What Is Capacity?
Capacity is a person’s ability to understand facts about a decision and what could happen if they choose one option over another, or if they choose to do nothing.
Disagreeing with a decision does not make someone incapable. For example, someone could decide not to take medication recommended by their doctor. If they understand why the medication is important and what will happen if they do not take it, they are probably capable of making the decision.
It is also possible to have capacity in one area and not another. For example, someone might struggle to understand complex health care decisions, but still be capable of making decisions about their social activities and finances.
Why Is Capacity Assessed?
It is possible to have capacity in one area and not another. For example, someone might struggle to understand complex health care decisions, but still be capable of making decisions about their social activities and finances.
Capacity Assessments are a required part of applications for Adult Guardian and Trusteeship under the Alberta Adult Guardian and Trustee Act.
What Happens When Capacity Is Assessed?
There must be legitimate reasons for a capacity assessment. The capacity assessor will ask about the adult’s situation, why there are concerns about their ability to make decisions, and the specific types of decisions in question. The assessor will confirm that a physician has examined the person to ensure a reversible or temporary medical condition is not affecting their ability to make decisions.
If an assessment is needed, the assessor will meet with the adult to explain the assessment process including what will happen if they are found to lack capacity. The adult can have someone present (e.g., family member or legal counsel) to help them feel comfortable and they can have a person or device to help them communicate during the assessment.
The assessor will focus on the types of decisions that need to be assessed. For example, there may be concern about the adult’s ability to make health care and residential decisions, but no concern about capacity for other personal or financial decisions. The assessor will discuss with the adult their understanding of specific decisions (e.g., medical condition) and the consequences of making or not making a decision (e.g., risks and benefits of having surgery or not having surgery).
In conclusion, the assessor uses a set of capacity assessment tools and documents the findings regarding the adult’s capacity in the specific areas assessed. The assessor identifies whether or not the adult is likely to regain capacity. If they believe the adult may regain capacity, they will recommend a date when capacity should be re-assessed.
To find out who will can access a copy of an individuals Capacity Assessment Report or to find out who is authorized to conduct a Capacity Assessment, please download our Capacity Assessment brochure.
Highlander Counselling & Mediation
Leonard McEwen, MSW, RSW
3B07 Edmonton General Hospital
11111 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 0L4
phone: (780) 903-3961
toll free: 1 (866) 824-8175