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The Mental Capacity Act 2005 lays out the legal test for capacity which is usually applied to people living with dementia when an important or serious decision has to be made. Someone is deemed to have mental capacity as long as they can pass all 4 steps of the test…can they

  • Understand the information relevant to the decision
  • Weigh up the pros and cons of the decision
  • Retain the information for as long as is necessary to make the decision
  • Communicate their decision

Where people with dementia can often fail the test is weighing up the pros and cons of the decision they are making, sometimes because their perception of their life skills are not realistic. For example if someone was being discharged from hospital and required a care package they didn’t want, if they are insisting that they can look after themselves when they are in fact unable and at risk, they cannot weigh up the disadvantages of rejecting a care package.

What family members occasionally question is whether the person could have made a decision when their short term memory is poor however they need only retain the information for as long as they need to make the decision.

Who assesses capacity depends on the circumstances, for example a social worker, doctor, celebrant, witness to a Will, Certificate Provider for a Lasting Power of Attorney – all of these people can and do assess a person’s mental capacity to engage with the decision in front of them.

For more information on assessing capacity follow this link: Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Or contact us: admin@pathwaysthroughdementia.org / 0203 405 5940

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