Mental capacity

The term ‘mental capacity’ is used to describe a person’s ability to make decisions.

A person may not have mental capacity due to limited functioning or malfunctioning of their brain caused by such conditions as:

  • a serious brain injury
  • an illness, such as dementia
  • severe learning disabilities.

Mental capacity can come and go (for example, with dementia and some mental illnesses). A person can recover their mental capacity (for example, following a severe stroke). Or they might have the mental capacity to make some decisions, but not other decisions (for example, they can decide on what to eat but not about selling their home).

It is important to remember that under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 people have the right to be supported to make decisions themselves, and the right to make decisions even if you think their decision is unwise.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Mental Capacity Act 2005, including best interests decision-making , and how to support people to make their own decision SCIE has produced a free e-learning course. The course is for everyone who looks after or cares for someone, for example, doctors, nurses, care assistants, social workers, and family members.

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If you are worried about the mental capacity of the person you care for and you doubt that they are able to make the bigger decisions about their finances and health for themselves, there are various ways through which you, as their unpaid Carer, can assist them more effectively and/or make decisions on their behalf.