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CCE Publishes New Guide to Help D.C. Residents Navigate Complex Legal Decisions

 When Adults Need Help Making Decisions and Managing Daily Affairs: A Non-Lawyer’s Guide to D.C.’s Legal Tools for Assisting Adults


Introduction and Overview [PDF-266KB]
Full Report [PDF-790KB]


In March 2019, CCE published When Adults Need Help Making Decisions and Managing Daily Affairs, a guide that explains in non-technical language the resources that are available to people in the D.C. area who, because of illness, physical or intellectual disabilities, aging, injury or dementia, may need extra help  when making important life decisions, handling their finances, or dealing with similar responsibilities of everyday life. When Adults Need Help is the first resource of its kind: it is the only comprehensive guide that describes the full range of available legal tools in the District, including recent changes in D.C. laws. This guide can help D.C. residents and family members, social workers, lawyers, and anyone who is seeking to support a loved one who may need assistance making legal, financial, educational, or medical decisions.


Each chapter of the guide is devoted to a particular legal tool, describing what it is, who can use it, how to use of it, how to set it up, and how to change or cancel it. The guide begins with the least restrictive legal tool and then discusses progressively more restrictive and formal options. This approach reflects the D.C. legal requirement that supportive arrangements preserve the greatest degree of self-determination possible under the circumstances.  Maintaining as much independence as possible, while providing adequate help and protection, can be vital to a person’s long-term mental and physical well-being.


“We know that every single family will, at some point, have to handle a challenging circumstance where a loved one needs special protections or extra assistance in managing their affairs," said CCE Executive Director Misty Thomas. “The experience of trying to figure out the right thing to do in those situations can be really confusing and stressful. This guide is designed to reduce that stress for residents of the District who may be helping someone who is getting older, facing a major health issue, or assisting a loved one with a disability. CCE wants to make sure everyone in D.C. can be empowered to make the best decisions for themselves or their loved ones.”


Chapters of When Adults Need Help address the following legal options:

  • Supported Decision-Making
  • Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment
  • Power of Attorney
  • Substitute Health Care Decision-Maker
  • Education Representative for an Adult Student
  • Managing Federal Benefits (Social Security, Veterans' Benefits, Employee Retirement)
  • Conservatorship
  • Guardianship

Jim Tuite, who chaired the guide’s drafting committee, said, “When Adults Need Help was written with the assistance of many experts in D.C. on supported decision-making and laws affecting the disabled and seniors. CCE wanted to make sure that the guide is accurate and clear. We want readers of this guide – even if they aren’t a lawyer – to understand how these legal tools work and how they could use them.”


If you would like one or more hard copies of When Adults Need Help, please contact or call (202) 785-5917.

Follow us on Twitter (@CCE_for_DC) for more updates on the When Adults Need Help guide or educational events or trainings that CCE will be hosting.

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