

The Supported Decision Making Authorization form and the Termination form are both available on the Alberta Seniors Supports website at:- http://humanservices.alberta.ca/guardianship-trusteeship/agta-form01-authorization.html

You might also want to consult your lawyer for advice on completing the form. If you are a lower-income senior and you have questions about the Supported Decision Making Authorization or other advance care planning documents, you can contact the Elder Law Program at Calgary Legal Guidance for information and advice.

By Natalie J. Simpson, Elder Law Program Lawyer at Calgary Legal Guidance.