What’s a capacity assessment? (and why you might need one)

by | Jun 29, 2021

We’ve already talked about why it’s a good idea to get a Lasting Power of Attorney in place and avoid going through a deputyship application. (If you need to get up to speed you can do that here.) Of course, sometimes it’s not that simple. We’ve found that it can be incredibly easy for families to be left in limbo, simply because they don’t know what their options are or how the process works. Read on to discover when you or a loved one might need a capacity assessment.

What’s a capacity assessment?

If your loved one has lost the capacity to handle their own affairs but doesn’t already have a Lasting Power of Attorney, you’ll need to apply for a deputyship order. A capacity assessment is part of that process. These assessments will often be carried out by a specially trained social worker but can also be done by a psychologist. We worked with a family who had been to see solicitors with their elderly mum, who had early-onset dementia. They were told that their mum didn’t have capacity and would need an assessment from their GP. This then led to a frustrating time as the family were pushed from pillar to post between their GP and social care team, trying to get an assessment that no one wanted to do. In the meantime, the isolation caused by COVID was having a negative impact on the lady’s mental health.

Capacity assessments are usually only done by private firms using trained professionals. It does mean that you have to pay for them but it’s much more efficient than trying to organise it through your GP. The main drawback is that it will usually be with someone your loved one doesn’t know, which can be distressing if they’re already struggling. The important thing to remember is that getting professional help will make things easier.

Capacity isn’t always simple

There are times where someone’s health condition makes it hard to assess whether they have capacity or not. They might be able to make decisions about some things but not others. We worked with a family where mum had several health issues, including memory problems which affected her ability to express herself. She needed more suitable living accommodation, which meant selling her house. Her solicitors told her family that she didn’t have capacity to make that decision so they couldn’t do anything. Thankfully, they came to see us and we arranged a capacity assessment. The assessor was a lovely lady who put the client at ease and found that she did have capacity, even if she had difficulty communicating her wishes.

In these circumstances, different challenges can arise. Someone might not be capable of handling their financial affairs but can still make decisions about their health and welfare. Care decisions can also be made piecemeal. Your loved one might not have the capacity to make a decision about the best place to live if they need care, but they’re still capable of choosing what they want to eat or wear each day.

An LPA is still the simplest way to make sure that the right decisions are made for you. Even if this isn’t possible, you still have options. You just need to know what they are.


Do you need to create an LPA or get advice on a deputyship application? Get in touch using the form below or call us on 0116 380 0752.

Image Credit: Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

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