Capacity to make decisions

Capacity refers to having the mental capacity or capability to make decisions. Capacity is specific to the time of the decision and what the decision is.

Therefore, some people fluctuate in their capacity so that they may have capacity some days but not others. This is especially the case if they have an illness which may contribute to them becoming confused, for example a urine infection.

Some people have the capacity to make some decisions but not others. For example, they may have capacity to decide when they would like to get up and dressed in the morning but not about where they can safely live.

Capacity must be assumed; people who lack capacity must be assessed by a trained medical professional as unable to do one of the following things.

  • Understand the information needed to make the decision.
  • Retain that information long enough to use it in their decision.
  • Weigh up the information, the pros and cons of the decision.
  • Communicate their decision effectively.

If there is a situation where you lack capacity or are very unwell and unable to communicate your decisions, then the documents you used to record your wishes will be used.