Mental Capacity

What is meant by the term ‘Mental Capacity’

Mental Capacity is a term used to describe an individual who has the ability to make their own decisions. Having mental capacity means that they are able to understand information and make an informed decision or choice.

Mental capacity is the ability to make a decision” MCA Code of Practice

All individuals have a right to make their own decisions. However, sometimes it is assumed that because they have a condition that can affect their cognitive abilities they are no longer able to make their own decisions.

A person lacks capacity if:

“…..a person lacks capacity in relation to a matter if at the material time he is unable to make a decision for himself in relation to that matter, because of an impairment of, or disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain.” MCA 2005 S:2(1)

The Mental Capacity Act, 2005 states that a person is unable to make their own decisions if they are unable to do one or more of the following:

  • Understand information given to them
  • Retain information long enough to be able to make the decision
  • Weigh up the information available to make the decision
  • Communicate their decision – this can be through verbal communication or by using sign language or simply blinking an eye

It is essential that the individual is supported to find ways of communicating before a decision about their capacity is made. This might involve family, friends, carers and other workers. An assessment should be made based on the balance of probabilities. For example, is it more likely than not that the person lacks capacity?

Use to answer question 9.6a of the Care Certificate

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