Karen Williams

ADA Australia

Using Supported Decision Making to Uphold the Rights of Consumers under an Enduring Power of Attorney

Wednesday 12 October 2022

3:00 – 3:30pm

Speaker Bio

Karen Williams began her professional life as a Social Worker in Health Services. This included: general medicine, rehabilitation, emergency department and community mental health services.

She subsequently trained as a lawyer and her practice included representing clients with questionable capacity at Tribunal hearings.

Karen is now the Principal Solicitor at ADA Law, having established the Community Legal Centre to provide legal advocacy for people who are having their decision-making capacity questioned or having problems negotiating with their decision maker.

Karen has also just begun her PhD(Innovation) journey, reviewing the journey of older Australians (through Human Rights lens) as they traverse the health system to enter aged care, often through the substitute decision making process.


Using Supported Decision Making to Uphold the Rights of Consumers under an EPOA

Understanding the role of an older person’s attorney is complex and varies from state to state. Aged care providers are often torn, seeking to meet the wishes of the older persons attorney sometimes at the expense of the right of the older person to have a say in the matters of importance to them.

The Australian Institute of Families Studies found that 1 in 6 older people will experience elder abuse, often under a power of attorney arrangement that was designed to protect them.

Supported Decision Making can provide protection and is in alignment with the rights of people with a disability and in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability. While cognitive decline and dementia fall within the scope of the convention, we are becoming increasingly aware that people with dementia are not seen as “rights-holders” entitled to having their views and preferences respected.

In aged care we have not tended to “join the dots.” We have not prioritised a supported decision-making response for people with cognitive decline or dementia. While the Disability Rights movement has promoted inclusion and advocacy, Dementia and associated conditions have seemingly been left out.

How can we insist on a “Supported Decision Making” response first, in our aged care services? Such a response would enhance the consumer experience and acknowledge the rights of older people and alert providers to attorneys who aren’t acting in a supportive way.

The presentation will share existing policy frameworks to:

1) Include (and inform) the older person in decision making using National Decision Making Principles

2) Explore the role of advocacy to support the process

3) Understand the role of the attorney to ensure that it does not enable abuse

4) Facilitate and enable conversations to clarify roles, including the use of mediation services

5) Consider referral to Tribunal as a last resort

Existing frameworks include audit tools for Aged Care Providers (see https://cdpc.sydney.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/SDM-Policy-Guidelines.pdf). These contain key practical steps for having a rights based organisation, and for reducing unnecessary restrictions of residents.

Experience of decision making by another needn’t be overly restrictive and should be supportive, enabling inclusion.

Including the voice of older people in #agedcare through Supported Decision Making #HumanRights